Audiobook Questions For Authors

When it comes to creating audiobooks of your books, as a self-published author there are some questions your need to ask yourself before you start.

Unless, of course, you’re a well-off middle class self published author who lives in a detached house and can afford to pay someone to do all this stuff for you. In which case, you don’t need to read this.

For those of you who are like me and aren’t & can’t, read on…

There are upsides and downsides to doing your own audiobooks. Part of the upside is getting exactly the result you want. Part of the downside is the time it’s going to take as you will have to fit it around the dreaded day job and any family commitments you have.

There’s also an unavoidable initial outlay, which at the very least is going to be buying a decent microphone. There’s no point in delivering a fantastic reading of your book in a poor quality recording.

As I set out on my own version of the audiobook author adventure, here are some of the questions I’ve had to ask myself as well as some for you to think about…

AUDIOBOOK QUESTIONS FOR SELF-PUBLISHING AUTHORS

1] DO YOU REALLY WANT TO DO AN AUDIOBOOK?

Do you? Are you sure? All the evidence from those in the know suggests that the audiobook market is growing to the point where, if anything, it’s starting to rival the market for physical books and ebooks. And don’t forget, there are people out there who prefer audiobooks to anything else. So if you don’t have your book out as an audiobook, you are potentially missing out on additional revenue. Think about that.

2] HAVE YOU READ YOUR BOOK ALOUD YET?

When you write something, and come back to it a few days later, you should always read it aloud. Not only does this help you spot any typos in your text, it also helps make sure your book is Reader Ready. Remember, someone is going to have to speak out what you’ve written down. There’s no need to make their job any harder by giving them tongue-twisting text or over-long clumsily constructed sentences.  

3] WHO’S GOING TO READ IT? YOU?

If you can’t afford to pay someone to read your book, then your only real option is RIY – to Read It Yourself. Are you comfortable with the sound of your own voice? Do you know how to read for a listener? Reading For Listening is very different from saying “Hey, listen to this…” and reading something interesting out of the paper to your friend. It’s your story, after all, and people like to hear other people telling stories that are personal. So, unless you’ve got a voice like Julie Burchill, why not? 

4] IF YOU’RE NOT GOING TO READ IT, WHO IS?

If you can’t afford to pay someone, don’t even think about asking your friend who’s got that brilliant “radio voice” to do it. Not only will your audiobook now be dependent on someone else, it’s going to take them a lot of time and require an ongoing commitment from them to get it finished. That can put a needless strain on even the strongest of friendships. Either do it yourself or bite the bullet and pay someone. I don’t recommend doing a profit share with a reader either. More trouble than it’s worth for both sides.

5] IS YOUR TEXT AS READABLE AS IT CAN BE?

This goes back to Question Two. If you plan on doing an audiobook of your book then make sure your physical book is as readable as possible. Watch out for word combinations that are tricky to say. [Like Stephen Fry having trouble with JK Rowling’s “Harry pocketed it.” line…] The easiest way to spot them is to stumble over saying them yourself.  

6] WHAT’S YOUR HOME RECORDING SETUP?

Professional recording is done in a soundproofed isolation booth, so you need to replicate that recording environment as much as you can at home. You need somewhere quiet and as far away from potential noise sources as possible. Ideally, you want to be enclosed on all four sides, and above too if possible, with something like a blanket to cover the surfaces. This will help absorb the sound and give you a better quality recording. 

7] WHERE AND WHEN?

Having found the quietest place in the house to record, you need to work out when is the quietest time to make your recordings. That might be late at night or maybe in the afternoon when the neighbours are all at work and the kids are all at school. And think about what you’re going to do in the summer when those same kids are on holiday and playing in the street outside!

8] HOW MUCH CAN YOU AFFORD TO SPEND?

Spend as much as you can afford on the best microphone you can get. YouTube is full of advice videos on this subject. Based on Derek Doepker’s advice in his Audiobooks Made Easy course, I bought a Samson Q2U and I’d recommend it too. Besides the actual microphone itself you’ll also need a stand. A free-standing microphone stand with a boom arm is better than a desktop stand if you can afford it. Most microphones, like the Q2U, will have a headphone jack so you can monitor yourself as you record. This is vital, so don’t make the mistake of buying a mic without one.

9] ARE YOU INTIMIDATED BY THE TECHY STUFF?

Don’t be! You can record in Audacity, which is available for free on the Internet, and your microphone will attach to your computer or laptop via a USB. There’s also plenty of advice on YouTube on where to place your microphone and general mic technique, as well as breathing for recording and how to do a reading of your text. The only technical things you will have to be specific about are the required settings for the recordings themselves. But you only need to learn them once.

10] DO YOU STILL WANT TO RECORD YOUR OWN AUDIOBOOK?

If you’re still reading this far down the page, chances are you do. So don’t let a lack of funds or the general scariness of hearing your own voice put you off. If you can write a book and navigate the business of uploading it to the Internet, then you can cope with making your own audiobook.

In future posts I’ll be covering how I go about the whole audiobook thing in more depth. For now, your first task is to determine for yourself if it’s something you really want to do. An audiobook is another potential revenue stream for you as an author and there’s no reason why your book, either fiction or non-fiction, can’t work just as well on audio as it does on the page.

Hint: Writing your book knowing it will also be an audiobook will not only make your book better but it will make you a better book writer.

Think about it: before we had the printed page, what did we do? We told stories, we didn’t read them. Audiobooks are simply a modern-day version of what we have always done. Told each other stories. Only nowadays, instead of the tribe huddling round the camp fire listening to the bard, we listen to a recording…

There are a ton of resources out there for you to investigate the subject of self-recorded audiobooks further, least of all YouTube which is full of advice videos. And they’re free to watch, which is always a bonus.

If you’re the sort who likes to read about something instead of watching it, the two books I recommend are Audio For Authors by Joanna Penn and Writing For Audiobooks by Jules Horne. The latter is also recommended by the former.

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