Self Publishing: Setting Up for Home Audiobook Recording
Going wide means getting your audiobooks up as you publish your ebooks.
Simpler than it sounds. But there are some tricks to it. These are the notes of what I’ve found so far.
All this is in scratching my own itch. The four-proof method has editing your book by speaking it out loud as the last proof. You record this as you talk it out, then edit your audio to become your audio book and for other uses such as podcasts and bonus material you can giveaway in bundles or directly to your subscribers.
You just have to be able to record and edit in order to keep up with your writing output. The idea is that you publish your audiobook the same week as you publish the ebook and paperback (or put them up as pre-release editions.)
That’s why a lot of my books are sitting un-published, since the audio proof hasn’t been done yet.
What you’ll need – a decent mic. You can get by with a Blue Snowball, but upgrade to Blue Yeti when you can. Because the Blue Yeti has a gain control on it. Gain helps you say how sensitive your mic is going to be. The more sensitive, the more it picks up outside noise. The more noise, the worse quality. The Blue Snowball is plug and play, and adjust only through your computer input or software.
Setting up your mic can be straight out of the box. You might want to fold a towel to cushion it, as the stand sits right on your desk. I got a boom stand, which looks like one of those adjustable desk lamps they had in drafting class. Swivels and adjusts all over the place. Clamps onto your table top. I also got a suspension ring for the mic, so no sound traveled up to the mic from the table. In addition to all that, I got a pop filter, which just cuts out the hard p’s and b’s so you make your editing a lot easier. The mic is vital, the extras are optional.
And you’ll need a quiet room – doesn’t have to be perfect, just quiet while you’re recording. I’ve seen some pretty wild scenes with this. Some people even record in their closet between racks of clothes and a blanket over their head. Someone told me that you just hang a bunch of towels around that that will handle most of it. Otherwise, keep tweaking things to get rid of noise. Oh, and turn off all fans and buzzing lights…
What else you’ll need – Audacity. That’s a free program for all platforms. (Yes, there are other programs, but I only promote programs that are free and work on all computers. This is what I use.)
Once you’ve plugged in your mic and installed Audacity, then make sure your computer sees your mic and you can hear the output. You should have a decent set of headphones, but they don’t have to be expensive. You want to hear the odd noises so you can edit them out.
Once everything is fine, then the first job is to set up is your volume levels versus your noise levels. See Scribl post: https://www.scribl.com/guides/how-to-record-an-audiobook/setting-recording-levels-in-audacity and follow those instructions as best you can.
The bottom line is to figure out what is comfortable distance for your face from the mic while still getting good volume to record. Somewhere around a foot to a few inches is probably where you’ll wind up. Too close and the pop’s start showing up, as well as the heavy breathing. Too far away and you’ll want to bring up the gain, which then brings in more noise. First get in a comfortable chair, and then move the mic to a good distance (and still be able to read your text.) Then twiddle around with gain and volume settings. Once you find the sweet spot, remember it.
You’re going to be recording for probably 20-30 minutes at a time. (And since you’re writing daily, you’ll be recording daily.) Standing is best for the voice, otherwise, get a good chair with back support. I bring this up now, as you can have a great mic position, but might not be able to keep that up without strain. Get a comfortable position and then move the mic close enough to suit.
Yes, ideally you would have a space just for recording. But get started anyway you can. Then improve what you have.
One setting you want to use on that mic is “cardioid”, so it only records from the front. You speak into it through its front, not into its top. Read their instructions or do a search for this if you have questions. Plenty of YouTube videos about this if you need them.
There are some specs that ACX lays out for quality. These can be looked up at https://authorsrepublic.com/creation and the references they pull them from.
Your sound file should:
- be 44.1 kHz.
- be 192 kbps or higher MP3, Constant Bit Rate (CBR).
- measure between -23dB and -18dB RMS.
- have peak values no higher than -3dB.
- have a noise floor no higher than -60dB RMS.
Audacity records by default at 44.1 kHz.
Get the LAME plug-in for Audacity to export to MP3. When you do export, simply set the output to a constant rate of 192.
The others are handled by your recording adjustments above, and a set of filters (discussed below). Apply these filters before you edit anything out.
Here’s what I’ve found that works, and in this sequence:
Noise Reduction – Record 10 seconds of nothing. Make no noise yourself. This is just what your room sounds like. Then record everything you want to, like a chapter at a time. When you’re read to start editing, then select those 10 seconds at the front and go up to Effects > Noise Reduction. Click on “Get Noise Profile” and the dialog box will disappear. Then select your entire sound file and click on Noise Reduction again to have it do it’s magic. The obvious point here is to have as little noise as you can, as the filter will take stuff away from your voice as well.
Compressor – This handles the noise floor problem. Your default settings for Audacity should be fine. They are:
Threshold: -12 db,
Noise Floor: -40 db,
Attack Time: 0.2 secs,
Decay Time: 1.secs.
Bass Boost – This is under Effect > Equalization. It brings up a guy’s bass to make you sound more like a radio announcer. (Girls can skip this step.)
Treble Boost – This is also the Equalization filter again, but must be applied separate to the other. This now makes your voice sound brighter, and more realistic.
Normalize – Under Effect > Normalize. This adjusts your voice to fit in proper range and below -3db.
Now you can edit out all the stuff you don’t like. If you have a breathing part you don’t like, the best way seems to be to de-amplify (using the Amplify filter and moving the slider way down) rather than just inputting a silence, which sounds worse. Better, you can copy and paste a bit of normal background from somewhere else, like the beginning.
As you produce more audiobooks, the simpler and faster it will get. Like your writing and anything else. Concentrate on making each one better than the one before.
One point you may want to watch is to concentrate on just speaking one sentence at a time. You can always go back to cut long pauses down. You’ll see your own pauses between sentences are different than between paragraphs. So allow for this. Again, it’s better to paste in some room noise than pure silence.
Always save your recording to your hard drive immediately after you finish recording. Preferably in two documents or two separate locations. Always. After that, you can edit all you want. But if the worse happens, then you can always pull up the other original. You save in Audible’s lossless format. You export to lossy formats, meaning they compress it and leave out bits. Don’t edit an already-compressed file, as you can’t get great quality out of it. You can export to an FLAC file, which is nearly lossless, then take that file somewhere to tweak it. Audible files can get huge. So it may be time to invest in an extra USB hard drive to save files to. (Get a spare and back one up to the other. They get cheaper every year. Particularly during Black Friday weekend.)
Try to keep your set up just the same every time. The whole point is to have the same audio levels for each recording. So your chapters are all the same volume and quality. You want to be the same distance from the mic, and you want to try to record as much of the book each day as long as you don’t get tired – which will also make your voice different from chapter to chapter.
The key point to this is to have fun.
And yes, I’ll keep this article updated as I go. Especially as this is my own reference now that I’ve researched and figured this out.
Here’s some details I forgot.
Specific requirements, all in one list, from Author’s Republic:
1. Consistent in overall sound and formatting.
2. Audiobook must be comprised of all mono, or all stereo files.
3. Audiobook must include opening and closing credits, in separate tracks.
4. Audiobook must be narrated by a human. Text-to-speech recordings are not allowed.
5. Each uploaded file must contain only one chapter or section.
6. Each uploaded file must be no longer than 120 minutes. Files longer than 120 minutes are not supported.
7. Each uploaded file must contain a section or chapter announcement at the beginning of the audio file.
8. Each uploaded file must have between 0.5 and 1 second of room tone at the head, and between 1 and 5 seconds of room tone at the tail of each track.
9. Each uploaded file must be free of extraneous sounds such as plosives, mic pops, mouse clicks, excessive mouth noise, and outtakes.
10. Each uploaded file must measure between -23dB and -18dB RMS.
11. Each uploaded file must have peak values no higher than -3dB.
12. Each uploaded file must have a noise floor no higher than -60dB RMS.
13. Each uploaded file must be 192kbps or higher MP3, Constant Bit Rate (CBR).
14. Each uploaded file must be 44.1 kHz.
15. Each uploaded file must be no larger than 170MB. Files larger than 170MB are not supported.
Author’s Republic cover art requirements (lowest common denominators):
• Include author name and title
• No references to physical (CD) or other media editions
• No CD jewel case, promo stickers, or cellophane
• No offensive material
• No colored borders on the side
• 2400 x 2400 (H x W) minimum
• Must be a perfect square
• File size should be less than 8MB
• 24-bit minimum
• 72 dpi minimum
• RGB (Not CMYK)
• JPG Format
• File name alphanumeric only
Opening and Closing Credits Files
Needed in addition to recording your chapters (from ebookit.com):
[title of audiobook]
Written by [name of author]
Narrated by [name of narrator]
This has been [title of audiobook]
Written by [name of author]
Narrated by [name of narrator]
Copyright [year and name of copyright holder]
Production copyright [year it was recorded] by [company name]
Ebookit.com also has some file naming recommendations:
- Each file must be comprised of a single chapter, episode, or story. Note that each file will typically become a “track” that a customer may use for navigation.
- If the audio has no chapters, please split the audio into segments that are no longer than 2 hours each, but no shorter than 30 minutes each (when possible).
- The files should be consolidated into individual Chapters.
- Each file should be preceded by a three digit number that denotes the order in which the files should appear. The file names should appear as: 001_title.mp3, 002_title.mp3, 003_title.mp3.
Bookmark this page. I’ll keep putting the essentials here for you as our reference guide. Because I update this when I need to find something.
Luck to us all.
If you liked this article, or got something out of it…
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Also published on Medium.