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Audiobook is the fastest growing publishing format in the world. More than 67 million Americans listen to audiobooks and the sale numbers increased 33.9% in 2016. You definitely need to get on board and produce an audiobook version of your book to improve overall value and exposure, but how?
Self-production or Outsourcing?
As an independent author, you can either self-produce your audiobook or outsource it. If you have the fundamental skill sets and understanding regarding narration and audio production, as well as access to pro-audio facilities, self-production could be the best choice for you. However, even though it is not rocket science, audiobook production may not be as easy as it may sound. It may require much more time, attention, energy (and eventually money) than you think. Moreover, it is not easy to meet audiobook submission requirements of distributors without professional help.
How do you produce an audiobook anyway?
First, you need to decide who the voice talent is. You can narrate the audiobook yourself, or hire a professional. After the casting decision is made, you will need to record the narration in an isolated and acoustically treated recording environment. Renting a recording studio could be a good solution to maintain high quality. It is essential to have a director and an audio engineer to carry out the recording session in order to supervise voice acting and take notes regarding performance, mistakes, noises etc., which will be delivered to the editor later. After recording is done, an editor will need to edit raw audio files to eliminate mistakes or unwanted sounds, and maintain desired cadence and rhythm. Typically a “proof-listener” handles the quality control process to make sure that there are no overlooked problems in the edited audiobook, and provides feedback for any potential corrections. Finally, the audiobook is mastered to enhance the overall quality in terms of dynamics, timbre and noise. This final step ensures top-notch quality and compliance with professional audiobook distribution standards.
How can you outsource audiobook production?
Outsourcing is the best choice for you if you don’t have a solid background in audio production or access to facilities. First, you need to decide which parts of the production process you will handle personally, if any. For example, if you believe you can narrate and record audiobook in your home studio, but you don’t know how to edit or master, you can outsource post-production (everything that happens after recording) to an audio professional, studio or production company. There are a number of options out there which all have their ups and downs.
PFH (Per Finished Hour)
PFH is the way payment is usually calculated in the audiobook industry, and it defines an hour of finished audiobook recording, rather than studio hours. For instance, if you hire an editor to edit your audiobook, you will typically pay her based on the length of the edited audiobook, no matter how many hours she spent editing it, or how long the raw audio files were. If your editor charges $50 PFH, you delivered her 7 hours of raw audio, and she edited it down to 5 hours (your edited audiobook is 5 hours long), you will pay $250 for her services, even though she probably spent at least 10 hours working on it.
What are your options for outsourcing audiobooks?
One of the most popular options is to hire a narrator who delivers a finalized audiobook from Audiobook Creation Exchange (ACX), a marketplace for audiobook professionals. It is a great option especially for for low-budget solutions, as you can have an audiobook for $100-$400 PFH. However, you may not end up with the required production quality especially in terms of recording, editing and mastering, as most of providers are semi-professionals working in home studios with consumer level gear. Sometimes cheap can be expensive.
Another option is to direct the whole production by outsourcing specific tasks to specific professionals, studios or companies. You can hire a narrator, rent a studio which comes with a house engineer, and direct the recording session yourself. After recording is done, you can hire an editor to do the editing, and a proof-listener to give you a quality control report for potential corrections. You will need to make sure that the problems reported on the report are fixed. The downside of this option is that you will be responsible for everything including art direction, scheduling, budgeting and communication. This solution works great if you have a good understanding, experience and skill sets in terms of multimedia production and creative industries.
The most author-friendly solution is to outsource the whole process to a post-production house or a studio. The catch is that this might be a little costly; most audiobook production companies charge thousands of dollars per finished hour. However, there are some boutique companies, service providers and startups which offer full production services for competitive rates that are close to ACX’s.
After your audiobook is produced, all you need to is to submit it to an audiobook distributor, such as ACX, the most popular one, which distributes your audiobook through Audible.com, Amazon.com, and iTunes. Other distributors include Author’s Republic and Scribl. They all offer different packages, which come with their unique ups and downs.
Have they listened to your book yet?
People love audiobooks because of portability, ease of access and unparalleled experience they offer through voices and soundscapes. Audiobooks already became the fastest growing publishing format and the business is growing year in and year out. One way or another, make sure that you become a part of the future of storytelling; a rising tide lifts all boats.
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