According to The NPD Group, ebook sales for traditionally published books went down in the first half of 2021. Meanwhile, the most recent data for audiobooks states that sales are up by 12%.  

Do I need an audio version of my book?

The data is clear. You need to have an audio version of your book. Readers are increasingly switching from ebooks to audiobooks.

I recommend that novelists hire a professional to record their audiobooks. But hiring a professional narrator can be a major expense, especially for indie authors. Not everyone can afford it, but you need an audio version of your book.

Nonfiction books need an audio version too, because readers like to hear the author’s voice. 

If you can’t afford a narrator, or you want to narrate your own book, you can!

How to record your own audiobook

So how do you record your own audiobook?

What software should you use? 

I use software called Hindenburg Journalist to record podcasts. It’s a fantastic tool, and when I give live demonstrations on how it works, audiences literally gasp in astonishment. It’s so much easier to use than Audacity or Garage Band. 

But Hindenburg isn’t just for podcasters. They’ve also developed Hindenburg Narrator to help authors record audiobooks.

I recently interviewed Jonathan Hurley, the Minister of Education for Hindenburg. (How cool is that title?) He’s the expert on Hindenburg Narrator.

What is Hindenburg Narrator?

Thomas Umstattd, Jr.: What is Hindenburg Narrator?

Jonathan Hurley: Hindenburg Narrator is a Digital Audio Workstation, or DAW. It’s a digital recording program for your computer. Most DAW’s were developed for music production, but Hindenburg Narrator is specifically designed for recording audiobooks.

Thomas: A lot of DAW’s, like Audacity or GarageBand, have multiple tracks for different instruments and have many bells and whistles that are only useful for music production. For example, GarageBand used to have an automatic metronome, which is useless when recording a podcast or audiobook.

Hindenburg is designed to record long pieces of audio with only a few tracks. On this podcast, for example, we have a track for me, a track for the guest, and a track for the intro music. A podcast or audiobook file is a much longer than a song file, so you need a different recording interface.

How is Hindenburg Narrator different from standard Hindenburg software?

Thomas: Some of our listeners and readers already use Hindenburg for their podcast. How is Hindenburg Narrator different from the standard version of Hindenburg?

Jonathan: Narrator can open the text of your book directly into the recording software. The text of your Word doc or Epub file displays on the screen and syncs with your voice as you record.

Later on, if you need to fix a mistake, simply click on the text of that sentence. The software will find that sentence in the audio recording, and you can re-record that individual sentence.

When you’re ready to publish the audiobook and upload it to Audible or Findaway Voices, Narrator will run your audio through its software and make sure all the specifications are met.

To upload an audiobook to Audible, you first have to publish it through ACX, or Audiobook Creation eXchange. ACX has a detailed list of technical specifications your audiobook must meet. Your audio quality and formatting must meet their requirements, and Narrator makes sure it does.

Thomas: When I recorded my last audiobook, I was so intimidated by ACX’s stringent audio guidelines that I hired an audio engineer to do the mastering and set all the noise levels. The fact that Narrator has an “ACX check box” is a game changer. It allows mere mortals to record audiobooks. It allows authors to focus on the performance and editing and leave the audio engineering to Narrator.

What is the process of creating an audiobook in Hindenburg Narrator?

Thomas: Once I have completed and edited my book manuscript, how do I turn my text file into an audiobook that could be purchased on Audible?

Jonathan:

  • First, click “open,” just like you would open a Hindenburg session.
  • Next, select the text document of your book from your computer files. The text of your book, called the “manuscript,” will show up on the bottom half of your screen, while the recording software will be on the top.
  • If you’ve already created chapter headings in your Word document, the chapters will show up in a table of contents next to your book text.
  • You’ll need to select the microphone you are using as well as the recording track.
  • Press the “Right Arrow” key to start recording.
  • Start reading from the text on your screen. As you read, navigation points will appear above the audio file, linking your text to the audio. This feature allows you to click on any point of your book’s text and be taken directly to the corresponding point in your audio recording.

How do I fix mistakes when recording in Hindenburg Narrator?

Thomas: What if I make a mistake when I’m recording?

My grandfather used cassette tapes to record audiobooks for the blind. When he misread something, my grandmother would stop the recording and rewind the tape. Then Grandpa would have to start over again.

Today’s current digital software is much better.

What is the approach for fixing and correcting misreads in Hindenburg Narrator?

Jonathan: I actually used to work for the Library of Congress, and we used Hindenburg software to record books for blind and visually impaired readers. That’s how I was introduced to Hindenburg. Then I started training others to use the software.

If you make a mistake, it’s easy to fix. The process of re-recording a section of audio is called a “punch-in.”

  • Press the space bar to stop your recording.
  • Click on the section of text you want to re-record.
  • Move the white line in the audio play-head directly in front of the sentence you want to fix.
  • Hit the Right Arrow key again to begin recording.
  • Narrator will re-record the section of audio that you wanted to fix.

When you re-record a sentence, Narrator will do a “pre-roll,” where it starts playing the audio just a bit in front of where you want to re-record. This allows you to match the tone and volume of your voice with what you previously recorded.

Narrator makes it easy to make change large sections too. If you’re recording chapter nine and realize you need to change a large chunk of text in the first chapter, you can use the “Record Selection” tool. Highlight the section of text you want to change, re-record it, and Narrator will input the audio into the correct spot in the recording. No need to move anything around.

Thomas: Technology has greatly improved over the years. You used to have to work backward in the recording to correct mistakes because if you didn’t, it would change the timing of the rest of the audio. It’s much less stressful to have that handled automatically.

Jonathan: When I used to edit audiobooks for authors, I had to cut and paste corrections. If the error was two minutes into a five-hour audiobook, it was a nightmare to shuffle everything around to make the correction. Narrator’s “Record Selection” feature was a game-changer for me.

How do I export my audiobook?

Thomas: After my audio file is perfect, what’s the next step?

Jonathan: Now it’s time to export your book.

Audible’s ACX software has a lot of specific requirements. In the past, Narrator would give you a list of things you needed to fix or adjust in your recording so it would meet ACX’s requirements. It would tell you that a chapter heading was too long or that a space after a chapter was too short.

But now, everything is automated. You don’t have to manually fix the problems for ACX. You simply click a button and Narrator will make all the adjustments for you.

When you export your book, all the chapter breaks will be segmented automatically into smaller files that you can upload to ACX. Audible doesn’t want a seven-hour audio file.

Thomas: Once you’ve exported the chapter files, the next steps are handled at ACX. The ACX software wizard will walk you through the steps to set up your book on Audible.

What happens if I publish my book and then I start getting reviews saying I mispronounced a name throughout the entire book. Can I go back and fix it in Narrator?

How to plan for mistakes and fix them before they happen

Jonathan: I often say that the best “post-production” is always “pre-production.” If you can solve problems beforehand, it’s faster, easier, and cheaper than fixing the problem afterward.

The best post-production is always pre-production.

Jonathan Hurley

Hindenburg Narrator has several features that will help you with pre-production.

Narrator “Favorites” Window

The favorites window allows you to store audio clips that you might want to reuse. Whenever you open a new Hindenburg session, anything you’ve dragged into your favorites window from the previous session will be there. You could include things like a room tone clip, which is a clip of recorded silence in your recording space. You could also store background music and intro clips.

Narrator “Clipboards”

The clipboard stores small audio clips for a specific book that you can use for quick reference. You might want to store the pronunciation of a name or place. You could also store a clip of the voice you are using for a certain character.

Thomas: The clipboard is especially helpful if you’re narrating for someone else. You can ask the author to record the correct pronunciation of a list of names or places. You store those recordings in the clipboard, and then you can easily access them to make sure you’re pronouncing the words correctly when you read the book.

Jonathan: The clipboard helps you eliminate problems and mispronunciations from happening in the first place.

You can also import an entire clipboard from one Hindenburg project to another. If you have a series of books where you want to use the same intonation for a character’s voice, you can access those clips for each book in the series.

When you can’t prepare and prevent the mistakes, you’ll need to go back and fix mispronunciations with Narrator’s editing tools.

Narrator’s Upcoming “Find and Replace” Feature

Thomas: Does Narrator have a “find and replace” feature where I can search for a specific word, and it will find all the instances of that word in the text? 

Jonathan: Narrator does not currently have a “find and replace” feature, but it will have this feature in the near future. We are continually adding new features to the software.

Thomas: I will confirm that Narrator is in active development. I’m constantly getting updates with bug fixes and feature improvements for the podcasting version of Hindenburg. Whenever I purchase a new piece of software, I always check to see how frequently it gets updated.

Common Mistakes When Recording an Audiobook

Thomas: What mistakes do you see authors make when they’re recording audiobooks?

Jonathan: I’ve edited a lot of audiobooks in my career. Sometimes authors have too much extra background noise while they’re recording. When an author tries to imitate voice-over actors they’ve seen in Hollywood, they become super animated and move their arms around while they’re speaking.

But this background movement is distracting and makes it sound unprofessional. The body-movement noises are not easy to edit out. No one wants to hear your shirt rustling or your fingers tapping.

Another mistake authors make when recording an audiobook is mouth noises. Listen to your own recording and notice whether you consistently slurp, swallow, or sniff at the beginning of a new paragraph or pickup.

No one wants to hear you sniff in their ear. Do your best to eliminate those noises on the front end. You’ll save yourself a lot of extra work in the editing process. You don’t want to have to edit out 100 sniffs and slurps.

Thomas: That’s one of the differences between an audiobook and a podcast. Podcasts have more of a “live” feel to them. A few “ums” or mouth noises here and there are okay. People still don’t like them, and we try to edit them out of this podcast as much as possible, but podcast listeners are more forgiving, especially if it was recorded live.

Audiobook listeners are not as forgiving. They want a clean recording. The listener doesn’t want the narrator to take them out of the story. For listeners of fiction audiobooks, the story plays like a movie in their head, and the narrator disappears after a while. They don’t want to be reminded that someone’s talking into a microphone. Loud lip smacks or breath sounds can take them out of the moment.

Hindenburg Narrator Tutorials

Thomas: Do you have any tutorials that teach people how to use the software?

Jonathan: Yes, and we are constantly making more. All the tutorials for Narrator on our website.

I’m currently working on a video series for beginners in the world of audiobook production. It’s a comprehensive series that will walk you through the basic steps of using the Narrator software, making a demo, creating an audition page for an author, using ACX, and creating an audiobook.

We also have hundreds of tutorial videos on our YouTube channel.

Thomas: I’m a big fan of Hindenburg software. I would recommend that you use the Narrator software to record your own audiobook. I’ve tried other software programs, and none of them compare to Hindenburg’s Narrator software. I have been using Hindenburg for years and it has totally changed my life.

Personal Update

Thomas Umstattd Jr.

This is me reading to our kids, Mercy (3 years ), Tommy (2 years ), and Jack (6 months).

Taking care of these little ones is our full-time job, but my other full-time job is helping authors like you.

You may be wondering how I feed my family with a free podcast. The answer is simple.

Novel Marketing is a Value for Value podcast. That means listeners who find the podcast valuable give that value back.

They give back with either:

How much they give depends on how valuable they find the podcast.

For some listeners, the podcast is like a marketing book. For others, the podcast is like a writers conference worth hundreds of dollars. For a few, the podcast has helped them avoid costly mistakes that would have cost them thousands of dollars to learn the hard way.

So, here is my question for you: Do you find Novel Marketing valuable?

If so, consider giving some of that value back in whatever way seems best to you. If you become a patron, you get the warm feelings of giving value back. You also get some cool rewards.

Novel Marketing patrons receive:

  • A Monthly Bonus Episode where I answer your questions.
  • Massive discounts on our courses.

At the higher tiers, patrons also receive:

Are you interested in becoming a patron? Simply go here and take a look.  

Plus, if you become a patron in June 2022, I have a special patron appreciation gift. It is a free copy of my $99 course, Tax & Business Guide for Authors

Shauna Letellier, author of Remarkable Advent

With breathtaking imagery and captivating storytelling, Remarkable Advent will prepare your heart to celebrate God’s greatest gift with twenty-five daily readings for your family. Rediscover the wonder of the first Christmas in this Advent devotional.  

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