Record the First 15 Minutes
Now it’s finally time to start recording. There are different ways to go about recording an audiobook and you’ll need to figure out what works best for you. (Lucky for you, that’s where that practice that I told you about comes in – if you’ve practiced ahead of time, you should have experimented a bit with different ways to record.) First there is a Straight Record vs a Punch Record. Each method has its advantages and disadvantages. Figure out which works best for you. If you find the process of stopping to fix mistakes as you go to be a bit tedious, then you may want to use the Straight Record method. If however you do your own editing and mastering, you may realize that fixing mistakes in the booth saves you time in the long run. There is also the matter of when and how to record characters. You can do them as you go in a Straight Record, which means you may need to switch back and forth between characters rapidly and often. Or you can add them in later with the Punch Record method. This will allow you to hear the audio that comes before so that you can make sure that your characters’ responses are genuine. Lastly, you may want to do all of the characters lines at once on a separate track to be added in later. This method will help you to really maintain the character’s voice and ensure that you are fully committed to that character.
Edit & Master the First 15 Minutes
Once you have finished recording, it is time to edit and master your audio. If you are just starting out, I suggest that you to learn how to do this yourself. There are a few reasons for this. Understanding the process of editing and mastering is a great way to learn how to best record your audio. It will teach you about how the pieces all fit together. It will teach you about pacing and prompt you to learn the best methods for recording to eliminate things like mouth noises and extraneous breaths. It will help you to be ready for the time when you can afford to hire someone else to step in and do the editing and mastering for you – it will ultimately make their job easier and they will likely be more willing to work with you. Also, when you further your career to include doing audiobooks for the bigger companies (which almost always do the editing and mastering for you), you will be ready to turn over raw files that are easier to edit and master. Your sound engineer will thank for this. The point of editing is to make sure that your book is well-paced, to proofread it for mistakes, and to remove any sounds that will be distracting to the listener (mouth noises, breaths, etc.). Editing is a skill and and an art form which takes time to master, so I won’t go into the whole process here. Study up on it as much as you can, play around in your DAW with your own voice files, and ask experienced friends and professionals for help and advice. Take the time to really practice – you will need an additional tool in editing – a really good ear. Learn to really listen to the audio (in an unbiased way), as it will tell you what needs to be done. If you find after some time that you just can’t handle the editing process, it is possible to hire someone to do it for you. Just remember that this expense comes out of your pocket, not the author's, so make sure that it is worth it.
Next you need to master the audio. The point of mastering is to lower your background noise if necessary, bring all of your files to the same level volume-wise (you should try your best to maintain the same volume when recording), compress the files and convert them to the appropriate format, and to sweeten your sound. You should learn to do this yourself as well, for the very same reasons mentioned above. If nothing else, you need to understand what the mastering process can and can’t do for your voice. This too is an art form and will take some time to learn, so I won't go into the whole mastering process either. Again, you need to have a good ear. You should study up and ask for help in mastering. Mastering is a much quicker process than editing, but it is also a more difficult process to learn and do well. Just like with editing, you can hire someone to do it for you.
Upload the First 15 Minutes for Author Approval
Now that you’ve finished the first 15 minutes of the book, you will need to upload it to ACX for Author Approval. Before you do this, I suggest you listen to the whole file on your computer as a final proofread. Uploading is easy. Simply go to the “Produce Audiobook” page that I described earlier and where it says Upload First 15 Minutes, click to upload the file. When you are done, you will confirm that you are ready to send the file to the author. Once you hit the confirm button you can’t go back, so make sure that you have uploaded the correct file. The file will be available for play on the website now, so I suggest that you listen to it in its entirety to be sure that it's ready to send. Then click on confirm. The file will be sent to the author and now it is up to them to either approve it or request changes. If they request changes, you will need to make those changes, upload the new file, and again send it to them for approval. Once it's approved, you are free to begin recording the rest of the book.
Record, Edit, and Master the Rest of the Book
You will now record, edit, and master the rest of the book from start to finish, including the copyright sections. Each chapter will need to be a separate audio file, you will need separate files for each of the copyrights, and you will also need to pick out a section of the book to use for a sample file (this file will be on the Audible website so that potential listeners can hear you before purchasing your book). Don’t forget to record the chapter names or numbers to include at the beginning of each chapter file. Once you have finished recording, editing, and mastering all of these files (this could take a few days or several weeks depending on the length of the book), you will need to upload them for Approval.
Upload the Finished Files for Author Approval
You should do a final listen on your computer to proofread each file before uploading. Then go to the same page on ACX where you uploaded the First 15 Minutes and upload each file accordingly. You will again be given the option to listen to each file on the ACX site – you may want to do so to make sure they are the right files. Then you will be asked to confirm that the files are ready as well as what name should be used when referencing you as the narrator. When you click confirm, the files will be sent to the author and it will be up to them to approve or disapprove them. Just as you did with the First 15 Minutes, if they request changes, you will need to make those changes, upload the new files, and again send them for approval. The author will get one more chance to have you make changes, so if they request additional changes, you will need to complete this process once more. When they approve the files, your work is almost done.
ACX Quality Control
Your book will now go through one more step – ACX Quality Control. This step ensures that you meet all of the requirements and guidelines set forth by ACX to meet their standards of quality. If ACX does not approve the book, you will need to work with them on getting your book quality up to snuff. If ACX does approve the book, it will be deemed ready for market.
This Little Audiobook Goes to Market
Your book will now be released for sale on Audible, Amazon, and iTunes. Congratulations! You did it. You created an audiobook. Your work is done. (Well, except that you now have to market the book, but that’s a whole other post.)
You should now have a feel for the fact that creating an audiobook is a long and arduous task, but it doesn’t have to be intimidating. You can do it and it will likely be very rewarding. Aimed with this information, you should be able to make a more informed decision about whether audiobooks are the right next step for you. And if you decide that they are, then let this post serve as a handy little guide to help you through the process.
Next Week: Guest: Author Barbara Venkataraman - Audiobooks 'R' Us!