Making Audiobooks

I’m still in the process of working on the first audiobook I have narrated myself, and it’s been a lot of fun. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but once I got into it, I found myself in the story and acting out the characters as I read the dialogue.

I never thought of narrating fiction as a form of acting, but that’s what it is. I’ve heard radio shows in the past, and that’s what this reminds me of. You’re not on the screen, but you’re still acting out the role of the characters. And yes, I was moving my arms around, using all sorts of facial expressions, and really getting into it. I didn’t expect that to happen. I always wondered why people who speak roles in animated movies moves around and altered their facial expressions to match the mood of the characters. Now I know. When you put all of yourself into the character like that, you can’t help but “be” the character, and your body goes right along with it.

Anyway, this trial of narrating a book has been a lot of fun, and I feel like I added another dimension to the book that I didn’t have before. For that reason, I have decided to keep narrating more books.

As I wrote out this blog post, I realized there was a lot of information in it, so I’m adding subject headings to help make it easier to follow everything I’m throwing out there to those of you reading this. 🙂

The Equipment I Used

I’m not going to say that my narration is up to par with some narrators out there because it’s not. This is my first attempt at this. I used a $35 microphone I got from Staples that was for basic narration to test the waters. I figured if I didn’t like narrating my books or if I couldn’t figure out how to edit the audio files, then I wasn’t going to spend any more money on this project than I had to. A friend gave me an idea for a cheap setup to put the microphone into. It consists of a laundry basket with a cut-up mattress foam pad. This helps to minimize the echo effect.

Here’s a picture of what it looked like when I had it all together so you can see what in the world I’m talking about:

It made the file sound a lot better than it sounded when I didn’t have the laundry basket and foam around it. The sound was better. I haven’t tried out the new microphone yet. I will do that with the next book I narrate.

Audio Software

As for software, I have an Apple computer, and that comes with GarageBand. The best You Tube video I found on how to set up GarageBand for audiobooks is this one:

Most videos are too long or end up boring at some point, so they lose my interest. This one, however, was straight and to the point. If you can get a file to pass ACX, you can get it to pass on Findaway Voices.

There are other audio software programs out there, and I’m linking to a You Tube video that discusses this. (As a side note: this You Tube video led me to the new microphone I just bought, along with the “box” to go around it. That is at the 7:18 mark.) For those of you who don’t have GarageBand, this lady discusses the software at the 11:00 mark in the video. I’m not familiar with anything but GarageBand. She talks about Audacity, which is what a lot of narrators on You Tube seem to use. Anyway, I found this video very helpful for beginners like me, so I wanted to pass it along.

My Advice to All Authors: Learn the Basics of Every Part of Creating a Book

This goes for ebooks, paperbacks, and audiobooks. Learning the basics of how this stuff works will save you a lot of headache in the long run. I’ll explain why below.

I have already had to use GarageBand four times now for the audio files from the narrator I paid to do a few of my books. Three times, Findaway Voices and ACX rejected the files because they weren’t loud enough. All I had to do was take the MP3 file I received from the narrator and “re-create” an MP3 using the audio settings I had in GarageBand (thanks to the video above). After that, Findaway Voices and ACX accepted the files without any problems. The fourth incident occurred because the sample size was a couple of seconds too long. Findaway Voices accepted it, but ACX didn’t. I put the MP3 sample into GarageBand and cut off a part of it so that it was shorter. ACX accepted it after that.

Audio files aren’t the only things I’ve had to adjust over the years. Sometimes I’ve had to add something to a cover a cover artist created for me. Sometimes I’ve had to readjust the size of it so that a retailer would accept it. I have GIMP for that. I have put a cover into GIMP and made the cover larger or smaller countless times over the years. Half the time I make my own covers or buy pre-mades where all I have to do is add text or I pay someone to add the text for me. But even then, I’ll have to tweak something once in a while. Also, I find making paperback interior files a big pain in the butt, so I hire out for that. And once in a while, there will be something Amazon doesn’t like in the file, and I have to go in and adjust it. These adjustments can be the size of an image or deleting a space from the text that is going over the trim line.

It’s little stuff like that authors need to know if they want to be able to do the light stuff on their own. And these tweaks take a few seconds to a few minutes to do. They aren’t worth bugging the person I hired to redo. But it also enables me to manage my own stuff. So if I want to make an audiobook myself or create my own cover or paperback file, then I can. The flexibility offers me freedom to do things myself if I ever want to.

But another reason why it’s good to know how to do things yourself is because there might be times when the other person isn’t able to take care of the problem. What if they end up with a family emergency, and you have a book planned for publication next week? What if they decide to quit the business, and when you go to change something with the book (maybe you corrected a typo), they are no longer around to help you?

I’ll offer another real life example.

I have always formatted my ebooks, and when I started back in 2009, no one required a Table of Contents. Then around 2012 to 2013, I started getting emails from Amazon telling me if I didn’t add a Table of Contents to my books within 7 days, they were going to remove my book from the store. What if I didn’t know how to format an ebook and the person who did was on vacation or too busy to fit me into their schedule? What would I have done? Thankfully, I was able to add the Table of Contents myself, so the books remained up for sale.

My point is, you never know what is going to happen. By learning the basics, you are better prepared to roll with whatever comes. The learning curve can be a pill, but it’s worth it.

About Ruth Ann Nordin

Ruth Ann Nordin mainly writes historical western romances and Regencies. From time to time, she branches out to contemporaries romances and other genres (such as science fiction thrillers). For more information, please go to www.ruthannnordin.com or check out https://ruthannnordinauthorblog.wordpress.com.
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6 Responses to Making Audiobooks

  1. When I saw you were narrating your own audio books, I was like, “How is she recording so there isn’t noise pollution or interference?” I like that DIY setup with the laundry basket and the foam pad. If I ever do an audio book on my own (which I’m not sure I will, but who knows?), I’ll have to ask you how you put that together, if you haven’t done a YouTube video on it yet.
    Good luck with your audio books, especially the one you’re narrating. I know of a few authors who’ve narrated their own work, including Stephen King. And judging by how King narrated Needful Things, they have a ton of fun with it.

    • I’ll be more than happy to explain how I set things up with the basket if you ever try your own audiobook. You’d be a great narrator with how much emotion you already put into your You Tube videos. I think it’d be fun listening to your audiobook simply to hear you give “life” to it. That’s the big thrill of it to me. The words come alive when you speak them instead of just silently read them, and it’s just plain fun to act out as the character.

      To the basket, though. I got the laundry basket at Walmart for under $2, and the twin size mattress foam pad was just a little over $13. For someone who isn’t sure if they want to keep going, I would recommend it as a trial run. I didn’t know if I would like doing the audiobook or not. Since I wish to continue, I can see putting more money into it, but even then, I’m trying to be mindful of expenses because so far, the audiobooks I’ve had made have brought in $34. I paid outright for five of them, and the cost was $300 for each finished hour. That roughly put me at $2500 per book, and I had five done. I don’t really see this as a huge money maker. Some authors say they’ve made good money, and maybe I will once I get enough out there and can experiment with pricing and promotions, but right now, I can’t justify a huge expense on creating audiobooks. Even if I don’t make anything, I love doing it, and to me, that’s a good reason to keep going.

      Regarding the microphone. The microphone I used isn’t exactly what would qualify as professional, but for a beginner who is low on funds, I think it’s way better than recording off your computer’s microphone or an iPhone. I’ll have to do a post on any differences between my current microphone and the new one I just got. That one cost $200, which isn’t super expensive considering how much some cost. The production box (I think that’s what it’s called) to put the microphone in that I recently bought is $50. Most narrators recommend a small space like a closet. That’s not possible for me since we have six people in a 1400 square foot home. Every space is already used up. Some people have foam pads on their walls to reduce sound. That’s also not feasible for how much stuff I have in the room I work in, so I think the laundry basket with the foam (or the production box) is the right compromise for my situation. I’ll have to do an update post between the two.

      The narrators say it can take 3 or more hours to edit a chapter, and they’re not exaggerating. My book is 76,000 words, and I had 18 chapters. My average edit per chapter is 5-6 hours. I’m also taking out the breaths when I hear them. I’m hoping the new microphone will cut down on the breath thing since that’s the biggest time suck on edits, but we’ll find out. 🙂

  2. So you actually make your file as well as edit it in Garage Band? I don’t have a Mac, but I wonder if I can do it on my iPad. The iPad doesn’t have USB connections, so I wonder if there’s some way to hook up the mic to my iPad.

    I apparently deleted Garage Band from my iPad, thinking I would never use it. LOL. I’m reloading it.

    • Yep, you can use Garage Band to narrate and edit the files. They save MP3s so nicely, too. The MP3 is what I use to upload the files to Findaway and ACX. Is there a wireless microphone that might do the trick? I wonder if there is an app that will work like a microphone that you can download. I never thought about narrating a book from an iPad, but someone said she did hers from an iPhone, so it has to be possible.

      Garage Band isn’t too bad once you get the hang of it, but I think that’s true for anything. Let me know if you have questions about how to do stuff in it.

    • I just found this. You can get a USB-C Hub to plug things in. Here’s the video I found on iPads. I don’t know if this kind of thing would work for you or not. I wouldn’t get as fancy as he does. I was just thinking that you can plug a microphone or headphones into the USB-C Hub. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=trUq_0RWf3E

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