How to Record Your Audiobook
This guest post was written by Lindsay Sealey, author of Growing Strong Girls and Rooted, Resilient, and Ready.
In 2016, I made a big leap: I wrote and published my first book, Growing Strong Girls, a how-to guide for caregivers on connecting with and supporting preteen girls. While it was not an easy process, I came out of it having learned some valuable lessons, and my book has even won a silver award for design! Since then, I’ve sold copies of my book in stores across North America and at various speaking engagements—so many copies, in fact, that my publisher called for a reprint.
Whenever I promoted my book at speaking events, there was always at least one audience member asking me the same question: Is there an audiobook version available? As an avid listener of Audible audiobooks myself, I have come to realize that I process information better by hearing it than by reading it visually. It’s also an efficient use of my time; listening to audiobooks on my commute is so much more convenient than trying to do all of my reading before bed. I decided that it was time to put out an audiobook edition of my own.
My publisher, Maggie Langrick, explained that there are two ways to get an audiobook on Audible. One, Audible can make an offer to acquire the audiobook rights to a book, and then create and publish the audiobook themselves, or two, authors who hold audio rights can use Audible’s audiobook self-publishing platform, ACX. Because Audible was not prepared at that point to make an offer for my audiobook rights, I decided to hire my own producer, record my own narration, and publish my audiobook via ACX myself. As an Amazon-owned company, they make the DIY publishing process pretty easy for authors to use. First, make sure your book is available on Amazon. Then set up an ACX account, create a recording of your book being read aloud, and upload the files (including your book cover artwork) to the ACX platform. For more information, take a look at Audible’s audiobook checklist.
Before recording my audiobook, I did a little research by simply listening to different narrators on Audible and noticing what worked and what didn’t. Each one had such a unique voice and style. Some were serious and academic; others were funny and quirky. I thought about how I wanted to sound and what I felt would have audience appeal. I settled on a warm, friendly, and knowledgeable tone, and I practiced reading my book aloud in that voice.
Since I had previously taken singing and voiceover lessons at Studio Cloud 30 in Vancouver, I decided to use their facilities to record and edit my audiobook. They recommended a freelance producer, and I booked a series of eight two-hour sessions at their studio, spaced out over five months. This allowed me to record around my busy work schedule and gave me time to rest my voice between recording sessions. Overall, it took about sixteen in-studio hours to record my book.
The most challenging aspect of the process was finding time to record, but I also had to work through self-criticism as I read my book. It was tempting to re-evaluate the parts I felt I could have written better. But overall, recording my own narration was really enjoyable. The warm, bright, and inviting studio environment, along with my producer’s laidback approach and positive encouragement, helped ease me into a process I was unfamiliar with. What’s more, reading my book aloud from beginning to end for the first time helped me appreciate the entire work as a whole.
Once we were finished recording, my producer edited my audiobook (in just one day!), and I uploaded the audio files to the ACX platform. It took Audible about 10 business days to complete their review and send me a list of adjustments that needed to be made before my audiobook would be accepted—this included correcting the background noise on a few files and increasing the volume overall. (You can find a full list of Audible’s submission requirements here.) After I re-submitted the corrected files, my audiobook was approved and available for purchase just a few days later.
If you’re an author considering recording your own audiobook, it’s a good idea to spend some time rehearsing beforehand to make the most of your studio time. If you feel your voice is not the most “listenable” or you are not confident as a narrator, you can always hire a voice-over actor to read the book for you. This is not cheating! In fact, it can save you time, money, and stress in the long run. Voice-over work is a specific skill. A trained performer may be more expressive and clear in their narration, and will probably require fewer takes. Many recording studios can help to put you in touch with voice-over actors or their agents.
I believe that every author should have an audiobook edition as an alternative option to print and ebook editions for readers. It’s a great solution for those who lack time and energy to sit down and read, and it could introduce your book to a whole new market of readers.
Lindsay Sealey is the author of Growing Strong Girls: Practical Tools to Cultivate Connection in the Preteen Years, now available on Amazon and Audible. She is also the founder and CEO of Bold New Girls, and lives in Vancouver, British Columbia. Her second book, Rooted, Resilient, and Ready, was published in March 2020.