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Indie Audiobook Production FAQs

How long will my audiobook be?

I have found that the formula provided by ACX is fairly accurate to my narration – approximately one hour for every 9,300 words. So, for example, if your book is 55,000 words long then the audiobook will be just under six hours long (5.91 hours).

Should I use music or sound effects in my audiobook?

Generally speaking, the current trend is to not incorporate anything in an audiobook that is not generated by the narrator’s voice. There are several reasons for this:

  • It’s just not in vogue in the industry right now. There are absolutely exceptions, but for the most part current productions do not incorporate music or sound effects.

  • Many listeners find that when their ear has become attuned to the narrator’s voice, an unexpected sound from a different source can take them out of the world of the book.

  • ACX explicitly does not allow music, although Findaway and some other companies do. Including music presents additional legal requirements – you have to have full legal rights for it.

  • Adding additional sound elements requires additional proficiencies and resources from your producer. In the indie audiobook world, your narrator is often your producer. While many narrators do have basic editing skills, they may not have the skills or technological resources required to incorporate music or sound effects skillfully – it’s not an essential skillset for narrators to have in order to do their jobs well.

How long will my audiobook take to produce?

There are a lot of factors that can contribute to how long production takes for any given project:

  • Your narrator may be relatively inexperienced. That doesn’t necessarily mean they will do a bad job with your book – they may already have a good deal of prior acting experience and training under their belt – but it almost always means it will take them longer to produce the book than a more experienced narrator would.

  • Your narrator may have a “day job” or kids, which can limit how long they can spend in the studio and what time they have access to it.

  • If your budget does not include up-front funds to cover production costs such as proof-listening, editing, and/or mastering, the narrator will likely be doing all of that, which will take additional time.

Why are audiobooks so expensive to produce?

Because they are extremely labor intensive, and require highly specialized equipment and training.

Experienced narrators spend about 3 hours in the booth for every 1 hour of finished audio – and that doesn’t include time spent on editing. Less experienced narrators often spend as much as 6 hours on every 1 hour of finished audio produced. The equipment required to produce an audiobook, including the actual space in which the book is recorded, is also expensive and time consuming to acquire and learn how to use effectively. You also have to take into account a narrator’s acting ability – the best narrators are more often than not experienced actors who have spent a lot of time and money developing that skill.

Essentially, you are paying someone to do a highly skilled task that they have invested an incredible amount of time and money and energy into, so that you don't have to invest the same amount of time and money and energy to do it yourself. The classic time/money/quality triangle works well to describe what to expect from any given narrator:

What other questions do you have about the audiobook production process? Submit a comment below, or send me an email at theatregeeknarration @ gmail . com!

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