This is a question I have been asked several times now… Should authors take a “do it yourself” approach to creating audio versions of their books or use a professional voice over service?
For this reason, I have decided to write a blog post to cover the pros and cons and make some suggestions on how to proceed.
Pros for recording your own audio book
First of all, if the book is your own story or tutorial and a subject that you are an expert in then you will probably add value by using your own voice. I say probably, as you will need to be a good narrator and sound good when recorded. Personally, I have heard some really great audio books read by the author, but have also heard some diabolical self-narrated books.
The cost can be dramatically reduced if you narrate your own book as you won’t need the services of a professional voice over. However, hiring a studio can be expensive depending on where and what type of studio it is. A more cost effective method can be to invest in some audio equipment.
Cons for recording your own audio book
You are not a voice over
Despite the fact that we can all read out loud, recording an engaging narration that is clear and professional sounding is a skill. With practice such skills can be learnt and developed, but without some natural ability you could just make your audiobook sound awful. Getting several hours of audio recorded and sounding consistent is a lot of work. As a rule of thumb, it takes a professional voice over 1 hour to produce 15-20 mins of usable audio.
You are not an audio producer
Like voice narration, audio production is a skill and you have to put the time into learning how to do it properly. Just recording the book is not enough, that is just the first step. You then have to know how to produce the audio so it is clean, loud and available in the correct formats. You should also remove the breaths, which is a very time-consuming job. As a rule of thumb editing one hour of narration takes 2-3 hours.
Do a test!
To avoid wasting time, do a short test recording and get some honest opinion about the audio. Family and friends may say what you want to hear, so find people who will give you an honest opinion. The quality does not have to be great for this, you are just getting an assessment of your reading style, tone etc. You can do this test with a low cost USB microphone or headset.
Taking it to the next level
If you find that your test received great feedback and you decide to invest time and money into making the recording, technology has some great options for you.
There has been a leap forward in microphone technology in recent years. The USB microphone enables anyone to record high quality vocals into a computer. Amazingly, a studio quality version, which is used by several professional voice overs, start at around £60.
Portable digital recorders
There are a number of professional digital recorders on the market that have built in microphones. These can be used in the same way as a stand alone USB mic but you have the added flexibility of being able to record anywhere, without having to be near a PC. Also, they are ideal for recording interviews on location.
In reality, a perfectly sound treated room is always going to produce a superior quality. However, is it needed? In my opinion as an audio producer… No!
It is important to find a room that sounds good and make sure that your recording position is consistent every time you record. The myth of using the bathroom is just a myth. You want a room that absorbs sounds, such as a bedroom with lots of bedding and a carpet. Room reverberation needs to be minimised with sound absorbent materials, such as quilts etc. Bizarrely, one of the best location recordings I ever did was in a very small bedroom with a massive teddy bear collection.
Obviously, there is more to it and I may create more posts to cover this if there is sufficient interest, but as a guide, use a USB studio mic, experiment to find the best microphone position and only record in a quiet, sound absorbent room. Never record in the kitchen or bathroom.
Editing and producing the audio
As mentioned previously, the recording is just part of the process. You may wish to get a professional audio producer to edit and produce the recording. This will cost professional rates, so if you are looking to keep the budget low you may wish to consider learning the audio skills you require. Alternatively, we would be happy to quote you.
Hopefully this has been useful to the people looking for this information, so please feel free to comment or get in touch and I may expand on some of these topics if there is enough interest. If you have decided to start the journey of recording your own book please use this as a starting point and do that all important test before spending time and money on your project. If you have the budget and would like to pass your project to professionals we have a number of talented audio book narrators.
Best of luck with whatever you decide and above all, make sure you enjoy the process of getting your book made into audio.