If you want to get into the game, this post walks you step by step through the process of making an audiobook.
Here’s a simplified, top-down look at the process:
- record and produce each chapter as a separate, professional-quality sound file
- create a square, audio version of your book cover
- publish and distribute your audiobook through sellers like Audible and iTunes
- market and promote it to drive your audiobook sales
You can do each of these yourself (DIY), hire individual freelancers, or hire a full-service audiobook production team to do everything.
Choose How You Will Record Your Book
The first step in making your audiobook is recording and producing it. Again, there are 3 choices:
- hire individual freelancers
- hire a full-service company
What’s the difference between recording and producing? Producing an audiobook includes things like:
- editing the files to remove hesitations, hisses, pops, background noise, and more
- mastering the audio files to professional standards
- re-recording sections to fix mistakes
- adding intro and outro music
- delivering the final, high-quality audio files
To learn more about the in-depth process of recording and producing audiobooks, read How to Record an Audiobook.
Option 1: DIY
How much does it cost to make an audiobook? Well, that depends. First, consider the costs of being your own narrator.
Many indie authors start down this road, buying expensive audio equipment and editing software, only to hire a professional anyway.
Why? Because audiobook recording isn’t as simple as pressing a button and talking.
Most home environments include a lot of background noise we aren’t aware of. The hum of a refrigerator. The rattle of heating and air conditioning. Cars driving by outside.
Even noise-canceling microphones catch a lot of that sound—too much to edit out.
High-quality audiobook files start with high-quality recording.
If you don’t have a home studio but still want to do your own narration, look into renting time in a recording studio. The studio should provide a sound-proofed recording space with professional equipment like high-end mics, pop filters, interfaces with high-end preamps, and professional recording software such as Pro Tools.
Just remember when you’re pricing studio time that amateur narrators record at a 3:1 ratio. In other words, each hour of your finished audiobook will take you about 3 hours of recording time. A 40,000-word nonfiction book will take you ~13 hours in the studio. A pro narrator would get it done in closer to 9 hours.
Also, be sure to ask what your studio time includes. Will they provide an audio engineer to run the equipment? An audiobook director to coach your performance? How much are follow-up visits for re-recording trouble spots, also known as pickups?
Do they include audio editing to produce finished files? Or do you need to do that yourself? Using editing software like Audacity, Studio One, or Reaper comes with its own learning curve.
Most of all, ask if they have experience recording and producing audiobooks. Renting a high-end, professional studio can still turn into a disaster if they don’t know what audiobook recording involves.
Being your own narrator is a good choice if you have the know-how to create a quality audiobook, but it’s not best for beginners.
Your first audiobook is not a great project for learning how to record and edit professional audio files for the first time.
If you’re recording your own book, read exactly what’s on the page. Don’t ad-lib. The final audiobook files need to match the Kindle version for Whispersync to be enabled.
Option 2: Hiring Individual Freelancers
Hiring an independent contractor for a single role can be a cost-effective way to produce an audiobook if you have the rest of it covered.
Maybe you want to hire a professional narrator, for example. Or maybe you can do everything except the sound editing.
But if you need to farm out more than one or two roles, you’re better off hiring a full production team. The process will be a lot easier, and you can be more confident in the results.
Still, if you want to hire a freelancer for one of these roles, expect to be quoted a rate per finished hour, meaning they charge according to how long your finished audiobook will be.
For example, at a reading pace of about 9,000 words per hour, a 40,000-word nonfiction book would be about 4.5 finished hours.
You can find professional help through audiobook hubs like Audiobook Creation Exchange (ACX) or Findaway Voices. Just be sure to understand all your upfront costs.
In other words, don’t make your hiring decisions one at a time. Approach your project as a whole, including:
- Experienced voice actor: $225 per finished hour, at a minimum
- Sound engineer for editing & production: $125–$200 per finished hour
- Book cover artist: varies wildly
- Marketing & publicity: can also vary wildly
Don’t use generic freelancing marketplaces like Fiverr or Upwork to hire an audiobook professional. Literally anyone can offer their services through these hubs, even without any professional experience.
Option 3: Hiring a Full-Service Team
Producing your audiobook through a full-service team is faster and more convenient than hiring and managing a group of independent contractors. Just remember that many audiobook production companies aren’t as full service as they first appear.
Will they create your audiobook cover? That’s not as simple as cropping your book cover into a square shape. Elements like your title and author name need to be repositioned, and art that works well vertically might need to change to look professional in a square format.
Will they provide a director to coach your narrator’s performance? This adds a lot more to the final quality of an audiobook than you might think. Emphasizing the right points comes with a huge payoff in listener excitement and comprehension.
Great audiobook production also comes with a level of quality most authors wouldn’t even know to ask for when vetting different services. Technical elements like peak values, the bitrate of the files, and the RMS all contribute to the listener’s experience.
Scribe Audiobook production provides a seamless, turnkey service for top-of-the-line audiobooks.
Publication and Distribution Considerations
If you choose not to hire a full-service team, you’ll be responsible for this step.
The world of audiobook publishing is changing rapidly. Spotify, for example, stepped into the game in a big way when it acquired Findaway. Look for audiobook streaming to be adopted in the US very soon.
Still, most “full-service” production companies will only distribute your book through one or two services if they offer distribution at all. ACX distributes to Amazon’s Audible and Apple’s iTunes, for example. That’s it.
Due to rapid fluctuations in audiobook distributors and retailers, self-publishers who aren’t audiobook professionals will have difficulty keeping up with changes in distributors and royalty shares.
But Scribe Audiobook production takes care of publication and distribution for you. You’ll benefit from all the latest market developments without lifting a finger.
In fact, Scribe distributes your audiobook through Author’s Republic to every major audiobook platform—over 50 of them—including Audible and iTunes as well as library distributors Overdrive and Hoopla.
Better yet, their distribution agreement isn’t exclusive, so you retain the right to sell your book on your own website too.
Marketing and Promotion
Unfortunately, even a full-service production team won’t market your book for you. Every book is unique, and the specific connections you need to make depend on your goals.
Fortunately, if you’re a nonfiction author, you’re probably not trying to get rich on book sales. You don’t need to learn overnight how to sell 10,000 copies of your book. You just need to open doors you couldn’t open without it.
Do you want to change the nature of public education in the US? Use your book to speak at educational conferences and meet the influencers who can help you.
Are you building your consulting practice by helping entrepreneurs grow from 6 to 7 figures? Use your book to speak on entrepreneurial podcasts and share your ideas.
That’s why a book is one of the best marketing tools you could ask for. It gives you a way to spread your ideas to a wider audience.
Audiobooks are a rapidly growing segment of the book-buying market. They’re a convenience in a busy world. People listen to audiobooks on their commute, while they’re working out, and even when they’re washing dishes.
If you want to get into that market, all you need to get started is a book.
Haven’t finished your book? That’s okay too. Check out our vast library of free resources on how to write your book.