I must admit: it was a veeeeery long process to get this audiobook published. So I thought I would talk about it a little bit here, to give you an idea of what it takes. And to give you some tips if you want to try it for your own book!
Considering that I have a podcast, I thought that this part would be easy. I already have the equipment, I’ve done a dozen episodes, I’m all good.
Well… not so much. The difference between a podcast and an audiobook is huge. When I record the podcast, I rarely read a pre-prepared script. I have pointers but I improvise because otherwise it doesn’t sound natural. Another difference is that it doesn’t matter if I stutter or if I mispronounce a word during the podcast. I can correct myself and it doesn’t distract too much from the flow.
With an audiobook, it’s completely different. You can’t make mistakes or hesitate, because it’s too distracting for the listener. But at the same time you want your voice to sound natural and not too “reading”. It’s a hard balance to reach. I had to re-record some sentences more than five times because I kept messing up on the same word over and over again.
I had a lot of issues with pronunciation too. In general, my spoken English is not too bad. But with this audiobook I realised that I write words that I have never said out loud before. Cue to frustrated me researching the pronunciation of some difficult words on Google and cursing past me for using such words in the first place.
Another hurdle that I encountered during this recording is that the background needs to be VERY quiet, otherwise it is immediately distracting. During a podcast, it’s not too annoying if there are some noises in the background because there’s a discussion going on. I had a lot of issues during the recording of the audiobook because even a car starting its engine in the parking lot behind my building could be heard in the microphone. Not to mention noisy neighbours, ambulances or helicopters. I had to re-record entire sections of the book for that.
Which means that altogether, the recording of my 120-page book too MUCH longer than I had anticipated.
This, I knew, would be my least favourite part. I already hate editing the podcast because it’s a lot of fiddling and it’s super boring. The audiobook is WORSE.
I wanted to ensure a good quality for my listeners and remove as much distraction as possible. As such, I tried to remove as much hesitation, pause and mouth noises as possible. Which meant that editing a 30-minute chapter took somewhere around 2-3 hours, stopping every few seconds to cut/smooth/repeat. During the editing, I also noticed mistakes, mispronunciations and forgotten words (in one chapter I forgot to read all the subsections titles – I blame the lack of sleep). So I had to re-record, then edit together.
I also had to juggle with so many files, it was annoying to keep track. When you produce an audiobook, you need a file for each chapter, a file for the introduction, a file for the conclusion, plus other files if like me you have acknowledgements and resources at the end of the book. Then add two credits files (one for the beginning, one for the end), and a commercial sample. I ended up with 16 files for the whole book.
Honestly, it was a real pain, and if I do another audiobook in the future, I will outsource the editing.
Working with ACX
I decided to work with them because I wanted my audiobook to be available on Audible and be visible directly on my Amazon pages. What I really like about them is that they give a lot of detailed instructions about what they need (hence why I knew that I needed to separate the files, and to record credits, for example).
To produce an audiobook, you need first a title and a description, which I had already from my ebook, so it was just a question of copy/paste. Then you need a cover. They have VERY strict guidelines for the cover, so you can’t simply use your ebook cover. I had to go back to my original files, rearrange the illustrations and conform to their dimensions. Altogether I think I did a good job:
It might be worth knowing this in advance if you work with a cover illustrator. Make sure they do an audiobook version for you while they are doing your book cover, otherwise you might have to pay them again!
Contrary to Kindle Publishing, you don’t decide how much your audiobook will cost. As they say it: “Each retailer of your Audiobook independently prices your product and determines such price in their sole discretion. While not always the case, the regular price on Audible for the product is generally priced based on its length” (Read More) This was annoying to me because I would like to be able to control my margins and make sure the book is not too expensive for people who don’t have an Audible subscription for example.
The uploading of the files is pretty easy and clear. It takes a little bit of time, and I would definitely recommend to upload them one by one instead of trying all at the same time.
Once everything is uploaded and ready, you just need to click a button and the audiobook is sent for review.
The Review Process
ACX has tons of quality checks to go through before your book is ready to be sold. I clicked “publish” for the first time on the 14th of August 2019. Two days later, they got back to me with corrections to make to my audiofiles:
- There were issues with the “silences” before and after my chapters: they were too long. I had misunderstood the guidelines and thought the times given were a minimum, but it turns out they were a maximum. It was easy to fix, albeit it had to be done on 16 files.
- The volume of my files were too low: it sounds like an easy to solve problem but in reality this was SUCH a pain to rectify without having high peaks that would be annoying for listeners! I had to watch tutorials about Audacity (the programme I use for editing) to be able to do this safely. ACX has super strict limits (-23dB and -18dB RMS) and it’s very difficult to reach. I highly suggest you make lots of tests with your microphone and editing software before you foolishly record your WHOLE book at the wrong volume like me.
These fixes took me 4-5 hours to make. Have a look at the submission requirements for more details about the guidelines.
I didn’t hear anything back until the 13th of September, where I had another “fix” email. This time, the problem was my book description, more specifically the bonuses that my readers can download. I won’t go into details on this matter because I am still angry about the way they treated me, but it was pretty annoying. I’m glad that a manager took over the issue after a day of frustrating back and forth with their representative, and the issue was fixed.
Finally… the Publication!
Yesterday (September 18th), I finally received the go-ahead! After a little over a month, my audiobook is finally available! I received all the details necessary to advertise and link it, and was given a timeframe on when it would be visible on my various Amazon pages.
From the first recording session until the publication, it took 3 months. I could have done the recording/editing part quicker, but I had to fit it around everything else and could sometimes only do one chapter per week.
ACX has several promotion programmes to make your audiobook more visible, which I have yet to test. I think it might be a good idea to write an article in the future when I’m more familiar with them.
Would I Do It Again?
Honestly, I found this experience more frustrating than enjoyable. I’m glad that I was able to narrate my story, because I think it will sound more authentic to my listeners. I am however decided to change some things if I do it again:
- I’m considering renting a professional recording studio for a few hours and do all my recording there and then. It would speed up the process and allow me to access a better equipment (less background noise and mouth clicks).
- I am NEVER editing an audiobook by myself again. I know my limitations and I think someone else would have done a much better job. Really, I cannot stress enough how boring this task is, and I would much rather use that time to write another book.
- I think I will limit myself to non-fiction books. Honestly, I don’t think my English accent is good enough to work for fictions. I would rather have native speakers for my British/American characters.
So, would I do it again? Yes, but I would use what I’ve learned in these past 3 months and make my life easier.
What about you? Do you listen to audiobooks? Did you narrate your own book or do you plan to do it? Or did you get someone else to do it? Let me know in the comments!
Céline is an author and podcaster passionate about helping fellow artists reach their potential and live a happy, balanced life.