Resource Review: Turning Your Book into an Audiobook
By Stewart Storrar
Turning your book into an audiobook is by far one of the most under-considered aspects of self-publishing. Be it a novel or a non-fiction book, taking the leap to audio can be hugely beneficial to your project's prospects. You can convert your writing to an audiobook in many different ways, but today, I will be focusing on how to get this completed professionally.
My name is Stewart. I write for the voice-over platform Voquent.com. Producing voice-over for all mediums, including audiobooks, is our area of expertise.
Why make an audiobook?
Many people ask themselves, why bother with a professional production for an audiobook? There are many ways to answer this question. By far the most important reason is that it will improve the accessibility of your book. Right now, many people do not have access to books due to visual impairments. Audiobooks are the best solution for accessibility in the e-publishing sphere. I would argue that if you have the means to produce an audiobook, that you should. It will give a considerable portion of the world's population access to your content when they wouldn't usually have access. Audio is also a great option for people on the move, whether in the car, on the train, or even in the gym.
Another reason to consider an audiobook is that it is far easier to translate for foreign audiences. The number of people you can reach with a translated audiobook is enormous. A translated audiobook has a greater market reach than just a translated book because it is easier to understand. The simple fact of the matter is that many people find it easier to speak or listen to their language. However, not all languages are as easy to read or write. Languages like Hindi and Chinese Mandarin are good examples due to their complex alphabet symbols. As someone trying to learn Hindi, I know first-hand it is easier to listen to it than read it.
Another idea to consider is that an audiobook will improve your book's public perception and credibility as an author. Being seen as a writer that can cater to people from all walks of life is powerful. A high-quality audiobook will project the quality of your book's content, providing access to new audiences, which will further enhance your brand.
The pros and cons of audiobook production
We get asked a lot here at Voquent: What are the pros and cons of making an audiobook?
This kind of question is multi-layered as there are many different angles to take on the subject. Above we only covered some reasons why you should, so let's consider a handy bullet point list that covers both sides:
Pros of Audiobook Production:
- Improves accessibility for the visually impaired of the world.
- Provides a solution to language barriers, especially in languages that are hard to read and write in.
- Can improve your consumer's experience of your book.
- Opens up your book to new markets with a completely different format for your content.
- Provides positive public relations benefits to your author brand in terms of consumer perception.
- For fiction, allows you to tell your story creatively with voice actors.
- For non-fiction, a talented voice actor can help engage your listeners in the content, making learning easier.
- If you can afford a celebrity voice, this can come with very beneficial promotional opportunities.
- It allows you to market your book on social media using audio snippets to expand your promotional opportunities online and on social media.
Cons of Audiobook Production:
- Can be tricky to navigate the legal aspects of publishing and distribution rights if dealing with different publishers for your book and audiobook.
- Takes a lot of time, care, and attention to get your book transcribed, then recorded.
- Can be tricky to find the right voice for your audiobook.
- Hiring a talented voice actor can be expensive.
- The whole process, while not too expensive, isn't cheap either. For a good quality audiobook, it can cost a few thousand dollars. Costs will depend on who you choose as your narrator voice and the length of your book.
- If not completed professionally, it can have detrimental effects on your author brand—your public relations image. For example, you wouldn't buy an awful sounding album from a musical artist.
This isn't intended to be an exhaustive list. I wanted to give you an overview of the main points that could sway your decision one way or another. An informed decision will almost always be a correct one for you and your situation.
Audiobook Production Process
For this article, I will break the process down into three distinct stages:
1. Planning and Organization
2. Choosing Your Voice
3. Production and Distribution
1. Planning and Organization
The very first stage will take you from, how do I make an audiobook? To, how do I choose a voice?
The first things you will want to consider is where and how you intend to release your audiobook. The platform you intend to use to distribute your audiobook will have specific technical requirements for the audio file. The differs between different distributors, but for this article, we will focus on Audible.
Audible has precise requirements that can be difficult to meet without a professional production, such as a minimum noise floor. Professional software such as Pro Tools or Adobe Auditions will be able to meet these specifications. The correct hardware, such as microphones, pop shields, and sound insulation materials will also be needed to give you the best quality. More on that at the Production stage.
Depending on where you will release your audiobook, you may want to consider language barriers.
If you want to target other languages, then you will need to get your writing translated. It is best to hire a translator that is an expert in your book genre. Doing this will help translate things like jargon a lot more accurately in non-fiction. For fiction, a translator that knows your genre will be able to implement subtle language devices that a generic translator may miss. Hiring a translator is easy via a production company like Voquent if you aren't confident sourcing a translator yourself.
It is worth noting that if you want to use multiple languages, then you will need multiple translated versions of your book for the voice talent to narrate.
The last thing to consider for planning is the timing. Producing an audiobook will take a few weeks at the very least. With this in mind, knowing and planning for the time span of the production to suit your marketing schedule is a must. In some instances, the production can take longer than a few weeks. This will depend on voice-actor availability, book length, and revisions. Plan your release schedule accordingly. Voquent can also help with this.
2. Choosing Your Voice
So, you've picked your distribution channel, and you have your book prepared for production. Or, at the very least, you have a plan to prepare your book including languages, technical specifications, and a realistic timeline for when you need to reach completion. Choosing your book's voice comes next.
Your book type, genre, and purpose will determine what kind of voice you need. If you have a textbook, then an educational delivery style with a nurturing tone may work best. If you have a fictional book, you may want a more versatile voice actor capable of acting out the different character voices.
The genre of your book will impact what kind of voice you need too. A narrator for a crime book will employ vastly different tones for that of a comedy. For non-fiction, if your book is meant to inform, then an authoritative tone may be the one for you. However, a child's educational book may want to employ a friendly, calm demeanor.
Another thing to think about is the age and accent you will want your narrator to have. Older voices may be perfect for your gritty murder mystery, whereas a younger voice may be better for a light hearted drama. Accent, for example a British RP accent or Canadian accent, can also help give your book a regional flare. This can be effective if you plan to sell your book to a specific geographical audience.
Choosing the perfect voice for your book is very important. You don't want to change your mind halfway through production. A voice-over agency can help you record your book's auditions so you can confidently pick your favorite narrator.
3. Production and Distribution
The production aspect of this final stage is where you will have varying input. Some authors choose to have a hands-off approach and let the sound professionals do their job. Other authors want to have a more hands-on approach and opt for live direction of the voice. I wouldn't recommend doing a live session frequently. Otherwise, it will slow down production. One session at the start is enough.
Generally speaking, in the production stage you will receive the audio one chapter at a time or in pre-determined chunks. You will then need to review the audio and give feedback as required.
When your completed audio files are approved, getting the audiobook out to the public is the next challenge.
First, I recommend making a backup of your audiobook files. Upload it to a cloud service (or two) and dedicate a whole USB stick as well. Do all of this before anything else.
The last step is to upload your file to your distribution platform. In this case, that involves making an Audible account if you don't already have one.
When your file is uploaded and ready to go, the only thing left to do is market it!
All in all, this article acts as a summary of how to turn your book into an audiobook. There is a lot more to consider in practice, but I hope you find this a useful introduction to audiobook production. I believe that just as you would hire a professional editing service such as Darling Axe, you should hire a professional audiobook production service such as Voquent.com.
In any case, I hope this article helps shine a light on the process and educate you on how to go about getting your book turned into a professional audiobook.
Stewart Storrar is a writer from Glasgow, Scotland, that writes fiction for his passion project Lore Publication in his free time. Stewart works for Voquent developing content and Voquent is one of the world’s leading voice-over production agencies. Their mission is to empower content creators with unparalleled access to outstanding, affordable voice talent.