Like the old adage goes, “just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.”
This post continues on the heels of one I once wrote a few years back about whether authors should even make audiobooks at all, but specifically, should they make those audiobooks themselves?
I started my first blog in 2004, and my first podcast in 2007 and worked hard at both for many years. When I started either one, I never had any clue (at first) they would gradually prepare the way to use the skills I honed in each craft professionally and make a living at them.
I believe a lot in Robert Greene‘s idea of Mastery (one of my favorite books I’ve read in a long while), and the 10,000 hours of practice concept.
I don’t flinch anymore when I hear random people tell me they think they’d be good at making audiobooks just because of their voice [alone]. And then I send them a Sean Allen Pratt video, or I should call it test, called “So…You want to be an audiobook narrator?“
See the video below.
I simply think many people don’t understand it takes a few very particular and specific skills, and not a lovely voice alone. I’m admittedly still working on and improving mine and have come a long way in the last few years since publishing my first audiobook.
But it’s NOT something one just gets into overnight.
I don’t say that because everybody has to follow the same path as me.
Far from it.
But not every author is skilled at reading their own book!
Case in point from the reviews of this recent “deal of the day” on Audible whose reviews I happened to scroll through as I was contemplating downloading this book.
Recently in the Indie (ACX And Others) Audiobook Narrators and Producers group on Facebook, someone posted the following image. Like the image above, I’ve blurred out details that would identify the book itself or the author as I’m not trying to embarass or humiliate them, even though this comment below is public on Amazon, as are the reviews above on Audible for public perusal.
There are so many things I could say in response to the blurb for this particular book. Not to mention, telling the reader ahead of time “I know my audiobook sucks” is NOT the way I would go about marketing anything I’ve put a lot of hard work into, even if it did suck.
But that’s just me.
“But Steve, I could save SO MUCH MONEY if I did it myself instead of hiring an overpriced professional to do it.“
First, saving money, though oftentime a good thing, does not necessarily result in a quality production.
Second, whether something is “overpriced” or not depends on how much you value that person’s expertise and professionalism, but that’s perhaps for another post.
It’s possible to narrate your own audiobook, if you go to a professional studio or create a more-than-adequate one you can use and record it or use a microphone that isn’t the one built-in to your laptop, and if you actually know your way around a digital audio workstation (DAW). But if not, then at the very least you’ll need to outsource the editing and mastering to someone who does.
If you are going to record your own narration, then at least take some time to truly learn how to do it, and that includes properly using your mic of choice.
Check out this video of Dave Jackson showing how to properly use a Blue Yeti mic, which might not be the mic you bought, but since it is a super popular microphone that a lot of non-audio experts think is a much better mic than it is, you’ll still get an insight or two from his demonstration.
Then, there’s the issue of Software
When it comes to the DAW you use, do you know how to effectively edit your files? Do you know how to master them? If I told you that in order to pass ACX quality control, your recordings need to be a 192 kbps or higher MP3, constant bit rate (CBR) at 44.1 kHz, and no longer than 120 minutes long, would you know what I’m talking about and how to ensure that?
If I said it needs to measure between -23dB and -18dB RMS, have -3dB peak values, and a maximum -60dB noise floor, would you look at me like a cow on the tracks staring at an oncoming train?
Creating an audiobook is not just turning on a recording program on your laptop and reading your book out loud. Every recorded hour can require up to 6-8 hours of editing, proofing and mastering, and that’s when you know what you’re doing.
How long will it take the first time you make a book and are learning as you go?
If at some point you start to realize it’s better to spend money to save time, and not to mention you’re aware you’d be out of your depth if you tried taking on your audiobook on your own, then get in touch with me if you think you’d like to have my male voice do it for you.
But even if you wouldn’t like me to do it, you can find a suitable narrator on websites like ACX or Findaway Voices, or Spoken Realms.
Editing and Proofing
OK, so you’re still going to go ahead and do your own narration, and will take into consideration the things I mentioned about mic technique, familiarity with your software, and perhaps voice over coaching with someone who helps authors properly narrate their own book.
What about having it properly edited and proofed?
Just like in writing, we hear what we expect — meaning, you may know what your text is supposed to say because you wrote it, but that doesn’t mean you delivered it properly. A proofer will do the same thing as it sounds like — go through your audio along with your manuscript and listen carefully and check you didn’t repeat anything, misquote something, mispeak, and any other number things we think we’ll catch when we do our own editing.
While it’s no susbstitute for a human being, Pozotron is an amazing proofing software and it’s relatively inexpensive. But it will still take you TIME to use. A human being is still a worthwhile investment here, even if that that proofer/editor uses Pozotron themselves for their workflow.
I personally have been working with Jeremy Munns for the nearly two years (as of this writing) and highly recommend reaching out to him for your audiobook project. You can reach him here on Facebook or click his name earlier in this paragraph to find him on LinkedIn.
Don’t cut corners on any aspect of your book publishing
Your fans and readers deserve the best from you, and just like any author aware of his or her giftings would not design their own cover or throw their manuscript on to Amazon without having it professionally edited, you don’t want to try tackling this aspect of the production without knowing what you’re doing.
If you’ve not done so already, please check out this previous post of mine that also shares a few more insights you might not have considered about whether authors should make their books available as audiobooks.
Pastor, Preacher or Christian Author — READ THIS NEXT:
Should an Author Narrate her Audiobook? by Karen Commins.
Why narrating an audiobook is a LOT harder than you think by Thomas Ling at RadioTimes.