How Long Does it Really Take to Make an Audiobook?
Creating an audiobook doesn’t just require money – it also takes time. But how much time does it take to put together an audiobook that’s ready for widespread consumption?
According to estimates determined by the Audiobook Creation Exchange (ACX), one finished hour of an audiobook takes about 6.2 hours to produce from start to finish. At first glance, these numbers don’t seem to add up. After all, it feels intuitive that an hour’s worth of audio would take an hour to record. However, what the listener hears as the finished product is not indicative of all the work that goes into achieving the final result (“how the sausage is made,” so to speak).
In order to fully grasp how and why it takes an average of just over 6 hours to complete one finished hour of audio, we must examine the three main stages of audiobook production: narration, editing, and quality control.
The audiobook narration process is more complex than simply reading words off a page. For starters, we’re all prone to human error. Even if you’ve memorized nearly every line of your work, you’re bound to flub lines, mispronounce words, and mess up the pacing now and again. As such, several takes are usually required to nail a particular sentence or paragraph.
Moreover, narration is a physical process and we are constantly exercising our lungs, throats, and mouths – we can only speak for so long before our voices (and brains) get tired. Taking occasional breaks is crucial for achieving a consistent tone. Over time, these short breaks add up, tacking on significant time to the entire process. Due to these narration-related challenges, it typically takes just upwards of 2 hours for a pro to complete the bare bones of a finished hour of audio. For amateur narrators, it takes even longer.
While the narration process itself is considerably time-consuming, editing takes even more time. Audiobook editing involves a variety of processes to streamline and clarify the recorded audio. During this process, the editor will remove unwanted noises such as mouth sounds, breaths, background hiss, and so on. After the audio is cleaned up it must be properly mixed so the audio maintains the right loudness, consistency, clarity, tone, and fidelity.
All in all, editing and mixing adds on another 3 hours or so for every finished hour of audio. When you add this 3 hours to the 2 hours required for narration, you’re already looking at 5 hours per hour of finished audio. But there’s still one more crucial piece of the puzzle to consider.
We mentioned it above but it’s worth mentioning again: humans are prone to error. Chances are you’ve read a book with a typo or two, or listened to a podcast with an odd skip, repeat, or cut. Errors such as these might not ruin your experience entirely, but they can take you out of it briefly. Authors and editors never intend for these mistakes to crop up, but they do now and then, and always because of an avoidable oversight.
Quality control is the process designed to eliminate these oversights so the finished product contains no errors. It can be tempting to skip this step, but you do so at your own peril. Once your audiobook is mapped out, edited, and mixed, you must listen to the audio carefully (often multiple times) and make note of any flaws, missing phrases, strange takes, and so on. Chances are you’ll find at least a handful of spots that need re-recording and some additional editing.
When broken down, quality control takes approximately 1.2 hours per finished hour, though it can take a bit longer if you employ multiple stages of quality control, which is advised.
Audiobook Production: Taking Your Time
No one wants to wait such a long time to get their audiobook out into the world. However, if you don’t take the proper steps or give them each the time they deserve, your product will suffer for it along with your brand. Conversely, taking your time during the narration, editing, and quality control processes will ensure that you end up with the best audiobook possible. 6.2 hours might seem like a long time to complete one finished hour of audio, but you can’t rush art.
If you have any questions or need help making your audiobook, please get in touch!
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