The DIY Guide To Turn Your Book Into An Audiobook

Turn-Your-Book-Into-An-Audiobook

Audiobooks are big, and they’re only getting bigger. In 2016, the annual sales of audiobooks were 2.1 billion dollars, and sales increased to 2.6 billion dollars in 2017. (Source) With podcasting also on the rise, it looks like audio is where the market is flooding to right now for content consumption.

At the same time, you may have noticed how competitive the kindle market is. With an estimated 5 million kindle books now published, it’s getting harder to get noticed. Since there’s less competition in the audiobook market, this gives you an advantage if you act now to start getting your books into audio.

The second audiobook I produced has consistently sold over 100 copies each month without doing any extra marketing or promotion. Overall, audiobooks have generated royalties on par with my print and eBooks. In some cases, I end up selling even more audiobook editions than kindle editions. This works for fiction authors as well. A coaching client of mine, Emily Chang, sells over 150 romance audiobooks a month–which she narrated herself.

While producing audiobooks may seem like a no-brainer, many authors are held back because getting audiobooks created can be expensive, time-consuming, and there were limited distribution options for those outside ACX.com based countries (US, UK, Canada, and Ireland).

The good news is, in this article, you will learn:

how to find an audiobook production method that works with any budget

  • exactly what equipment you need to record an audiobook yourself
  • how to distribute audiobooks from virtually anywhere in the world

Let's dive into why and how to turn your book into an audiobook so you can reach more readers and earn more royalties.

Podcast: When Authors Should Make Audiobooks

                                          

Tune in to hear from Derek and Dave about why, when, and how authors should make an audiobook to grow their audience and sales.

3 Non-Sales Perks of Using Audiobooks

While selling audiobooks is a great way to increase your monthly royalties and connect with new readers, there are some other perks to having audiobooks. These include:

  • Bounties – Get paid $50 every time someone purchases your audiobook as the first book in their Audible trial. This averages several hundred dollars in extra income for me each month. This means even lower priced audiobooks can help generate more income from bounties.
  • Email list opt-in incentive – You can use your audiobook as an incentive for people to sign-up for your email list (if you’re non-exclusive). I often use an audiobook as an offer when going on podcasts because they naturally appeal to those who listen to audio.
  • Bonus – Offer your audiobook as a limited time bonus for purchasing your book during a launch or other special promotion.

Creating Audiobooks

There are three main options for creating an audiobook. Each will have their pros and cons, so it’s not a matter of one-size-fits-all. Rather, consider your bigger business goals to determine which option is the best fit for you.

Option 1: Hire a Producer

When you hire a producer, they will do all the work of narrating and producing the audiobook. While this saves you the most time, it also costs you the most money.

The first and only book I hired a producer for cost me around $1,300 to narrate a book that’s around 51,000 words. If you shop around, you can find producers who will do it for less. Regardless, you’ll still expect to pay in the hundreds to thousands of dollars for a full-length book or novel.

Narrators can be found on ACX.com. Learn more about their process here.  You can also go to freelancing sites like Upwork.com to find a narrator. Finally, you can listen to other audiobooks in your genre and if you hear a narrator you enjoy, you may be able to track them down via a Google search.

The Pros:

  • Least time investment for you as the author
  • You own all the rights to the book

The Cons:

  • The highest cost
  • It could potentially take a while to see a return on investment
  • There’s a potential wait time of several weeks or more depending on the narrator
  • It will take time to proof the audiobook to ensure the narrator didn’t make mistakes, mispronounce names, or do something you're not pleased with

The Conclusion:

If time is short and you already have a book that’s proven to sell well, going with a narrator would be a good option.

Option 2: Do a Royalty Share With a Producer

A royalty share, which is done through http://ACX.com, is where a narrator will produce your audiobook with no upfront charge. However, they will take 50% of all income and you’ll be locked into an exclusive contract with ACX for seven years.

If you’re a long-term thinker, then you may immediately see why this could be detrimental. You won’t be able to use your audiobook as an incentive to sign-up to an email list or as a bonus. And if you make a lot of money from audiobook sales, it could potentially cost more in the long-run than hiring a narrator outright.

Go here to see a comparison of ACX’s production options.

The Pros:

  • No upfront cost
  • Low time investment on your end

The Cons:

  • You’ll lose half of all income from royalties and bounties
  • This is only available through ACX with a seven-year exclusivity contract
  • There’s a potential wait time of several weeks or more depending on the narrator

The Conclusion:

This could be a good option if narrating yourself isn’t an option and you have a severely limited budget. I generally suggest going with option one or three if you can make either of those work.

Option 3: Do It Yourself

My personal favorite method for audiobook production is the do-it-yourself approach. It saves many authors hundreds to thousands of dollars. You can produce an audiobook in a matter of hours for a shorter book. And a home studio can be set up for $100-200 depending on what you’re starting with.

Perhaps the biggest reason for doing it yourself, especially for non-fiction authors, is it will create a deeper bond with the listeners. I’ve gotten several emails from listeners who expressed how much they enjoyed hearing me narrate my own book.

It’s worth noting that in many fiction genres, it’s common for the narrator to be the same sex as the protagonist. This is worth taking into consideration depending on whether or not your sex matches that of the main character.

If tech worries are a concern, I’ve found in teaching hundreds of authors how to produce their own audiobooks, even the most tech-phobic authors are able to learn and master the process fairly quickly.

Don't let lack of experience or money hold you back. The DIY Guide to Making an Audiobook can help any author get an audiobook on the market. #SelfPub #BookMarketClick To Tweet

If you’re wondering about the time investment involved, once the process is refined, I can produce an hour of audiobook content in about three hours of production time. A short novella or book can be produced in an afternoon. Longer books could take several days.

Also consider that you’re likely going to read through your book anyway, even when you hire an editor, to make sure it flows properly. After receiving my latest book back from my editor, I read through it out loud to record the audiobook and caught several mistakes my editor missed. You can do both the final proofreading and audiobook narration at the same time–taking care of two birds with one stone!

The Pros:

  • This can save you hundreds to thousands of dollars
  • You own all the rights
  • You can create a deeper connection with the audience
  • You can have the book done on your own schedule, even before it launches

The Cons:

  • There’s a bit more time invested to learn and apply the process
  • This may not work for those with an accent that is hard to understand

The Conclusion:

This is my personal favorite option for those who want to save the most money, create the deepest connection, and have the most flexibility on what you do with the book.

The Do It Yourself Setup

If you’re open to recording audiobooks yourself and are wondering what kind of investment you’ll need to make, here’s the exact equipment I recommend that will allow you to record professional quality audiobooks from home.

Home Studio:

While mics like the Blue Yeti can work, a condenser microphone like the Yeti can be very sensitive to background noise. Using a dynamic microphone like the ATR2100 or Samson Q2U will pick up less noise and create a better audiobook style recording.

As you can see, you can have a home studio for approximately $150 with the bonus of being able to use this for podcasts, video recordings, and any other type of audio production you do.

Recording Environment

The ideal room to record in is a small room. Walk-in closets work great if you have the space and can take your laptop. Below is a picture of a closet I recorded in while visiting my parents’ house.

walk in closet is great for recording audiobook

However, for many people, the ideal situation would be recording at a computer desk. When I lived in a large loft, the reverb made it a poor recording environment. A simple workaround was to use a patio umbrella with a blanket thrown over the top. This only takes a couple minutes to set up and put away between recording sessions.

record an audiobook yourself with umbrella

Software

While there are many great recording programs out there, and I’ve used quite a few with my background as a musician, I recommend Audacity. It’s free, runs on Mac and PC, and has a few effects that you’ll want to use to master the audiobook. The learning curve is also fairly easy.

The Production Process

You can see ACX’s audio requirements at: https://www.acx.com/help/acx-audio-submission-requirements/201456300.

  • Have room tone at the head and at the tail and be free of extraneous sounds
  • Measure between -23dB and -18dB RMS and have -3dB peak values and a maximum -60dB noise floor
  • Be a 192kbps or higher MP3, Constant Bit Rate (CBR) at 44.1 kHz

Seeing this initially freaked me out. Even though I have a background in audio editing, I found myself worried that I might screw something up. I spent months exploring how to produce audiobooks and after a lot of trial and error, I found it’s pretty simple to meet all the requirements if you know what you’re doing.

It does take a couple hours of training with over the shoulder type of teaching to get this down. So if you’re interested in the do-it-yourself approach, you can explore the step-by-step course on audiobook creation called Audiobooks Made Easy that covers everything I discovered on how to create your own audiobooks. Even experienced audiobook producers have taken the course and discovered new tips that sped up and improved their process significantly.

Build Your Audiobook Yourself Video

The Mikkelsen Twins are excellent at audiobook creations and makes some of the most educational and fun YouTube videos on the subject.  Below is an example of this where they step you through each step of the process:

Be sure to Subscribe to their Channel to Learn More!

Distribution Options

To get your audiobook on Amazon, Audible, and iTunes, you’ll need a distributor. The main distributor for those in the US, UK, Canada, and Ireland is ACX.com. If you’re outside of any of those countries, you can use a distributor like AuthorsRepublic.com

FAQs about Audiobooks

Should I go exclusive or non-exclusive?

Going exclusive with ACX means you’re locked into a 7-year contract, and they’ll give you a 40% royalty rate as opposed to 25%. (Source) Each author must decide for him/herself what makes the most sense based on their goals. I personally am non-exclusive for most of my books in order to have greater flexibility of what I can do with the audiobooks.

How do I price my audiobook?

The price is set for you automatically when going through ACX. There’s a standard pricing model based on the length of the book you can see here.

Can I add music and sound effects to my audiobook?

While you can, it won’t be Whispersync enabled if you do. Whispersync connects your audiobook and kindle book so when a reader reaches a particular point in either edition, it will pick up where they left off in the other edition. For instance, if they stop at chapter three in the kindle book, the audiobook edition will start at chapter three. This encourages multiple sales. I’ve found books that are Whispersync-enabled tend to sell better. Therefore, I don’t recommend adding sound effects and music unless you’re OK losing out on Whispersync.

What if I want to record myself and am not sure if people would enjoy hearing me?

First, it’s important to recognize that many people are somewhat self-conscious of their voice on recording simply because it doesn’t sound the way they’re used to hearing it inside their heads. It’s possible others would love hearing you narrate your book. The best way to answer that though is to record a sample and get feedback. An important piece of feedback to get is whether or not it's easy to understand you.

How do I market audiobooks?

Right now, there aren’t a lot of audiobook-specific marketing platforms. Fortunately, many audiobook sales can come organically when people see the audiobook edition next to a kindle, softcover, or hardcover edition on Amazon or Playster. This means best practice for driving traffic to your Amazon book sales page, such as building an email list and using Amazon Marketing Services ads, can lead to audiobook sales. There are hundreds of sales of my audiobooks each month without doing any specific “audiobook marketing.”

Could an audiobook be what you need to connect with more readers and sell more books? #BookMarketClick To Tweet

For a more in-depth look at publishing audiobooks on ACX, check this post out.

Conclusion

If I could go back in time, I would have started producing audiobooks from day one of my author journey. While that’s not possible, what I can do is hope to inspire you to create your own audiobooks now – whether that’s through hiring a narrator or doing it yourself. There’s a world of new fans waiting to discover your work when you put it out on audio.

Share in the comments below which approach you’re going to use along with any questions and comments.

About the Author

Derek Doepker is a seven-time #1 bestselling author who’s sold over 50,000 copies of his self-published books. He helps authors through workshops, courses, and retreats to turn their passion for writing into a thriving business. You can learn more about his work and download a free copy of Why Authors Fail at http://derekdoepker.com/authorship/. You can learn more about his audiobook course here.

12 Comments

  1. Rachel Paul on April 30, 2019 at 5:17 pm

    Hello, Derek! Thank you for sharing your experience. I saw that sound effects and music are not good for the system…I am trying to record a screenplay (The Wearing of the Green) with narration and character voices, interspersed with theme music and sound effects. Do you have any suggestions for me in which equipment, software et al would suit my project best? Thank you so much in advance!
    Rachel Paul
    Producer@EddieMayMysteries.com

  2. Tam Francis: Jitterbug typer on August 20, 2018 at 2:38 pm

    As an actor, director, and writer, I have access to recording equipment and other actor friends. What I find the most daunting is the separation of chapters and how that process works. I watched/read all the ACX stuff, but got confused with the uploading. I’ll consider the course. Thank you.

  3. Ludwig van El on August 18, 2018 at 10:33 am

    I do not have enough faith in my English speaking abilities, not being a native English speaker, so I think I’ll hire some independent voice actor to read my novel. But once It is published, I’m planning on uploading it to on podiobooks.com (now scribl.com), they’ll send it to Audible

  4. Rance Dewitt on August 16, 2018 at 3:32 am

    Derek, great talk. I just had Xilbris publish my ESL Span/Eng book A NEW AMERICAN COVENANT. It is on Amazon. I did an ebook with Bowker. My dilemma is two languages, so I am starting over with another in English. Here is my question we had a super Toastmaster International club for 10 yrs at my college and I spoke every month for 10 years in story-telling. So I like the idea of audiobooks. But, another problem. My book is about 30 years work, travel, study in every country from Texas to Argentina. And.. I will be speaking to the Latino nations. So I wrote the English version as a Synopsis for the book as an intro to the bilingual book. It is only 50 pages on international travel and social insights. What would you recommend to cross that gap? Rance DeWitt

    • Derek Doepker on August 16, 2018 at 6:20 pm

      Hey Rance, please clarify the question. What do you mean by “cross that gap?”

  5. Liv Honeywell on August 15, 2018 at 6:22 pm

    “You can do both the final proofreading and audiobook narration at the same time taking care of two birds with one stone!”Erm, no. No, you cannot. Not unless you want to do a terrible job of both of them. You need to concentrate fully on what you’re doing when you’re proofreading, or you will miss things that matter.And, likewise, you need to concentrate fully on creating your audiobook narration and giving the best performance possible, and you cannot be picking out errors as you go, because your voice will alter – however slightly – when you find them, and you’ll hesitate, possibly stumble, and you won’t get the best result.Not to mention, that if you’re still on a final proofread, why on earth would you record your audiobook at that point when It is still possible you’ll find things that you need to alter that will also affect the final recording? You’re setting yourself up for having to do both tasks again.I’d also like to second every single thing that he said. Under another name, I’ve had acting training and experience, which means I’ve at least got a reasonable chance of doing a good recording of my books, but if you have not got that and do not have voice training, unless you’re a natural, your chances of producing a good enough recording aren’t high.You need to know about character development, emotion, subtext, timing, nuance and a whole bunch of other things from a performance point of view if you’re reading fiction aloud, and even non-fiction takes practice, the right voice, and amazing delivery.You need to know your limitations. Even with the experience I’ve had, I *know* I do not have the right voice to read erotica, but I also know that I could really make a light comedy book work. It is simply not realistic to expect that you’ll always be the right person to read your own books.I’m also friends with an audio engineer, and have discussed audiobook production with him, and he would not even hear of recording anything without a bunch of technical set up, proper microphone, soundproofing, etc, to ensure he gets the quality he needs.TL;DR? What Adam said!

    • Derek Doepker on August 15, 2018 at 6:39 pm

      Hey Liv, the primary intention while narrating is not proofreading, rather putting the full focus on the audiobook performance. What I found happened though is that that while narrating the book, I did catch things proofreading missed. So it was a secondary bonus process of proofreading that I’m glad I went through. And neither task was required to do all over again as changes could be made very quickly. It seems some of these concerns are based on theorizing about it, while in practice you’ll find it works out quite easily and smoothly.With regards to skills needed to narrate, as you pointed out this can be genre dependent. The point is not to say everyone should narrate their own book. Rather the intention is to educate people on their options and they can decide for themselves if the DIY approach works for their unique situation and voice or not. For myself and many students, we’ve done quite well with DIY, however again It is not for everyone. I’m incredibly grateful I decided to narrate my own books and learned the process. The positive feedback from readers reinforces the decision where multiple people have said they much prefer my narration to that of the one book I hired a narrator.

      • Liv Honeywell on August 15, 2018 at 6:57 pm

        I proofread professionally for 7 years, and have practical experience of acting and performing readings aloud. I’ve also done radio plays. I assure you I’m not theorising about my concerns.I fully agree that reading your work aloud is a brilliant way to proofread, and I do several sweeps with my writing, where I read it to myself looking for different things – grammar and punctuation, flow, consistency, etc.I then finish with at least one reading aloud to catch any places where I stumble over sentences, anything That is difficult to read, poor dialogue that doesn’t sound realistic when spoken, etc. But There is absolutely no way I’d try and do an audio narration with a great performance *and* all of those things at the same time because my narration would not be as good as it could be.If you’re a good reader, you probably can get something reasonable recorded, do your best not to stumble too much when you come across a mistake, and do some quick edits to redo the bits where you’ve made a mistake, but it still won’t be as good a performance as you’d get if you deliberately did the two activities separately and really focused on doing your best with both of them.

        • Derek Doepker on August 15, 2018 at 7:14 pm

          Hey Liz, you’re correct. I would not try to do all of those things either. Perhaps I can clarify as we’re on the same page. I’d still do a separate out loud proofread and of course hire an editor. The narration is not intended as a proofread, yet in practice I’ve found it still catches a few last little things that slipped through the cracks. This is done by giving the audiobook narration full attention without necessarily “trying” to proofread, yet it ends up still resulting in potentially catching mistakes. In other words, I’d recommend people read their book out loud multiple times, and the final time being when they can record.The way I teach doing the audiobook narration, It is very quick to re-record any mistakes that were caught in the narration process. That is what I meant by in practice vs theorizing (not directed at you, more a general comment), that It is really quick and easy to catch and re-do even if when thinking about it it seems like it may be a less than simple process. In other words, when I’ve put this into practice, none of those concerns actually manifested as there are multiple phases of editing.

          • Liv Honeywell on August 15, 2018 at 8:53 pm

            Yes, sounds like we’re agreeing there :). I think any author can read a piece aloud and to themselves over and over again and still find something they’ve missed because the brain sees what it expects to see sometimes, not what`s actually there. And a good editor is definitely necessary!



  6. Adam Dubeau on August 15, 2018 at 4:29 pm

    Dave:OMG. Just… NO.Quote:”Even though I have a background in audio editing, I found myself worried that I might screw something up. I spent months exploring how to produce audiobooks and after a lot of trial and error, I found it ‘s pretty simple to meet all the requirements if you know what you ‘re doing.”I’m an audiobook narrator That is getting into self-publishing. If you look at the reviews people give to writers that do their own narration, either they’re really good, like Neil Gaiman, or REALLY BAD, like everything else. Room noise, echo, mouth noise, plosives, dogs barking in the background, a hum from a refrigerator, etc…. There is no replacing a properly setup soundbooth with the audio setup you’ve just described. Additionally, good narrators seek out performance training to add that additional ‘polish’ to bring the book to life. I’m doubtful the author will ever seek vocal training. Once the bad reviews come flowing in, the audiobook begins to sink the in rankings and then It is doomed.The information that Derek gives is not only flawed, but It is also out of date. ACX changed the bounty program this month.There is also a 4th option that needs to be negotiated, called the “Hybrid” Deal, where narrators are paid a stipend per hour for recording/editing as part of a Royalty Share deal. Many narrators do not want to take the chance on a risky royalty share deal if the audiobook doesn’t sell well. Rather than risk the 1-3 hours PER FINISHED HOUR that it takes to really record an audiobook (including editing and proofing), Narrators are more comfortable taking a hybrid instead of straight royalty share so they are compensated for their time.Conclusion: Unless you’ve already got a great voice, a great studio recording system (and process), just hire a narrator. Skip the DIY.

    • Derek Doepker on August 15, 2018 at 6:32 pm

      Hey Adam, I appreciate your concerns. Based on the results I myself and my students have achieved, we’ve been able to produce professional quality audiobooks using this type of setup, with plenty of good reviews from listeners. If you’d like to hear samples, I’d be happy to provide them. This is based on experience working with hundreds of authors through the process.If someone really doesn’t have the skills to do it themselves, then they can of course hire a narrator. This is why options are provided so each person can make their own choice.

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Hey Guys, I’m Dave and when I am not sipping tea with princesses or chasing the Boogey man out of closets, I’m a Kindlepreneur and digital marketing nut – it’s my career, hobby, and passion.

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