How (Not) to Record to Audiobook

Soon after I published The Rose Ring, I decided it would be great to record an audio book. After all, it was something new to try and would be another way to share the story. I have absolutely no experience with recording of any kind, but I figured this would also be a good chance to learn something new. I had published the story through the Amazon self-publishing arm CreateSpace. That same platform also offers publication for mp3 files, so I thought I could record the story and then list it there. This seemed like a good plan.

The first order of business was to figure out how to actually record a file. Audacity is free recording software that comes highly recommended. I downloaded that and attempted to record a test file using my laptop’s microphone. Its quality was less than great. The next order of business was to buy a microphone. I got the Logitech h150. This microphone did work much better in terms of sound quality and noise cancellation. I did end up still having some microphone feedback, but it was something I could live with.  Learning the Audacity program did take some work. I spent a great deal of time with the help files. For the longest time, I could not figure out how to select a section to delete it, so I recorded the whole book, just starting over when I made an error and decided to worry about deleting things later.

Another challenge was finding a quiet place to record. I live in a busy, noisy house. Even when I managed to seclude myself from the children (mostly when they were sleeping), the dog would bark! It was doable, but it was a challenge. I can definitely see the attraction of a professional recording space.

I also greatly underestimated how long this project would take. My book is fairly short (170 pages) and I thought that would translate to maybe two hours of audio. It actually ended up being closer to four hours.

Another difficulty was making sure listeners could understand who was speaking. In written words, we have those beautiful quotation marks so that one can know which character is speaking. Speaking aloud, it isn’t so evident. I did my best, but I found I sometimes needed to add attributions not included in the written text. By the same token, I’m afraid that some thoughts, so clearly set off by italics in writing, came across as spoken words.  The only plus (if you can call it that) is that I did notice a few typos in my text, so I can upload a new Kindle version with the corrections. I can now vouch for the fact that reading a story aloud helps you find errors.

When I finally completed the recording, I needed to edit. I finally did figure out how to select different sections, delete and even move recorded pieces around. I’m fairly certain I gained more than a few grey hairs in the process, however. Thankfully I did save regularly and had a couple versions going so that I could reverse any changes if necessary. One time, though, I tried to “normalize” the recording (which sounded like a good thing to do). The result was horrible! Unfortunately, my laptop decided to freeze at that moment and the recovered version contained the normalization. That meant redoing quite a bit of work. At least by this time, I had gotten somewhat better and faster at the tasks.

Finally, it was done! It was the best I could get it. I saved the file as an mp3 and then sought out to see where I could upload it. I discovered that the Amazon idea wouldn’t work as they clearly state that is not intended for audiobooks (I really should have looked at that first). I explored a couple other options, but nothing seemed viable. I also checked into Audible, which is the Amazon audiobook publishing company. Honestly, this would have been the best route. If you are considering an audiobook, I would definitely recommend looking into them.

In the end, I had this mp3 file and nowhere to go with it. I tried to upload it to my website, but the file was so large the connection kept timing out. Finally, when I was at the library, I was actually able to upload it. And it works! Although it is a huge file (200 MB) and takes a while to download. If you are interested in listening, it can be found here: The Rose Ring Audio Version

I hope that you can learn from my mishaps in this experience (and maybe laugh a little). Have any of you tried to record an audiobook? If so, please share your lessons learned.

About AnneFaye

Anne Faye writes from Western Massachusetts and is the author of The Rose Ring and Through the Open Window, and blogs at http://www.annefaye.blogspot.com/. You can follow her on Twitter at @AnneMFaye
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One Response to How (Not) to Record to Audiobook

  1. My husband and I are considering doing audio books! We are both very familiar with and have quite a bit of knowledge about recording – we had a band for many years and still continue to write and record. We have a soundproof vocal booth and all the other equipment needed. I was thinking of asking CWG writers if they would be willing to “donate” a chapter or blurb and chapter for us to work with while we are getting started. In return we would of course, give the writers the best file of their work we had for their use with book trailers. We have our own work of course but I would really like to have a mix of other writers to work with while getting up and running.
    Thanks for writing this and sharing your experiences!