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Stereo Goals: Research

I have chosen the novel I want to turn into an audiobook! So, what now? Do I jump right in and start recording? I think not. Now is the time for me to start researching. Much like writing a novel, in order to avoid copious amounts of time editing and fixing past mistakes, you need to have a solid foundation or plan to start.

First, I researched which platform I wanted to use to publish my audiobook. There are several out there including ACX and Findaway Voices. Both give you the option of uploading your own recordings or finding a narrator and producer to create the audiobook for either a royalty share or per hour fee. From a casually glance Findaway voices seems to have more reasonable rates than narrators and producers on ACX but other than that I don’t see much difference in each platform. Since I am opting to record for myself, I am cutting out the narrating and production fees altogether.

I am going to use ACX. Mostly because I am familiar with their process from my first attempt at creating my own audiobook. Second, because I just don’t feel like learning another system. I know that is terrible of me but I have a limited amount of “quiet time” to get my work done so using the familiar is a benefit for me. With my platform chosen I can now look up what their requirements and recommendations are for creating an audiobook.

The Basics:

Your audiobook must meet certain requirements to be submitted:

Consistent in overall sound and formatting.

Audiobook must be comprised of all mono, or all stereo files.

Audiobook must include opening and closing credits (in separate tracks).

Audiobook must be narrated by a human; text-to-speech recordings are not allowed.

Each uploaded file must contain only one chapter or section.

Each uploaded file must be no longer than 120 minutes.

Each uploaded file must contain a section or chapter announcement at the beginning of the audio file.

Each uploaded file must have between 0.5 and 1 second of room tone at the head, and between 3 and 5 seconds of room tone at the tail of each track.

Each uploaded file must be free of extraneous sounds such as plosives, mic pops, mouse clicks, excessive mouth noise, and outtakes.

Each uploaded file must measure between -23dB and -18dB RMS.

Each uploaded file must have peak values no higher than -3dB.

Each uploaded file must have a noise floor no higher than -60dB RMS.

Each uploaded file must be 192 kbps or higher MP3, Constant Bit Rate (CBR).

Each uploaded file must be 44.1 kHz.

Each uploaded file must be no larger than 170MB.

I know that sounds like crazy a lot. Especially if you aren’t familiar with audio recording. Thankfully, ACX has an audiobook academy to help you ensure you meet all the criteria. I highly suggest checking that out before starting your recording. It will definitely save you some headaches later.

This is the point where you will probably start to freak out and think about shelling out the dough for someone else to do the work. That is perfectly okay and totally your choice. I, however, am determined to do this on my own. So now that I have an idea of what it required by the publishing platforms I can start looking at what equipment, software, and other things are required for producing a quality audiobook.

Stereo Goals Redux

If you are a long-time follower of this blog you might remember my first attempt at a DIY audiobook. While I had an awesome weekend hanging out with my dad and cringing through my sex scenes, all in all my efforts didn’t make the cut. Xander’s Claim has yet to make its audiobook debut and while I still have the recordings, I have since revamped the entire novel making them useless.

Oh, the pitfalls of hasty publishing…lol

Xander’s Claim all cued up

Now that I am more experienced and am producing a higher quality of literary work, I have decided to give making audiobooks another shot. Sadly, I have moved too far away to get my Dad into the recording process this time. However, he graciously gifted me with all of the programs and material needed. I am a proud Daddy’s girl and it shows.

The first step in creating an audiobook is choosing which book to read or have read. Since I am a little pressed for time and I don’t want to over tax myself. I decided to take my chances with my latest short story release, Coy Wolf. Get creative with me this August in my first truly solo attempt at an audiobook!

My next sacrifice to the audiobook spirits

Stereo Goals Day 6

With all of my re-recording finished it was finally time to export my audio files! It was a very exciting moment but still a tedious one.  Part of working with my father is that he loves to teach as he goes. That meant while I would much rather be catching up on some market research I’m huddled over his computer screen listening to him go over every detailed step of his music editing software and how it processes my voice to be turned into my glorious audio book. No harm no foul considering one day I may need the knowledge to create a truly DIY audio book.

Finally with all my files edited and converted to the proper format it is time to upload it! I chose to use Audible.com to distribute my audio book.  I uploaded each file individually and once completed, clicked submit for their final review.  The website says it will take 10-14 business days to review my files to ensure their quality and that I will be notified immediately of any faults.  Let the waiting games begin!

Lessons Learned Day 6:

  • Listen and Learn- If your sound tech/engineer/whoever is recording is willing to teach you the tricks of the trade, GO FOR IT and be GRATEFUL!
  • Be prepared to wait- It seems I spent more time waiting than recording during this whole process.

 

Stereo Goals Day 5

In the beginning, when I gave myself two weeks to record my audio book I hadn’t given a thought to the long editing and publication process. I thought it would take the whole two weeks to finish getting one recording from the beginning to the end of my book. However, since Day 4 was so productive, Day 5 in the studio I finally read the last paragraph. At least I thought I had. Silly me!
Major setback, SNAFU, WTF moment. The version of my book I had recorded turned out not to be the final version of my book as published! I know you are probably thinking, “How in the world did you not know/notice that?!” Well to answer your question. This was my first book ever published and I self-published it with absolutely no clue what I was doing initially. So the book had undergone many, many updates the last and most polished of which only had a few changes, mostly formatting changes, made to it. So while the majority of the story is the same, I may have switched around a paragraph or two. On top of that, I had split my chapters up slightly different in the final version than the version I recorded.
Lucky me these changes could easily be made without too much additional recording since I had the forethought to record in paragraphs instead of long sections. The fix was just a matter of moving around a few audio files and adding a couple minutes more of narration. Still the process is time-consuming and currently ongoing.
Lessons Learned Day 5
Make sure you are recording what you meant to record- It’s seriously embarrassing and extremely costly both in time and money (if you are paying a producer/voice actor) to go through what I am going through now.

Stereo Goals Day 4

I stepped into the studio ready to go. I’d warmed up my vocal chords beforehand by singing while getting ready and was able to do most of my narration with only one or two repetitions of each paragraph. My deadline was still a heavy weight on my shoulder but not because I wasn’t sure I could get everything recorded in time. My worry at this point was mostly editing. After day 3 my father spent three more hours in the studio cutting out extra-long pauses and making sure there was enough air space at the beginning and end of each recording.
It’s important to note that I did let my Dad do this on his own without my input because he wasn’t actually cutting anything important and we had strict guidelines on just how much space was needed for chapters, sections, paragraphs etc. Depending on who you are working with you may want to be a little more hands-on with the editing process and if you are doing everything on your own maybe editing as you go so it’s not some monumental task at the end.
By the end of Day 4, I’d managed a big jump from 30% to 82% complete.
Lessons Learned Day 4

  • Warm Up- Sing a couple of songs and stretch your body out a little helps to minimize how many takes you do and keeps your body from getting too stiff from sitting or standing for too long.
  • Wear quiet clothing- Bulky sweaters and jogging pants might not be the best comfortable clothes for recording unless you want to stand like a statue while recording to minimize excess rustling noise.
  • Edit as you go- A few small tweaks while recording can save hours of time editing later.

Stereo Goals Day 3

The third day in the studio was a lot easier in some ways and harder in others. The pressure of having such a short time frame to complete my audiobook was getting to me. I rushed through my narration and it ended up taking longer than it should have because I kept getting tongue-tied. There were whole sections that had to be recorded over and over again because it sounded forced or rushed.
Day three was also the day I got to my first sex scene. It is infinitely easier to write a sex scene in the comfort of your own space. Publishing them is easy too because although you hope your readers enjoy them, you aren’t there to see their reactions to them. Reading them out loud was a bit embarrassing. Well, to be totally honest, it was extremely awkward and embarrassing, due greatly to the fact that my producer just happens to also be my Dad. I hadn’t thought about that part when I jumped at the opportunity to use his studio and expertise to record my audio book for free.
Despite everything, I still managed to get another 15% recorded which brought me to 30%. Not bad for all my setbacks.
Lessons Learned Day 3

  • Don’t wear earrings- the headphones crushed my studs into my ears and it was very uncomfortable.
  • Don’t rush- it doesn’t sound right in playback and you are more likely to make mistakes.

Stereo Goals- Day One

The first thing I needed to decide was how to produce my audio book. As I mentioned in my previous post, a professional producer and voice actor are pretty expensive. It’s one of the major factors in the high cost of audiobooks in comparison to their print and digital counterparts. Narrating my own work cuts out one cost but the cost of the equipment necessary to make a professional audio file can be just as expensive as hiring a producer. Not saying it can’t be done, it’s just a lot of upfront cost on top of my already meager budget as a self-published author. My saving grace, Big Swang Productions. A small, one man, basement operation with impressive credentials and very reasonable pricing.

 

With that figured out, my biggest issue was time. My whole audio book needed to be finished within a short two-week deadline and with only two-ish hours a day of recording time. Most would think that is plenty of time, to put it in perspective, it took me two hours just to get oriented with the recording space and record my opening credits and first paragraph. Once I caught on to how things worked the process sped up drastically. Overall, day one in the studio went okay. I was a little nervous and it took me a good ten minutes to relax and not sound too much like an automaton while recording. Who knew reading words could be so hard?

Lessons Learned Day One:

  • Have water or tea nearby- After take thirty your throat will feel like sand paper without it.
    Be prepared to repeat everything until its perfect
  • Pronunciation and Annunciation are key- Meaning to say Claude but hearing Cloud and/or Clot can and will happen
  • Wear comfortable clothing and shoes- The more comfortable and relaxed you are the easier it is to focus on your performance
  • Have a plan/goal- Record your book in sections just as you wrote the book. It’s easier to edit by paragraph or chapter than it is as one long audio track.

 

Stereo Goals

Whoever said, “writing is the easy part”… Well, I’ve said it a few times myself, but lately, I feel like it’s actually the hardest. So in order to keep my brain from shorting out with writer’s worry, I’ve decided to brush off a few projects I had sidelined in my quest to maintain my writing goals. Keeping up with my blog is one of them but also creating an audiobook for my already completed work. I will be documenting my DIY audio book journey in subsequent posts, thus checking both boxes on my “To Do” list.

There are a lot of things that go into creating an audio book that a novice like me hadn’t thought about. The cost of a producer and voice actor can be insane. Still, recording one with my laptop’s microphone and some random free software just wouldn’t be a very good product. Without any clue how to edit it properly my work wouldn’t be accepted on any major audio book site like Audible.com or Audiobooks.com.

So what exactly is needed to create a professional DIY audio book? Well, there is plenty of really good information readily available through google and audiophile blogs. Since I am an admitted Amazon junky; Audible’s Audiobook Creation Exchange (ACX) blog is where I got all my information. They did it so well I highly suggest browsing here.

The short version.

You will need:

1.) A quiet place to record
2.) A decent microphone
3.) Audio editing software like Pro Tools
4.) A reliable computer
5.) Lots of time and patience

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