Recording Audiobooks Fit for a King: Mastering Techniques of Studio Audiobook Recordings

Selling audiobooks can amplify your book sales in a way few other things can. Imagine being able to move your audience and sell your message with the sound of your own voice. Few other methods create such a compelling influence as the spoken word.

In another article on mastering audiobook recording sills, we took a look at King George VI of England and how he was absolutely tongue-tied when he took the throne. He literally stammered, suffering from a speech impediment that frustrated him so badly, it made the grown man cry.

The king’s job in the family business was to inspire the British Empire through its darkest days during World War II, using the magic of radio. As you can imagine, the microphone was more terrifying than a dragon for George, echoing and amplifying his every stammer. The way he overcame this Achilles heel is the stuff of legends – and the subject of a very watchable Oscar-winning movie called The King’s Speech.

If you have decided to add audiobooks to your line up as an author, wrestling the beastly microphone to the ground may be your greatest challenge. But as King George himself learned, it takes just a little practice to be truly great. What one person can do, so can anyone.

In this post, we cover the technical side of recording an excellent speech. These 7 tips will help you create a truly masterful recording of your book, keynote speech or lesson.

Audiobook Recording Tip 1 – Work in a Quiet Room

Recording mics are pretty sensitive, and you’d be amazed at the sounds they pick up. If you’re working at home, silence your cell phone and turn off all media for your recording session. If you’re in a studio setting, banish all non-essential personnel from the room. In a home studio also pay close attention to background noises including doors closing, computers, trucks, airplanes, neighborhood dogs and chirping birds. These can make your recording sound amateurish at best. In fact, I had to call a recording session short one day at the Heathman Ranch studio due to a seaplane practicing takeoffs right over our studio.

Audiobook Recording Tip 2 – Dress Smart

No, this doesn’t mean top hat & tails, nor the latest Givenchy sheath boots. Wear comfortable clothes and shoes for your recording session. You may be standing during the session, so be sure you’ll be comfortable for several hours if necessary. Also choose clothing that will not make rustling sounds when you move. Business suits, crisp silks, synthetics and jingling beads can ruin a perfectly good performance. Your audiobook should be able to stand the test of time. Dress for long-term success. But don’t despair if you love fashion…keep reading to find-out how an audiobook can lead to an invitation to a glamorous awards gala.

Audiobook Recording Tip 3 – Pop-filter

Use a filter on your microphone to prevent breath pops during your recording session. Also if possible, use a thin windscreen in front of the mic. Stop-plosive sounds like “P” and “B” can explode with a thunderous bass note on a recording, making for painful listening. Not only are these hard to edit out, they’re also completely preventable. Click here to see what a pop-filter looks like.

Audiobook Recording Tip 4 – Silence the Papers

Be careful not to shuffle paper or notes during your talk, because your microphone will pick-up these sounds. If your script is printed on paper, use a music stand and set up 2 or 3 pages to read at one time. If you’re reading a physical book, read ahead on page turns and turn the page noiselessly. Some performers dog-ear each page in the lower right corner of the book for easy page turns. Of course, the best method for reading from a script is to use a teleprompter, computer or even a tablet/smartphone. If you do use digital technology, make sure you’re not picking up any keyboard clicks, mouse clicks or other sounds as you advance through the script. A finger swipe on a touchscreen is probably the most silent technique of all.

Audiobook Recording Tip 5 – Technicalities

Record digitally, using a high quality microphone. You can record straight to your computer, if it’s a quiet unit. Otherwise you can record by plugging your microphone directly into a handheld digital recorder. Even the cheap ones these days produce a fairly high quality result. At one time, using a mixing board, analog-to-digital converter, compressor and other signal processing equipment was necessary just to capture your performance, and digital editing equipment used to cost thousands of dollars. This isn’t necessary any more, and in fact, the more equipment you use, the more noise you introduce into your recording. Keep it simple, and keep the focus on making a good recording.

Audiobook Recording Tip 6 – Edit for Effect

When you record your audiobook, here is an advance tip from very experienced voice artists. Take at least three takes of one section, then move on to the next piece. Even if you think you’ve nailed your performance on the first take, there may be background noise or a missed word that you weren’t aware of when recording your first take. Record a second take so that you have an alternate performance to choose from, and do a third take so that you have a safety copy. Ignoring this practice has cost many speakers, authors, actors and radio personnel untold time, effort and money. Always make an alternate take plus a safety! Edit your final program from the best material of the three takes, and remove any unnecessary sounds such as loud breathes or mouth sounds. Finally, use background music under your intro and outro to set the mood. Add the music after you have recorded your voice, then give the work a final listen for quality control.

Audiobook Recording Tip 7 – Call to Action

Close your recording with a third party voiceover, and promote your website, products or services. Have the announcer state a problem, the solution, and your material as the means to get the solution. Using an announcer adds credibility to your audio program. Keep the message short, about 20 seconds, and demonstrate value for the listener. But keep your message high level, and not to “salesy”.

Using these tactical tips will give your finished audiobook polish and pizzazz every time. Now that you know how to make the perfect audiobook, you can conquer even the toughest critic and win the royalties game. Follow these steps and who knows, perhaps your performance will get nominated for a highly coveted audiobooks award called The Audies sponsored by the Audiobook Publishers Association. Nominees are invited to the Audies gala, where your top hat & tails or Givenchy sheath boots are a must!

Bryan Heathman is the President of Made for Success Publishing. Bryan works with best-selling authors in the role of publisher and marketer, including the late Zig Ziglar, Chris Widener and John C. Maxwell. Bryan is the author of Conversion Marketing, a marketing book that condenses knowledge on website conversion from 7-years running an online ad agency. Bryan’s Fortune 500 experience includes running high impact marketing campaigns for Microsoft, Eastman Kodak and Xerox.