When I was nine years old, my sister and I pulled out our dad’s cassette player and recorded our first radio show. I wrote the script and songs and we practiced before performing. We had a blast (or at least, I did. Hard to say if she just went along with whatever her big sister said was cool).
In high school, I participated in state competitions where we could enter in a wide variety of categories. One year, I gathered a group of friends to compete for radio theater. I once again wrote the script that we performed. I believe we won second place.
Several years later (won’t mention how many), I wrote and published a young adult adventure fantasy, The King’s Feather. I hosted a podcast for a year and have acting experience, so naturally I decided that recording my own audiobook was an exciting endeavor. While recording, I loved seeing how the characters I’d created came to life. I fell in love with Sam’s gentle demeanor and felt encouraged by Pero’s growth in her faith. Plus, recording the songs in my book gave a great advantage for readers who wanted to hear the melodies.
I’m not going to lie. Recording an audiobook was hard work. At every agonizing hour of editing and adjusting frequencies, I asked myself why I was doing this. I have writing, singing, and acting experience, but I’m not a sound engineer!
With the platform Hindenburg Narrator, I didn’t have to adjust the volume nearly as much as I anticipated, nor did I have to rent a recording studio, which would’ve cost more than I could afford.
Have you thought about recording your own audiobook?
Before you begin, consider if you’re really up for the task of learning something that can be difficult to understand for those with little or no experience with sound technology (is that even the correct term?). However, it can be done! And I’ll show you the six steps to get you started.
Still with me?
Buy appropriate equipment. You can find a great equipment at affordable prices. For a microphone, I suggest the Samsung Q2U.
I also recommend good headphones for a better, clearer sound when editing, like the Samson SR350.
The third piece of equipment you’ll need is a mic stand. I recommend an adjustable height one, like Amazon Basics.
I tried a small, desktop stand, but it wasn’t tall enough for me to read from my computer screen while speaking into the mic. I also tried a stand that attached to my desk, but it slipped often. Another alternative is to hold the mic, but be aware that this can cause unwanted static from bump or movement. The other advantage to using a floor stand is that you can read while standing, which can make a difference in voice dynamics and create a fuller sound.
Purchase Hindenburg Narrator through this link. Anyone is eligible for the free month trial. I suggest using Narrator as apposed to their Pro options because it was created specifically for recording audiobooks. Many features make it easier to narrate, such as if you need to re-record a certain section, you can click on the text and it will lead you to that place in the recording for you. So if you take out a section of your book, simply click on that text and you will know where to delete that section.
It took a while for me to understand all of the features of Hindenburg. They have an online channel, Hindenburg Systems, to learn settings and tips for their program, but I found many of the videos didn’t use words to explain what to do, only background music, and sometimes I needed an explanation. Take a look at the older Hindenburg channel, as it offers a few videos with step-by-step directions when you get stuck.
Prep your voice. If possible, mid-morning is a good time to record because your voice isn’t typically going to be as groggy than it would be just after waking up and it’s before you’ve used it for a long period of time. Even then, many days I was too congested from allergies and had to redo chapters because I could clearly hear the congestion. Lots of water and cough drops help. And so does good software. However, there are going to be days when your voice sounds better. Try to record on the good days so that your voice can sound as consistent as possible. It took me between twenty to thirty hours to record everything. Some will be faster than others, but keeping your voice in good shape can help you in the long run.
Record your audiobook using Hindenburg Narrator. Sometimes it can take a few recordings of the first chapter or so before you’re familiar with how things work best. Give yourself plenty of time to get comfortable with what voices you like the most. Listen to your voice and adjust along the way. One author I know doesn’t worry about making different voices for each character, and it doesn’t effect her audience’ interest in purchasing audiobooks. Readers like audiobooks narrated by the author, and it doesn’t have to sound like a Grammy award-winning actor.
Edit your recording. You’ll want to go back through and listen for any places that were difficult to understand or where you messed up. I personally didn’t edit every single place where it wasn’t annunciated as much as I wanted. At some point, you have to be willing to call it good enough. Reminder: readers don’t mind if it’s not all perfect.
Another important aspect of editing is to cut out heavy breathing and/or redoes in the recording. Rather than stopping every time I made a mistake while recording, I chose to pause while the recording was still running and repeat that sentence I’d just read. For editing, that meant listening for those places where I had paused to redo or cough or hiccup (yes, it did happen on more than one occasion).
The third aspect of editing is to watch the sound bars on the screen of Hindenburg as you listen. No, you can’t just close your eyes and listen. Well, you could if you wanted, but the important part of watching the screen is to see if there’s any place when the sound goes above or below the recommended frequency. Don’t ask me to explain more because I no nothing about the terminology. I do know that when the sound bar reached a high frequency, it turned red, which was above the recommended decimals for the human ear. I’d rather not burst anyone’s eardrum, so I lowered each section that was of concern. There weren’t many, but hours of looking for this takes forever. Of course, you could make it easier on yourself and hire someone to do all of the sound editing for you. Fiverr.com is a great place to look for sound editors. However, if you’re on a budget like I was, you can take the long route. An important note, I’m not versed in Hindenburg enough to know if there’s some feature I’m missing that would adjust the frequencies for you. If you find such a thing on Hindenburg, please let me know!
The easiest way to sell your audiobook is to use a distributor such as Findaway Voices. I tried to offer the audiobook through a podcast and through my website, but this proved to be difficult due to having large mp3 files that people had to figure out how to download onto their phones. Recently, I remembered that BookFunnel offers a landing page for buyers to easily download an audiobook. I plan on taking advantage of this feature so that I can offer the audiobook directly. If you are already using BookFunnel to grow your mailing list at $100 a year (so worth it to gain more readers), you’ll be good to go with their audiobook feature.
Does setting up direct sales from your site sounds too challenging? I highly recommend splitting part of the royalty with Findaway Voices and let them take care of putting it all together. Keep in mind that if you use Findaway Voices, they will ask for separate audio files for each chapter. So you might consider recording chapters separately on Hindenburg. Findaway Voices will have your audiobook available for purchase on your choice of platforms, including Audible. Once the content has been approved, it will automatically appear on the platform, such as Amazon, with your other book formats.
At the time of this writing, Findaway Voices offers 100 free download links through Spotify for you to give away up to 100 copies of your audiobook to whoever you’d like. This can be very useful for beta readers or giveaways for your followers.
You’re still reading, which means you must be ready to give this audiobook thing a chance.
If I can learn how to do it, I believe you can record your own audiobook too. Remember that you can put as much work as you choose into recording your own audiobook. You can do it the long way like me where you learn everything on your own. Or you can hire someone to edit or a studio to record in. The choices are up to you.
I will say that there’s something special about narrating yourself. You as the author get to experience your story in an exciting way, and your reader gets to hear what you intended when you wrote the book in the first place. Both of these aspects are irreplaceable.
Before you shy away from the idea of trying it yourself, buy a good microphone and practice. Even if you decide recording your own audiobook isn’t for you, a high quality mic will always benefit you as an author for such opportunities like being a guest on a podcast or webinar. And who knows? You might be glad you tried.
Amy is giving away a copy of this fantastic audiobook. All you have to do is leave a comment and you’ll be in the giveaway. Giveaway ends September 7.
Amy Earls is a professor of first-year college students and holds a master’s degree in education for adult learners with a focus in writing. Amy is passionate about helping teens and adults build strong faith. When she’s not grading papers, she’s writing, mentoring authors, or dreaming up ways to make life an adventure. She lives in a bike-riding and Beaver-loving college town in Oregon with her husband, two daughters, and a never dying goldfish.
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