Record Your 1st ACX Audiobook in 12 Easy Steps!
Welcome to your first bonus lesson!
I hope that you had a lot of fun with our audiobook audition challenge last week. I know I did. I always have a blast chatting with you and watching your progress. I also noticed that some of you have received offers to narrate books already, and I’m so excited for you! And for those of you who have completed the challenge but haven’t heard back yet, just know that it usually takes about a week or two for the average author to make a decision.
Remember that most authors spend months, if not years, writing their books, so it’s understandable that they would want to take the time to seriously consider the auditions that they are receiving right now.
And one last thing before we get started, if you continue on with audiobook narration, at some point you will be rejected for a book. No one, not even the highest paid narrators, get offers to produce every book that they audition for. I just want you to know that this is a normal part of the process. I know how discouraging it can feel when you get your first rejection, but it does not mean that your voice is bad. It only means that you weren’t the absolute best fit for that particular book.
Many authors really struggle with choosing a narrator, especially if they’ve received a good number of auditions. But at the end of the day, they can only pick one and their choice is entirely subjective. I’ve had authors tell me that they picked me because my voice reminded them of their sister. I’ve had others reject me because I reminded them of someone they didn’t like when they were growing up, even though they thought my audition was the best that they had received. Sometimes the reason why you are chosen (or not chosen) is just so bizarre. You just never know exactly what someone is looking for or what they’ll like.
But if you followed along with our challenge, you now have a great foundation for getting started as a freelance audiobook narrator. I hope that you will keep going and continue submitting auditions. If you don’t give up, I’m confident that you’ll get your first offer very soon.
And that’s exactly why I created this bonus lesson -- to show you what the next steps are after you get your first offer.
Today I’m going to show you the 12 things that you must do in order to complete your audiobook through ACX.
Here are just a few of the things that you’ll learn in today’s lesson:
What to do immediately after you receive your offer
What to consider before accepting an offer
How to request and prepare your manuscript
All of the steps you’ll need to take to record and submit your audiobook
How to prepare a retail sample for your book
The correct format for your audio files, and
We’ll wrap up today’s lesson with a discussion of the two-step QC process that your audio will need to go through in order to be accepted by ACX and what you can expect.
At the end of today’s session I’m also going to be sharing a bit about my full audiobook course that is opening up for early-bird enrollment today because at the end of every challenge, there are always a few people who want to learn even more before jumping in.
That said, my goal in creating the free challenge and these bonus lessons is to give you all of the basic information that you need to go out, find projects to work on, and successfully complete them. The reason why I do this is because I remember how hard it was to find even the most basic information when I was getting started. I ended up spending months in forums and groups asking professional audio engineers for help.
There were many times when I was ridiculed and picked on for asking such “basic” questions in a professional forum. I felt extremely embarrassed and discouraged at times. I often wondered if I was good enough to do this. But I pushed through that doubt and kept going because I knew this was something that I would love to do. I eventually figured out how to produce audiobooks on my own, from my own little home office and I truly believe that this is something that anyone can do.
And that’s why I created a full length, comprehensive course -- to share everything that I’ve learned over the past few years about producing audiobooks. About a year and a half ago, I “retired” from my career as a lawyer to start my own audiobook narration and production business after dabbling with audiobooks part-time for a couple of years. And I can say, without a doubt, that it’s the best decision I’ve ever made. I have a lot of personal insights and experiences to share about getting started, finding projects, and I also share the step-by-step process that I use for meeting the ACX submission requirements (which I’ll be showing you tomorrow.)
If you’re interested in learning more about the advanced course, make sure that you stick around until the end to get all of the details about what’s included.
And if you have any questions about anything that we go over today, make sure that you post them below this video and I’ll make sure that you get an answer.
Alright, let’s dive into to today’s lesson and talk about the 12 things that you must do to complete your audiobook through ACX.
Step 1 - Review Your Offer
Imagine that you just got an email from ACX that says, “Congratulations! You got an offer!” The first thing you’ll want to do is to log into your ACX account and view the details of the offer. You can do this by going to the “OFFERS” tab within your ACX account.
With your offer you’ll get payment details and a proposed project schedule. You can find this info on the right side of the offer page. You’ll want to review this information and make sure that you agree with the terms before you accept. A common question people ask is, “Can I try to negotiate the payment or scheduling terms?” And the answer is “Yes.”
You can ask for a higher hourly rate or if you were offered a royalty share deal, you can ask for a “pay per finished hour” or “PFH deal. It is up to you what you are willing to accept. You are the only one who can determine whether a project is “worth taking” or not.
You can also ask for more time to complete the project. It’s best if you do this upfront. So, for example, if the author gave you a really tight time frame for some reason and you know that you have a busy work schedule for the next couple of weeks, or maybe you’re going on vacation, make sure that you communicate that to the author or “right’s holder” so that you are both on the same page.
In my experience, most right’s holders are pretty flexible with scheduling as long as you keep an open line of communication with them.
Step 2 - Request the Manuscript
Once you and the rights holder have agreed on the terms of the offer and you’ve accepted the project, the next step is to request the manuscript.
Sometimes the author will know to send the manuscript right away, and if that’s the case, you can skip this step. But some authors are just as new to all of this as you are, so it is a good idea to send a manuscript request right after you’ve accepted an offer to keep everyone on track and prevent delays.
You can send a manuscript request by going into your production tab, selecting the book title, and clicking on the link that says “Request Manuscript.” Once you do this, a message box will appear for you to send your request to the right’s holder.
I usually just type “Manuscript request for “Book Title” in the subject line. Then my message will be, “Please upload the manuscript for “Book title” at your earliest convenience.
Now you just have to sit back and wait until the manuscript arrives. It will usually be in PDF or Word doc format.
Step 3 - Prep manuscript for recording
Once you receive the manuscript, the next step is to familiarize yourself with it and prepare it for recording. This includes reading through the script so that you have a clear understanding of the mood and tone of the book. I like to make notes about each of the characters and decide what “voice” I want to give them.
I’ll also look for words and names that I don’t know how to pronounce and make notes on the script. I do all of this electronically and then read from an iPad while recording. I do want to point out that it’s not necessary to read from an iPad.
You can use a Kindle reader, tablet, laptop, or even the computer you are using to record from. You can also print out the script and mark it up by hand.
Step 4 - Record 1st 15 minutes
Once I have prepared my script, the next step is to record the first 15 minutes of the book and submit it to the author or right’s holder.
This is a step required by ACX.
The point of recording the first 15 minutes is to give the author a good idea of what the full book will sound like. If they have any style recommendations, this is their opportunity to speak up. This is also a good time to clarify the correct pronunciation of names or other words.
Imagine what it would be like if you said the main character’s name wrong throughout the entire book. You’d have to record the whole thing over again. That would not be fun. This first 15 minute recording helps prevent things like this from happening and keeps everyone on the same page.
A couple notes about the 15 minute sample-
- You should edit this just like you would edit the rest of the book. This sample should give the author an accurate idea of what the rest of the book will sound like.
- Sometimes the author will request changes, but often times, they will just approve the first 15 minutes. Even if the author doesn’t request any changes, I think it’s important to point out that if you have questions or would like the author’s input on something, don’t hesitate to send them a message through ACX.
Once the author has approved your 15 minute sample, you can continue recording the rest of the book.
Before we move on, there’s one other thing that I want to bring up - and that’s what to do if you find that a book has a lot of grammar mistakes and desperately needs additional editing.
It’s important to understand that not all books on ACX or Amazon, for that matter, have gone through a publisher. A lot of self-published authors use ACX to find narrators who can produce their book. As you can imagine, a lot of self-published authors do their own editing. If their spelling and grammar skills aren’t so great to begin with, that’s going to show up in their book.
On the other hand, it’s not your job as the narrator to edit the author’s book for them. The expectation is that you will get a manuscript that has been fully edited and can be read word for word.
So what do you do if you end up with a book that still needs some editing?
You have three choices:
Option 1: Read the book as-is. I don’t typically recommend doing this because it will cause the listener to have a poor experience. If that happens, they will most likely give the book a poor rating and this isn’t good for you or the author. So I’d probably avoid this option.
Option 2: Correct minor errors as you go. If the mistakes are minor and the fix is obvious, then you can correct mistakes as you go along. This is a judgment call that you’ll need to make.
Option 3: If there are major errors, you should send a message to the author and let them know that the book needs to be edited before you can proceed. Always be polite and tactful when doing this. A book is a very personal thing and it’s never a good idea to insult someone’s work. Simply explain that you want the listener experience to be the best that it can be, and for that to happen, the book will require another editing pass.
Some authors are happy to make the edits and will be grateful that you brought the issue to their attention. Others, just want someone to read the book as-is. If you’re not comfortable with that, it’s perfectly acceptable to decline the project.
Step 5 - Record the rest of the book
Once you get everything sorted out with the author, the next step is to record the rest of the book. You’ll want to record 1 chapter at a time and each chapter should be in it’s own file.
If you make a mistake while recording, you can either re-read the sentence without stopping, or you can stop the recording, delete the mistake, and then re-read the passage.
I would encourage you to try out both recording methods to see which one you are most comfortable with.
Step 6 - Editing
Once you are finished with the raw recording, it’s time to edit out all of your mistakes. This will be easier if you deleted your mistakes while you were recording.
You will also want to correct any spacing issues that were left over after removing your mistakes. As a general rule, you should have one second between each sentence and 1.5 seconds after each paragraph. Don’t worry about measuring every space, you’ll just want to be on the lookout for spaces that seem too short or too long.
You’ll also want to listen for any external sounds (like dogs barking, doors slamming, kids yelling in the background) and gross mouth noises. You’ll want to cover these up with room tone.
What is room tone?
Room tone is just a fancy word for the sound of the room when you’re not speaking. It’s not dead silence, but you shouldn’t hear any audible sounds either.
You should record a few seconds of room tone while you’re in your recording space so that you can use it for editing later. To do this, just hit record and stay as quiet as you can for a few seconds.
Then you can copy a small segment of this and paste in into your track to add space between sentences or cover up loud breaths and lip smacks.
Step 7 - Proofing
Now that the editing is done, it’s time to proof your recording. This is where you sit down with the manuscript and listen back to the track to make sure that your recording matches up word for word with the chapter.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve said the wrong word or left out an entire sentence while recording. Sometimes our eyes and brains play tricks on us when we’re reading, so it’s important to go back through to catch potential mistakes.
If you do find a mistake, write down the time the mistake happened and what the correct word or sentence should be.
Then you can record just the corrections and paste them into your track to fix the mistake.
Step 8 - Mastering
Now it’s time to “Master” your recording. This is the part that people find to be most confusing and frustrating because it can get a little technical, but I promise, it’s not so bad once you get the hang of it.
I’m going to talk about mastering today really generally, but we’re going to cover more of the technical details in the next video. So all you need to do right now is understand what the point or goal of mastering is.
So, why is mastering important?
Sometimes when you’re recording, your voice will be louder in some places and quieter in others. This can happen for couple of different reasons. Sometimes your character is yelling, or whispering. Sometimes you move closer and farther away from the mic while you’re recording.
But these things can result in volume changes that are unpleasant for your listener.
Have you ever been watching a television show at a comfortable volume and then all of the sudden, a commercial comes on and sound starts blaring, so then you have to find your remote and turn the volume down. But then, when your show comes back on, it’s way too quiet so you have to turn the volume back up again.
So now you’re turning the volume up and down all night and what happens? You start to get really annoyed, right. You might even turn the television off and go find something else to do.
This is exactly the scenario that we are trying to avoid with mastering.
Many audiobook listeners use headphones or earbuds to listen to books, so they can be even more sensitive to volume changes than someone who is sitting on the couch watching a television that is ten feet away.
When you are mastering an audiobook, you are making sure that all of the sound levels are within a certain range. This range is set by ACX. If your sound levels are outside of the range, ACX won’t approve your book because they don’t want their customers to have a bad experience and then stop buying audiobooks from them. It makes a lot of sense if you think about it.
To get everything in the right range, you’re going to have to make those really quiet parts louder and make the really loud parts softer.
This part can be a little tedious, but once you learn how to do it, and have a repeatable process to work from, it won’t take you very long to complete.
Step 9 - Retail Sample
At this point, your audiobook is complete, but there are just a few loose ends left to tie up. The next step is to create a retail sample for the book. Typically, you’ll use the first 3-5 minutes of the first chapter as your retail sample. Make sure you end the sentence at a natural break point like the end of a sentence or paragraph.
There’s no need to re-record this, just copy it from their first chapter and paste it into a new file.
Step 10 - MP3 Format
Once your recordings are edited, proofed, and mastered, you’ll want to make sure that you export them to MP3 format. This is the only file type accepted by ACX.
So, if you recorded your book in Audacity, you’ll need to go to File > Export Audio > And then save it as an MP3 file. Now, the only thing that’s left for you to do is to upload all of your chapter files to ACX and click “I’m DONE!”
Step 11 - Author Review
Once you submit your book, the files will be sent to the author for approval. If there are any changes that need to be made, you’ll get a message telling you specifically what needs to be changed. The most common changes requested are reading errors and muffled words. So if you did a good job proofing, you’re far less likely to get a revision request.
Step 12 - ACX QC Review
Once the author approves the book, your files are sent to the ACX QC team where they will be reviewed to make sure that they meet all of the ACX submission requirements (which we’ll cover in the next video.)
The ACX QC reviewer will not check to make sure that the recording is accurate. That’s up to you and the right’s holder. They just check to make sure all of the technical requirements are met.
Once your book is approved, it’s sent off to Audible and iTunes so that it can be sold to listeners around the world.
So, once ACX gives their final stamp of approval, your job, as the narrator and/or producer of the book is done. If you accepted the book as a royalty share deal, you can view sales stats and monthly royalty payment statements from within your ACX account.
PFH projects are paid out directly by the author or publisher, usually via Paypal. ACX contains a safeguard for narrators where they won’t make the book available for sale until you confirm that you’ve received payment from the right’s holder.
Those are all of the basic steps that you need to follow to complete your audiobook through ACX.
Now, I’m not exactly sure why you signed up for the audition challenge, but I’m guessing that you have a legitimate interest in learning how to record audiobooks.
ACX has made it possible for anyone with a microphone and free copy of Audacity on their computer to start recording audiobooks right away.
- You don’t need expensive equipment.
- You don’t need to record in a studio, you can do this from a quiet space in your home or office.
- You don’t need special education or training to get started.
So what I want to know it, why haven’t you done this yet?
- Is it because you don’t feel like you know enough about the process to start accepting paid audiobook offers?
- Is it because you aren’t confident that you’ll be able to meet ACX’s technical requirements?
- Is it because you just aren’t sure exactly where to start or what to expect?
I’d really love to know what the specific reason has been for you, but if you can relate to any of these, then I’d like to invite you to learn more about my self-paced online training course called Audiobooks with Audacity.
I called it “Audiobooks with Audacity” because I show you how to do everything from recording, to editing, to mastering using the free audio editing program Audacity, so you won’t need to waste time and money investing in another piece of software. Plus, if you participated in the challenge, you already have this program installed on your computer, so you’re ready to jump right in.
This course contains everything that I wish I would have known when I was getting started.
I want to give you an overview of everything that’s covered inside of Audiobooks with Audacity so you can see just how comprehensive this course is and why it’s so valuable if you are just getting started with audiobooks.
The course has 15 modules, but it’s really broken down into two main parts.
The first half of the course covers all of the essential information that you really should know before jumping in. It might look like a ton of information, but each video lesson is short, digestible, and teaches you one specific essential lesson so that you can easily go back and find what you need when you need it.
The second half of the course is a technical training tutorial that shows you how to meet the ACX submission requirements step-by-step.
This, in my opinion, is the most valuable part of the course because it’s where you’ll learn the actual skill of audiobook recording and production.
If you don’t know what the ACX submission requirements are, it’s a list of technical requirements that your audio must meet in order for your final audiobook to be accepted by ACX. I’ll be talking more about these requirements in tomorrow’s free lesson.
When I was getting started, it took me months to figure out how to meet these requirements. I spent countless hours in Audacity playing with settings and effects, and while I finally figured it out, I could have saved so much time and frustration if someone would have just showed me a repeatable process that I could use as a template.
So that’s exactly what you’ll get with Audiobooks with Audacity.
My goal in creating this course was to make the technical part of recording and editing audiobooks simple and easy for beginners so that you can create professional quality audiobooks without all of the confusion and overwhelm.
We start out with basic Audacity tutorials so that, even if you are brand new to audio recording, you’ll understand how to use the software very quickly. If you’ve spent anytime in Audacity, you probably noticed that it has a lot of tools, effects, and plugins. The thing is, most of those effects aren’t necessary for creating professional quality audiobooks. I can save you a ton of time by showing you exactly which tools and effects you need, how to use them, and when.
Today is a really special day because I’m opening up early enrollment for Audiobooks with Audacity just for you. Normally, I only open this course up for enrollment twice each year because I like to limit the number of students in the course and be able to monitor your progress and be available to answer any questions you have while working through the course. But since you just went through the 5-Day Audiobook Audition Challenge, I want to give you the option to get in early and not have to wait several more months to be able to get access to this information if you are ready to jump in and get started with audiobooks right now.
If you enroll in Audiobooks with Audacity during the early enrollment period you’ll also save $50 off the price of enrollment the next time the course opens for registration.
So the price for you will be $97 if you enroll now, instead of $247 if you enroll the next time Audiobooks with Audacity opens again.
I know that you might still be on the fence about whether you need a course to help walk you through this process so I’m going to leave early enrollment offer open until Thursday night at midnight eastern time. That should give you plenty of time to do your research and decide if this is the right program for you.
While you are doing that, I’d like to tell you who I created this course for, and who I don’t think this course would be a good fit for (because it’s not for everyone.)
I created this course to give ordinary people, just like you, who don’t have a technical background in audio production or narration, all of the tools and instruction that you need to start recording and producing professional quality audiobooks that will pass all of the ACX requirements, quickly and without all of the stress that comes with trying to tackle a new skill without any guidance from someone who’s actually done it before.
I also created this course specifically for people who want to learn audiobook production using Audacity. So if you’re goal is to learn this using Protools or some other audio recording platform, then this isn’t the right course for you.
This is a self-paced course so you can work through all of the lessons, quizzes, exercises and tutorials on your own schedule.
This is not a one-on-one coaching program. This is a self-paced, self-study online training course that focuses on the technical aspects of audiobook production. I have made every effort to provide you will all of the instruction, video lessons, and tutorials that you will need in order to succeed. I am in the course 3 to 4 days a week to answer any questions that you have, and the course does have an interactive discussion feature built into every lesson, so it’s convenient to ask questions as soon as they come up. However, am also a full time audiobook narrator, which is why I don’t provide one-on-one coaching sessions at the moment.
When you join you’ll also be invited to join my private Audiobook Narration Facebook group. This is a tight knit group filled with narrators and audio producers at a variety of different skill levels. This is a friendly community where you can network, make friends with your peers (because life as a narrator can get a little lonely) ask questions, and get feedback at any time from our supportive community.
If you are ready to learn more about Audiobooks with Audacity and take advantage of the early enrollment price of just $97, you can click the button below to see everything that included in the course as enroll. And just a reminder, the early enrollment period ends this Thursday at midnight, after that time, course enrollment will close and the $97 early enrollment price will no longer be available.
Alright, I hope that you have enjoyed this training. I’ll be back tomorrow with another free lesson where you’ll learn all about the ACX submission requirements.
Have a great day everyone!