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The 5 Most Common Mistakes Authors Make When Recording Their Own Audiobook

“It doesn’t matter if it’s an audiobook, a podcast or a hit single; if the audio quality sounds bad your audience isn't going to stick around to listen. ”

Your book is all written and published, but perhaps you feel that something is missing? Recording your own audiobook is no mean feat, but it can certainly save you some cash when compared to working with a narrator or recording studio, plus you’ll be able to keep all of your royalties.

Audiobooks allow you to access new audiences; there are a growing number of book fans who swear by the audio format and would never touch a written book. It also creates a closer connection with your existing audience - they get to hear your own voice, as the author, delivering the story directly.

Here are 5 mistakes you’ll need to avoid in order to create a fantastic-quality audiobook.

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1. Not investing in good recording equipment

In an audiobook, the vocal recording takes the limelight. There’s nothing to hide behind, so cheap quality won’t cut it! For a decent microphone, anything above the $125 price mark is a safe bet.


There are two main types of microphones out there: the condenser and the dynamic. For voice recording, a condenser is a good choice. These microphones are very sensitive and can pick up tiny details, meaning a higher-quality recording but also more chance of background noise. Some great choices include the AKG C3000 or the Audio Technica AT2020. Condenser mics also need electricity to power them (called ‘phantom power’) so you will need to purchase an audio interface capable of this. There are some great USB audio interfaces out there which can be plugged into your laptop or computer such as the Focusrite Scarlett or the PreSonus AudioBox iOne.


For something less sensitive and a lot sturdier, a dynamic mic may be a better option. These mics are less accurate but less sensitive to background noise, plus they can take a bit of wear and tear. A great example is the Shure SM7B. If you’re not keen on investing in an audio interface, there are also some good USB mic alternatives. A popular choice is the Shure MV7.


Some other items you’ll need are a pop shield to minimise popping ‘p’ sounds and a good-quality pair of headphones to monitor your voice while recording. Make sure these headphones are ‘closed-back’, meaning sound won’t leak out of the cups and be picked up by your microphone.

2. Poor recording environment

No matter how great the microphone, your recording could all fall apart if the environment isn’t suitable. Pick a room which is far away from background noise such as traffic and humming electrical appliances such as fridges, computer fans and air conditioning. Ideally, your room should be of a medium size with a good amount of soft furnishings and with minimal smooth surfaces such as empty walls or large windows. This will prevent the sound waves of your voice from reflecting off surfaces and crashing into each other, which causes an unpleasant build-up of some frequencies.

You may have heard recommendations to record in a cupboard or wardrobe. Whilst this can work very well sometimes, be careful! The clothes may absorb some unwanted reflections, but if they absorb too much the overall sound will be boxy and muffled.

Once you’ve chosen a room, you’ll need to add some acoustic treatment. Acoustic foam is the most budget-friendly option. Some recording studios seem to be covered wall-to-wall in foam panels, but this is actually not what we want. Instead, focus your attention to foam bass traps. These wedge-shaped pieces of foam are much thicker and better at absorbing unwanted reflections compared to panels. They should sit in the upper corners of the room where the two walls and ceiling meet. If you have a particularly large, empty wall, a few regular foam panels would be ideal to soften it.

If you’re not able to invest in some acoustic foam, mattresses can work very well in a pinch. Due to their material and thickness, they absorb frequencies very evenly. You could potentially build a makeshift vocal booth out of two or more mattresses.

3. Poor time management

Recording an audiobook is heavily time-consuming, so make sure you are mentally prepared to keep working at it over a long period of time.


Remember not to rush - the recording must be good-quality in order to be accepted for publishing so it’s important to take the time to re-record phrases with mistakes or background noise. You may need to record early in the morning or late in the evening to fit it into your schedule, though this is ideal anyway as the outside world is less noisy during these hours.

4. Poor vocal hygiene

Most of us are not used to using our voices much on a regular day, so it can be a bit of a shock when narrating something. Listeners will find it unappealing if your voice sounds tired and strained, so we need to keep good ‘vocal hygiene’. When recording, try to avoid throat clearing, whispering and screaming, and keep a drink nearby to keep your voice hydrated. Where possible, take days of ‘vocal rest’ in between recording sessions in order to recover effectively.

In order to soothe your voice, you can try inhaling steam from a mug of boiling water, as well as drinking herbal tea with Manuka honey or malva nut added, which both have anti-inflammatory properties.

5. Forgetting to enjoy yourself

While narrating can be a stressful and patience-testing time, it ultimately should be enjoyable. This is your chance to share a more intimate connection with your audience, and it will most definitely show through in your voice if you aren’t enjoying yourself. When feeling stuck, don’t be afraid to ask for advice, feedback or plain encouragement from friends and family members. Take a few days off, take some vocal rest, and come right back to it when you are ready.

 

That’s our list! With a little bit of technical skill you’ll be well on your way to producing a sensational audiobook. If you are worried about navigating around these mistakes, get in touch with us and we’ll happily make sure you have all the tools needed to tackle them.

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