Creating audio books

Suzie Eisfelder

Audiobooks are a challenge to create. They are an added expense and can take lots of time. I don’t have dollar figures for audiobooks but who you choose will make a difference as to the bottom line. Some people will read the book themselves, this is very time consuming but at least you know you’ve got all the pronunciation correct. If you get an actor then they’ll do a good job but it will be expensive. Although, not as expensive as it would be if you needed to rent recording studio as well. Some actors will have the ability to record at home and do a professional sounding job, while others will need to go to an external studio. To do a thorough job they should read the book first making notes about things they want to ask the author. After this consultation they may be ready to start work. Some readers will use different accents for different people and I have little knowledge here so I’m not even going to speculate on how the accents are chosen, or how they manage to remember which ones to do, and when.

The main thing you need to remember is that they will read the entire book, out loud. Sometimes they will have problems, possibly a coughing fit or a doorbell. That passage will need to be reread. This can easily take hours. I’ve got audiobooks that are sixteen hours long. I’m guessing that would have taken someone more than sixteen hours to record.

And after all of that you will have a technician or engineer, or someone with more knowledge than me about their job. They will go through and iron out as many of the little problems that no-one noticed as possible. I can only speculate what these might be, but I won’t. They will also stitch together all the audio files…I didn’t mention that you can’t read a book out loud for sixteen hours at a stretch, did I? Assuming they’ve managed to read out one chapter per audio file, with twenty chapters, then that all needs to be put together. There will be any sounds such as dings during a chapter break and any audio files that need to be put in before and after. I’ve no idea how much that would cost but it sounds expensive. I have the skills to do a little of this but it wouldn’t sound professional.

At the Online London Bookfair the other week I noticed a company called Speechki. At that point I was watching the webinars in the order they were presented. Naturally, I watched Speechki, and I followed up with a look at their profile on the Online London Bookfair website and then their own website. Watching the webinar I thought I heard issues in the demo. Specifically pronunciation issues. Words that didn’t quite sound right. When you’ve got a person recording the audiobook that is easily fixed, but this young company has figured out a way of automating the recording of audiobooks. They have used AI or artificial intelligence to produce audiobooks in minutes.

I wasn’t convinced, I’d heard that mispronunciation and I thought the voice sounded artificial. But when one of their people emailed me to offer me a personal demo I accepted. The Online London Bookfair captures who views which webinars and the Speechki people did what any good company should do following a fair, they followed up with the people who attended. I don’t care how big your company is this is something you really need to do.

I ended up talking with two young men in different continents, in different time zones to me. One of them got up at what I call stupid o’clock just to talk to me.

I was much more impressed this time. I went from being slightly interested to being almost a complete convert. I forgot to ask how much it would cost, and many other questions, but it was still very impressive. They currently have at least 183 voices and the ability to read at least 40 languages. You can fiddle forever and make things absolutely perfect, change the language in the middle of the book if you’ve got a few words of Spanish, change the voice, the speed and so much more. Their website indicates an audiobook would cost at least $3,000 (that’d be US dollars) and with a bit of googling I found they’re suggesting an audiobook produced through them would cost about $400 (again US dollars)

They have offered to create one audiobook free of charge to publishers and popular authors in my network. Just mention my name when you contact them via their website. I have not been paid by them, I was just blown away by the versatility of their interface and how it would make many more books accessible to readers.

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