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How to Edit Audio for Audiobooks

by David Bawiec, iZotope Contributor September 11, 2019

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You've spent weeks recording and preparing your audiobook. Before you send it off to your publisher, here's your definitive guide to guarantee successful submissions every single time!

How to professionally record audio for audiobooks

Recording quality matters

First things first, in order to provide the most enjoyable experience for your listeners, you want to make sure that the recording quality is top-notch. Spend time on proper microphone setup and placement to capture the cleanest audio recording possible. Make sure you use a pop filter to get those plosives under control. Check out this article for more tips on recording vocals at home.

Keep consistency in mind

Given that audiobooks tend to be long, there's a high chance that you'll be recording over the course of multiple days, or even weeks. As such, you need to pay special attention to make sure your recordings stay consistent—using the same microphone, in the same room, at the same position, every single time.

You'll also want to make sure that the voice actor sounds the same throughout as well. No one wants to hear a high-energy recording in one chapter followed by a tired, low-energy recording in the next. So make sure things stay consistent intention-wise.

When it comes to editing your takes together, you'll want to make sure consistency shines through here as well. This particularly relates to spaces between sentences and overall dynamics, something Dialogue Contour in RX could help correct.

How to structure and slice your audio for submission as an audiobook

Don’t leave out any information

Many audiobook rejections happen due to missing required information. More often than not, this includes missing opening and closing credits. Start your audiobook by stating the name of the audiobook, name of the author(s), and name of the narrator(s). Check the cover art and manuscript to make sure you're including all the correct information.

Slice your files into logical sections 

When submitting your audiobook, you'll need to make sure that each chapter is its own audio file. This will allow users to jump to individual chapters as they need to. Each file should have between 0.5–1 second of silence at the beginning and between 1–5 seconds of silence at the end. The extra space is required for encoding files into different formats. Plus, the silence also gives your listeners subtle audio cues that they have finished a section and that a new one is about to begin. Many publishers will reject your submission if the audio files aren't spliced correctly, so take the time to double-check that you have done this accurately.

Make sure you have clearly recorded section headings

Something that many people forget is to record clear auditory section headings. These include "Foreword," "Chapter 1," Chapter 2," and so on. For starters, this is a great way for your audience to be able to tell that a new section is starting. It's also helpful when your listeners are jumping through the various chapters in search of a particular one. This will allow them to instantly hear when they reach the desired one. Since most publishers will reject audio files longer than 120 minutes, find a place where you'll be able to slice the file into smaller sections. Since each file has to begin with a heading, don't forget to record a new heading at the slicing points. If the section began with "Chapter 6," start the next section with "Chapter 6, continued."

Don’t forget the sample!

People love hearing snippets before buying. When submitting your audiobook for review, you'll want to include a properly formatted audio sample. This audio sample should start with narration, not the opening credits. Since samples are publically accessible to everyone, they cannot include explicit material, so ensure that you're submitting a carefully chosen fragment.

How to clean up your audiobook’s audio

You'll want to edit out any weird sounds that shouldn't be in the final recording—coughs, loud breathing, sniffling, sneezing, rustling, mouse clicks, and various outtakes. Comp together the perfect take that sounds beautiful from start to finish.

Try RX’s Repair Assistant

If you're recording your audiobook at home, some unwanted noise will ultimately creep into your recordings—simply RX it out! Whether it's the AC fan or cars driving by outside, you'll want to make sure you remove any excess noise. iZotope's RX can truly work some magic here. Repair Assistant’s Dialogue mode will analyze your audio and detect noise, clipping, clicks, and other unwanted sounds, allowing you to remove all the excess noise in just a few easy steps. If you're an RX 7 Advanced user, you'll have access to even more comprehensive functionality, including the ability to use spectral de-noising and manually repairing any audio mistakes. 

Give your narrator some sparkle

Nobody wants to hear a dull-sounding narrator for five minutes, let alone for multiple hours. You'll want to make sure you process your voice recordings to give them that extra sparkle and shine. EQ will be your friend here. When it comes to treating your recordings, the most important thing is to get those dynamics under control as your audience won't appreciate it if you give them jarring dynamic differences between one line and another. 

Additionally, harsh “s” sounds can be the cause of a truly unpleasant experience—especially over the course of many hours of listening. iZotope's Nectar can make fixing this a breeze. With its built-in Vocal Assistant (which includes a preset for Dialogue), it can analyze your audio and suggest enhancements to the EQ, compression, de-esser, and noise gate. Giving you a quick and easy way to deliver beautiful-sounding audiobooks every single time.

Use presets or Master Assistant to control loudness

At the end of the day, clarity is important. And when it comes to audiobook submissions, all files must fall within a specific volume range. You don't want your listeners constantly adjusting the volume of their playback device. This is where Ozone can save the day and let you compete in today's professional audiobook market. Use Ozone presets made for dialogue and audiobook production to tame your recordings using loudness control, maximization, and other necessary processes, or just use Master Assistant to...assist you.

But let's be honest—your time can be better spent on more exciting tasks than adjusting various parameters manually. That's why Master Assistant is, by far, my favorite feature. It will analyze and suggest targets, signal chain, and processor settings, so you can deliver exceptional-sounding audiobooks time and time again.

Pro-Tip: Every audiobook publisher may have their own set of requirements for the dynamic range of your submissions. Audible, for example, requires that your files measure between -23dB and -18dB RMS, and that they have a peak value no higher than -3dB. You'll want to check with your publisher for their exact requirements and adjust Ozone's output and limiting settings to make sure your audio doesn't exceed the specified dynamic range or peak ceiling.

Last but not least: ensure correct encoding

Since audiobooks are oftentimes re-encoded into multiple formats, you want to ensure that the audio files you're delivering are at a high enough quality to guarantee successful conversions without excessive loss of quality. Again, you'll want to check with your publisher to see what their specific format requirements may be. Audible for example requires that all files be encoded as MP3 files at 44.1kHz and 192kbps or higher. Make sure you set your bounce settings to Constant Bit Rate (CBR) as many publishers will reject Variable Bit Rate (VBR) submissions.

Pay attention to the channel format. Audiobook submissions may not contain both mono and stereo files. Choose one and stick with it for all your files. Most publishers recommend (if not require) mono files. If you must submit stereo files, many publishers will ask that they not be joint-stereo. Again, check with your publisher to see what their exact specifications are.

Conclusion

It's so easy to record audiobooks in the comfort of your home studio. With the various tools at your disposal, professional-sounding recordings will be yours in no time. I hope these steps help catapult you toward successful audiobook submissions every single time. And, less time making revisions means you can spend more time on the things you love most: making more incredible audio.

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