From Eye To Ear: the Making of an Audiobook




Are you an audiobook person? Do you prefer reading a book or listening to one? Do you have any idea how an audiobook is created?

I have listened to many audiobooks over the years and find them both convenient and enjoyable. But until I started writing and producing my own books, I had no idea how much work it takes and what a labor of love it is to record an audio version of a book. It is time consuming and sometimes horrifically expensive. If you’ve ever wondered why there aren’t more audiobooks available, especially audiobooks in the world of Jane Austen fan fiction, this article may help explain why.

The first step in creating an audiobook (after writing the book itself) is for the author to choose a narrator with the right vocal sound for the story. A Jane Austen fan fiction novel will probably require someone who can speak in a British accent, someone who sounds refined and cultured. It is up to the author to decide if they want a male or female narrator. The may want the narrator to use a different voice for every character in the book, or at least for every major character.

The narrator also has to be a professional, not just someone reading the book aloud in a quiet room somewhere. Audiobooks sold through Amazon go through professional level quality checks, so they have to be able to edit out all the little vocal tics and background sounds that might not be immediately noticeable to listeners, but make a huge difference in the overall quality of the recording.

Once the narrator is hired the author will send them the text of the book, which the narrator then reads through a couple of times (at least). The narrator marks it up and turns it into a kind of script, complete with guides for inflection, emotion, pauses, emphasis, volume, etc. Then they actually record the story, usually a chapter at a time, and listen and edit as needed. When the narrator is satisfied with the recording they send the finished file to the author, who then listens to it and requests any corrections or edits.

Needless to say, this all takes time. A LOT of time. A finished hour of narration can easily take three or four hours to produce! Seven or eight hours of work for one hour of narration is not unusual. For reference, my most recent audio book, Elizabeth and the Fleur de Lys, has a listening time of eleven and a half hours. That’s potentially ninety two hours of work!!!!

And how much will the narrator make off of their recording? That is really the question that keeps more audiobooks from being made. Narrators naturally need to be paid for their time, but not all authors can afford to pay them up front. They *may* be able to hire a narrator by agreeing to a “royalty share” (splitting the profits after publication) but even then it is a challenge to find a skilled narrator willing to invest so much time in an unproven project. After all, what if nobody buys the audiobook after it’s done?

In general, if an author can’t pay a substantial amount up front, they will not be able to turn their book into an audiobook. The risk for the narrator is simply too great.

None of this is a complaint, but more like a shout out of appreciation. If you enjoy audiobooks, make sure to encourage their production any way you can! Leave reviews for the author and for the narrator. Tell your friends that you enjoyed the story. Make sure to only buy or borrow your audiobook from a legitimate seller, and consider subscribing to a service that will let you listen to a set number of audiobooks each month. Supporting existing audiobooks is the best way to get new ones made!

Some interesting facts about audiobooks:

-The first audio book was released in 1932, supported by the American Federation for the Blind.

-Sales of audiobooks are expected to grow by more than 25 % annually from now until 2030.

-Listening to audiobooks improves concentration, and it is thought to help prevent mental decline as a person ages.

-The number one advantage most people give for using audiobooks is convenience. With audiobooks, you can listen to a book while you get other work done!

I’d love to hear about your experiences with audiobooks. Please drop a comment below!

8 responses to “From Eye To Ear: the Making of an Audiobook”

  1. Buturot Avatar

    Love to multi-task. So convenient to do work/chores and listen to an audiobook. Another advantage I see, is when we can no longer see 😉 With age, our eyesight declines. With audiobooks we can still enjoy these stories by listening to them.

    Also a few times after I read a book, then later listened to the audiobook version, I find that there’s a different projected thought/meaning/emotion being conveyed in that scene

    1. elaineowenauthor207097889 Avatar

      You’re right, I didn’t mention how a narrator can bring a whole different interpretation to a story! I love it when that happens.

  2. Glynis Avatar

    Personally I don’t listen to audiobooks, I prefer to read at my own speed and have the ability to reread certain paragraphs. However my Mum has always been an avid reader but has glaucoma and is now totally blind in one eye with very little sight in her other. She is 94 and lives in a care home but the library deliver audiobooks and she gets a great deal of pleasure from listening to them, especially as she can no longer see the television. This condition is hereditary so maybe at some point I will have to rely on audiobooks myself but for now I’ll keep reading.

    1. elaineowenauthor207097889 Avatar

      My mom has always had super bad eyesight, and I remember many times growing up when she listened to a book on tape. I’m showing my age!!!!

  3. cindie snyder Avatar
    cindie snyder

    I prefer to read as well. You can go at your own pace and sometimes just the feel of a book or the smell brings back memories. I have read some books on my Kindle too but my favorite is reading books.

    1. elaineowenauthor207097889 Avatar

      The smell of a paperback book in your hands is amazing!!!! There’s nothing else quite like it.

  4. Deanna Avatar

    I absolutely love audiobooks, I am an avid knitter and can still enjoy “reading” as I create my blankets, pillow covers etc. Win, win.

  5. elaineowenauthor207097889 Avatar

    I like listening while I’m cooking or cleaning.

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