Last Fall, I was looking for a narrator for my first novel, Devils Glen. Like most people, a quick Google brought me to ACX, Amazon’s audiobook creation service that hooks authors up with voice talent to create and produce audiobooks to be sold on Amazon/Audible and iTunes.
I went to ACX and set up my book for auditions and waited. Within a day or two, auditions rolled in, and I would be generous in saying that the quality of some performances left a lot to be desired. The one or two great auditions I did receive, asked for a considerable amount of money up front.
As I thought about it, I decided–hey, I’ve got a pretty good voice, a theatre background, and I’ve always liked to read aloud. Why don’t I just do my own audiobook? Crazy, right?
Well, after a bit of a learning curve, and a lot of trial and error, I can honestly say I’m glad I did it. I was able to produce a pretty dang good audio version of my novel and I may have found a nice little side career to boot. I even booked a narrating gig for a steamy romance novel, which was just released on Amazon and iTunes, Hot Shade by Tamara Lush.
I’m going to share with you the most helpful information I found online. With very little money up front, you too can get going turning your own novel into an audiobook. Who knows? You may even start up your own narrating career. And remember, we’re keeping it simple.
One thing you will need is a laptop. If you don’t have one, you can use a desktop computer, but I wouldn’t recommend it. The portability of a laptop is crucial.
Step Up to the Mic!
My first step was to buy a microphone. You’ll find a lot of different mics out there, ranging from cheap to crazy expensive. But again, we’re keeping it simple. I bought the Yeti from Blue Microphones, which has been a go-to for DIY voice recording. It’s usually around a hundred bucks, though you can find it on sale for about eighty, at times. It plugs right into your laptop’s USB port and connects to your software. The Yeti offers excellent sound quality for the money. TIP! When looking at the Yeti on Amazon, try clicking through all the various color options…some colors are cheaper than others, even though it’s the same mic!
Yes, I know that ACX currently recommends that you not use USB mics. They suggest a more expensive Rode mic that doesn’t offer significantly better sound quality and requires more money spent on essential accessories. If you have the money to put into all of that and the time to learn how to use it, then fine, go for it. All I can say is, the Yeti setup works for me and it will work for you, too. Of the audiobooks I’ve produced using the Yeti so far, I’ve never seen a comment from anyone about the sound quality being subpar, just the opposite in fact. Want proof? Go HERE and listen to the audio sample of my novel, Devils Glen.
If you learn how to handle Audacity in post, you’ll be just fine and save yourself some money in the end. And even with one of the recommended mics, you’re still going to need to spend time in post cleaning things up. The time saved will be negligible.
And I remind you, we really geared this information toward people who are just starting out. As you get better and start earning more money in this business, you’ll naturally want to invest money into better and better equipment.
You’ll also want to pick up a boom stand, a wind guard and a pop filter. The stand will hold your mic, and the filters will help keep any unwanted room sounds and mouth popping noises from infiltrating your audio.
Here’s a video that helped me get the Yeti up and running. It also gives you some idea of its sound quality.
UPDATE: I did recently switch to the Shure MV7, which is a much better mic than the Yeti, even though it’s still a USB mic. It filters out unwanted sound very well and saves me a great deal of time in post. It is more than twice as expensive, so if you’re just starting out, it might not be the desirable. However, if you’re using the Blue Yeti, you’ll want to upgrade as soon as you can. You can check out the Shure MV7 HERE.
DIY Sound Studio
You will need to find a dead space in your room to record. Unless you’re a musician, you probably don’t have a sound studio in your home, but not to fear. You have a closet, I assume? Great! Just pull out some of the hanging clothes, set up a small end table for your laptop and your mic, and voila! Home made studio. This is why having a laptop is pretty much essential.
You can pin quilts and sheets to the walls of your closet to help deaden the sound space. Of course, if you feel like spending some money, or you have a very loud home, you can buy sound proofing tiles here. But believe me, the sheets and quilts work just fine.
You will want to be conscious of ambient sounds like a loud refrigerator or air conditioning. Make your studio as far away from that stuff as you can get it, if possible. This video helped me a lot:
This is possibly the most important part. The software is where we fix the mistakes and smooth over the rough patches. Post production! Luckily, there is a great little audio recording program called Audacity–and the best part is, it’s free! Unfortunately, it takes some time to learn how to use it. Remember the learning curve I talked about earlier? This is it. Audacity is great, but it’s not particularly user-friendly. Luckily I found some videos on Youtube that make things so much easier.
This guy made a great video taking you through his process, step-by-step. He also gives some helpful advice for important Audacity add-ons.
This one is good too for finding plug-ins. . .
If you have a Mac, you can use GarageBand too, which works well though it doesn’t offer the wealth of plugins you’ll get with Audacity. I’m not too familiar with any of the other recording programs out there, since Audacity pretty much gives me everything I need.
Headphones are a must-have. They don’t have to be super expensive, though I wouldn’t use earbuds. You’ll want something that offers a more immersive sound, covering your ears. A pair of Skull Candy headphones like this are just fine for starting out. But remember, the better you can hear all the little sounds, the better your recording will sound when you’re done. So, like all of these pieces of equipment, you may want to upgrade when you can.
Once you have everything you need and you’re all set up in your studio, the real fun/work begins—the actual recording. This is the fun part where you get to sit down and read. Don’t worry about making mistakes. If you stumble, just snap your fingers near the mic, then it will show up on your audio file and you can easily locate where to fix things. You can bet that your first time narrating a book, your skills will be lacking. Just stick with it, and you’ll get there.
One tip I can give is to slow down. Many narrators read way too fast. No, you shouldn’t go at a snail’s pace, but you should take your time and draw the reader in with your voice.
I hope this information was helpful. If you have any questions, please comment below! And sign up for my newsletter!!