This week: Audiobooks: How and WhyEdited by: ~Minja~
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Audiobooks statistics: The birth of the audiobook occurred in 1931. In that year, the American Foundation for the Blind worked with the Library of Congress to establish the Talking Book Program through the Book for the Blind Project. The first audio recordings that were used as a test for this new product included a chapter from Midstream, which was written by Helen Keller.
The United States is the largest market in the world for audio format books, with $2.5 billion in sales registered in 2017. That represents a $400 million increase in revenues from the year before. (Audiobook Publishers Association)
The audiobook publishing industry in the United States is responsible for the direct employment of about 4,400 people each year. (Statista)
77% of people who self-identify as a frequent audiobook listener say that listening to audiobooks helps them be able to finish more books. (Audiobook Publishers Association)
In 2016, there were 43,000 titles produced in the audiobook format. The three most popular genres were mysteries and thrillers, science fiction, and romance. (Audiobook Publishers Association)
ith the ability to store large audio files on your devices, audiobooks became more popular than ever. They are the fastest growing form of media in the world today. They are the most interesting travel companions. They are a fun way of bonding with your family members and friends. You probably remember the time when your parents read bedtime stories to you and how every night you wanted more and more, whether because of the mother's (or father's) soothing voice or the interest in the story. And most of the time both. It is the same with audiobooks. Narrator's voice can help to imagine better characters, different scenes, places, and descriptions in the book because of their specific approach to reading.
During the long travels by the car or a bus, audiobooks are a great way to avoid car sickness. Many people who experience car sickness seek comfort in audio files in order to survive the trip without vomiting. The actual reading can only make the situation feel worse, trust me. I know this because I am one of them.
I run into so many controversial opinions about book formats lately though. A lot of people don't agree with how eBooks and audiobooks work; to them, the only acceptable format is a paperback and the only acceptable way of reading is turning the actual pages. But why does it matter how you choose to read if the book content is the same for each? It's like you went to school by bus and your friends mocked you because they came with their own car all while both of you, actually, are in the same place—school— no matter what kind of transportation you used to get there. So, the only thing that matters here is absorbing the book content in a way that is most suitable to you so don't let anyone tell you differently.
Back to the audiobooks. You probably wondered why this format is far more expensive than, for example, eBooks while they're basically the same thing, right? As I was researching this topic I read somewhere an interview with the narrator and she said something like this: "Recording audiobooks is a long process that not everyone can commit to. For one book of approximately 50,000 words can take up to 9 hours to record. If you think this is not a big deal, grab the first book from your shelf and see how long you can read it out loud." Have in mind that professional narrators have working hours as well just like your ordinary jobs. And to think of all the practicing to achieve the right tone, to avoid sounds such as swallowing, yawning, coughing, etc. Being a narrator is definitely not an easy job to perform but it sure is beneficial if you are born with this talent.
All in all, there are only two ways to choose in case you want to make your audiobook: to record audio and do all technicals by yourself or simply hire a professional narrator. Let's break down both.
I want to record an audiobook by myself
If this is your choice, here are a couple of things to think about.
Before you proceed further make sure your book is definitely edited and proofread professionally and ready to be narrated like that. If your books contain visual elements such as maps of the world you created, characters' family tree, charts, battle strategies, or any other visuals you have, make sure to provide those to readers in a form of a free PDF file which comes with the audiobook. This is called Audiobook companion document and is absolutely necessary for books that contain visual elements. This if you really care to have your audiobook as professional as possible. It's simply impossible to read images and by providing them as an extra material with your audiobook you might reach a wider audience as these visuals can be intriguing.
The next thing you need is software that allows recording and editing high-quality audio files on your computer. At some point, after you're done with recording, you will need to spend a lot of time editing your audio in order to remove unwanted content such as background noises and errors. I read great things about Audacity which allows you to do all this. It is free software developed by volunteers and is available for both, Windows and Mac, users. Check it out but keep in mind that it might be too advanced for complete newbies. There is no harm in exploring it though.
A good USB microphone is a must. Now, I'm pretty sure everyone has their own preferences when it comes about microphones but if you are a complete newbie to all this check the best USB computer microphones for home recording for a start.
Before you start recording officially try practicing first in order to get the idea of how your audiobook should sound like. Research other narrator's style and voices. It will help you develop your own. One author that comes to my mind, who narrates his own books and is pretty famous for it, is Neil Gaiman. The others you might want to check out are Jim Dale (Harry Potter books), Julia Whelan (Gone Girl), Wil Wheaton (Ready Player One), Davina Porter (Outlander book series).
Find the quietest place in your house and set up your little studio there. You need to find a place that is isolated from the background noises in order to prevent ruining the quality of your audio. Also, try to remain in the same position during your recordings to ensure your reading is constant. For example, when you are making short breaks and come back to recording, don't record one session in a sitting and another one in a standing position.
Read a book on Kindle, not paperback, in order to prevent the sound of turning pages.
At some point during the reading you will make mistakes. This will be either wrong pronunciation or the unexpected sound of your mouth. It's inevitable. What you have to do is to decide whether you will correct these mistakes right away or after you're completely done with recording. If you choose the second option then it's possibly the best that, during narration, you mark your mistake with a word so you can easily recognize it when you start editing audio. This should be a simple word like POP, BIP maybe?
Once you are sure your audiobook is somewhat professionally done and ready for publishing you go to ACX.com to upload your audiobook file. You need to meet their submission requirements though in order for them to review and approve your book. For this reason, you need to make sure your recording is somewhat professionally edited and ready to find its place in audiobooks world. Once they approve your audiobook, they will publish it on major retailers such as Audible, iTunes, and Amazon.
Woila! Your audiobook is now finished.
I want to hire a professional narrator
So, you found out that your narrating and technical skills are not very good but you really want to make an audiobook. What you can do is hire a narrator through already mentioned ACX.com. Here is how.
Create free ACX profile and click to "Turn Your Book Into an Audiobook". Although, if your book isn't yet published on Amazon you might want to contact their support in order to find out how it works in such case.
On your profile you need to submit 1-2 pages of the excerpt from your book that will serve as the audition script for potential narrators.
Post your book so producers can audition. Or you can listen to sample narrations and invite a handful of producers to audition for your book. They are all separated by the book genres, style, age so it's easier for you to find the right one.
Review auditions from interested producers.
Once you find a producer you will make an offer with them.
The producer will narrate 15 minutes checkpoint of your audiobook and send a sample for you to review. You can provide feedback to it and you can approve the sample. Once it is approved producer will proceed to narrate the entire book.
You can ask the producer to make up to two rounds of corrections to your finished audiobook. When you're happy, you pay your producer directly, unless you agreed to a Royalty Share deal .
ACX will distribute your audiobook through Audible, iTunes, and Amazon under both, exclusive and nonexclusive contracts.
It is completely up to you to decide what kind of contract you want to sign with them so make sure to review each in order to understand offers. Once you've reviewed and approved everything your audiobook can finally see the daylight.
Although the consumer base for the audiobook industry is small, with most of it located in the United States, it is still growing. New technologies make it easier to access different digital files at home and for these reasons the audiobooks industry is expected to grow more in the upcoming years.
Until next time, don't be afraid to explore different book formats
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