How to produce Audiobooks

There are many kinds of Audiobooks that we see in our recording studio, Crash Symphony Productions. There are fiction Audiobooks that tend to be longer in length (sometimes these audiobooks can be between 100,000 and 150,000 words). There are self-help Audiobooks – these are usually shorter in length, and there are also business Audiobooks that can vary in length.

Types of Audiobooks

The approach to recording these different types of books are all different. Many independent writers often elect to narrate their own works in order to keep their costs lower. Larger publishing companies will choose to go through a more rigorous process of auditioning various candidates for narration. On the more extreme end, each character in the book will have a different person narrating the part. This is when the audiobook becomes a serious production. It is important to establish early on, in the project assessment stage, where your project sits on this spectrum.

Methods to producing Audiobooks

We, the production company, employ very specific techniques when recording audiobooks that are designed to make the process of productions highly efficient. For example, when recording the audio of the narrator into our DAW (say Logic Pro X or Pro Tools HD) we will assign one channel to the audio and a second muted channel to an error marker indicator. This second channel is simply there to give a clear visual reference where the errors occurred during narration. This will allow our audio editors to quickly identify necessary fixes and correct them. As the vocal channel will change length, so too will the marker channel (they are edit-locked). This means that what happens to one, will happen to the both. This keeps all the visual edit cues in synch throughout the duration of the editing process. This is a small example of how we operate to ensure that the efficiency of the production is maximised. This is particularly important with audiobooks as they tend to be lengthy productions and the cost can easily blow out if these methods are not correctly employed. We also strongly believe in the use of an iPad or similar device when recording audiobooks. More information on our use of the iPad is here.

Audiobook Project Costing

For smaller books where the production is as comprehensive we usually charge by the studio hour. For large scale production of lengthy novels we work to a payment plan called “per-completed-hour”. Put simply, this is a flat fee for the total length of the final audiobook. We use the generally accepted standard of 150 words narrated per minute to calculated the per-completed-hour. If we are given a book that is 150,000 words then we divide book length by words narrated per minute to get the total time. In this case it would be 150,000/150 = 1000. This gives 1000 minutes of audio. We then divide by 60 to give the answer in hours, which in this case is 16.67 hours. We would then charge per-completed hour for 16.67 hours.

The Per-Completed-Hour Approach to costing an Audiobook

The per-completed-hour approach to an audiobook can involve a full 360ª approach to the production where we will read the entire book, source and audition the narrators, record-edit-produce the content, produce the DDP masters and deliver them, electronically, to the production plant. The flat fee per-completed-hour may vary depending on how many of these components you wish our production company to take on board within your project.

Various Audiobook Formats

Audiobooks can be delivered in a couple of different formats. Audio CDs are made up of a large amount of data content. Typically, a book that is 100,000 words will be up to 10 audio CDs where the audio is at a sample rate of 44.1kHz and a bit depth of 16. Such large amounts of content are less common today, but are still requested by libraries. More often, delivery of MP3 content is requested. An entire book can be contained on one MP3 CD. The MP3 format can also be uploaded and downloaded on the internet, making the audiobook more readily accessible to a larger audience and throughout the world. Alternatively, both MP3 and audio CD can be delivered as the final product. We do not do the duplication of Audio CD’s. This is specifically handled by the production plant. We do, however, deliver the DDP masters for duplication.
There are many specific requirements for the submission of Audiobooks to online suppliers like ACX and Audible. We are acutely aware of these audio submission boundaries and will provide a product that is tailored to your chosen distributor.
If you have further questions regarding audiobook production please contact us.