Recording your own Audio Books

Richard Denning’s advice on recording your own audio book –

Two years ago I recorded The Amber Treasure and released it in episodes via Podiobooks.com. This is a US based site which will publish audio books. It also feeds them to Itunes again as podcast episodes.

Over a couple of years the book had 300+ downloads and some good feedback. As a first experiment in recording audiobooks it was not a bad way to go.

Recently I decided to move forward and look to record some of my other books and I am using http://www.helpforwriters.me/ whom I met at the New Writers UK Fair. (This annual event at Nottingham in November is a gathering of self published authors, associated folk such as editors and agents etc). I don’t find I sell many books there BUT as a place to network and make contacts it is useful. They are taking both The Amber Treasure and Child of Loki (which I am currently recording).

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My “home studio” is very basic. It consists of

A)This PC

B)A free to download copy of Audactity

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Which is a recording and editing programme.

C)A Shure FM 58 XLR microphone . This was recommended to me by several pod-casters as a very good sub £100 microphone (you DONT want to use a skype headset). To get the sound from the microphone INTO the PC you cant just plug it into a PC like a skype headset. You need to feed it through either a mixing desk OR a PRE-AMP. This is mine:

D)Shure X2U Pre Amp. The microphone plugs into the pre-amp and the pre-amp has a USB connection to the PC. The USB cabel powers the microphone. Te preamb has controls to adjust the gain/boost on the microphone and also to allow play back of the audio input (see later for an issue with this).

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E)A microphone stand and boom. You don’t want to hold the microphone or put it on a desk which might pick up vibrations from the PC. I picked up a cheap £20 stand from a local music shop who also sold me the microphone.

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F) pop shield. This is a circular shield that sits between you and the microphone and stops the b’s and p’s “popping” so much. I bought one from Maplins and it works fine. The only issue is the clamp which hooks onto the stand is not very good and I ended up having to tape up the clip to keep it from coming loose.

G)A good set of headphones. ideally ones whcih fit all around your ears. Which a good set you can pick up all that extraneous noise.

How much did it all cost?

I will leave out the cost of the PC as I assume you have one already. The only thing to say about that is that a very low end one may not produce good quality results.

Microphone is about £100. Pre amp around £80 but you can pick up a bundle for around £165. The stand and pop shield should be about £25. Headset around £20 to £40.

So for less than £225 you have a home recording studio. Hook it all up and get recording.

Problems…problems

There are a couple of issues you have to overcome.

A)Background noise. I live under a flightpath and there is a trainline that goes past the sports club at the bottom of my garden. So when recording I have to check to make sure I don’t pick up on those noises. Even without them there are many extraneous noises that can creep onto a recording – the hum of a PC, the noise of your central heating, waterpipes etc etc. I have read of podcasters who record in wardrobes or under a blanket to to and muffle all that.

B)Breath sounds. You can try and angle the microphone to avoid picking up breath sounds but whatever you try you WILL find breath sounds reach the track. You just need to remove them in Audactity.

C)Hiss. Often sound equipment will have a hiss. YOU can try reducing the microphone gain. BUT HERE IS MY TOP TIP for the X2u pre-amp. I found that I was hearing a hiss coming through my headphone which was plugged directly into the X2u. It is good to do this to HEAR what the microphone hears BUT I found that the X2U was producing a hiss. This hiss was not really on any recording so the headset must be producing it. What I do is listen to play back from a headset plugged into my PC’s speakers.

D) Selling your audiobooks. When an author publishes a e-book her or she can upload to Amazon or Smashwords and start selling it. The same is NOT true with audiobooks at least NOT so here in the UK. You need a distributor who perhaps handles dozens of authors and with whom the audiobook retailers such as Amazon, Itunes and Audible are willing to talk. Alternatively you can just sell the audio books via your own website but one of these aggregators and distributors can give an author more exposure.

I have an ambition to soon record a dramatization of The Last Seal or Tomorrow’s Guardian with multiple voices. (My daughters drama group). For that I will need a mixing unit to combines the signals from multiple microphones.

So if you are self-published and have made the step and have your books also available as e-books BUT NOT audiobooks maybe it is time to explore this medium as a way to reach more readers …or should that be listeners?

There is a more detailed article on making audio books here:

Richard Denning

3 responses to “Recording your own Audio Books”

  1. Malcolm Noble says:

    Thanks for a very interesting article, Richard. Also interested in your comments about the New Writers UK Fair. (I live in Harboroough, so fairly local) Be interested to read any further you might have about marketing later on.

  2. T.C.Spellen says:

    This article is really helpful as I’m thinking about creating an audiobook at Hangar Studios. Thanks for the tip about needing a distributor; I wasn’t aware of this.

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