Question: How do you convert a written manuscript into an audiobook?


 Audiobooks are a growing segment of the publishing industry.Answer:

Audiobooks continue to be a growing segment of the publishing industry and are the ideal entertainment medium for commuters, busy individuals, the vision impaired, and more. According to the Audio Publishers Association, audiobook sales increased by 25% in 2021 to $1.6 billion, which is the tenth consecutive year of double-digit growth. Audiobook sales are expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 26.4% from 2022 to 2030, per Grand View Research.

Publishing an audiobook is an excellent way to expand your distribution, reach new readers, improve your online discoverability, and earn additional revenue. Creating the audio files can require some technical skills, but there is more opportunity than ever to easily and affordably produce and distribute an audiobook on your own. If you've self-published through an assisted self-publishing company, they may offer audiobook services as well.

As long as you’ve retained your audiobook rights during the publishing process (check your publishing contract!), you too can convert your manuscript into an audiobook.

Popular audiobook creation and distribution platforms

Authors can choose between several online platforms and service providers for assistance with the production and distribution of an audiobook. Here are the two most popular DIY options:

ACX is one of the most popular audiobook platforms for creating and distributing an audiobook.ACX (Audible)

ACX is the leading audiobook platform where authors, literary agents, publishers, and other rights holders can connect with narrators, engineers, recording studios, and others capable of producing a finished audiobook. It is a part of Audible, which is a subsidiary of Amazon. ACX distributes audiobooks through their Audible, Amazon, and iTunes.

ACX offers three options when using their platform to create an audiobook:

Pay for Production: With this option, you make a one-time payment to an audiobook Producer to manage the narration and production. The fee is based on the length of your book, and you retain control over your audiobook’s distribution. You can earn up to 40% royalties when you select the exclusive distribution option (you agree to distribute through ACX only), and 25% when you select the non-exclusive distribution option.

Royalty Share & Royalty Share Plus: This option gives you the flexibility to compensate your Producer with an equal share of your royalty earnings for the life of your audiobook, allowing you to reduce the production fee or even eliminate out-of-pocket upfront costs completely. You then split your earnings equally with your Producer. With a one-time payment, you can gain access to a higher tier of Producers through the “Royalty Share Plus” program.

Do it Yourself: If you wish to produce your own audio files or already have them ready, this is the option for you. Just upload the files and earn up to 40% royalties when you select the exclusive distribution option, and 25% when you select the non-exclusive distribution option.

Findaway Voices if one of the most popular audiobook platforms for creating and distributing audiobooks.Findaway Voices

With over 40 audiobook distribution partners, Findaway Voices can be a great alternative or supplement to publishing an audiobook on ACX. Now owned by Spotify, Findaway is a fast-growing platform that offers three production options to authors:

Marketplace Production: This option allows you to filter Findaway’s directory of qualified narrators so that you can choose the right voice for your audiobook. You manage the production with free tools and resources for support. Findaway takes 20% of the royalties you earn
as a distribution fee and you retain 80% of your royalties.

Managed Production: This option utilizes Findaway’s production AND narration services. Per their website, a 50,000 word audiobook created through Managed Production can cost between $1,000 and $2,000. You can cut this upfront cost in half by selecting their “Voices Share” program, with 20% of the royalties going to the narrator – this is in addition to the 20% distribution fee. You retain 60% of your royalties with this option.

Self-Narration or Existing Audio Files: You can narrate and prepare your audiobook files on your own, or hire a narrator on your own and then upload to Findaway Voices for free. Findaway takes 20% of the royalties you earn as a distribution fee and you retain 80% of your royalties.

From there, you can opt-in to their “Voices Plus” program and receive extra incentives such as giveaway codes and promotional campaign opportunities, in exchange for distributing your book exclusively through Findaway Voices.

If you’d like to find a narrator outside of ACX or Findaway Voices, you can search websites like Fiverr and Voice123. This can be a great way to expand your talent pool when working with a tight budget.

What equipment is required to record it yourself?

When considering recording your own audiobook, it’s important to understand that the distribution platforms and their listeners have very high quality expectations, which can be challenging to meet if you have little to no experience with creating audio files, or if your voice isn’t necessarily suited for narration. If this is a challenge you’re willing to accept, you’ll need the following equipment and software, at a minimum:

If you want to record your own audiobook, you'll need a quality microphone and soundproof space.Recording microphone and headphones: Search “podcasting microphones” online and you’ll see many great options from $50 to $200. You’ll also want decent headphones to hear what your recording is sounding like.

Computer or laptop with recording software:

— Audacity: FREE – the most popular and widely used, works with most operating systems and is good for beginners.
— GarageBand: FREE – comes preinstalled with MacOS or can be downloaded, offers good features for recording and editing on an Apple device.
— Adobe Audition: FREE 7-day trial, then $21 per month – works with MacOS or Microsoft Windows, offers advanced recording and editing features.

Soundproof space: You can rent space in a recording studio, or build/buy a budget-friendly soundproof booth for use at home with sound-absorbing materials.

Tablet to read from: Rather than printing your manuscript to read from, an electronic device such as a tablet will be much quieter than rustling papers.

What audio needs to be recorded and uploaded?

It’s important to review the submission requirements for the audiobook platform or platforms that you plan to utilize. These guidelines will include the required file formats and naming conventions, audio quality expectations, maximum segment lengths, cover art specifications, and more.

Audiobooks are a great entertainment option for busy individuals or those wanting a break for their eyes.Here are the typical audio segments you will need to record, each saved as a separate file:

Intro/Opening Credits: Title of the book, the author, and the name of the narrator.

Front Matter: (Optional) Preface or author’s notes.

Body: This is the main content of your book. Each chapter must be recorded and uploaded as a separate file. If you don’t have chapters, look for instructions on how to break your content into acceptable segments.

Back Matter: (Optional) Acknowledgements or bibliography type of info.

Closing Credits: Must indicate the completion of the book (“The End”), and can include the title, author/narrator names, copyright info, website, etc.

Retail Sample: A one to five-minute sample for prospective customers to listen to (Length requirement depends on platform). Can be any part of the book, but cannot contain music, audiobook credits, or explicit content.

Once you understand the recording and production process and have your first audiobook under your belt, you can explore more advanced features such as music integration, sound effects, and using multiple narrators.

To maximize your audiobook’s distribution and reach, you can publish as a non-exclusive with ACX and then publish as a non-exclusive with Findaway Voices. If you’ve already signed up for ACX’s exclusive distribution option and your book has been sold on ACX for more than 90 days, you may able to request the book be made non-exclusive, allowing you to distribute it outside of ACX.

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