After years of people asking me, “Is that in audiobook format?” I finally broke down and recorded my first novel and published it as an audiobook. Last month, my post about this process mostly revolved around creating the cleanest audio to submit to sites like Amazon’s Audiobook Creation Exchange (ACX). This month, I’d like to explain the process of actually recording and producing an audiobook. It’s a bit more complicated than you might think.

For those who read last month’s post, you might be wondering why I used a Christmas tree box to prop up a tablet and hold the microphone. First off, using a tablet with my manuscript on it, I could easily scroll through the pages of my book using my finger on the screen instead of flipping pages on an actual book. Not only did this remove any page-turning noises in my recording, but the seamless manuscript prevented any unnecessary pauses that might occur between pages.

Recording an audiobook? Stand up!

Secondly, having my setup at chest height allowed me to stand for each recording session. It might seem intuitive to some, but your voice will be the strongest and clearest if you’re speaking while standing up. Sure, this may become uncomfortable after a while, which was why I would sit down between takes to go over the next section of the text. This also allowed me to gesticulate a little to get into the characters.

As an audiobook listener, I appreciate the narrators who manage to make each character sound unique. After all, recording an audiobook isn’t just reading the book aloud. It should be a dramatic reading, with all the right emphases on the correct parts of each sentence. Most of the time, I’d have an accent or distinguishing feature for each character’s voice that I’d use so it would be clear who was speaking. In a book with over 20 unique characters, it became a bit of a challenge by the end to create truly original voices for all these characters.

The process takes longer than you think.

ACX requires each “section” to be its own mp3 file, so I had to record each section of First Name Basis in one take. At least, that’s what I originally thought. Some of these sections were over 15 minutes long, so if I screwed up near the end, I felt I had to re-record the whole thing. Fortunately (after a few-month hiatus), I eventually figured out that I could pick up again at the spot where I messed up and keep recording the rest of that section. The iPhone Voice Memo app lets me edit the audio I just recorded and start recording again before my flub. To ensure I trimmed out the extra silence of starting the recording again, I would snap next to the microphone to cause a spike in the waveform that I would trim out later.

Of course, before I recorded each section, I would read it out loud so I wouldn’t be surprised by anything in the section. Sometimes in these first, non-recorded readthroughs, I would find spots that I needed to carefully work through in the live recording. Sure, this meant I was essentially reading the whole book twice, but it was worth it because I could identify the emphasis of each word instead of going in cold and potentially reading a line wrong. Rerecording botched lines meant a mere seven hours of recorded audio likely took me 20 hours (or more) to record.

Even after recording the whole book, the resulting audio was still too quiet for ACX standards. As shown above, I needed to amplify almost every audio file to meet the required levels to be accepted. Unfortunately, while this process was tedious for 72 individual mp3s, it often wouldn’t fix random volume spikes I had in my files. Occasionally, the narration I gave would be a bit too loud, so I needed to dampen these spikes before amplifying the whole file in Audacity (a free audio editing software). Fortunately, ACX easily identifies if the uploaded files have these errors before the audiobook is ultimately submitted for review and provides suggestions for fixing these errors. This ensured the audio I submitted was of a consistent level and quality.

As this was my first time doing Do-it-Yourself audiobook narration, I was nervous that ACX wouldn’t accept my files. Ultimately, my audiobook was accepted and is now available on Audible. However, there is a pretty sharp learning curve if you haven’t done voice acting or audio file manipulation, both of which I had some previous experience with. While I hated learning how to produce an audiobook (as I was doing it for the first time), the lessons I learned during the process were invaluable for any future audiobook I wanted to record.

Now that my audiobook was available, I wanted to do a few more things so that potential readers would have the audiobook format that worked for them. Next month, I’ll discuss some other ways (besides Audible) that you can get your recorded audiobook into the hands (and ears) of your readers.


Do you have voices in mind when you write characters?
How does the emphasis of a sentence change its meaning?

What’s stopping you from recording your own audiobook?

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