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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.

The Write Publishing: Self-Pub Platforms

Now that you have your marketing strategy and time management down. It’s time to talk actual publishing of your work. If you have followed along with The Write Process Series you should already have a good idea of what formats you would like to produce and how to format them. If not then here is a quick rundown.

eBooks– the most popular format for self-publishers because of the low production cost and ease of formatting.

Print– For self publishers who want to participate in direct sales or just want to provide more options for their readership. Not super expensive to produce but a greater cost because of stocking and storage.

Audiobooks– The most expensive to produce, even if doing DIY. Not very lucrative without a dedicated following who prefers audiobooks. Complicated setup and high fees can be discouraging to some. I won’t be discussing Audiobooks in this post.

With that in mind we can now get into publishing platforms. There are many different options out there but I am only going to discuss the ones I have experience with.

Kindle Direct Publishing/Createspace– Amazon is by far the largest distributor of eBooks in the world. Their set up is very user-friendly and a bonus it’s free! Even the royalty rates are more favorable to authors than other platforms with both 30% or 70% options available. Most self-publishers use this platform for that very reason, but it isn’t without its flaws.

New updates to reviewing criteria that denies or removes reader reviews, the demand for exclusivity to participate in their on-site promotions and kindle unlimited, and ever-changing algorithms that can either boost or bury your work make succeeding in sales on Amazon tricky.

Another thing to consider before doubling down with Amazon is if you want to see your work in brick and mortar stores. A lot of them see Amazon as a competitor and don’t stock books only available through Amazon. Especially if you choose to use the free Amazon ISBN. More on ISBNs Here.

Ingram Spark– The indie publishing arm of the massive Ingram complex, Ingram Spark provides quality print and ebooks with the backing of Ingram’s extensive distribution network (which includes Amazon). The downside, it’s expensive compared to other option running $50-$100 to upload your work. Formatting is much more involved for Ingram as well, and the provided tutorials aren’t very helpful. Ingram also has a dismal royalty rate compared to Amazon.

For example, the print version of my novel Ferocious is listed at a price of $8.99 but subtract the wholesale discount of 50% and the print cost and I only get roughly $0.30 per book. To get a larger cut I can raise my price, but being a lesser known Author I risk out pricing my audience by doing so.

At this point, you are probably wondering why I chose to use Ingram over KDP for my book. The reason is that I wanted to see my book in Brick and Mortar stores, have greater distribution into libraries, and I honestly feel the color and print quality of Ingram is better than Amazon if only marginally so.

Draft2Digital– This is basically a giant agreggation site. You upload your work to them and they take care of all the different criteria required by various sites. I have not used the print side of draft2digital nor their audiobook services but the ebook side is similar to Amazon in ease of use and cost.

I’ve only been on Draft2Digital for a week at the time of writing this article so I can’t say if it’s a better option than Amazon for ebooks. I can say that it is nice to have a single link to all of the places my books are available. No more giant lists of links for each format and platform. I will provide an update when I have more experience with this site.

Other sites that I have little to no experience with:

I highly suggest checking out each platform and deciding which best suits your needs and wants as far as distribution and offerings. Where you publish and how your book is distributed can really make the difference in how professional you come across in your publishing endeavors. If you have any questions, comments, or additions to this post please feel free to add them to the comments section.

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