How to Make an Audio Book

audible book Jul 16, 2023

My audio for IMAGINE finally hit the streets. I can't wait for you to listen to it.  (Here's the link:

Recently my friend Roger on LinkedIn asked me if I had gone to a recording studio to get it done, and inquired about the steps in how I brought it to life. Here's what I shared back, but also with the inclusion of the SECRET NOTES, which just wouldn't fit in the LinkedIn response.

Roger. I have a home studio for podcasting, that I can use for vocal recording. It's something I enjoy doing when I have the downtime. 

Here are My 12 Steps for making an Audiobook:

  1. Get the right gear - see my secret notes below.
  2. Read your book from MS Word.
  3. Start at the beginning of the book
  4. Don't worry about messing up. If you do, just repeat the phrase. You can fix it in the edits.
  5. Save each chapter individually (and often) as a project in Audacity.
  6. Go back to the audio project and edit out the lines you may have repeated.
  7. Add a stereo track to make it stereo (to support any music you may choose to add).
  8. Add the music you want to the tracks that should have it. I use music.
  9. Process audio - there are 5 steps I use (see my secret notes)
  10. Export the file as a high-end MP3 @ 320 Kbps) with Constant bit rate and Joint stereo
  11. Go to the ACX website - and set up a project to upload each file.
  12. Submit -- and then wait a few weeks -- or longer. (They are better now than they used to be).

Secret Notes:

1: GEAR: Recording a book requires a decent microphone with a shock-mock and/or boom stand, and some sort of wind screen / filter. It also requires a decent computer that can handle the load. I have access to both Adobe Auditions app and the open source Audacity app.  I prefer Audacity. 

Sometimes you may have to turn off the wifi when recording. WifI can create a hum. (Fortunately for me I didn't have that issue, but I have experienced it before with older gear).  

I also hooked up some inexpensive moving blankets on the wall to keep it from sounding like an echo chamber.

Speaking of echo chamber, I would stay clear form a Blue Yeti mic. They are cool, but they are not the best for book recordings. If you want something valued priced that will work well, I recommend Audio-Technica AT2020 Cardioid Condenser Studio XLR Microphone from Amazon with the USB. My Mic at home is a higher end one that I got at Guitar Center. it connects to via XLR to a USB power hub, and I listen with earphones. That tells me if my environment is right. 

2: READING: Reading your book out loud is a great way to final proof your book. You can use PDF, but Word is better. As you read your book, you might see an issue most likely that you will want to fix. Why not fix it? With self-publishing today, it's easier than ever to push out an update. My book at Amazon is the 2nd printing and reflects the edits that resulted form the Audio book production.

6: EDITING: This takes forever. You can probably outsource this to somebody else. I might consider that next time, but for my book IMAGINE, I wanted to go through the process myself.

7: FILE FORMAT: All files, when you submit them, need to be the same: either Stereo or Mono - so I personally just make them stereo. You can do this in Audacity, by adding a blank stereo track to your audacity project, even if the vocal recording is mono

8: MUSIC: It's not required, but for the book IMAGINE I thought it would be a nice touch, I picked out music ( using an artist I liked. I used it for Intro, Transition (Ground zero, Phase 1, 2, 3 & 4), Epilogue, Closing. Make sure the music doesn't over power the audio. Music was added after I laid down my voice, and after Nathan, who opens and closes the book, ands read the forward.

9: PROCESSING AUDIO: The process for reworking the audio to make it compliant is as follows (in this order).

  • Loudness Normalization (RMS to -20db)
  • Limiter,
  • Noise Reduction (of any background hum),
  • Regular Normalization,
  • Graphic Filter (sometimes)
  • ACX check which is now built into Audacity.

I recommend you also explore YouTube videos to see how you need to get the sound right in Audacity (ACX). 

11: PUBLISHING:  If you have a Kindle of your book already in the Amazon Ecosystem, it will help identify all the sections you need to upload, by pulling in the Table of Contents. Just load the audio file (MP3) associated with each chapter.  Once you are done, and you're happy with the logo of the book and all the details, hit SUMBIT, and then just wait.   Before you know it, the world will hear and know the message you have to share.

Well that's it.  Let me know if you have any questions regarding what it takes to made an audiobook.



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