The Creation of an Audiobook from start to finish: Last One Chosen by Stephen Woodfin
September 13, 2013
Earlier this year I ran a series of blogs outlining the step by step process I followed to create a home studio for audiobook recording.
On September 11, 2013, my self-narrated book Last One Chosen went live on Audible.com, so I wanted to take this opportunity to recap the recording and production process from start to finish. I will try not to repeat the fine details of the process I provided earlier, and will focus on the project as a whole.
The first step was to prepare a proper recording space and acquire the necessary equipment. For me, the space is an upstairs closet, without windows. I applied sound-dampening materials to as much of the room as I could. On the hardware front, I purchased an HP laptop with a USB 3 connection, an external hard drive, a microphone boom, a pair of studio headsets, and an extendable arm that allows me to position my Kindle PaperWhite at eye level as I read the text.
The other piece of hardware was an MBox 3 Mini. This device connects to my laptop via a USB socket. It has two line-in connections which allow me to connect a microphone via an XLR cable, and would also allow another direct line in via a quarter-inch cable if I wanted to use it for an instrument, like a singer-songwriter might do. The MBox 3 Mini includes Pro Tools Express, the software that converts the laptop into a recording device with many high-end features.
For a microphone I used a Shure SM58, the workhorse of vocalists worldwide. The SM 58 is only about a hundred dollars, and I already had a couple of them because I use them when I play music gigs.
I mentioned Pro Tools Express software above. However, I found that the full version of Pro Tools included some features that would come in handy, so I upgraded to Pro Tools 11. It’s a pretty expensive upgrade, but Version 11 has a new feature not in the earlier versions that allows a person to record an mpeg direct to disk (the special term is “bounce” to disk) offline. The reason this is important is because in earlier versions of Pro Tools the bounce process occurred in real time. So, to convert a ten-minute piece of audio required ten minutes of waiting while the file bounced. That may not seem like much, but when you are talking about a ten hour narration that new feature saves ten hours. The new feature can bounce a ten-minute recording in a few seconds. It also produces an mpeg file, whereas earlier versions of Pro Tools bounced the file as a .wav file, which then had to be converted to an mpeg.
Pro Tools has a pretty sizable learning curve. I’ll leave it at that.
So once I had the room ready, the hardware assembled and the software up and running, I began the narration.
Last One Chosen is a little over 70,000 words with seventy-three chapters. I had to record each chapter as a separate file.
Also, I had to re-format the cover art to ACX’s specs, which are somewhat different from the specs authors are used to when they upload their covers on Kindle Direct Publishing or Nook Press.
I spent probably sixty to eighty hours or so recording the book and getting the files in the proper form. If I were doing it now, I could beat that time considerably (maybe cut it in half) because I have become more fluent with Pro Tools and with the whole narrator/producer gig.
After the actual recording, I had to edit the files and then “master” them to provide consistency. ACX (Audiobook Creation Exchange) has detailed specs for the files.
So on July 31, 2013, I used the ACX portal to upload mpegs of all the chapters of the book, together with separate mpegs for the opening credits, closing credits, and the “sample,” which is what a person can listen to for free on Audible.com to get a feel for the book.
From there the book went to ACX’s quality assurance program. As part of that I had to resubmit a couple of files which I had mislabeled (by that time in the process I was probably incoherent, having sat in a closet without contact with the external world for so many hours) and one that somehow had gotten a “loop” in it that caused a section of the file to repeat. Since I couldn’t create a loop if my life depended on it, I have no clue how that happened.
Anyway, I received approval through the quality assurance program, and the book entered the queue to go live. From that point, it took another week or so before it appeared on Audible.com.
Since I completed the narration of Last One Chosen, I have had the privilege of narrating Caleb Pirtle’s fine historical novel Secrets of the Dead. It, too, will be available on Audible.com probably about the time this blog posts. I am now about a third of the way through the narration of a work called The Compost Pile, which is my newest novel which will release in the next few weeks.
So there you have it. The production of an audiobook from start to finish. What will they think of next?
Oh, and by the way, click on the book’s cover above to go to Audible and check it out, or just click here.