How to create your own audiobook with a recording studio

Mountain Song by Lucy Fuggle

I’ve been talking lately about a book I’m writing on simple business, but I’ve also just finished a little book called Your Life in Bloom: Musings on Finding Your Path & Your Courage, Grounded in the Wisdom of Nature.

I did most of the work for this during the latter parts of the Covid lockdowns in the UK – including the writing, editing, and working with a fantastic illustrator – but then I just left it for a while. It didn’t really feel like the right time. So it sat on my laptop’s hard drive while I worked on other things.

Like most of my writing, it was something I wrote primarily for myself. I was struggling with my mental health, feeling lost, and needed both a creative outlet and to formulate some advice for myself. So that’s what the project became.

It’s only recently, a year since I moved to Denmark with Iain, that I felt ready to look at the manuscript again. In the last few months I made some edits, but didn’t really change all that much.

I sent it out to some advance reader review networks for some early reviews, and have been working with a designer to create the print edition. I also put together something I didn’t do for Mountain Song: an audiobook edition.

At least 50% of the books I read are audiobooks. I love the Libby app that gives me free audiobooks via my library. So it makes sense to try and create them for my own books. The main question has been how.

Record your own audiobook or book a studio?

Look online and you’ll find a million different explanations of how and why you should create your own audiobook. You just need a half-decent microphone, Audacity or another low-cost editing software, and a room you can stuff with duvets to soften the sound.

I actually tried doing this with Mountain Song. I recorded a lot of it on my own, in my own DIY recording studio, and it wasn’t terrible. But it wasn’t perfect. And it needed a lot of time. I never got close to a finished product that felt good enough to share.

I started to do the same thing with Your Life in Bloom recently, thinking that because it’s a shorter book it should be totally doable. But the same problems kept coming up. I knew the sound wasn’t consistent, and I didn’t know how to fix it.

I finally decided to do what you don’t really read about self-published authors doing: booking a real, professional sound studio and working with a sound engineer to get it done right.

What booking a studio to record an audiobook looks like

Sure, it cost more money than doing it myself. But it made a lot of things so much easier, especially for my first audiobook.

The book is only one hour of final audio, and I booked three hours in the recording studio to begin with. We only needed two hours in that first session, and then I came back in for another hour to re-do some sections.

Admittedly, our recording session did start off pretty rough. I was feeling nervous, and my mouth was making the most awful noises. With my headphones on, I could hear every one of them, which stressed me out even more. Wet mouth, dry mouth… probably both.

I had a herbal tea and a carafe of water next to me, and soon the engineer delivered me a bottle of sparkling water as a final attempt to fix it (which just made it feel like my mouth and throat were bubbling instead).

What seemed to resolve the mouth clicks was mostly just calming down, but also swishing one of my many beverages around my mouth between every chapter – and sometimes in a break halfway through. At the end of the session, we rerecorded some of the first chapters too.

But we got there, and it’s sounding good!

How to edit & master an audiobook to make it sound professional

After recording, the engineer needed a couple of hours for editing, then I spent another hour listening through and noted down a few more edits that needed reviewing.

To save some cash, I tried fixing these myself, using the exact same software that my sound engineer had which I’d got a few years back with a massive discount (Izotope RX 8).

I soon ran into the same problem as before, though: putting in a lot of time and not getting the results I wanted. I was fixing some of the mouth clicks, but the fixed areas now just sounded wrong.

Again, I reached out to the professionals. I ignored my attempted edits and sent the original recording files to an audiobook editing and mastering company called Common Mode Media. They went through everything second by second and actually knew what they were doing.

They fixed the mouth clicks, made the adjustments to make everything meet ACX standards (so I can publish on Audible), and made it all sound so much better.

A reminder that I’m a writer, not a sound engineer

The more I’ve worked on publishing books over the last few years, the more I’ve realised how much I want to leave to people who know more than I do.

My job is writing, not typesetting, illustrating, or editing audio. Sure, I could give some of those things a go and maybe create something vaguely decent, but it will probably take me 100x longer. And I might never be happy with sharing it, because my perfectionism is one of my biggest self-sabotages.

I might still try to recording my next audiobook myself (whether for Mountain Song or my upcoming business book), especially because of how nervous being in a studio environment makes me. But I’ll definitely still outsource the mastering and editing part. Doing all of that myself is just never going to work out.

For Your Life in Bloom, I was happy to budget more for working with experts to get it right and reduce the headaches. And that’s why I’m now excited to share the finished version with you now.

So if you’re interested, here’s my little self-promo script…

You can now buy the audiobook version of Your Life in Bloom directly from me (alongside the ebook and a bonus workbook), or wait for it to become available on Audible or wherever you like to listen to books in the next month or so.

I’ve also shared seven free chapters on the podcast, including the one below. Enjoy!

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