Audio book production...the journey begins.

Hi, I've decided to start a post about audio books, specifically my experiences in producing them...which, at present is precisely zero. I'll try to enter something daily, regarding my progress. I was looking to have my books converted to audio and approached several not-to-be-named companies and freelances who wanted to charge me the equivalent of the cost of a new car...okay, not quite but it was certainly enough for to start thinking about doing it myself.

The only thing I know about it so far is that I need a contraption called a...microphone. Bang - that's it. So, I will try to post something every day...or every other day...depending on how sressed I get when learning what I need to learn.

I think the first thing to do is to ensure that there is a market for audio books. It doesn't take a lot to realize that there is. I have spent some time establishing statistics for audio book growth in the market over the years and even though I'm not going to go through that now it is clear that it's still expanding and is currently a multi-billion pound industry. It's also worth noting that while eBooks have saturated the market audio books have not and the demand actually ( from what I have read ) outweighs the supply.

Dec 31, 2016

They came again - the zombie-vampires; stinking half-breeds: ravenous and dangerously sentient. No wait...sorry, wrong post.

Okay, I've spent several hours Googling and Youtubing audio book production. Maybe this is common knowledge but for me it wasn't: the most prominent marketplace to upload audio books for distribution to Amazon's Audible platform and to Itunes as well is ACX Audio Creation eXchange. This is definitely the place to be if you're interested in creating and uploading versions of your eBooks. Once done, your audio book will be available as an audio book and will also link to your eBook equivalent and will show as an optional format to download. There is a wealth of information on ACX for Authors wishing to narrate their own books as well as audio book producers etc.

There is also a very large section of authors who are looking for narrators to narrate their stories so the potential for making money is here. You need to audition for the opportunity to narrate another author's book. It was then that it kind of hit home that I am essentially moving into the realm of acting.

You need to understand the tone of the book, obviously the story, the characters etc. There are many requirements that ACX stipulate that must be met before you uploaded audio book will be accepted and you must read everything here. Don't skip anything; it will come back to bite you in the ass later. there are many videos on Youtube about meeting those requirements and what you need to do to get started. on link for a free online workshop that is very extensive and super helpful is below:

This is a workshop composed of modules and is very well structured and offers invaluable information about getting started. One thing that I have learned so far is that it's not as easy as plugging in a mic then off you go. You'll be sitting, almost perfectly still, for hours at a time in a confined space and spending an tremendous amount of time editing. I read that ( for someone who knows what he's doing) for every one hour of completed narration, you will have spent about six hours creating it - with most of that time editing out pops and blips and ambient noise. There is a test that everyone who is interested in book narration should go through before investing time and money in this. Spend about an hour or two hours every day for the next two weeks reading aloud in the same conditions that you would be in when narrating a book - that is to say, sitting in a confined space. Every time you make a mistake or an ambient noise of a sniff or a stomach rumble interferes then start at the beginning of the sentence again and continue. This test will really allow you to appreciate the demands this places on your body and your voice. This will tell you if you have the stamina and patience for this process.

I'll do this and at the same time continue to learn what I I am pretty sure that this is what I need to be doing at least for my own books to establish an audience. There's a lot to take in here and my best approach at the moment would be to read and listen to everything I can about Audio books. I need a structured approach here though and so I need to focus on advice coming directly from ACX as it is their requirements I will need to meet in order to have any uploaded submissions accepted.

I think the first step is establishing those requirements as this will give me some idea of what hardware I will need and what kind of money I will need to spend.

Jan 02, 2017

So far I have attend several online workshops and seminars about creating Audio Books. No doubt ACX is the leader as the service for uploading audio books, especially since they are affiliated with Audible and are a subsidiary of Amazon, and that the audio books with be distributed to Itunes too. There are others you can use such as Authors Republic and Overdrive. I'll take a look at these once I've got a handle on ACX. Authors Republic distributes to a least a dozen retailers...including Audible and Itunes. A word of warning here. I am a great believer in maximizing your market and not restriction yourself to a single distributor. ACX offers exclusive and non-exclusive rights. If you opt for exclusivity it means that you can sell your work on Audible ONLY and will not be permitted to sell your audio book anywhere else. It also means you'll be tied into that commitment for several years...I think seven years.

There's a wealth of information on ACX's webpage about formatting and requirements. Initially, they seem overwhelming but no more so than the Amazon's guidelines to upload an eBook...albeit obviously the process is somewhat different.

I'm not going to go through the process here as ACX's site has all that you need. I have found some very helpful videos from ACX that talk your through the entire process. There are four parts to this, the first of which is linked below but this will feed into the other parts.

Of course, you can You tube this and find a billion vids on audio book creation but to be honest I would advise focussing on those posts and listings that come directly from ACX, seeing that this is where you'll be posting your audio-book version of your eBook story. The link above and the link and ACX's guidelines on their own site will give you everything you need on Audio book creation. I would advise listening and reading everything on these links and on ACX's site several times before moving on. Remember, at this point I have been test-narrating over the last few days to condition my body and voice. I think that at this point I am aware of how to create and Audio book and the requirements. However, I am very aware that there is a big difference to "knowing" how to do something and "doing it" and more importantly gaining the experience of practical application.

My next entry will talk about the equipment needed and soundproofing software and creating the opitmimal environment for recording.

Jan 04, 2017

Krystal Wascher who hosts the audio book workshop mentioned above also hosts for its participants a free "five day challenge" vi email and a closed-group on Facebook. The challenge demonstrates the steps involved to earning money from narrating stories. it shows you how to sign up to ACX and create a "narrator" profile, and to record samples for potential clients to hear. Should be noted that initially when signing up I selected "author" as my profile and this does not allow you to narrate for other Author's and will permit you only to narrate and upload for your own ebooks associated on Amazon. This was fine, as this is what I intended but be warned that if you wish to do both - narrate your own books and to narrate others - you will need to accounts, "narrator" account for the latter and an "author" account for the former.

I've purchased a mic. there's a lot of talk on ACX about what types to use and not to use USB mics. However, outside of their site, there are many narrators uploading to ACX using USB mics. Below is the one I have purchased and it sounds good. Not the best as not the most expensive but its really does do the job.

The only thing I might change is the stand. Don't get me wrong, it's sturdy and weighted but the room in which I will be using this lends itself more to a swing arm than a desk mount stand. I've recorded some samples and tomorrow ( as part of the five-day challenge ) I'll be actually auditioning for a gig on ACX. This means that you contact one of many authors on ACX who are looking for a narrator and leave an audio sample, read from a snippet of their manuscript. If they like you, then they'll hire you to narrate for them. Cool.

I've yet to soundproof my room but have ordered soundproofing tiles from ebay that should do the job. I use Audacity software which is free. You need to be cautious here. It's very easy to get carried away with all it's functions - equalization, normalization, compression and noise removal...not to mention the available pluggins that promise a perfect recording. But a word of warning: use these sparingly - especially noise reduction. ACX favour the physical method of reducing noise by optimizing your environment. padded out everything. Don't wear rustling clothes or jangling jewellery. cover the table with sound-absorbing material. when you have done all that and there is still ambient noise, then and only then use those software functions. Don't take the attitude that you don't need to really bother with soundproofing as you can " equalize, normalize, compress and removal noise" like you've never done before and resolve noise issues that way. Do that, and you may get your work bounced by ACX when they QC it.

So, tomorrow I'll be auditioning and take it from there. Bye for now.

Jan 06, 2017

I've decided that my recording samples that I have uploaded to ACX are not of a sufficient quality. I kind of guessed that they would not be and that was the reason I had sound-proofing panels on order. They arrived today and I have attached them to the walls of what is to become my recording studio. I still have other bits on order and have created a sound-proof box to house my laptop so that the fan noise won't interfere with the recordings. This was day5 of the challenge which was to audition on ACX for a narrator gig but I looks like I won't get around to this until tomorrow.

I also put sound-deadening material on the table on which I'll have my hardware. This is essentially underlay for laminate flooring but it has very good sound-absorbing qualities. Short entry for today. Will be back tomorrow once I have done something substantial.

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