If someone had told me that I would make my first audiobook and have it approved by an audiobook distributor (Findaway Voices) the first time around, I wouldn’t believe them. But that’s what happened, and today I’m going to share with you how I did it.
So, let’s start at the beginning of the story. After deciding to write and publish a Christmas horror flash fiction (Merry Dreadmas), I thought it would be a great idea to create an audiobook version. I imagined people sitting by the Christmas tree, listening to my spooky tales while drinking mulled wine, eggnog or hot chocolate.
I was planning to give my book away for free, so I didn’t want to spend money on this project, which meant I had to do the audiobook all by myself from narrating to producing.
Researching How to Make an Audiobook
I wanted to make sure I created a good quality audiobook, so I did some research on how to make an audiobook and found the following articles/blog posts:
This is how I found out about Audacity, and it was free — my favourite word. So, I downloaded Audacity and did what I do best — I researched how to create an audiobook in Audacity. I then found the following useful resources:
This video gives you a basic overview of how to create an audiobook in Audacity.
Even though I had all of this information, I still didn’t know how to create the audiobook to distribute. Did I record it all on one track? Did I record each story separately? I was confused and running out of time — my publication date was nearing.
Then I had an idea. I should check out the audiobook instructions for the audiobook distributor I was going to use. So, I went back to Smashwords, which is the company I use to publish my e-books, and found a link to Findaway Voices the audiobook distributor they have partnered with. I then searched the website and finally found the step by step guidelines and the audio requirements to get your audiobook approved on Findaway Voices. So I was good to go.
Recording the Audiobook
Now, I wish I could say I recorded my audiobook and all went well, but it didn’t. I originally planned to use my microphone and record on a laptop, but my microphone wouldn’t work. So, I moved to Plan B and recorded straight on the laptop.
Well, let’s just say that wasn’t a good idea because the audio quality sucked. So, guess what I had to do. Yes, you guessed right, I had to record the whole book again. And the only other option I had was to record on my phone, so that’s what I did.
When you record your audiobook, you need to make sure you record opening credits, any other front matter and closing credits in standalone files. And the book stories (or chapters) should also be separate files.
It’s also recommended that you record at least 10 seconds of silence in the room you recorded in. This helps Audacity to clean up the audio file. I’ll explain more about this further down.
Tip: speak as loudly as you can into your recording device.
Creating the Audiobook
With my book recorded, it was time to put it together. Firstly, I had to clean up the audio files:
1. I opened up Audacity, then went to File — Import — Audio and imported the audio file I wanted to work on.
2. I then imported my silence recording, which gave me two tracks.
3. So, Audacity knows what sounds needed removing, I highlighted (you need to use the Selection Tool to do this) the silence track. Then I went to Effect — Noise Reduction.
4. I then clicked on ‘Get Noise Profile’. This tells Audacity what noise to look out for and remove.
5. Once that is done, I highlighted the audio I wanted to clean up, then went to Effect — Noise Reduction again, but this time, I clicked on ‘OK’.
6. The noise reduction is then applied to the track. You can do this process more than once if the audio needs more cleaning.
7. The noise reduction didn’t clean up all the extra noises like gasps for breath, etc., so I zoomed into the track, highlighted the extra noises and then pressed delete on the keyboard. I also did this same process to remove any mistakes I made while recording.
With my track nice and clean, I needed to add 0.5 to 1 second of silence to the start of the track and 1 to 5 seconds of silence at the end of the track. To do this, I did the following:
8. Leaving 1 second unselected, I selected the rest of the silence track and deleted it.
9. I then clicked on the ‘Time Shift Tool’ (this is in the same area as the Selection Tool), and moved the top audio track across, so the audio started after the one-second delay.
10. To add the silence to the end of the track, I returned to the ‘Selection Tool’ and highlighted the silence audio. I then copied (Ctrl C) and pasted (Ctrl V) next to the original silence audio. I then selected the ‘Time Shift Tool’ and moved the second silence audio down to the end of the first track.
11. With the track sorted and exactly how I wanted it to be, I needed to export the file. So, I went to File — Export — Export as MP3.
12. I chose where to place my file and made sure it met all the requirements. The audio needed to be 192 kbps or higher, so I selected ‘Constant’. The quality was already at 192 kbps, so I left it at that and pressed save. A box will then pop up where you will need to fill in the metadata tags. Note: the Album Title needs to be the name of your book, and put the track order number at the start of the title. This is so the audio tracks will be in the right order.
13. I then needed to do one final task before I could mark the track as completed — I needed to make sure the RMS was between -23dB and -18dB. Now, I had no clue what this meant, but I did a little search on Google and found that RMS stands for Root Mean Square. Well, I still had no idea what that was all about, but I discovered that Audacity could check the levels for you. All you need to do is install a plugin. To do this, you go to Analyze — Add / Remove Plug-ins. Then look for ‘rms’ and click on ‘enable’.
14. To check the RMS of the audio, I opened a new Audacity window and imported the completed audio file. I then selected the whole track and went to Analyze — Measure RMS. And I got my RMS measurement.
15. If your RMS is too high or too low, you can try to fix this issue with the Amplify or Limiter effects — both of these can be found under Effects. Whenever I’ve clicked on these effects, I’ve found that Audacity already recommends the adjustment settings, so all I do is click on ‘OK’. I then retest the RMS.
Tip: This forum lists more things you can try to fix the RMS issue: https://forum.audacityteam.org/viewtopic.php?t=94824
You then need to repeat the process for all of your audio tracks. To add music to the intro and outro, all you have to do is import your music and adjust it to suit your requirements. And once you’ve done all of that, you should pat yourself on the back.
Tip: the audiobook cover requirements in the Findaway Voice’s technical requirements state that your book cover should be 2400 x 2400 pixels, but when you upload the audiobook, the required size is 3000 x 3000 pixels.
So, that’s how I used Audacity to create my audiobook. If you have any questions, let me know in the comments below.
Stay safe, and I hope you have a lovely Christmas, folks!
You can also join my Facebook groups: Setting Self-Doubt on Fire Squad, which is for writers; and The Nicole J. Simms Squad, which is for readers who enjoy my stories and want a sneak peek into what I’m working on before anyone else.
Also, I’ve also created a Nicole J Simms YouTube channel. On my channel, I will be sharing videos of my performances, trips, writing group adventures and my stories.