Tag Archives: Audiobook Creation Exchange

Check Your Production Before You Wreck Your Production

Did you tune in last night for How to Pass QA Every Time, the fourth episode of ACX University 2017? David and Brendan from the ACX QA team joined us to discuss the top reasons your audiobook productions may get flagged during our QA process, how to avoid these errors, and what you can do to fix them after the fact. You can watch the full episode below, then check out our QA checklist that you can use to finalize your productions before hitting “I’m Done!”

The ACX QA “Top Five” Checklist

1. Properly Edit Your Audiobook

Here are some ways to set yourself up for success in the editing stage of your audiobook production:

Record in a quiet, non-reverberant room to minimize background noise.

Make sure there’s enough distance between your voice and the microphone to prevent pops, loud breaths, and unwanted vocal artifacts.

Use a dynamic microphone as opposed to a condenser when recording in a noisy environment. Some popular mic choices in this category include the Electro Voice RE20 and the Shure SM7B.

Use a pop filter placed in front of the microphone to help tame plosives and sibilance.

Learn and use the punch ‘n’ roll recording technique. Recording through an entire chapter in one take will often result in the file containing repeated lines, noises, and breaths that need to be edited out.

Record and save 30–60 seconds of clean room tone to use when editing out noises.

Utilize a QC sheet to identify and resolve any editing issues.

Sounds in your recording that should always be edited out include:

  • Narration with excessive mouth noise and vocal artifacts.
  • Clicks and pops located at the beginning of a file before the performance begins and at the end of a file after you’ve finished recording a chapter.
  • Long gaps of audio silence within the middle of a file.
  • Heavy background noise.

2. Encode Your Files According to ACX Guidelines

Make sure all of your audiobook files meet the following requirements before uploading them to ACX:

No files exceed 120 minutes in length or 170 mb in size.

All files must be recorded at a 44.1khkz sampling rate.

All files must be 192 kbs or higher MP3s, encoded at a constant bit rate (CBR), not variable bit rate (VBR).

All files within a given production must be either all stereo or all mono files.

3. Adhere to ACX’s RMS Requirements

Some tips to help you avoid RMS issues include:

During Recording:

Record at the proper volume. Your voice should peak around -12dB to -8dB. Adjust your pre-amp so that your voice peaks at this level, then keep it at that level. Set it and forget it.

If you need to adjust the level at which you’re hearing yourself while recording, adjust your monitor level, not your preamp.

Use proper mic technique to ensure your performance is within the appropriate volume range.

During Mastering:

Check file level statistics within your DAW to ensure you are meeting the ACX requirements. Group like files together in larger books to make mastering easier.

Use normalization and compression to even out your files. Don’t EQ after compression, as this could affect your final levels.

Keep your monitor level consistent during mastering.

4. Adequately Space Your Audio Files

Make sure you are editing with both fidelity to the manuscript and the listening experience in mind.

During the edit/QC stage, keep room tone handy to use when structuring files.

Leave one half second to 1 second of clean room tone at the beginning and between 1 and 5 seconds of clean room tone at the end of each file.

5. Correctly Order and Structure Audio Files

Ensure that all of your audiobook project’s files have been uploaded to ACX only once each, and in the proper order.

Make sure you’ve included the appropriate chapter/section headers at the start of each file.

Record each section or chapter in a separate track in your project file within your DAW.

Include the file order number along with the section name in your file name. This will help you keep track during upload. Example: 01_Tom Sawyer_Opening Credits.mp3, 02_Tom Sawyer_Acknowledgements.mp3, 03_Tom Sayer_Ch01.mp3, etc.

Print this blog post out and use it as a checklist to ensure you hit all of our QA team’s recommendations. Following the QA team’s advice will put you on the right path to speeding your production to “on-sale,” and will help ensure a satisfied Rights Holder and happy listeners for your audiobook.

 

Introducing the Audible.ca Distribution Channel!

Hot on the heels of announcing ACX opened its doors to Canadian authors, publishers, and narrators, Audible has announced the opening of Audible.ca. This means even more great news for ACX authors, because we’ve automatically enrolled your audiobook in this new distribution channel if you selected Worldwide distribution rights or included Canada as one of your distribution territories on ACX. You’ll continue earning the same great royalties paid monthly, while enjoying readership from a new class of listener.

All aboard with Audible!

Audible kicked off their dedicated Canadian digital storefront with a train trek from Toronto to Montreal, leading with readings of Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale by Elisabeth Moss. Read all about it, or find more inspiration right here: Last week, we concluded Canadian author Susan Hayes’s audiobook diary on the ACX blog.

And what can you do to promote your audiobooks in this new marketplace?  Get ideas at ACX University, now in session, with tips and ideas for creating and promoting award-winning audiobooks.

Have questions? Visit our Help Center for answers.

On the Same Page: Communication for Audiobook Success

Yesterday, we premiered our debut episode of ACX University 2017, Peace, Love, and Understanding Your Audio Partner. Audible Approved Producer James Fouhey, and ACX Author Piers Platt, joined us to discuss their eight-books-strong creative partnership, and the details that go into making it a success both for them and their listeners. Today, they’re back with a recap of the tips you might not have caught on camera. Read on for their perspectives on the critical elements of audiobook production.

On Selecting the Right Narrator for Your Project

ACX Author Piers Platt

Piers: If you’re not already an audiobook fan, listen to samples of top-rated audiobooks in your genre to get a sense for what “good” sounds like, and feel free to reach out directly to some of those narrators to ask them to audition for your book, too.

James: Having a feel for how this medium has worked for other authors will help shape your expectations for your own title in a way that’s achievable for a narrator. It’s best to know what you like and don’t like about audiobooks before the project begins.

Piers: When you post your book for auditions on ACX, look for a narrator with some experience, and if they’ve got film/theater/TV training or credits, that’s a bonus.

James: The more experience a narrator has, the surer you can be that they can sustain the performance in the audition throughout an entire book.

Piers: Listen to all of the auditions that come in yourself, and pick your favorite 5-10. Then have several people you trust (ideally audiobook listeners) give you their opinion on which of those finalists to choose.

James: The more confidence you have in your narrator at the start, the easier it will be to give them the freedom they need to perform. Believing in your narrator’s ability as a professional will help you to collaborate.

On Setting Up Your ACX Title to Attract Top Talent

Piers: When creating your title profile, mention reasons why a Producer would want to work with you—have you published a lot of audiobooks, sold lots of copies, won any awards or accolades? If you have a robust marketing plan in place, if you plan on using the same narrator for the whole series, make sure to mention that as well.

Audible Approved Producer James Fouhey

James: How you go about describing this will help determine how many narrators are willing to put in the time to audition for you. The best narrators are professionals and want to work with authors who come across that way. Also, there’s nothing more enticing than a series audition, as those bring with them the potential to work on multiple books.

On Selecting an Audition Script

Piers: The portion of your book that you select as the audition script should have multiple characters talking and include a pivotal emotional moment. This will give you a sense of how they handle different characters (especially voices of the opposite gender or any foreign accents), how much they emote, whether they convey the book’s “tone,” etc.

James: This is critical. If well selected, the audition script can help you avoid many problems later on. Once you’re in production, re-recording swaths of the book that you’re unhappy with will cost the narrator time and money. Figure out beforehand what it is that you’re most worried about a narrator handling, and find a place for it in the audition.

On Starting—and Ending— the Production on the Right Foot

Piers: Once you select a Producer and agree to a contract, put together a guide to the important aspects of your title. This should include: how to pronounce all proper nouns (names and locations, for example), a short character cheat sheet with clear directions (protagonist should be gruff, but likable…femme fatale should be sultry, with a lower pitched voice for a woman, etc.). Pretend you’re a movie director and you’re giving your cast (narrator) instructions at this stage.

James: This is one of the things that sets Piers apart. He anticipates the narrator’s practical needs, has specific expectations, and gives the narrator tools to achieve them before the work begins.

Piers: Once your Producer has all the information they need, they’ll go off and produce your book. When they deliver the final audio, make sure to review it from start to finish. I like to speed up my file review process by downloading all the files from ACX and then listening to them at 1.25x or 1.5x speed. You can still catch any mistakes that way, but you get through it a lot faster.

James: Piers is great about reviewing the work in a timely manner, which is gratifying after all the care that goes into producing an audiobook. The technique of speeding up the audio for review is one that professionals use in quality control. Be careful speeding it up past 1.25x if it’s your first time.

Thinking of your creative partner’s needs from the outset of your audiobook production will help ensure you collaborate on a great-sounding audiobook that your fans will be excited to listen to. Try these tips for your next ACX production, then come back to the comments below to tell us how they helped.

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The Diary of a Canadian Author: Part Five

We asked Sci-Fi Romance author Susan Hayes to keep track of her progress publishing Double Down in audio, and we’ve been sharing her journey over the past few weeks. Missed Parts One, Two, Three, or Four?

07/06/17 – Day 36: Telling My Fans About My First Audiobook… And Planning the Next One

It was less than six weeks from the date I started on this audiobook adventure until I was ready to approve the final version of Double Down. The only thing that could have made the moment more satisfying is if ACX included a brief digital set of fireworks that went off when I hit the “approve” button [We’ll take it into consideration! – Ed.].

My title passed through ACX QA within 48 hours with no problems, and then I began waiting for my title to become available for sale at Audible, Amazon, and iTunes. During the wait, I put together some promotional images, wrote marketing copy, and researched what blogs I could submit my new audio title to for reviews. I found both the Audiogals and Eargasms Audiobook Reviews receptive. I teased my readers with “coming soon” posts on social media, too. I wanted to be sure my readers were as excited as I was!

By the time I had approved Double Down, plans were already in motion to produce All In, the second book in the series, as an audiobook. I wanted to make sure that readers could continue with the series right away. There are currently four books in the Drift series, and I plan on having them all available to readers by early next year. Now that I have the fantastic Tieran Wilder and know more about how the process works, I’m eager to keep up the momentum. [All In is now available for sale as well – Ed.] From my research, I’ve learned that audiobook production is a marathon, not a sprint, though. It will likely take some time to earn back the money I’m investing, so I’m trying to temper my excitement and make sure I stay within my budget.

Looking back over the last two months, I’m amazed at how quickly everything came together. Despite having listened to a number of audiobooks, it was stunning to hear my narrator bring my characters to life. It gave me a much greater appreciation of the work that goes into every audiobook. Listening to the completed work also got me thinking about ways to deepen the characters on paper, especially the way they speak. Going forward, I know I’ll be using what I learned by including more information about the character’s verbal tics, accents, and cadence to help enrich the story.

I’m very happy that ACX finally opened its doors to Canadian authors. It’s given me an opportunity to expand my markets, reach new readers, and think about my craft in new ways. Having taken the plunge, I can say it was worth the risk to try something new.

Susan lives out on the Canadian west coast surrounded by open water, dear family, and good friends. She’s jumped out of perfectly good airplanes on purpose and accidentally swum with sharks on the Great Barrier Reef.

To contact her about her books or to arrange end of the world team-ups, you can email her at susan@susanhayes.ca or find her at susanhayes.ca. If you’d prefer to stalk her from afar, you can sign up for her newsletter http://susanhayes.ca/susans-newsletter/

The Diary of a Canadian Author: Part Four

We asked Sci-Fi Romance author Susan Hayes to keep track of her progress publishing Double Down in audio, and we’ve been sharing her journey over the past few weeks. Missed Parts One, Two, or Three?

Day 29 – 06/30/17 : My Audiobook’s Complete!

Tieran sent me the completed audiobook several days ahead of schedule, which was a lovely surprise. The entire book came in at just under six hours of finished audio, but it took me longer than that to go through it all. I needed to stay focused, but often I found myself getting caught up in the story, and I would have to go back a bit and make sure I hadn’t missed anything that needed correction.

As it turned out, there was very little that needed to be changed. Tieran’s characterizations and pronunciation were almost perfect. I had kept notes of any issues that cropped up as I reviewed everything, and once that was done, I went back and listened to sections I’d noted a second time to make sure I had the correct chapter and timestamp. Once that was done, I hit the “request changes” button and sent a handful of changes Tieran’s way

The experience of listening to my own book was an amazing one. I wrote this book over a year ago, and getting to revisit it again in a new format let me enjoy moments that I had forgotten about. My producer added her own subtle touches to my characters. She expressed the personalities I had given them with differences intonation, cadence, and speaking styles, and the result put a smile on my face from the very first scene.

Tieran’s rendition of my story enriched everything from the description of the scenes to the personality of even the smallest background character. There’s a lot of trust that goes into a collaboration like this, and I am very pleased with the way everything is coming together.

Susan can be found on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+. Continue on to Part Five of Susan’s diary on Friday.

The Diary of a Canadian Author: Part Three

We asked Sci-Fi Romance author Susan Hayes to keep track of her progress publishing Double Down in audio. Join her on her journey here on the blog. Missed Part 1 or Part 2?

Day 16 – 06/17/17: My Book is Starting to Sound Great!

Before my Producer, Tieran Wilder, started working on Double Down, she and I exchanged several emails to make sure we were both on the same page. I sent her a list of the main characters, along with a few defining traits. I also gave her a pronunciation guide, which was quite necessary given my story is a science fiction romance containing alien names, planets, and other languages I had created.

My fifteen-minute checkpoint audio came in right on time. I was excited to hear what Tieran had produced, and amazed at how much depth it added to my story to have her bring the characters to life. I listened to it several times over the course of the day, and I couldn’t find a single thing I wanted to change. I approved the checkpoint audio the same day I received it.

While I was waiting for my producer to work her magic on the rest of the book, I started letting my readers know that Double Down was in production. My cover artist created a gorgeous new cover for the audiobook. I had fun sharing it with my reader group and newsletter subscribers, as well as with the rest of my social media followers. As the audiobook nears completion, I’ll ramp up the marketing by increasing mentions of the project on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+, and making an announcement on my website. I will upload the retail sample to SoundCloud and post links to give my readers a taste of what’s to come. I want to be sure the word gets out to my readers and fans of the series. Some of them have been waiting for years for me to start producing audiobooks of my work.

Susan can be found on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+. Read more about Susan’s audiobook journey in part four.

This Week in Links: August 21 – 25

Did you hear the news? ACX University is back for 2017, with eight episodes coming in September. This year, we’ve expanded our premiere audiobook education event to cover topics for authors and publishers in addition to actors and producers. Check out this year’s curriculum, meet the panelists, and catch up on past year’s lessons here. Make sure to follow us on YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter, where you can watch every episode of this year’s program for free!

For Producers:

Why George Guidall Is the Undisputed King of Audiobooks – via The New York Times – Learn audiobook performance theory from the venerated veteran.

Should You Neutralize Your Accent? – via Paul Strikwerda – “Even though it’s fun to do all kinds of accents and characters, nine out of ten times clients hire me because I sound like me, and not like someone else.”

Should You Ever Volunteer to Do Voice-Over for Free? – via Edge Studio – “One way to add to your experience is volunteer work. But should you volunteer to do voice work for free? There are pros and cons, so read on…”

The Still Small Voice – via Karen Commins – Find out how rediscovering the love for her childhood instrument reminded Karen how listening to that little voice inside can be important for your VO career.

For Rights Holders:

Making A Great Author Website In 16 Steps – via BookMarketingBuzzBlog – “First, look at your site from the eyes of those who would come to visit it…Second, ask yourself if you started from scratch, how different would a brand new site look in comparison to what you have?”

Brands to Avoid – via CreateSpace – When building your author brand, be authentic, and remember to highlight the positive aspects of yourself and your books.

4 Questions You Should Never Ask About Your Book – via Helping Writers Become Authors – “In short, good writing is not about finding the right answer. It’s about finding the right question.”

20 Inspiring Writing Podcasts to Subscribe to Right Now – via The Write Life – “For writers looking to bust writer’s block, hone their craft or spice up a boring commute, there’s no shortage of podcasts from amateurs and experts alike.”

The Diary of a Canadian Author: Part Two

Once we opened our doors to Canadian authors and actors this June, Sci-Fi Romance author Susan Hayes posted Double Down, the first book in her series, for auditions. We asked Susan to keep track of her progress through the audiobook publishing process. Join her on her journey here on the blog. Part one is here.

Day 6 – 06/07/17 : I Found the BEST Narrator!

I was fortunate enough to have the guidance of a few authors who had already gone through the process, including Kristen Painter, Zoe York, and Jill James. I bounced ideas off them all morning, especially when it came to picking an audition script. They reminded me that I would want to hear the narrator read for all of the main characters. Since I write ménage romance, there are three main characters: two heroes and a heroine. They also had a few tips about how to make the book appealing to potential narrators. I made sure to mention it was part of an ongoing series, that it was well reviewed, and I laid out what kind of social media reach I had in place for promotion. It seemed to work, because Double Down attracted more than thirty-five auditions in the first three days it was posted, which was equal parts exciting and terrifying.

Listening to the narrators reading the script for my book was an unforgettable experience. They brought my story to life and made my characters far more real than I expected. I got to experience my book in an entirely new way. I was out of the country at a book signing when the auditions started coming in, so my assistant and I wound up listening to various narrators in our hotel room every night. Between us, we whittled down the choice to a handful, and finally to one, Tieran Wilder. She made me laugh at all the right moments, and she captured the essence of the story and the characters.

Listen to Tieran Wilder’s winning audition for Double Down:

I’m learning as I go, but my narrator has been a wonderful resource for information, as have my friends and fellow authors.

I think it helped that I did my research before starting this project. I had listened to a variety of audiobooks so that I had some ideas on what I wanted in a narrator. I knew how much I was willing to pay, and I had already spoken to my friends about royalty splitting and some of the other choices I would have to make along the way. That preparation made the process easier.

Even though audiobook publishing was always part of my long-term plans, I must confess that when the opportunity arose, I was incredibly nervous to take this step. Now that I’m on my way to having my first audiobook completed, I’m glad I dove in and didn’t let my worries stop me. It’s been exciting, fascinating, and more fun than I expected it to be.

Susan can be found on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+. Read more about Suan’s audiobook journey in part three.

The Diary of a Canadian Author: Part One

Sci-fi romance author Susan Hayes had been waiting patiently for the opportunity to publish her audiobooks via ACX. Once we opened our doors to Canadian authors and actors this June, she posted Double Down, the first book in her series, for auditions. We asked Susan to keep track of her progress through the audiobook publishing process; join her on her journey here on the blog below.

Day One – 06/01/17: I Can Finally Join ACX and Post My Book!

I’ve been a small press and indie-published romance writer for five years now, and it wasn’t long after I started as a professional author that I first heard about audiobooks and ACX. I was intrigued enough to start looking into it, but quickly learned that ACX was not available to Canadian authors. I explored other options for audiobooks, but in the end, I decided to wait for ACX. The access to quality narrators, good technical support, and a solid distribution model all made it the right choice for me.

In the meantime, I talked to friends who had published in audio, and started buying audiobooks to listen to different narrators and get a feel for what could be done, they had to get financial help from https://nation21loans.com/ in order to be able to buy what they needed. I knew audio was something I wanted to do to expand my audience and give my readers what they wanted, so I aspired to educate myself on the topic before I jumped in.

When I got the news that ACX was finally open to Canadians, I hit the ground running. I was ready to post my first book for auditions in a matter of hours. To say I was excited might be something of an understatement.

While I have over thirty books published at this point, I knew from the moment I signed up which book I’d publish first. Double Down is the first book in my current sci-fi romance series, The Drift, and I’ve had many requests from readers to make it available as an audiobook. When I told my readers Double Down was coming to audio, their positive reactions affirmed that I’d made the right choice.

Being an independent author/publisher means wearing a lot of hats and acquiring a multitude of skills, many of which I couldn’t have imagined when I was first starting out. Now, I’m adding a new hat to my collection: audiobook publisher.

Susan lives out on the Canadian west coast surrounded by open water, dear family, and good friends. She’s jumped out of perfectly good airplanes on purpose and accidently swum with sharks on the Great Barrier Reef.

To contact her about her books or to arrange end of the world team-ups, you can email her at susan@susanhayes.ca or find her at susanhayes.ca. If you’d prefer to stalk her from afar, you can sign up for her newsletter http://susanhayes.ca/susans-newsletter/

Read part two of Susan’s diary here.

This Week in Links: August 14 – 18

For Rights Holders:

4 Social Media Productivity Tips for Authors – via The Book Designer – “We all know that marketing takes time. Too much time, some might say. I insist that it needn’t take time away from your writing. Not if you adhere to some productivity tips.”

Learning to Listen: Tips to Help You Get Into Audiobooks – via BookRiot – Try passing this advice along to those readers you’re yet to convert into listeners.

5 Email Marketing Tips for Self-Published Authors – via where writers win – “Email marketing is a fantastic way to stay front of mind and to let your readers know about everything from competitions to new releases.”

This is The Reason Book Marketing is Exhausting You and How to Fix That – via BadRedhead – “Many writers are exhausted by book marketing — even those who haven’t released their book yet. Sometimes, simply the thought of where to begin can be enough to stop a writer from ever starting at all. What to do?”

For Producers:

Voiceovers And Your Problem – via Tom Dheere – Tom offers five things to listen for if you want to make it as a voice talent.

Allowing Your Voice-Over Niche to Evolve Over Time – via suchavoice – “I didn’t set out years ago with this niche as my goal, but through hard work and perseverance, I was able to find my path over time.”

A Networking & Publicity Tactic from My Savvy 12-year-old Daughter – via Natasha Marchewka – “Way too often, I experience others as closed off and disinterested in group situations that would allow for valuable networking and even camaraderie. Being open to connecting helps us grow our business and, further, can help us grow as people.”

Yes, You Can….But SHOULD You? – via Dave Courvoisier – How big is your wheelhouse, really? Dave guides you through realistically approaching auditions.