Tuesday, October 30

How To Record Your Own Audiobook: Setting Up A Home Studio

How To Record Your Own Audiobook: Setting Up A Home Studio
"I Giovani e la Musica" by SuperUbO under CC BY 2.0

I've wanted to make an audiobook for close to a year. I think it would be a great way to introduce my work to a new audience (I heard that only 95% of books are made into audiobooks) and some folks like it when authors read their own work.

I think I need to just jump in and DO IT. Go through the short stories I've written and record one. If it turns out ghastly I don't have to inflict it on the world, but if it's half decent it might make a good blog post or podcast. :)

Anyway, what has gotten me thinking about recording an audiobook again is a recent blog post by the singular Elizabeth Spann Craig, Getting the Hang of the Business End of Things in which she shares a link to Jeff Bennington's post, Creating Audio Books is Easy Peasy Lemon Squeezy. (What a great blog title!)

Audio Creation Exchange (ACX)

Jeff talks about ACX.com. (If you know what ACX is, or you don't care, skip to "Making An Audiobook," below.) ACX stands for Audio Creation Exchange and was launched by Amazon-owned Audible in May of last year.

What is ACX.com and what can it do for you? This is from their website:
ACX is a marketplace where professional authors, agents, publishers and any other Rights Holders can post audiobook rights to both new frontlist titles and to backlist titles that were never published as audiobooks. At ACX, those rights get matched with Producers, which include audiobook publishers, narrators, engineers, and recording studios. The result: More audiobooks will be made. (The Basics, ACX.com)
I first became aware of ACX because Neil Gaiman has his own line of books over at Audible: Neil Gaiman Presents. His audiobooks are sold through Audible and produced through ACX. Neil Gaiman has written a number of articles about his experience:

Neil Gaiman's audiobook record label (An interview with Neil Gaiman)
ACX - if you’re a writer, an actor, a producer (A Tumblr article by Neil Gaiman)

Making An Audiobook At Home

Before a writer can take advantage of ACX, or any other technology designed to help us sell audiobooks, we have to produce the darn things! And ACX will help with this, by either matching you with professionals (you either pay them outright or share royalties) or through umpteen tutorials on how to do the work yourself.

Since I'm a do-it-yourself kind of gal I'm going to try doing the recording myself. But it's nice to know that, if I fail miserably, I can turn to the talented folks at ACX.

Now onto the good stuff: How to record an audiobook yourself in a studio you cobble together.

What you need to make an audiobook at home

The number one thing you want to do is cut down on noise. Here are some tips on how to do that from the professionals over at ACX:

Reduce noise
- NO fridge nearby.
- NO heading system nearby.
- Hang blankets over the walls and put a rug on the floor to minimize sound reflection.

Office Equipment
- Desk for your computer.
- Stand for the script.
- Something--for instance, a blanket--to absorb the sound on surfaces.
- A chair that's comfortable and won't creak.

Recording Equipment
- Laptops get noisy when they heat up. Whemn this happens shut the computer off, take a coffee break, and let it cool down.
- Don't record directly to your computer's hard disk. Use a fast peripheral drive with lots of capacity.
- Become obsessive about backing up your work.
- Use a pop filter or shield. This deflects and minimizes sounds that can distort the recording. Sounds such as t's, f's, th's and w's. It will run you about $40 but you can also make your own.

You have a choice here, high tech or low tech.
- high tech: A large diaphram condesor mic is the standard for the industry and costs between $400 and $600.
- Low tech: A USB powered snowball mic will do the job if you want a lower cost solution.

The bottom line:
Research it and find out what is available in your area. Go to audio stores, try out their microphones, ask questions, and find a balance of price and performance that suits you.

These tips have been taken from: ACX: Setting up a Home Studio and Want To Narrate Your Own Book?

I've concentrated on setting up a home studio cheaply so I didn't mention some higher priced options a home narrator may want to consider. I highly recommend ACX's series of YouTube videos on how to record your own audiobook.

Here are the first two videos in the series:

This series continues on YouTube here: AudibleACX.

I hope you've been inspired to do an audio recording of your work! Or, if you have done an audio recording, I'd love to hear about your experience. Did you set up a make-shift studio at home, and, if so, perhaps you have some tips you'd like to share. :-)

Links to articles on recording an audiobook:
Podcasting on the iPad
How to record an audiobook at home
- Joanna Pen: How to Podcast (I love Joanna's advice: Just start!)

Other articles you might like:
- Making A Scene: Using Conflicts And Setbacks To Create Narrative Drive
- Building A Writer's Platform
- SEO Tips & Tricks: How To Make Google Love Your Blog


  1. Hi Karen - I recently recorded the first four chapters of my children's book, The Secret Lake, using Garage Band (which comes free with iMac and Apple laptops) and iMovie. I have a Logitec head0set/microphone which plugs in and away you go... I had to feel my way a bit, but finally was able to upload to YouTube. The quality is very good. I've been intending to blog about how I did this over the last couple of weeks but the day job has meant I've not found time. My next step is to finish the the recording & move on to marketing to complement my print and e-book editions! Anyway - just to give an idea of the sound quality for anyone reading, here's a link to it on the book's website http://www.thesecretlake.com - just scroll down slightly and you'll see the link there. As I say I will soon be posting about what I did. And thanks for this interesting post! Karen

    1. Karen, thanks for chatting about your experience. I just listened to your audio file, the quality is amazingly good! I had no idea Garage Band + headset would do such a great job.

      Love your narration. Definitely worth the listen. :-)

  2. You can defintely get a large diaphram condensor for cheaper then $400. The range is more like $75 and beyond. I would highly recommend using a dynamic mic such as a Shure SM7B. Large diaphram condensors pick up a ton of unwanted sounds like swallowing, breaths, and any little churp or mouth sound because that's what they're supposed to do. A dynamic is made for more live sound applications therefore doesn't pick up as much. You wouldn't want drums coming in through the lead singers mic would you? The SM7B is usually a standard with radio hosts and broadcasters because it picks up what is most important. A large diaphram will work but for a cleaner recording a dynamic is far better in my opinion. Also once recorded I would recommend using a gate. This will make sound go silent when you aren't speaking so in between sentences or for pauses the gate will cut all sound giving you once again a tailored sound. I've recorded some clients doing audiobooks at my home studio and I've come to realize a dynamic, some basic eq, a gate, and a little compression if needed can make a very professional sounding recording.

    1. Thanks Bryce! I appreciate the advice, and thanks for the mic recommendation.

  3. I've been searching around for the most user-friendly software to edit together an audio book. I've started recording one for my novel A Greater Monster but haven't begun the editing process. I have hundreds of little cuts to clip together and in some cases words to chop out, etc. I know it's not ideal, but I'm a perfectionist about how I want it to sound. Is Audacity the easiest program to use? There was a top program called Propaganda that no longer seems to be available that got the best reviews. But nothing seems highly user friendly. I'm working on a PC Windows 7. Any recommendations? Thanks!

    1. Hi David, I've found Audacity refreshingly easy. And I like that it's free.

      Here is a list of recording programs, their pros and cons (Audacity is included):

      All the best!

  4. Any update on your own setup for audio book reading? My books have been doing well for about six months and people keep saying they like how I read it on those occasions when I have to read some part of it. A publisher is negotiating with me, but honestly, I like doing this stuff on my own and I'd like to give it a try. I've heard good things about the Blue Snowball USB microphone for audiobooks. What did you go with? Software? Etc...Thanks!

    1. Hi Ann! An update. Yes. Excellent idea.

      Honestly, I haven't done as much with audio--podcasting, vlogs, etc--as I wanted. That said, over the past few weeks I've been putting together a few writing related videos. The two that I've finished (they aren't published yet) don't have any audio--well, other than music!--but I have a feeling I will overdub something soon.

      Thank you for your comment. I've printed it out and put it on my wall to remind me to pull out my bright shiny mic and lay down an audio track. Thanks for the reminder/encouragement.

      PS I've heard good things about the Blue Snowball USB. When I bought my mic I was deciding between that and the Yeti. Here's a link to the post that, more than any other, helped me make up my mind:


      On that page, Tris Hussey posted a recording of a reading done through, first, the Yeti then the Snowball and you can hear the difference for yourself. (The reading starts at about 2:00.)

  5. Could you please relate why you recommend a fast peripheral drive and not recording to the main hd?

    1. Hi Randy! Good question. Since I'm not a professional audio specialist I'll let
      Joe Gilder over at HomeStudioCorner.com weigh in on this. In his article "12 Home Studio Necessities #7 – External/Dedicated Hard Drive" he writes:

      "Recording music to a computer can be a pretty intense process, especially when you start recording and playing back ten or twenty individual tracks of music or more. Each of those audio files has to be streamed in real time from your hard drive.

      "The system hard drive on your computer (the one that came with your computer) will technically work as your audio drive, but it’s not the best idea. For one thing, your operating system and all the software you own is installed on the system drive. Before you even fire up Pro Tools or Garage Band, the system drive is already working pretty hard. It has a full-time job of simply running the operating system.

      "Now to ask that drive to handle all of your audio streaming is just too much. What that means in the real world is you will start to get freezes and error messages in your recording software.

      "For this reason I (along with every DAW software manufacturer out there) recommend using a dedicated hard drive for recording. This means you want to use a second hard drive that does nothing but stream your audio to and from the computer."

      Joe Gilder's article is terrific. Here's the URL:

      All the best!

  6. Excellent post Karen!
    Recording your own audiobook can be a great way to not only improve the quality of your book (invariably you'll find a pesky typo or two), but capture the skyrocketing sales of audiobooks. Although my book is chocked full of great audiobook recording tips, here's a secret one: Potato chips. That's right: Eat a few of these before you start recording and it will help keep your mouth moist and also the oils in the chips will keep your lips from drying out too!
    I used this specific trick with recording the Audible version of my Recording Audiobooks book and it really did help a lot.
    Hope this helps and reach out if I can help you with your next audiobook!

  7. Back in the old analogue days I narrated a friend's book providing tapes to the publisher. Now that I am writing one, I was thinking about starting with a recorded book on line. First chapter is free. Donations sought for subsequent chapters.

    1. Excellent! I've heard that Podiobooks.com can be good for that sort of business model. Please let me know how it goes! :-)


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