Monday, February 18, 2013

Why Authors Should Make Their Own Audiobooks


Why Authors Should Make Their Own Audiobooks—and How Do You Do That Anyway?
By Lorilyn Roberts


Making an audiobook is not as daunting as it sounds. All you need is a computer and an IC recorder. After installing the editing software onto your computer (that comes on a disc when you buy your hand-held IC recorder), you can narrate your own audiobook. Basically, the only expense involved was the purchase of the IC recorder from Best Buy, which also included the software to edit the audio-files. The total cost was about $39.

What is the advantage of you, the author, recording your own audiobook? You save the money of paying a narrator. However, it’s more than just financial. Recently I was talking about my YA Christian fantasy book Seventh Dimension – The Door to a friend. I asked him if he would read it and give me some feedback before I published it. He said, “If you give me the book as an audiobook, I will listen to it in the car when I drive to work.”

Did I want to narrate my own book? It’s time-consuming for one thing, and would anyone want to listen to me anyway? When I told him how I felt, he said, “I much prefer to listen to an author narrate his own book.” He continued, “In fact, almost all of the books I’ve listened to have been narrated by the author, including John MacArthur and Richard Stearns (Hole in the Gospel).”

I paused when he said those two names—suddenly the idea of narrating Seventh Dimension – The Door seemed more appealing. I didn’t have to have the voice of an actress to make an audiobook.

My friend continued, “The author is just sitting in a chair reading his book—nothing fancy.”

I went home and gave it some thought. I had narrated one chapter from my Children of Dreams book and posted it on my website, but I would cringe every time I listened to the recording. I’d pick it apart mercilessly—after all, I am not a trained narrator; but I had to agree with my friend, if I were to listen to an audiobook, I would rather listen to the author narrate his or her own book than even an excellent narrator.

I hunted around to find my long, lost IC recorder in my closet, eventually found the disc, and shoved it into my computer. Surprisingly, everything worked—even the IC recorder with the three-year-old batteries.

I had picked up a few tips about how to record an audiobook and I tried dictating the first chapter.  Yuck—I sounded like I was dying—I was too nervous. The hardest part was getting used to hearing my own voice. After a few more false starts, I finished one chapter that didn’t seem too bad. I told myself, with a little more practice, I would get better at it

If you are willing to try, let me share with you how I did it. I now have an audiobook of Seventh Dimension – The Door listed at http://audible.com, http://amazon.com, http://itunes.com, and https://www.acx.com/ . My audiobook became available a couple of days ago and yesterday my first sale was posted. If you are ready to get started, here is what I did.
First, go to Best Buy or another similar store and buy a handheld recording device (it looks like something the doctor talks into after he examines you). I bought a Sony IC Recorder for $39.99 (that is now three years old). Then you will need to look at the instructions and learn how to turn it off and on. The hardest part is figuring out how to use the thing. At least it was for me. I get frustrated with technical gadgets that have more than one button to push.

Here are two important hints. First, find a set of earplugs similar to what you would use to listen to music on an iPhone. It doesn’t have to be one of those bulky ones. The earphones will allow you to hear your voice and the sound quality of the recording. You will be able to detect any outside noise that might be picked up as you are narrating. Turn off your computer, an overhead fan, or anything nearby that might make any noise (even a purring cat). The closet works quite well. Make sure you tell your kids what you are doing so they won’t disturb you. It’s not much fun to have to start over because your child’s voice has been included in your book narration.

Don’t narrate your book off a computer screen. The recorder will pick up the humming from the computer. Mine sounds like a jet engine sometimes, so I had to turn it off. I had my book printed and bound in a three-ring binder so I could easily turn the pages without making a sound. That cost me about $25. You can squeeze a lot of lines front and back on an 8-by-11 sheet of paper, thus reducing the number of page turns.

You want to split up your chapters by recording session. In other words, between each chapter, stop and make an audio “chapter break” or “file break.” Later, these chapters will be merged into one or two or three files, depending on the length, but you need to break down the book into chapters as you are narrating. At http://acx.com, the site will ask you to upload each chapter individually. To make it easier later, split up your files by chapter. You will also need to make a separate file for the opening credits and the closing credits. In the opening credits, you will say the name of your book, the ISBN number, and some other identifying information that ACX will ask that you provide. In the closing credits, you can say something like, “This is the end of my book and thank you for listening.”

Now, there is a wee bit of technical information I need to cover, but don’t let it deter you. If I can do this, anybody can. In order to meet the audio quality for ACX, you will need to make sure your audio recording meets professional standards. Here is a quote from the ACX website.

Audiobooks should be recorded in 16 bit / 44.1 kHz wav file format, which is considered CD quality and is best for archiving. Once you have fully produced your audio file it should be saved as a 192kbps mp3. This is the format that you will upload to ACX. Generally, audiobooks are recorded by one of two methods.

It’s not as bad as it sounds. First, if you have bought a new device for recording that is not the cheapest thing hanging on the Best Buy sales rack, chances are it will record at 16 bit / 44.1 kHz or better, so you won’t need to worry about what all that jargon means. How can you determine if yours does?

On the editor software that came with your IC recorder, you should be able to tell. Once you upload your audio-files (chapters) from the IC recorder to your computer via the cord included in the box (assuming you have inserted the disc into the computer and installed the editing software already), you should see your files listed similar to how mine are listed: file name, mode, user/artist, message name and recording date. You want to look under the mode, and it should tell you something that looks like this: SP (44.1kHz …) If you have that, you can keep going. Give yourself a pat on the back.

Unfortunately, I discovered that while I had no issue with the 16 bit / 44.1 kHz, I did have an issue with the 192 kbps (the number that follows the 44.1 kHz). 192 kbps is the minimum standard for CD sound quality. I exhaled deeply when I read this because Seventh Dimension – The Door was not recorded at 192 kbps. What could I do besides re-narrate my whole book? If this is an issue for you also, be patient. You can fix this, and I will tell you how.

First, though, in order to remedy this, you need to download your chapter narrations onto CDs. If your book is more than 70 minutes long, you will need multiple CDs. I needed six for Seventh Dimension – The Door. Do this now so you will be set up for the next step. (If your recording was done at 192 kbps, you can skip the next two paragraphs).

After your book is copied onto CDs (make sure you label the CDs in order), reinsert your first CD back into the computer.

Here’s how I found out how to do this. I went to YouTube and did a search for “How do I convert an audio file to 192 kbps?” I found a video recording by a knowledgeable DJ who showed me how to do this using iTunes.  He had to repeat himself a few times because he forgot some steps, and on his third repeat, profusely apologized for his not-so-perfect video. By the third time, though, I actually “got it” and could do it myself.

Here is how you can convert an audio file to 192 kbps. Go to iTunes through your computer—everyone has iTunes loaded on their computer that I know of, but if you don’t, now is the time to download it off the Internet and install it. Once you are ready, click the iTunes icon on your computer and you will be taken to a screen that will have iTunes Library in the upper right-hand corner. In the left-hand corner, you will have an option in your library for music, podcasts, books, apps, and audio CD. You want to click on CD. You might need to use the up arrow or down arrow to get to the option for CD.

Now go back to the right-hand corner, and underneath iTunes Store will be a down arrow for import CD. Click on that. A small new screen will open up with some options. For import, choose MP 3 encoder. For the setting, use high quality, 192 kbps. Go ahead and check mark for “error correcting when reading audio CDs” and then click okay. iTunes will now convert and import your audio files from your CD for your book at 192kbps. You will need to do this for each disc.

Now you have all of your audio-files—opening credits, each chapter, and your closing credits—uploaded on your computer at 192 kbps at 44.1 kHz.

You are ready to go to http://acx.com and upload your audiobook one chapter at a time. Initially, of course, you will need to create an account with ACX and enter some other preliminary information, but you are well on your way to creating an audiobook you can sell.

After you upload your audiobook, ACX will review your audiobook and make sure everything is in order. Once ACX approves your recording, they will distribute it for you on several sites including Amazon.

One other minor detail I don’t want to forget to mention is that the cover of your audiobook needs to be square and not the traditional book size. ACX will reject any cover that is not sized correctly, so make sure you do that ahead of time. You don’t want to get “stuck” like I did. When my book cover designer does my next book cover, I will ask her to create a square cover also so I will have it when I narrate and upload my audiobook.

More and more people are listening to audiobooks, particularly those in the upper socioeconomic classes. You can listen to audiobooks through iPhones, iPads, Kindles, computers, and CDs. Audiobooks are another way to add to your passive income. As my friend told me after listening to my audiobook, “I feel like you have been with me all week in the car,” there is something intimate about hearing an author’s voice read his book. It’s another way for readers to connect with the author personally and feel like they “know” you through your story.

To listen to an excerpt or purchase an audio version, Kindle version, or print version of Seventh Dimension – The Door, go to: http://amzn.to/YqsHEi

Lorilyn Roberts is a Christian author who writes children's picture books, adult nonfiction, memoirs, and a young adult Christian fantasy series, Seventh Dimension. The first in the series, The Door, was just published (October 2012).
Lorilyn graduated Magna Cum Laude from the University of Alabama, which included international study in Israel and England. She received her Master of Arts in Creative Writing from Perelandra College and is a graduate of the Institute of Children's Literature.
Lorilyn is the founder of the John 316 Marketing Network, a network of Christian authors who are passionate about promoting books with a Christian worldview.
To learn more about Lorilyn, please visit her website at http://lorilynroberts.com or blog at http://lorilynroberts.blogspot.com. Her twitter handle is @LorilynRoberts. 



11 comments:

Martin Roth said...

Lorilyn, that's a great article. I read it with enormous interest. Thank you for taking the time to do it. But if I follow in your tracks I hope US readers- to whom my books are aimed - won't mind an Australian accent.

I do have a question. Can we not record directly to the computer, with a microphone? You make the point that a computer makes a noise, but my iMac is virtually silent. It seems that it would be so much easier to be able to do it this way.

Sharon A. Lavy said...

I have already had requests for an audio of my debut book. I will have to study this post and see if I can "get" it.

http://www.songsfromtheword.com/NewChristianBooks said...

I've recorded podcasts on my Mac with an add-on microphone. You should be fine, Martin.

Eddie Snipes said...

Very good information. Thanks for sharing your experience!

Lorilyn Roberts said...

Martin, American LOVE Australian accents! And your books would be great to listen to as audio books.

If your computer is quiet, I would use the computer if the sound quality is good. As long as you don't mind being tied to your computer recording. I recorded in a lot of odd places -- the closet, my car -- where it was quiet. It's amazing how many things make noise in your house. As I said in the article, even my cat purring. I had to boot him out -- so sad:(

You just have to find the time to record it, but the other advantage is you find mistake when you read -- and because I did the audio book before I published my book, I found mistakes reading it I wouldn't have found otherwise. So that's another advantage of authors reading their own books.

Sharon A. Lavy said...

Lorilyn, I was just thinking about that last night. Yes it takes time to read your book out loud to record it, but as writers, that is one of the tools we use to edit our work, so it should be worth a try.

Lisa Grace said...

Lorilyn,
Thank you so much for sharing this information. My daughter, who is nine, is interested in recording children's books. (She's a very good reader, expressive, and on a high school reading level.)
Now I can help her with fulfilling her dream, and posting on ACX as a voice talent with a sample of her work.

Sharon A. Lavy said...

Great idea, Lisa! I get to thinking of things like this and the project grows, like having more than one narrator, each taking some of the characters. Like the old time radio dramas.

Jason Matthews said...

Thanks for this info, Lorilyn. Just the boost I need to make another edition of my books available.

Kristen Stieffel said...

This is fabulous! I am really eager to record my audiobook, but I wasn't sure about how to do it. This is perfect. Although I suspect I will need to go out of the house to find a quiet place, since I live near an airport. ;)

Trish Jenkins said...

Great article.
I recorded my Dangerous Wealth book using the "Audacity" free software. I had to buy the more expensive, big headphones with the built in microphone but it was worth it as the quality was excellent and they didn’t hurt my ears after long periods. You do have to keep the mic away from your mouth so you don’t blast the P and T sounds.
It was a good way to discover needed edits that I’d previously overlooked.
It is time consuming though, which is why Daniel Hall recommends you do it with very small books, or turn your bigger book's chapters into smaller books, unless you have the time.
You could always hire a drama student to do it for a flat fee and name credit on the piece. He or she would count it as a professional job on a resume.