From the Mailbag: Should I record my own audiobook?

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Audiobooks are the fastest-growing segment of the digital publishing market. The Audio Publishers Association says audiobook sales have increased by double digits for more than seven years in a row. Those aren’t low double digits, either. In recent years, the growth has been more than 20 percent per year.

Many people listen to business books during a long commute. Others listen while doing something that doesn’t engage their thought process, like housework or yardwork. And business book consumers are more and more likely to pair an audiobook with a print or a digital version of the same book. That lets them listen for the overall arc of the book while highlighting important passages.

So, it’s no wonder that three business authors talked to me in the last week about doing an audiobook. They also wanted to know if they could or should record their book themselves. Let’s take the “Should I?” question first.

Should You Produce an Audio of Your Business Book?

Audiobooks have moved into the mainstream for people who consume business books. Doing an audiobook gives you another way to earn revenue from the work you put into your book. That’s the short answer.

An audiobook is an investment. The last time I investigated this for a client, the range of quotations for the same book ran from mid-three figures to mid-five figures. That’s a huge spread.

Before you engage someone as a producer or narrator, I’d check out their credentials. Listen to some of the books they’ve produced or narrated. The best professional narrators don’t call attention to themselves. Their narration is “transparent”, so you concentrate on the content of the book.

But a professional narrator will be a big investment. To cut costs you may consider doing your own narration. Let’s tackle that next.

Should I Narrate My Own Audiobook?

In theory, if you narrate your own book, you’ll give listeners a special treat. They’ll hear your words in your voice. You’ll be able to emphasize the things you think are important. You’ll be able to pause for effect.

Notice that I said, “in theory.” Most business authors don’t have the skillset to narrate their own book effectively.

You’re probably thinking that all you need to do is sit down and read your book. Well, that’s true, but it’s not the whole story. I’m not going to attempt to tell you all the ways it could go wrong. But I urge you to do some homework and self-evaluation before you decide to read your book yourself.

This doesn’t have to be a big, fancy test. Take out your book. Read the first 10 pages of your book and record your performance. Then listen to it. Most people are surprised at what they sound like. That’s not the important part.

Listen to your enunciation. Were the words you’re reading clear? Did you read smoothly, with no uncomfortable pauses?

Did you make it all the way through your 10 pages? Most professional narrators read at 120-150 words per minute while enunciating clearly. If you’ve got a 50,000-word book manuscript, it’s going to take at least six or seven hours to read it. That’s a long time, if you’re not used to it.

You Can Learn How

You can learn to read effectively for recording. Learn the techniques of dealing with the inevitable rough spots. Pick up some techniques for smooth breathing and reading.

There are online courses for this and many local resources that will help you.

Bottom Line

Business audiobooks are mainstream today. That’s why it’s probably a good idea to have an audio version if it’s a sensible investment. You can certainly pick up the skills to do effective narration, but you’re going to have to climb a learning curve.

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