Audiobooks have been a runaway success in recent years. And there are two real options for creating your audiobook. You can either record it yourself or hire a professional to do it for you. In this article, we’ll look at how you can record your first audiobook using both options.
Option One: Recording Your Own Audiobook
To create your own audiobook isn’t a difficult task. You’ll need a suitable place to record, the right equipment, and the tech know-how to make it happen. The right equipment can cost a few hundred dollars if you need to buy everything. However, if you’ve ever started a podcast, you’ll have a lot of the equipment, anyway.
You’ll also need time. A lot of time.
How Long Will It Take to Read Your Book?
The simple answer here is “it depends”.
On average, a professional narrator works at about 9,400 words an hour. So, if you’ve got an 80,000-word book, that’s around 8.5 hours of recording time. However, seeing you’re reading an article titled “how to make an audiobook”, I’ll assume you’re most likely not a professional voice-over artist. So, in that case, it’ll take you a lot longer.
If you’re familiar with the recording process, you may be okay, but if you’re new, budget for anywhere between two to five times the suggested amount of time when you take into account retakes and any breaks during the session.
You also must rest your voice throughout, so it will stretch the process over days or weeks.
How Long Will it Take to Edit Audio Files?
It isn’t just the reading that takes time, but it’s also all of the post-production work too. After you’ve finished recording, you’ll need to listen to the entire book a few times and re-record any mistakes you may have missed in the first reading. There could even be some parts where the audio quality is a little different, so that’ll require editing too.
From there, you must get all the files ready to upload.
This takes about four times the suggested time limit above. So, using the 9,400 words an hour estimate, your editing and post-production work should take 30-40 hours. Again, it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to do this in large sittings, so you must stretch the process out over a month or so. Especially if it’s your first audiobook.
If this approach seems daunting, don’t worry — there’s another way.
Option Two: Turn to the Professionals
If spending up to 200 hours working on your audiobook sounds like torture, hire a professional.
Finding a professional for your book will be easy. Finding a good voice-over artist… Well, that’s a bit harder. Sure, there are popular freelance marketplaces like Upwork and Fiverr where you’ll find audiobook narrators. However, there’s no guarantee the freelancer you hire will be good. Many people who use these freelancing platforms have to sort through a lot of freelancers before they find one who is worth working with.
So, I suggest using a dedicated audiobook service. The two most popular services are the Amazon/Audible ACX program and Findaway Voices (don’t worry, we’ll look at both options more later). Also, it’s important to know that ACX isn’t open to all countries yet. So, if you’re not in the US, Canada, the UK or Ireland, you must use Findaway Voices to make your audiobook.
These options are popular with many authors and they’re great services that make it super easy for you.
Both Findaway and ACX have similar methods in getting your book published so I won’t bore you by repeating myself by going every step for both sites. Basically, you’ll follow a process that looks something like this.
- Create an account at either ACX or Findaway
- You’ll listen to samples from narrators (sometimes called producers) and be able to give them a short section of your book as an audition. Listen to a range of voices and see which one you feel best suits your book. Don’t just choose the first one you hear.
- Agree with your narrator on payment details.
- The voice artist will record and upload the audiobook for you. When it’s done, you’ll listen and approve. When that’s done, you pay the narrator and get the audio file.
Sounds a lot easier, right?
How Much Does it Cost To Get Your Audiobook Professionally Made?
Again, the correct (but not incredibly useful) answer is “it depends”. The length of your book, the rate of your narrator, and type of book you’re writing can change the price of your audiobook.
Getting your novel turned into an Audiobook isn’t cheap — especially if you’ve written a long book like an epic sci-fi or fantasy novel. It’s a hard job that requires a lot of talent and patience.
If you’re using Findaway, you’ll strike a deal with a narrator to get the price. However, there’s a calculator on their pricing page that will give you a ball-park figure depending on the length of your book and the price-range per-hour for your narrator. Narrators start at $150 an hour and go above $500 for the very best. For example, for a 50,000-word book and a $250-per-hour narrator, you’ll pay between $1,350 and $1,650.
Keep in mind, this price is per finished hour. That means the quoted price is for every hour of finished audio. You don’t have to pay extra for editing.
ACX pricing is similar for established narrators. However, one thing they do which is cool is offer a revenue-sharing model.
You pay nothing upfront and then split royalties 50/50 with your narrator for a seven-year period. This sounds like a pretty sweet deal, but you have to do some math. Half of all your audiobook sales for seven years will probably end up costing you a lot more in the long run. So, if you can afford to pay upfront, I’d suggest that.
Also, not every narrator will be open to splitting revenue, as it’s an enormous risk on their behalf. If they spend weeks narrating a book and the author doesn’t market their book properly, they won’t get paid for their work. So that means that you’ll likely attract the more inexperienced narrators through revenue-share.
It’s important to know that if you’re going through ACX revenue-share, they will lock your book into Amazon and Audible. That means that you won’t be able to sell it anywhere else for seven years.
Findaway Voices didn’t have a sharing model for a long time. However, they’ve recently included one on their platform too. Findaway’s revenue share model has a buyout option. Basically, you and the narrator agree on a buyout number and you can pay that and start taking full royalties. This is a great middle ground. Now, if your book becomes the next bestseller, you’ll get to reap the rewards!
Comparing Distribution with ACX and Findaway.
We’ve spoken about the general process you must take to make an audiobook. Now, let’s look at the distribution methods of both audiobook creation platforms we’ve mentioned, ACX and Findaway.
ACX is Audible’s full-service audiobook production and distribution platform. When you sign up with ACX, you can distribute to Amazon, Audible and iTunes.
We’ve touched on some production and distribution options with ACX, but there’s more.
- Option 1 – Exclusive to Audible: This is the revenue-sharing model we touched on earlier. ACX pays you 40% of a book’s sale cost in royalties, which you split 50/50 with the narrator.
- Option 2 – Exclusive to Audible: You go exclusive to Audible and ACX will still pay you 40% in royalties but you get to keep it all. Because you paid up-front, the narrator gets zero royalties.
As mentioned earlier. When you go exclusive, you’re signing up for a seven-year contract through Audible. So consider that option.
- Option 3 – Not Exclusive to Audible: You don’t go exclusive when you use ACX. You find a narrator and pay them upfront in full for their narration and production. When you make a sale, ACX pays you 25% in royalties and you keep it all. You’re not allowed to select revenue-sharing if you choose this option.
As you can see, Amazon drops your rate from 40% to 25% if you don’t go exclusive. However, you can make sales on any other platform. So it’s really up to you on what you think is best. Look at where you make the most eBook sales and see what works for you.
Findaway Voices lets you create audiobooks and sell them through more than 20 sellers across retail, library, and school markets in over 170 countries.
If you publish your books through Draft2Digital, you’ve probably seen Findaway before. They’ve got a handy little partnership that lets you easily transfer your book across to get started on the audiobook.
For royalty splits, it’s a little tricky. Basically, Findaway takes 20% of your royalties and you get 80%.
Using the non-exclusive Audible numbers above, you’ll get 25% of the sale price as a royalty payment. Findaway takes 20% of that royalty and you’ll receive 80% of it.
So, let’s say you earn $5 in royalties for a sale. Findaway will take $1 (20%), and you’ll keep $4 (80%).
When using other retailers, your royalty rate will be around the 40-50% mark and again, the same math will apply. You’ll get 80% of the total royalties, and Findaway will receive 20%. Giving Findaway 20% can add up. However, adding your book individually to all platforms and looking after a dozen listings of a book can be almost impossible to manage.
Findaway offers a convenient solution for a time-consuming problem.
Creating an audiobook can be a huge job. However, doing it right can lead to a lot more sales on a fast-growing medium. It might be time to dip into audiobooks!
Photo by Lena Kudryavtseva on Unsplash