I love listening to audiobooks. I share my enthusiasm with teachers, parents, students, family members, and anyone else who will listen. Many rejoice right along with me in their merits.
But, at other times, my enthusiasm is met with comments such as “That’s not really reading, is it?” or “I won’t let my students listen to audiobooks because that’s cheating.” Listening to books is certainly different from reading books, but is it cheating? Does listening to audiobooks count as reading?
An audio book contains a recorded version of a print book. While audio books for the blind have existed for decades, the commercial audio book market blossomed with the advent of books on tape in the 1970s. If you have a great speaking voice and want to earn extra money, or if you’re an author looking for another way to sell your product and record it for the audio market, then here’s how to make an audio book.
Locate the source material. Get permission from the book or article’s owner to record it as an audio book. If you’re recording your own work, make sure that you’ve copyrighted the original version and the sound recording. Practice the material before recording. Get acquainted with the pacing and vocabulary of the piece. Try different accents and be certain of how to pronounce names or difficult words. Modulate your voice. Avoid speaking in a monotone; change pitch and timbre to get your point across and keep the listener engaged. Don’t speak in a rapidly changing “sing-song” voice, but let the material dictate your tone of voice.
Choose the best recording equipment you can afford. A simple mixing board will do. Check sites like Musicians Friend to find deals on four- or eight-channel mixers. Unless you expect to features lots of sound effects in your audio book, more channels aren’t necessary. Invest in a good microphone, like a Shure or Telefunken.
Hire an engineer and voice talent for more complicated projects. If the book in question needs more than one narrator, or if you need to record music and sound effects, consider hiring voice talent and an engineer. If you don’t have time to do so on your own, find an audio book producer to package your book for you.
Decide which product format you want to sell. CDs and digital downloads (MP3s) have replaced cassette tapes as the format of choice. Then figure out where to sell your audio book. You may want to use your own website, or sell it through a site like Audible. I used ACX, Amazon’s audio platform. In this site you can “recruit” possible voices for your book and “hire them” for the job based on their posted samples to you.
For example, I needed somebody “Irish” to record my mystery, Forevermore, and I was able to hire Shandon Loring to read my book. He has an interesting voice; it is deep and resonant without being distracting to the ear, and I enjoyed his sense of drama while reading. I hired him to share the proceeds of the sale of my book, 50/50, as I truly believe that the important job of reading my novel, and making it come to life, deserved a big share, and I also believe the “voice” can make or break the success of an audio book–especially a mystery. Here’s Shandon reading the Prologue and part of Chapter 1 of my new detective yarn, Forevermore.
Therefore, you should choose your talent wisely when you decide to create an audio, and be ready to give them the chance they so richly deserve. If my audio version of the first novel in my “Pat O’Malley Historical Mystery Series” is a success, I will owe it to my friend and business partner, Shandon Loring.
I wish you all the success in your own enterprise, and please drop me a line if you want to share your own experience making an audio recording!