Tag Archives: DIY

ACX Storytellers: Joanna Penn

In addition to connecting authors and publishers with voice talent and studio pros, ACX offers those with completed audiobooks a pathway to distribution through the top audiobook retailers, Audible, Amazon, and iTunes. This DIY” workflow is a popular choice for authors who want to voice and even produce their own work. Author Joanna Penn recently completed the process herself, and she joins us today to share her experience recording Business for Authors: How to be an Author Entrepreneur (out today) for ACX.

ACX Author and DIY Narrator Joanna Penn

ACX Author and DIY Narrator Joanna Penn

How to Record Your Own Audiobooks For ACX

Audiobooks are a fantastic growth market for authors, narrators, and producers alike, and I’ve been working with fabulous narrators for my fiction since ACX opened up in the UK in 2014. But as a listener, I prefer non-fiction audio in the voice of the author themselves, so I decided to record one of my own books, Business for Authors: How to be an Author Entrepreneur.

Here are the lessons I learned in the process:

1. Make Sure You Record the Highest Quality Audio

There are specific technical requirements one must adhere to when publishing an audiobook on ACX, so that the listener has the best experience possible. You can reach this level of quality by recording in your own home, but only if you can get rid of the various noises that may pollute the audio, which you may not even hear anymore.

I’m a podcaster so I’m used to recording and editing audio, but when I listened to the sounds of my flat, I could hear planes overhead, cars going past, the rattle of someone in the garden, and the occasional yapping of a dog outside.

AndyMarlowRecordingStudioInstead, I hired professional audio producer (and musician) Andy Marlow (pictured), who has a great little studio just a bus ride away from me in South London. We worked in two-hour slots and Andy made sure that the quality of the initial audio was excellent, and he mastered the file to produce my retail-ready audio for upload to ACX.

2. Prepare Yourself for Recording

It’s surprising how tiring recording audio can be. I was exhausted after each two-hour session, because it was essentially a performance. You have to put energy and expression into what you’re saying. And in a professional studio you might be shut into a small, padded box, which takes some getting used to! Here are my tips to manage yourself during the audio process.

  • Schedule sessions a few days apart if you’re new at recording to ensure you have enough energy. People can hear exhaustion in your voice, so respect your audience and make sure you’re at full strength when starting, and stop before your voice begins to drop. It took 7 sessions of 2 hours each to get to a finished audiobook of 6.5 hours, a ratio of about 2:1.
  • Try to avoid dairy before recording or anything that might give you excess phlegm or clog your throat. Try cleaning your teeth and create a routine so that you know your voice will be ready for speaking. If you’re ill or your voice is affected in any way, you’ll need to postpone, as audiobook listeners will be able to hear the difference.
  • Joanna Penn records her audiobook.

    Joanna Penn records her audiobook.

    When you’re recording, try to modulate your breathing so you don’t end up holding your breath. I found that I needed to stop sometimes for deep breathing during longer chapters. I would consider a voice coach for help with this if I was recording more often, as it definitely affected my stamina. Professional actors and voice artists can record for a much longer period, as they have mastered this.

  • You’ll want to read from a Kindle or other tablet so you don’t encounter page-turning noises while recording. Remember to turn off any WiFi connection on the devices and set to airplane mode as they can make a static noise on the audio, even if you can’t hear it when recording.

3. Learn Some Editing Skills to Keep the Costs Down

You can pay a producer to edit the audio files as well as record and master them, but this will make your cost per book higher, meaning less profit for the project. Since I already edit audio for my podcast and I had high-quality raw audio files, I decided to do the edits myself.

Here are some specific tips:

  • You can use free editing software like Audacity to produce professional-sounding audio.
  • If you make a mistake when recording, clap your hands so you create an obvious spike on the audio file that you can use to find the error later (pictured).Clap in Waveform_01 Your error rate will increase as you become more tired, so make sure that you take breaks. I found that 40 minutes was the maximum time I could spend reading “in the box” before I needed a break.
  • The ACX technical requirements require you to add a few seconds of room tone at the beginning and end of the file. We recorded this separately, in the silence of the empty vocal booth. I then just used the pre-cut segments to begin and end each file, which made the process quick and easy.
  • After editing, there needs to be a full QC listen to the audio to ensure all the edits are done properly and the audio matches the book. Since I was truly sick of hearing my own voice by this stage, I employed my Virtual Assistant to do this step for me. Most of the files were fine, but there were a couple of instances where I had repeated myself without editing the error, so this QC step is crucial to avoid issues later.
  • High-quality audio files are very large, and because you’ll be sending them back and forth, you can’t use email for this. They will also fill up your computer memory really fast. I used Dropbox to send the edited files to my Virtual Assistant and the final files to the producer.

For more recording and editing tips, I recommend Audiobooks for Indies by Simon Whistler which has a lot of useful information, whether you want to record your own books or work with a narrator.

Would I do it again?

This process has given me a renewed respect for audiobook narrators, because now I know how hard the job is and how many hours go into recording and editing a book. It was much harder work than I expected!

businessaudioHowever, it was definitely rewarding and I will be recording other non-fiction books in the future. It also gives the entrepreneurial author another product in their business, and if you’d like to learn more about that, check out Business for Authors: How to be an Author Entrepreneur, available now on Audible.

Joanna Penn is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of thrillers under J.F.Penn. She also writes inspirational non-fiction for authors and is an award-winning creative entrepreneur and international professional speaker. Her site, TheCreativePenn.com is regularly voted one of the top 10 sites for writers and self-publishers. Connect on Twitter @thecreativepenn.

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.

Best of 2013: ACX Storytellers

We’re wrapping up our look back at the best of the blog in 2013 with a countdown of the most popular ACX success stories of the year. The ACX users featured here have been there and done that – and have valuable insight to share on audiobook publishing and production.

Take one last look at 2013 with us, and use the stories below as inspiration for your own audiobook success in 2014 and beyond!

The Countdown

10. Tim Grahl – Author of Your First 10,000 Copies talks rights reform and audiobook self publishing

9. Anti-Matter Media – The studio that produced Josh Kaufman’s The First 20 Hours checks in to offer their tips for aspiring audiobook authors and actors.

8. Rebecca Forster – Author of the Witness series shares 5 essential steps for bringing your book to life as an audiobook.

7. Badwater – Author Toni Dwiggins and producer Christine Padovan team up to talk both sides of this award winning production.

6. Wendy Lindstrom & Julia Motyka – The author of the popular Grayson series interviews her narrator and gets a  snapshot of a typical day in the recording studio.

5. Jared Tendler & Barry Carter – Authors of DIY success The Mental Game of Poker remind readers that ACX also accepts and distributes fully produced audiobooks.

4. H.M. Ward – NY Times & USA Today bestselling author offering marketing advice for fellow ACXers.

3. Arika Rapson – One of 2012’s best producer success stories returns with an update after reaching the 8,500 unit sales mark on ACX.

2. Bella Andre – Super successful ACX author and NY Times bestseller has advice for authors looking to get in the audiobook game.

1. Falling Into You – Our top success story of the year covered all aspects of Jasinda Wilder’s audiobook production, with tips from the author, along with narrator Piper Goodeve and studio pro Pete Rohan.

Are you an ACX success story? Tell us why in the comments, and we might just feature you on the blog in 2014!

ACX Storytellers: Tim Grahl

Author Tim Grahl recently completed his production of Your First 1,000 Copies, voicing the title himself and uploading it through ACX’s DIY pathway. As president of Out:think Group, Tim has worked with many authors and knows how to speak their language, which makes him the perfect guest to talk about his audiobook journey . Take it away, Tim.

Last week I announced the release of the audiobook edition of Your First 1000 Copies, produced via ACX. I originally had no plans to make an audio edition of Your First 1000 Copies, but my good friend and fellow author Josh Kaufman insisted on it.  Last year he self-published the audio edition of his first book The Personal MBA and has been completely overwhelmed by the success.  And since I do whatever Josh tells me to, I decided to go for it.

tim-headshotWho, how, and where to record?

The first decision I made was to record it myself. I listen to a lot of non-fiction audiobooks and my favorites are always the ones that are read by the book’s author. While they aren’t always as polished as a professional narrator, I appreciate hearing the author’s voice. I wanted listeners to hear my voice and how I talk about the subject. Sure, I made mistakes and wasn’t as eloquent as someone who does this for a living, but it was something I enjoy as a reader so wanted to do it for my readers.

The next decision was how and where to record. I read several places how self-published authors were doing it by recording straight through their desktop computer with a microphone, but I know the quality of these final recordings are often lacking. Plus, the idea of doing all of the editing myself seemed very overwhelming. In the end I decided to reach out to a friend I have who works at local radio stations and has a professional recording studio in his basement. It took two sessions that started after 9pm at night (which meant his kids were asleep and the house was quiet), but I was extremely happy with the final result.  It’s well edited and lacks the unpolished feel that would have come from doing it myself.  I’ll admit here that I also got it done for less than $400 which is significantly less than what you’ll spend with a typical studio.  It’s nice to have friends with the right equipment.

The recording process wasn’t too bad.  I printed the entire book out in large font and practiced turning the pages silently before heading to the studio.  I also practiced my volume and tempo a few times into my own computer to make sure I wasn’t going to fast or slow.  Again, while the final product isn’t as polished as it would be by a professional narrator, I’m very happy with how it turned out.

Just like self-publishing your digital and print books, quality matters.  People that listen to audiobooks are used to a certain level of quality, and I wanted to make sure my audiobook met those standards.  I’m happy with the decision to go with a recording studio whose job it was to make sure it was done right.jy2pdlpy1hgvv85n1380831492271

The Money

Here’s where things get really interesting.  The royalty model is unbelievable. On top of the royalties, Audible pays a $25 “bounty” if your book is one of the first three books purchased when someone signs up for Audible.  Again, pretty unbelievable.

I’m traditionally published, should I retain audiobook rights?

My definite answer is “yes!”.  In talking to other authors, the audiobook rights are often sold for very cheap — a couple thousand dollars — or never sold at all.  In the example of Josh Kaufman above, his rights were never sold so he bought them back from his publisher.  In the first week after self-publishing his audiobook, he made back the money he spent buying back the rights.

In fact, if you are still shopping your proposal and haven’t signed yet, I recommend holding back the audiobook rights (most publishers won’t fight you on this) and self-publish it.  There’s all kind of upsides to this, not least of which is all of the promotion for the print/digital sales will sell the audiobook edition as well.

That’s A Wrap!

In my experience, most authors have very little understanding or interest in the audiobook edition of their book. I hope this helped give you some information and insight that you didn’t have before.

Tim Grahl is an ACX author and president of Out:think Group. He invites you to take a free 30 day course on how to build your platform, connect with readers and sell more books by clicking here.

ACX Success Story: Jared Tendler & Barry Carter

In addition to offering a marketplace where authors and rights holders can connect with audiobook actors and producers, ACX also allows those who have completed, retail ready audiobooks to upload their audio for distribution through Audible, Amazon, and iTunes. Jared Tendler and Barry Carter used this DIY pathway to upload their completed audiobooks, The Mental Game of Poker and  The Mental Game of Poker 2 to ACX. They’ve stopped by today to talk about their decision to get into the audiobook game, and the success they found through ACX.

Leveraging the Benefits of ACX to Sell More Books

We published The Mental Game of Poker 1 & 2 to help poker players break through the mental barriers holding them back at the poker table. Interestingly, we had to break through our own mental barriers to be convinced that turning the first book into an audiobook was a good idea.

Jared

ACX Author Jared Tendler

Although audiobooks have been around for years, we were skeptical. How profitable could it be? How big is the market? In the end we figured that selling 1,000 copies would make the decision worthwhile and there was a decent chance that could happen in a year.

We ended up selling 1,000 copies in two months, and another 3,000 in the months that followed. (This is just sales of our first book, the second volume has just been released.)

In the 15 months since releasing The Mental Game of Poker we’ve learned a lot about audiobook production and marketing, and the market as a whole. Below you’ll find some of the things we’ve learned that in hindsight would have made our initial decision easy. Hopefully this will make your decision to get in the audiobook game easier.

The Benefits of Audiobooks

One integral part of producing and marketing a successful audiobook is to sell your customers on the the benefits of the format in general. We always thought audiobooks were the future of publishing, we just weren’t sure how soon it would arrive. There is no doubt anymore, the future is now. The explosion of mobile technology has given readers the convenience of being able to consume books at any time, even while even doing other things. In the case of our audience, that usually means eitf71rsl7v6yqd5nmf1378218555857her playing poker or driving to the casino to play poker.

Another benefit that surprised us quite a bit, was that it opened up an entirely new market of people to our books: people who don’t read books! Audiobooks can reach an entirely new demographic that softcover and ebooks cannot? We received many emails, tweets, and messages on Facebook from customers thanking us for making the book available in audio because they simply don’t read books anymore. One even joked that he could now tell people he reads books.

One final hidden gem we found was that a lot of people liked our book so much, they chose to buy it in softcover or ebook format in addition to audio. Our titles are reference books that customers often read multiple times. We didn’t anticipate them wanting to read it multiple times and in multiple formats.

The Benefits of ACX

We’re huge fans of ACX because of what they’ve done for our first book. They made distributing audiobooks worldwide as easy as Amazon did for eBooks, but they even took it a step further by offering two programs to make marketing and selling easier as well.

First, if your customers sign up for a free 30 day trial to Audible, they can get your book for free and you can still receive a royalty. This has allowed us to market our book as being available for free, which created some buzz from our audience. The blog post where we outline how to get the book for free has been viewed by over 8000 people and been a huge driver of sales. Promoting the free audiobook on our podcast has also paid off, because the audience is highly targeted—the fact that they’re listening proves they like audio content. But, no matter where we talk about this program, whether on social media, interviews, or newletters, we have their attention just by saying it’s free.

Barry

ACX Author Barry Carter

This success has in turn allowed us to capitalize on a second program offered by ACX called bounty payments, where you get an additional $25 if a customer purchases your book as one of their first three as Audible members. Many of the people who got a free book from us stayed members of Audible. They liked this new way to read books, stuck around, and everyone benefited.

But, even though the number of bounties we’ve received has exceeded our expectations, we would have had even more if there were more poker books available. The poker audiobook market is small and so we’re trying to convince other poker authors to produce an audiobook. This ultimately benefits everyone—authors, customers, and ACX. In your market look for win-win opportunities among other authors to promote your books together. Give your customers enough books they’ll love and they’ll stick around.

We had no idea how important audiobooks would be in our overall success, but it turned out that we got in at the right time. And now is still the right time. Audiobooks are set to explode, and if you already have a title in other formats get in the game before everybody else does.

Jared Tendler, MS is a mental game coach who works with professional poker players, you can find out more about him at www.jaredtendlerpoker.com and www.mentalgamefish.com.  Barry Carter is a writer and poker media consultant, you can find out more about him at www.pokermediapro.com

ACX Success Story: Anti-Matter Media

Aric Johnson, owner of Colorado-based Anti-Matter Media, is still reeling from their Audie nomination for the  production of Josh Kaufman’s wildly successful The Personal MBA. Josh used ACX’s DIY platform to upload the completed audio and distribute it through Audible, Amazon and iTunes. Today we’re checking in with Aric to discuss Josh’s newly released The First 20 Hours, and to get this studio pro’s advice for authors, narrators and producers.

Tell us about your current audiobook project.

We just wrapped up The First 20 Hours: How To Learn Anything… FAST by Josh Kaufman. We get to ride with Josh as he explores a few completely new skills, and the ups and downs are not only entertaining, they’re very educational.  Listening to this book, you might  be surprised at how your interests expand. After working on it with Josh, I found myself wanting to try things I’d never thought about before.

Of course, that’s one of the main benefits of being an audiobook producer: you get intimately exposed to some really great content! Especially when working with an author as productive and focused as Josh is. His stuff is so useful, so applicable, that just working on his projects has impacted my business in ways that go well beyond the act of recording them. And since this was Josh’s second turn at bat narrating himself, we were able to really settle in and enjoy ourselves

Tell us about yourself.

AMM Aric

Aric Johnson, Owner/Creative Director of Anti-Matter Media

I have always wanted to inspire people, much the same way that I was inspired by the movies and music I experienced when I was young. So I started out in film production, but moved into music production because it was much easier to be independent in music. I started out producing albums for independent artists on small labels, and I’ve been doing that for over 20 years now.

After working on several small independent films, mostly documentaries, I was fortunate enough to be able to combine music production and post-production into an ongoing business and own my own studio. And now, my wife and I – we own the studio together, and are a team in the business – we get to work on really interesting projects with really interesting people from all over the country.

That’s part of what is so exciting to us about ACX and the Audible model. It is truly empowering to authors who want to work independently, to produce and own their content. Even if authors are already partnered with a publisher, the ACX/Audible engine affords them great control over quality and the means of distribution. And that’s everything, in the digital era: getting as close as possible to your audience, with efficiency and a minimum of overhead.

AMM LogoWhat attracted you to The First 20 Hours?

After working on The Personal MBA, I knew that anything Josh Kaufman created was something I wanted to be involved in. Josh’s projects are very congruent with the whole reason I love what I do: both The Personal MBA and The First 20 Hours are about empowering people to be their best and to be successful without the huge institutional overhead we so often assume is necessary. We had built a rapport on the first project, so it was a no-brainer that we would work together again. I enjoy working with authors who narrate their own projects; I think you get a passion and immediacy that, sometimes, only the author can provide.

What advice do you have for authors who are considering having their titles made into audiobooks?

First and foremost: keep your rights! Audiobook rights are and should be separate from publishing; do what you can to keep control and as much ownership as possible.

Then think about what you want your audience’s experience to be. Put yourself in their shoes, and create an experience for them that really honors your intentions. Don’t just hand it off and let it be done by someone who isn’t invested in your vision. Passion matters.

Don’t be afraid to break rules or stand against convention; be creative. As a producer, I would say to an author the same thing I often say to songwriters: If it helps tell the story and make it more compelling, do it! If it takes away from the story or distracts, throw it out. The story is king. That’s why sometimes letting the author narrate their book works. It may not be as polished or smooth as a professional read, but there are some ideas that are stronger coming directly from the mind that made them.

What advice do you have for those new to audiobook narration/production?

AMM Studio New

Anti-Matter Media’s state-of-the-art studios in Colorado.

For a narrator: Put some of your self into a project.  It will come through, and you’ll end up attracting more projects that are similar in tone and intention. That may be a basic life principle, but it is uncannily literal in audiobook production, simply because the naked human voice always tells the truth, in spite of what you might want it to say. There’s just nowhere to hide.

How you feel about the project, about yourself, about what your cat did or your primary relationship that day – all that will come through. So do whatever you need to do to bring your best self to the booth.

For producers: God is in the details. I can’t stress this enough: details matter. Get the editing really clean. Fix every fade and every breath. Even minor technical glitches or inconsistencies register subconsciously in the sophisticated voice-recognition software in our heads. It will pull the listener out of suspension of disbelief and remind them that they’re listening to a recorded product. You don’t want that.

It’s also the producer’s job to help the talent bring their best selves and to find the project’s core. That’s a whole art in itself – maybe that’s a book on its own – but use common sense and always keep the big picture in mind.

 Are you listening to any other audiobooks now? Which?

I know I’m really late, but I only recently finally got around to listening to my wife’s copy of The Da Vinci Code. What a great read by Paul Michael!

What’s your biggest takeaway from Aric’s interview? Tell us in the comments below!

ACX Success Story: Rebecca Forster

ACX rights holder Rebecca Forster is the author of many successful titles, including the “Witness” series. The first two books in this series have been made in audio via ACX by Rebecca and narrator Tara Platt. Today, Rebecca stops by the blog to share what she did to get her books from print to awesome audio.

I have written over 25 novels. Each one starts with voices in my head. By the time a book is done, I know every inflection, tonal change and speech pattern of every character. So, when I had the opportunity to create the audio versions of Hostile Witness and Silent Witness, I was excited. This, I thought, was going to be a breeze.

I thought that just before I became terrified.

ACX Author Rebecca Forster

Author of the “Witness” series Rebecca Forster

I was excited because next to having your book made into a movie, audio is about as cool as you can get. I was terrified because suddenly there were decisions to make that I had never considered when writing these books. How had I really imagined my characters’ voices? Did I want an actor or an actress to read my books? How did I produce and publish an audio product? Did I want separate voices for each character or not? Did I want to read my books myself?

The only question I could answer was the last one. No fiction author should ever read their work if I am an example. My one attempt to do so left me ROFL. Thankfully, I was alone in the house when I tried it. Some people are actors; I am not.

Once that decision was made there were still others to tackle. This is my list of the five things I did  to bring my books from print to awesome audio.

1)   Listen to popular audio books in your genre. I listened to both male and female thriller authors. I found it disconcerting to hear a man read primary female parts but had no trouble accepting a female reader tackling male characters. It is a personal decision but I was lead by what seems to be accepted wisdom of the best selling authors and that is use the voice of the predominant character. I chose Tara Platt, an award winning voice over artist. I also chose to have each character voice distinctive and that meant the voiceover had to seamlessly move between character and gender, expository and dialogue.

2)    Choose a neutral voice unless your book has a cultural basis for a different choice. I listened to audio versions of books written by English authors and read by English actors. As much as I love an English accent, I realized choosing a voiceover with a discernible accent was distracting for an American thriller.

"Witness" series narrator Tara Platt.

“Witness” series narrator Tara Platt.

3)   If possible, seek professional assistance. I was lucky to know a producer who understood what goes into a successful voiceover. He coached me in what I should be listening for when I received my file for approval, not the least of which was breathing patterns. Like a singer, a voiceover artist should be able to read seamlessly without gasps or gaps in the production as well as communicate the appropriate cadence and genre of your novel.

4)   Provide your talent a ‘cheat sheet’ that includes a short description of the plot, descriptions of all recurring characters, unique setting points, and where the major plot points are. Also provide the talent with a copy of the book.

5)   Speak up and ask questions. There is someone to listen at established, professional sites. I worked with ACX for Audible.com, the most recognizable of all audio sites. They were responsive to all my questions and offered production options from talent buyout to royalty sharing and independent production.

It didn’t take me long to realize that as much time goes into reading a book for audio distribution as writing it for print or digital consumption. I also realized after I heard the first few chapters of my book that I was as lost in listening to the story in the same way I had been lost in writing it. I may have known the ending, but I didn’t know the sound of it would leave me breathless when I heard it.

Thanks, Rebecca, for great pointers for all ACX rights holders and authors. We’d love to hear what steps other rights holders have taken to ensure a great audiobook production. Tell us in the comments!

Why Did My Title Fail QA? Part 5

Welcome to the  final installment of our series aimed at helping ACX users ensure their titles make it from “in production” to “on sale” quickly and painlessly. The first four parts of the series can be found here.

Gating

Gating is a process used to help tame unwanted noise within recordings.  Used effectively it is completely transparent, can be a great time-saver, and can help give your audiobook a nicely polished sound.  Used improperly, it can result in a seriously flawed sound that takes away from the listening experience.

There have been a few titles submitted to ACX with the hallmark sound of an improperly used gate, and the majority of these have needed revisions made before being allowed up for sale.  At best this means going back to a version of your work saved before employing this tool and making a few adjustments (You archived a 100% unprocessed version of your original recording, right?).  At worst, especially if the gate was a part of your recording chain and you have no unprocessed version saved, you’ll need to rerecord the entire book.

Take a listen to these samples which contain badly used gates.  You’ll be able to hear the room tone cut in and out as well as the occasional cut-off word – two very distracting problems that make listening for extended periods of time an uncomfortable experience.

Bad Gating 01

Bad Gating 02

Your takeaways should be:

  • If you’re considering using a gate and don’t know how to set it up, consult a qualified and experienced audiobook engineer to help with this task.  Once you dial-in your settings you can usually use them again and again on future projects.
  • If you’re hearing fluctuations in your room tone after employing the gate, it is not setup properly.  Same for cut-off words.  Continue to work on getting your settings right or simply do not use the gate.  Again, your room tone should not change at all– it must be consistent throughout the entire listen, whether under your voice or in the clear.  Your audio should never drop to absolute zero.  Your room tone should be your baseline.

Finally, remember that there is no substitute for good editing.  When you do employ gating, it should only be used as an aid, and in conjunction with a proper end-to-end edit/QC pass.

This wraps up our series, and will hopefully help ACX producers achieve better sounding audiobooks. Make sure to follow us on Twitter and Facebook for more tips, and be sure to tell us your thoughts in the comments below!

Why Did My Title Fail QA? Part 4

Below is part 4 of our series aimed at helping ACX users ensure their titles make it from “in production” to “on sale” quickly and painlessly. The rest of the series can be found here. Today we’ve got some great info on the do’s and don’ts of using noise reduction on your audiobook production.

Extreme Noise Reduction (or “Noise, and What NOT to Do About It”)

The sound of your voice and the “sound” of clean room tone are the only things that should be heard in your audiobook (no, not all breaths need to be removed – only those that are noticeably distracting).  Anything else can be an annoyance to the listener.  High-pitched ringing, buzzing, distortion, feedback, or odd “metallic” sounds that occur throughout the entire audiobook are a sign of a bad recording environment and/or a flawed recording chain. Noises such as these are best resolved before you start recording your next project. Leaving them to be fixed after the fact, in post-production, is a recipe for disaster. The improper use of noise reduction to remove these sounds often results in an overly processed and poor sounding audiobook that may be rejected by the ACX QA team. Take a listen to the following sample for an example of overly processed audio:

Overprocessed Audio Sample

If your recording contains such noises, you may need to hire an experienced audiobook engineer to help mitigate the problems and salvage your production.

Momentary noises such as desk thumps, car horns, a dog barking or your kids fighting in the next room – none of these should exist in your final audiobook either.  Treat your room (and yourself!) to more sound deadening to help prevent these issues in your next audiobook, and take the time needed to listen from start to finish to properly remove these sounds from your existing audio.  Of course, if they occur under your narration you will need to re-record those sections and edit them back into the rest of the file.

Click here for the fifth and final part of our series. For more tips and information on the do’s and don’ts of audiobook production, check out our Video Lessons & Resources Page.

Why Did My Title Fail QA? Part 3

Today we continue our series of posts aimed at helping ACX users ensure their titles make it from “in production” to “on sale” as quickly and painlessly as possible. Part 3 is below, and the entire series can be found here.

Outtakes (aka Bad Editing)

It happens to even the best professional narrators: you hit a difficult name or a tricky sentence and make a mistake, then pause and re-read it. If left in your final audio, these outtakes sound unprofessional and are very distracting for listeners, so you should make sure these errors are removed before clicking “I’m Done.” And remember, in order to be eligible for the Kindle and Audible feature Whispersync For Voice, your audiobook must match the print/eBook at a rate of 97%.

Marking the script when you stumble on a passage is the best way to ensure you’ll catch these outtakes during the editing phase of your production. Narrators often pause after an outtake, so double-checking any pauses in the audio waveform can uncover a lot of them as well. Clapping or making another loud noise that’s easily recognizable in the waveform is an even better way to make these outtakes easily apparent.

Finding errors can be a challenge, but it’s worth the effort.  There’s no replacement for giving your entire audiobook a final QC (Quality Control) pass to catch any lingering outtakes, misreads, and noises.

For full details on ACX’s audio specs,  check out our Rules For Audiobook Production, and click here to read part four of our series.