In this episode of Novel Marketing, you will learn how to record your own audiobook using Hindenburg Narrator.
Do I need an audio version of my book?
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%.
The data is clear. You need to have an audio version of your book. More and more readers are switching from ebooks to audiobooks.
For fiction authors, I recommend hiring a professional to record your audiobook. But for indie authors, it can be really expensive to hire a professional narrator, and not everyone can afford it. Even so, you still need an audio version of your book. And for nonfiction books, readers often like to hear the author’s own voice.
How to record your own audiobook
So how do you record your own audio book? What computer software should you use?
When I record podcast episodes, one of the tools I use is a piece of software called Hindenburg Journalist. I gave a talk at a podcast conference a few years ago where I gave a demonstration of Hindenburg software. The audience gasped in astonishment when they saw how much easier it is to use Hindenburg, than tools like Audacity and Garage Band.
Hindenburg is not just for podcasters. They also have an audiobook version called Hindenburg Narrator.
We have a guest on the show today who is an expert at using Hindenburg Narrator. His official title is the Minister of Education for Hindenburg. (How cool is that title?) He’s going to tell us how to get the most out of Hindenburg Narrator.
Jonathan Hurley, welcome to the Novel Marketing Podcast.
What is Hindenburg Narrator?
Thomas: What is Hindenburg Narrator?
Jonathan: 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. They produce very short audio files with a lot of layers. There are a lot of bells and whistles that are only useful for music production. For example, GarageBand used to have an automatic metronome—a feature that is useless when recording a podcast episode or audiobook.
Hindenburg, in contrast to the other DAW’s, 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, a track for the intro music, and that’s it. A podcast or audiobook is a much longer file than a song, 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: The main distinction of Narrator is that you can open the text of your book directly into the recording software. Your Word doc or Epub 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.
In order to upload an audiobook to Audible, you first have to publish it through ACX, or Audiobook Creation eXchange. ACX has a detailed list of specifications that your audiobook must meet—technical things like audio quality and formatting. Narrator makes sure your audiobook is consistent and meets these ACX requirements.
Thomas: When I recorded my last audio book, I was intimidated by ACX’s stringent audio guidelines. So I hired an audio engineer to do the mastering and get all the noise levels set correctly. In Narrator, the fact that there’s an “ACX check box” is a game changer. It allows mere mortals to easily record audiobooks. As an author, all you need to focus on is the performance and the editing.
What is the process of creating an audiobook in Hindenburg Narrator?
Thomas: Jonathan, walk us through the process of creating an audiobook in Hindenburg Narrator. Once I have my completed, edited book manuscript, how do I turn my text file into an audiobook that could be purchased on Audible?
- 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 way, you can click on any point of your book 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? I remember my grandfather used cassette tapes to record audio books for the blind. Any time he would misread something, my grandmother would click stop, and rewind the tape. Then Grandpa would have to start over again.
Obviously, 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. That’s how I was first introduced to Hindenburg. We used Hindenburg software to record books for blind and visually impaired readers. And then I started training others to use the software.
So, if you’re recording your book and 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 over 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 is so you can match the tone and volume of your voice with what you previously recorded.
If you realized you need to go back and fix a big chunk of text in the first chapter, and you’re now in chapter nine, Narrator makes it easy to make changes. Simply 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. This tool is called “Record Selection.”
Thomas: Technology has greatly improved over the years. You used to have to work backwards 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 audio books for authors, I had to cut and paste corrections, two minutes into a five-hour audio book. 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: So, I’ve recorded my whole book. I’ve fixed all the mistakes, I’ve had someone proofread it, and my audio file is now perfect. What’s the next step?
Now it’s time to export your book. We mentioned earlier in the episode that Audible’s ACX software has a lot of specific requirements. In the past, Narrator would give you a list of all the things you needed to fix or adjust in your recording, in order to meet ACX’s requirements. It would tell you that a chapter heading is too long, or a space after a chapter is too short.
But now, everything is automated. You don’t have to manually fix all the problems for ACX. You simply click a button and Narrator will make all the adjustments for you.
When you export you book, all the chapters breaks will be segmented automatically into smaller files that you can then upload to ACX. Audible doesn’t want a 7-hour long audio file.
Thomas: I wish I had been able to use this software when I recorded my audio book. So, once you’ve exported the chapters 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 that 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 so much faster and easier and cheaper than fixing the problem afterwards.
There are several features in Hindenburg to help you with this.
Narrator “Favorites” Window
The first feature is the “favorites” window. The favorites window allows you to store audio clips that you might want to use again. Whenever you open a new Hindenburg session, anything that you’ve dragged into your favorites window will still be there from the previous session. You could include things like a room tone clip, which is a recorded silence of your recording space, and also background music, intro clips, etc.
The second tool is “clipboards.” Clipboards is meant for storing small audio clips for a specific book to use for quick reference. You might want to include things like the pronunciation of names and places, or the voice you are using for a certain character.
Thomas: This feature is really 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 and make sure you are pronouncing the words correctly when you read the book.
Jonathan: Exactly. So you could eliminate the problem from happening in the first place. Another benefit is that you can import an entire clipboard from one Hindenburg project to the next. So if you have a series of books where you want to make sure you use the same intonation for a certain character’s voice, you can access those clips for each book in the series.
But there will certainly be situations where you are not able to prepare ahead of time, and you’ll need to go back and fix those mis-pronunciations. That’s when you can use the tools we discussed earlier, where you highlight the text you want to fix, then re-record that section of the book. When you click on the text of your book, you’ll automatically be taken to the recording of that section.
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: Jonathan, what are some mistakes that you see authors make when they’re recording audiobooks?
Jonathan: I’ve edited a lot of audiobooks in my career. One of the mistakes I often see authors making is that they make a lot of extra background noises while they’re recording. They try to imitate voice-over actors they’ve seen in Hollywood, where they’re super animated and moving their arms around.
But this background movement is quite distracting in an audiobook 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. Take notice if you consistently slurp or 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. Especially if it’s a long audiobook. You don’t want to have to go back and 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 quite as forgiving. They want a clean recording. Especially for fiction, the listener doesn’t want you to take them out of the story. When listening to an audiobook, the narrator disappears after a while, and the story is playing like a movie in the listener’s head. 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: For people who are wanting to learn more about Narrator, do you have any tutorials that teach people how to use the software?
Jonathan: Yes, and we are constantly making more. You can find all the tutorials for Narrator on our website: https://hindenburg.com/academy/features/features-narrator/
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: https://www.youtube.com/c/Hindenburgsystems/videos
Thomas: I’m a big fan of Hindenburg software. I would recommend that you use the Narrator software if you plan 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.
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The Novel Marketing Podcast is a production of Author Media.
Our guest today was Jonathan Hurley, the producer is Laurie Christine, this episode’s audio was edited by William Umstattd, and the blog post version is crafted by Laurie Christine. I am Thomas Umstattd, Jr. your host. Thank you for reading, and live long and prosper.