ACX Storytellers: Scott Sigler

New York Times best-selling author Scott Sigler is an ACX bounty superstar, racking up over $10,000 in bounty payments this year alone. Releasing his self-recorded works as free podcasts, his “serialized audiobooks” built a dedicated audience that pushed his indie print novel Ancestor to #1 on Amazon’s Horror and Sci-Fi charts. His print success led to a recently signed three-book deal with Del Rey, and Scott successfully negotiated with the publisher to retain his audio rights. Read on to see why those rights are so important to him, and how he made ACX’s $50 Bounty Program such a large part of his revenue stream.

Sigler_Bio

ACX Author Scott Sigler

NO STRANGER TO AUDIO

I worked for fifteen years to land a publishing deal, to no avail. By 2005, I had a nice, neat file folder labeled “motivation” that contained 124 rejection letters. That year was also when I learned about this newfangled thing called “podcasting.”

As an author, a lifelong reader, and a big fan of audiobooks, I saw the writing on the wall: podcasting would let people serialize audiobooks and deliver them to listeners. I still had my first novel, Earthcore. Since I hadn’t signed a publishing contract, I owned all the rights, which meant that I could record it and release it for free. Anyone who wanted to try out my stories could do so without spending money on an unknown author, giving me a competitive advantage to help gain new fans.

I built a large audience of people listening to my serialized audiobooks. When it came time to sell a story in print — the indie trade paperback of Ancestor, published March, 2007 — that audience rewarded me beyond my wildest expectations. Ancestor was the #1 print novel on Amazon’s Horror chart, #1 in SciFi, #2 in Fiction and the #7 best-selling book overall.

That success got New York publishing interested. They wanted to partner up and see if we could make something big happen. My novel Infected went into auction, Crown Publishing won, and we set out to make great books together.

ACX – THE ACCIDENTAL DISCOVERY

I absolutely loved working with Crown Publishing (a division of Random House). I wouldn’t trade that experience for all the footballs in Texas. But it was one small difference of opinion with Random House Audio, over my audiobook marketing strategy, that led to my fantastic relationship with ACX.Nocturnal Cover

By my fourth book with Crown, Nocturnal, Random House Audio simply chose to not put out the audiobook. Since they owned the audio rights, I couldn’t record it and release it on my own. Therefore, no podcast.

So we asked them: if you’re not going to release an audiobook, can we have the rights back? Happily, they said “no problem,” and promptly worked with us to release the rights back to me, the author.

That left me with the audiobook rights to a pair of in-demand novels. What to do, what to do…

HOW ACX BECAME A TRUSTED PARTNER

We had released one book with ACX, my horror short story collection Blood is Red. We next hired the golden-voiced Phil Gigante to record both Nocturnal and Pandemic, and released those audiobooks via ACX. We thought we might sell a couple of hundred copies, and that ACX’s high royalty rates would do us well.

We didn’t sell hundreds. We sold thousands.

And it’s not just the audiobook sales themselves: the $50 bounty we receive when a new Audible Listener selects one of our books as their first purchase is a significant line item in our revenue stream. We actively market the availability of our books on Audible, and ACX in turn rewards us when we bring them new customers. Everyone wins.

It’s Empty Sethard to measure our podcast audience, but our stats show we have around 20,000 listens per episode within the first month of that episode’s release. Therefore, we have an existing audience that already listens to audiobooks on a regular basis. Our podcasts are free, but also serialized and ad-supported. We regularly tell our listeners that if they want the whole book in one big chunk, free of ads, they can swing over to Audible and buy it — free or paid, the choice is all theirs.

Offer the customer a choice, and you’ll be surprised how many will take the “paid” option. In 2014 alone, we’ve earned over $10,000 in bounty revenue. That’s on top of the royalties we’ve earned for the books themselves.

Since I am a happy and active Audible customer, I really get into pushing Audible to my podcast listeners. It’s a great service at a great price and I know the vast majority of my fans who try it will love it. We regularly pitch Audible as a “pre-roll ad” where the pitch comes before our episode’s intro music, and we often pimp it with messaging in our blog posts and posts on Facebook, G+, Tumblr and Twitter. We only pitch about once a month on each of those locations, however, so that we’re not beating our readers/listeners over the head.

AND THE FUTURE ROLLS OUT BEFORE US…

I recently finished my five-book deal with Crown, and my agent landed me a three-book deal with Del Rey (also a division of Random House) for my Generations trilogy.

Part of the negotiation with Del Rey was that we keep the audiobook rights. Del Rey agreed, and we’re excited to be in business with thUntitled-9at legendary Sci-Fi imprint. The success of Nocturnal and Pandemic on ACX taught us that we’re more successful when we control our own audiobooks. Del Rey manages the print and eBook products, we’ll sell our own audiobooks through ACX.

We can’t wait. We’re looking forward to a lifetime of royalties and bounties for our products, a long-term revenue stream that will contribute to our company’s bottom line. More importantly, that revenue will help us keep making new products for the readers who have given us everything we have.


New York Times best-selling author Scott Sigler is the author of fifteen novels, six novellas and dozens of short stories. His hardcover horror-thrillers are available from Crown Publishing and Del Rey. He also co-founded Empty Set Entertainment, which publishes his YA Galactic Football League series (The Rookie, The Starter, The All-Pro, The MVP and The Champion due out in September 2014).

How to Succeed at Audiobook Production: Part 4

Welcome back to How to Succeed at Audiobook Production. If you’ve been following this series, then you’ve read up on The ACX Mile, which helps you perfect the art of narration recording, perform a complete edit and QC your recorded audio, and learn audio mastering best practices. If you haven’t perused these posts, I recommend doing so before continuing on.

NoAndrew_250x320w that you’re caught up, let’s move on to the fourth and final part of my series: encoding and file delivery.

Rounding The Final Corner

Upon a successful master, your audiobook production is not quite finished. Keeping that in mind, watch the final video in our series, and review the key points I discuss after.

The Home Stretch

I recommend you perform another final QC pass on your audio before moving on to encoding and delivering your audio. After putting so much effort into your production, the last thing we want to do is send an audio review notice to fix missing chapters or out-of-order audio files. The post-mastering QC pass needn’t be as in-depth as what I recommend in the article on editing; it could be as simple as verifying the volume levels are meet our specifications, that the content is complete, and that the audio files are numbered and named in the proper order.

If everything looks ready, then we can begin the encoding process. I cover this in more detail in my post, Encoding Audio with Andrew the Audio Scientist, but I’ll summarize here. That post contains a link to our instructions detailing how to encode your audiobook to ACX specifications using the free and cross-platform fre:ac encoding software.

Keep ACX’s Encoding Requirements in Mind.

All files in your audiobook must:

Also be cognizant of ACX’s file-level requirements. The encoding options you choose can potentially cause the run-time or the file size to go over our specifications. Each file must contain a single chapter, be under 120 minutes in length, and be no larger than 170mb.

Crossing the Finish Line

Once you verify your audio complies with our MP3 encoding and file-level requirements, you’re ready to upload our audio to the ACX production manager! Here are some last-minute tips that could potentially save you from an audio review notice.

1. Be smart about your sample. The retail sample you provide will likely be a customer’s first glimpse into your work, so make this moment count! I recommend grabbing the audio from an early point in the book, so you don’t give away plot developments. Also, be mindful of the ACX sample requirements, which expressly prohibit erotic/mature content. If your book is on the wilder side, find a section that is appropriate for all audiences.

2. Double-check your book’s chapter order when uploading your files. Files arrive to ACX in the same order as they are uploaded to the Production Manager. Doing this last check will make the QA process simpler and faster, allowing us to get your title on sale more quickly.

3. Ensure your file names are clear and concise. To help ACX best understand your audio, I recommend naming your audio using a template such as:

  • 01-BookTitle-OPENING.mp3 <<Your book’s Opening credits.
  • 02-BookTitle-PROLOGUE.mp3
  • 03-BookTitle-CH1.mp3 <<Chapter one
  • 04-BookTitle-CH2-p1.mp3 <<Chapter two, part one
  • 05-BookTitle-CH2-p2.mp3 <<Chapter two, part two

Thank You

Since we are at the end of the How to Succeed at Audiobook Production series (but not the end of my regular contributions to the blog), I want to take this opportunity to thank our users, subscribers and readers for your loyal viewership.

But don’t worry, I’ll be back with more audiobook production tips soon. In the meantime, share your own with your fellow readers in the comments below!

How to Succeed at Audiobook Production: Part 3

Andrew the Audio Scientist here, and today I’m presenting part three of my How to Succeed at Audiobook Production series. Let’s dig into one of the most important, yet least understood aspects of audiobook production: Mastering. But before we tackle that, make sure you’ve done proper editing and QC passes on your raw audio. Check out last week’s post for more on those important steps, and read on for my advice on audiobook mastering.

Andrew_250x320Mastering the Art of Mastering

Before we get to the video below, I want to remind you of the key to producing reliably great sounding audiobooks, especially in the mastering stage: consistency.

Mastering is, in essence, the process of bringing your files closer to one another in terms of sound quality and dynamic range, so the listener will enjoy a book which sounds the same all the way through.

The most important thing to remember about mastering is that it is done not to make a poor recording sound good, but rather to make a good recording sound great. Mastering, like editing, is a key aspect of the perceived professionalism of your production. While the average customer is not thinking about the mastering of a title while listening, the boost of clarity and consistency your narration receives from a proper master cannot be ignored. So, while the process of mastering an audiobook may appear cryptic at first, it is essential to achieving an optimal sound quality for your production.

Now, let’s watch part three of How to Succeed at Audiobook Production, and after, review the mastering tips I suggest below.

Mastering Breakdown

Audiobook mastering involves a few major steps:

  1. Assess all audio files to ensure no peaks or clipping exist in the audio. A good recording and careful editing are both necessary to achieve this.
  2. Group all similar files together during the assessment so they can be processed at the same time.
  3. Bring each group of audio files into your DAW, and perform the following processes in the following order (this is referred to as your “mastering chain”):
    • Remove all unnecessary low and high frequencies to clean up the sound of your recordings and provide more headroom in order to boost your files levels effectively. This is a great way to minimize hum and hiss in an otherwise good recording!
    • Bring all files up to the proper dynamic levels as specified by the ACX Audio Submission Requirements page by using normalization, compression and/or limiting, and, if necessary, a final volume adjustment.
  4. Check the audio after mastering to ensure the operation did not over-process or under-process the recordings.

A common mastering chain for an ACX production is as follows:

Equalization/filtering

Remove low (80hz and lower) and high (16kHz and higher) frequencies by using a high-pass and low-pass filter, respectively. Set the high-pass filter to remove sounds below 80hz, and set the low-pass filter to remove sounds above 16kHz. If available, set the Q to the highest-possible setting for both filters. Usually, that setting is 24dB or 48dB per octave.

Normalization

Typically, you should normalize your peaks to -6dB.

Compression/Limiting

We recommend using a limiter, if available, instead of a compressor. Compression can achieve similar results, but it may also decrease the dynamic range of your vocal recording if used improperly. To properly utilize limiting on your files, start by setting your limiter’s maximum output to -3dB. Then, turn up the gain on your limiter until you have achieved a loud, clear, and consistent sound. Don’t boost the level too high. Otherwise, you may distort your voice, or bring up the noise floor of your recording too much. Remember: the better your recording and editing, the easier this process will be! If you have not yet read the first and second parts of this blog post series, I strongly recommend you do so. It can greatly reduce the workload involved in mastering your audiobook.

Tips for Each Step of the Mastering Process 

Before you begin mastering, record and edit the entire audiobook to completion. Then, make a final “completed edits backup,” – which I refer to in my prior blog post on file management – of each chapter. Maintaining a backup file is imperative, in case you discover any issues with the audio while mastering.

A good recording is everything. Prior to mastering, a well-recorded audio file will have an RMS value no greater than -28dB RMS and peaks at a level no higher than -12 dB This provides the headroom needed to boost the volume of your production without needing to compress the signal heavily. If your peaks are already nearing -3dB before mastering, make sure no loud noises remain in the audio. If no erroneous sounds are found, then it’s likely you recorded too loudly. This is why learning how to properly prepare for and record your narration is essential to performing a successful master.

Plugins cannot help an inconsistent or noisy recording. Some people attempt to fix deficiencies in their recordings or their editing by using noise reduction plugins and gates. Software like this can be effective if used properly, but more often than not, the use of such plugins will cause more harm than good on an audiobook production. I strongly recommended you take the time to focus on your recording environment, as well as your recording and editing techniques, so you do not need to resort to the use of such software. It will save you valuable time as well as money – those plugins can get expensive!

In order to group your audio files together effectively, leverage the audio measurement tools available in your DAW to find the audio files that are similar to one another. If you are an Audacity user, the “stats.ny” plugin will be essential to performing this task. See this thread from the Audacity forums for installation and use instructions.

Most DAWs have a similar capability, so if you are not aware of what tools can be used to achieve these actions in your particular software, contact the manufacturer to receive assistance in their use.

Double-check your masters. Use the same function on your DAW that you used to group your pre-mastered files in order to check your new mastered files. If your audio measurements fall within the ACX Audio Submission Requirements, you should be good to go, which brings us to our final step.

Verify the following ACX Audio Submission Requirements. Are all of your files’ peaks hitting around -3dB? Is each file’s average RMS between -18 and -23dB RMS? How audible is your noise floor at normal listening levels? There’s no shame in attempting a second master if you’ve found flaws in your new mastered files – that’s why you saved your Completed Edits Backup files after you completed your edits.

In truth, the most important mastering tip I can impart upon you, is to try, try again until you get it right! Mastering is very much a process of trial and error until you learn the tips and tricks that suit your production environment. Once you find settings for your mastering chain that work well for your voice and recording space, remember to save the configurations as presets so that you can easily reference them for your next ACX title. If you’ve established a consistent workflow for the recording and editing stages of audiobook production, then your mastering workflow will be a piece of cake!

Do you have mastering tips that Andrew didn’t cover here? Share them in the comments below, and join us next week for the fourth and final part of Andrew’s series: encoding and file delivery.

ACX Storytellers: Zhanna Hamilton

Zhanna Hamilton is an ACX user doing double duty: she plays both roles in the ACX equation as an author and  audiobook producer, with a Master’s in Marketing to boot. Her combination of education and experience has enabled her to achieve success marketing over 90 ACX titles and generating hundreds of valuable $50 Bounty payments. She joins us today to share her story and her tips for audiobook marketing success.

Zhanna HamiltonThe Zhanna Hamilton Story

As an Audible Approved Producer on ACX, my virtual studio and I have had the pleasure of recording, editing and mastering over 100 audiobooks. Some of these audiobooks have been my own books, with others for authors and small/medium publishers. Thanks to ACX, I’ve been fortunate enough to have my audiobook “Rewire Your Brain: 300 Affirmations for Positive Thinking” hit number one on iTunes in the self-development category in February 2014

As a child, I’ve always had an inclination towards writing. One of my first poems was about the psychology of a cat (it wasn’t as sophisticated as it sounds), prompting my mother to gift me a journal so I could keep my poetry in one place. As an adult surrounded by the growth of technology and the availability of the ACX platform, creating audio books was a natural extension of my love for words. The best audiobook production comes from a team of dedicated people with one goal in mind – to produce quality audio books. After building up a rock star team of voiceover artists and sound designers to produce my own audiobooks, I opened up our services to other authors and publishers.

$50 Bounty Payments and Audiobook Marketing

Once the production process is completed, marketing becomes an integral part of the audiobook life cycle. Marketing your titles will expose them to a wider audience and is key to generating those $50 bounty payments (awarded by ACX whenever a new Audible listener buys your book as their first purchase). It can be difficult to think like a marketer if you only view yourself as a writer. In order to sell well, you must be both. Even big publishers don’t do nearly the same amount of advertising for authors as they used to – placing much of the marketing responsibility on your shoulders. If you are self-published, that responsibility triples. Here are some tactics to help you become a successful marketer:

RewireEducate yourself. I learn best through trial-and-error, listening to interviews with other entrepreneurs or authors and self-educating through books, internet searches and tutorials. I do have a Master’s in Marketing, but I’ve found the information from a curriculum can be found on Google for much cheaper. In other words, there is no excuse for anyone in the information age to say, “I don’t know to market my book.” Just Google it!

Don’t just SELL, SELL, SELL. As every self-published author has learned (or will learn), establishing a relationship with your audience is a must. This means engaging with your social media audience, always answering emails from readers, and treating people like respected friends – not wallets. Would you rather buy a product from a friend, or a stranger? The more familiar your fans are with you, the more you will feel like a friend to them. This enriches their lives, and in return, they will be more willing to choose your products over a stranger’s products. Familiarity helps establish trust, both in you as a transparent person, and in your line of products.

Value first, promotions second. In order to gain a real following, you must give immediate value outside of your line of products. “Value” is a vague word, as it means something different to each audience. Your audience might value humor, and that’s why they follow you on social media. If you are a romance novelist, they may value your insight on interpersonal relationships. Giving them more of what they value – with your promotions coming second – lets your readers and listeners know you are there to enrich their lives.

Quality over quantity. When I’m browsing the internet and come across a great article, video, or blog, I think, “My Facebook fans would love this.” The more useful your posts are to your audience, the more they will think of you as an authority in your industry. When I first started maintaining social media pages, I thought posting every hour like those big-budget pages did was the way to go. I quickly learned quality is more important than quantity and am pickier about what I post on social media. Before posting anything, I always ask myself, “would I want to see this in my newsfeed?” Sharing in this way helps me feel more connected to my audience when they ‘like’ what I post.

Learn

Set a schedule. Being an author, producer, and marketer creates the need for a schedule. I like to plan my productivity on a monthly basis, setting milestones and deadlines within each week with the overall goals of the month in mind.

Use those promo codes. ACX will give you 25 free promotional codes upon the publication of your audiobook. Personally, I enjoy offering freebies through my newsletter and social media channels, as these are the places my audience expects me to give such items. For example, I run a book reviewer program on my English as a second language website for reviewers wanting free books. Additionally, I give away books on a weekly basis through my Reddit profile and my newsletter. Sometimes, the books or audio books I give away are in exchange for honest reviews. Other times, they are for gaining a larger readership and come with no conditions. I have done Facebook giveaways, interviews and have shared my knowledge with others with the goal of connecting with my readers, listeners and other like-minded people.

Mix it up. I’ve found the best way to promote a product is to mix up your marketing method, experiment often and let the results lead your marketing plan. You might find that book trailers are a great way to promote audio books, or that Pinterest is where your audience hangs out the most.

My focus for all my audiobook marketing is always the end user and how to best connect with them. This outlook has made all the difference in both attracting new Audible Listeners and keeping them interested in our line of audio books.

To receive updates from Zhanna Hamilton, follow her on Twitter and Facebook. Subscribe to her newsletter on ZhannaHamilton.com for free books and audio books.

How to Succeed at Audiobook Production: Part 2

Greetings! Andrew the Audio Scientist here, back with more advice for ACX producers. Today, I present the second part in my four-week video series, How to Succeed at Audiobook Production. Last week, I introduced The ACX Mile and covered best practices for the preparation and recording of your audiobook productions. This week, I’ll address editing your raw audiobook recordings.

Andrew_250x320Editing and QC

Before we get to the video below, I want to remind you of the key to producing reliably great sounding audiobooks: consistency. Establishing a routine you can return to time and again will set you up for success in the later stages of your productions and result in high quality final audio.

Editing an audiobook can be as demanding a task as recording one, but optimizing your editing practices can greatly reduce the workload. Let’s watch part two of How to Succeed at Audiobook Production, and after, review the editing tips I suggest below.

Editing Breakdown

Audiobook editing is broken down into two phases: an audio editing stage, followed by a QC stage.

Audio editing involves:

  • Removal of extraneous and distracting noises from the audio.
  • Modifying the pacing of the narration.
  • Dividing the chapters into individual files, and preparing their heads and tails to ACX’s Audio Submission Requirements.
  • Noting errors which may necessitate a re-record.

The QC involves:

  • Listening through the entire audiobook again to confirm the quality of the narration and the completion of the content.
  • Marking and verifying all errors identified as necessitating a re-record
  • Creating a QC packet to organize all errors.
  • Re-recording the phrases needing improvement and placing these new recordings into the edited audio.

Basic Editing Tips for Successful Audiobook Production

Mark your audio filesWhile recording narration, I recommend you place a marker at the beginning of each section or chapter of your audiobook in your DAW. This is helpful in verifying the completion of the recordings, and also gives an excellent point of reference to use in the QC stage of the editing process. While editing, place markers at all errors you’ve identified as requiring a re-record of the phrase/section in question. This makes the QC stage much easier. Click here for a sample QC sheet to help you note errors in your recording.

Always use headphones – Editing spoken word audio requires a good pair of headphones. In last week’s post, I alluded to the fact that most audiobook productions only contain two sounds: your voice, and your recording space. Pesky clicks, chair squeaks, and other external noises are more easily heard in audiobooks because they have nowhere to hide. These sounds can limit the listener’s immersion into the story, and thus diminish the listening experience. Luckily, professional headphones are more affordable than ever before. Check out the entry on headphones in the ACX Studio Gear series for recommendations.

Clean room tone is a must – Replacing gaps of silence with room tone is essential to a well-produced audiobook. Depending on your narration style and editing technique, you may also want to use room tone to modify the pacing of your read – an effective means of improving the clarity of your narration without needing to re-record the passage. However, if the room tone you’re using to perform this task contains noise of its own, then the entire editing process would be for naught. Be sure to listen back to your room tone at a high volume before editing it into your production to ensure it is sufficiently quiet.

Don’t be afraid to crank the volume – Because you have not mastered your audiobook yet, the dynamic range of your recording may require you to ride the volume of your headphone output. This is OK! You want to ensure every portion of audio is clear enough to discern the clicks and extraneous noises that are contained within the recording. Mastering will bring up the volume of your recording substantially, including all sounds not caught during the edit stage. If they aren’t removed at this stage of the production process, those noises will present  significant difficulties later on.

Be mindful of your time – Experienced audiobook editors spend roughly three hours editing every hour of raw recorded audio. In addition, the QC process involves listening back to the entire book a second time. This equates to roughly 4 hours of work per hour of un-edited audio. If you are breezing through edits at a much quicker pace, then you may want to give your audio a second pass. Audiobooks are lengthy productions, so it’s in your production’s best interests to be thorough. On the other hand, if you find yourself obsessing with one issue, you may want to mark it and come back to it later. People have a tendency to be harder on themselves when they’re editing their own voice recordings, so it may be best to take a step back from the issue for a while and revisit it later. In any event, if you find yourself spending more than a minute on one issue with your audio, it may be best to simply re-record the line instead.

Read part 2, which covers audiobook mastering, here.

This Week in Links: June 23 – 27

Balancing the the artistic and financial sides of your business may be one of the most challenging parts of maintaining a creative career. Luckily, this week’s links cover both sides of the equation. Check out this week’s advice on achieving the best of both worlds, and share your favorite links from this week in the comments!

For Rights Holders:

Book Reviews for Self-Published Authors: What You Need to Know – via BookBaby – A good review is one of the best ways to generate buzz for your book. This post collects a number of articles to help you understand the when, why, and how of getting reviews.

Writing: How to Self-Edit Your Novel – via ALLi – Professional editor Jessica Bell shares her top tips for polishing your fiction writing.

What It Takes to Be an Authorpreneur – via Live Write Thrive – The digital publishing revolution has empowered authors like never before. Author Geraldine Solon looks at what that means for industrious writers.

For Producers:

Five Warning Lights (For Voice Talents) – via Dan Hurst – Much like your car, the voiceover industry has occasional “warning lights” you must heed to to ensure a smoothly running business.

Is Your Amateurism Preventing You From Getting Voice Over Work? – via Gary Terzza’s Voice-Over Blog UK – Gary reviews the little things that separate voiceover pros from voiceover amateurs.

Voice Talent Wisdom: Environment – via Christian Rosselli – Many voice talents don’t book jobs simply because they’re not focused on an integral part of the script: The Environment.

How to Succeed at Audiobook Production: Part 1

Welcome to another installation of Andrew the Audio Scientist’s insights on audiobook production! Today, I present the first part in my four-week video series, How to Succeed at Audiobook Production. Week 1 addresses the preparation and recording of a new ACX title. Coming up, we’ll cover editing, mastering, and delivering your audiobook productions.

Andrew_250x320Achieving Consistency in Audiobook Production

Ask any member of the ACX Quality Assurance team what the most important aspect of audiobook production is, and they’ll all give the same answer: consistency. Your time on ACX should be spent acquiring new acting gigs, not tinkering with the technical details of last-minute production issues. To help you achieve consistency and avoid pesky technical problems that could threaten the success of your productions, I’d like to share with you my presentation from the 2014 Narrator Knowledge Exchange, which details a new concept I’ve dubbed “The ACX Mile.”

The ACX Mile

To better understand the need for methodological production, I have broken down audiobook production into a comprehensible four-step procedure, which I lovingly refer to as The ACX Mile. When running a race on a track, a runner may not begin a new lap until he or she has fully completed the current lap. Consider the audiobook production process as a four-lap race, with an appropriate warm-up period preceding it:

  • Warm Up: Script and Studio Preparation
  • Lap One: Recording
  • Lap Two: Editing and QC
  • Lap Three: Mastering
  • Lap Four: Encoding and Delivery

Now, watch part one of How to Succeed at Audiobook Production, and after, review the pre-production and recording tips I address in the video.

Basic Recording Tips for Successful Audiobook Production

  • Draft a production schedule – An experienced ACX producer will spend roughly six hours in production for every hour of completed audio. This means , for a five hour title, an ACX producer should anticipate spending at least 30 hours on the successful production and completion of their title.
  • Perform a thorough script prep – Before recording, ensure you’ve read, notated, and fully understood every line of your title. Audiobooks are all about using your voice to tell your Rights Holder’s story, so  fidelity to the title is a necessity. Send questions unanswered by your script prep to your Rights Holder, and don’t be afraid to do some research. Sites like AudioEloquence.com are great for determining the accepted pronunciations of foreign, historical, and other uncommon words.
  • Log your optimal settings – Once you’ve obtained a good microphone gain on your audio interface and positioned your microphone perfectly, mark the area with electrical tape so you have a reference. This way, on the following day of recording, you’ll be able to set your position and settings to the exact same positions as before.
  • Verify your room tone before recording – After setting your record levels, ensure you have recorded 30 seconds of clean room tone to analyze. Listen back to your recording with headphones, ensuring no undesirable sounds are contained within. If the sound is clean and quiet, you should be ready to record.
  • Back up your raw audio – If you have not established a file backup technique, see my previous post on File Management.
  • Noise reduction plugins can’t fix a bad recording – Utilizing plugins, such as noise and click reduction, is strongly discouraged. The improper use of such software may introduce new artifacts and undesirable sounds into your audiobook, and they are rarely effective at addressing the noise concerns of audiobooks.

If the room in which you’re recording is just too noisy, even after isolating your space, putting up acoustic panels to deaden reflections, and utilizing an in-line high-pass filter to reduce rumble and hum, it’s likely your recording space is not located in an ideal setting. The best solution may be to simply install your recording studio elsewhere. Such a step may seem drastic, but nothing is more important to a successful audiobook production than a great initial record.

It is important to keep in mind that, like a marathon, The ACX Mile is best run slow-and-steady. Very few audio errors can truly be “fixed in post,” so it is best to start off on the right foot, even if that makes the actual work a little more time-consuming. I suggest making an ideal and permanent recording setup a top priority. Luckily for you, great audiobooks consist of only two components: your narration, and the recording space. Get that step of the production process down pat, and the rest will come with a little perseverance and healthy amount of impassioned storytelling.

Read part 2, which covers audiobook editing and QC, here.