Ever created an audiobook or a podcast?

As I contemplate the future of my writing, I’m leaning towards self-publishing everything just because I want to maintain creative control.

One of the things I’m considering doing is to record my books as podcast audiobooks. Why? It’s very easy to publish these and easy to get them in front of listeners.

The only challenge then is in recording.

Example case study

I’ve been listening to a podcast on Spotify: All Vampires Are Gay and I’m a fan. It’s an audiobook recorded by the author but you listen to it in a podcast format.

The podcast is free, so how does the creator get paid? Patreon. And honestly, I love this show/book and want it to continue so I’m planning to drop by the Patreon and see how I can contribute.

In this publishing model you create your content, offer it for free with the hope that you’ll gather some fans that will subscribe. There’s no guarantee how many people will go the extra step and support you but if they do, you can earn a lot more. Instead of selling the book let’s say for $5 on Amazon = one sale per reader, you get readers who pay you that $5 every month = multiple sales from each reader.

True, you need to gather fans so you need to create good content but that’s a given.

I look at what I’m doing with my writing and I already offer it for free online. I created a ko-fi account a while back and I got one subscriber that’s been supporting me for over a year. Yay. To grow this number, I’d have to get more aggressive with marketing.

But here’s my current problem: Wattpad isn’t my ideal platform. Sure, it’s a large audience but I don’t think it’s my ideal audience. I just don’t write the stuff that sells on WP. I tried other places and I run into similar issues.

I need a further reach to find my audience.

When I asked myself a while back, what is my ideal audience? What type of a person would be interested in reading my stuff, I’ve always come back to the conclusion that it’s someone like me. The problem is that I don’t read a whole lot because I don’t have the time to invest in that. But what do I do a lot of? I listen to podcasts. I listen to them during my work commute. I listen while doing chores (I was listening to All Vampires Are Gay season finale yesterday while trimming chicken - best way to make the time go faster).

I think this is my answer. I want to make this work.

I tried recording a couple of episodes just for myself to see how it sounds and I see that I definitely need to practice but I think it’s doable.

Things I’m already aware of that I’ll need:

  1. Equipment. Good microphone but also a computer with storage and good processing power. Audio files are large. I can’t expect my old laptop to be able to keep up with hundreds of them.
  2. Recording space. I’m going to need a nice quiet spot.
  3. Practice my recording voice. I have an accent that I can’t get rid of but I think it’s easy to understand. What I need to practice is an ideal reading voice. From test runs I noticed that:
  • I rush. I need to slow down.
  • Cadence. I noticed an annoying cadence in my reading . It’s like every word had it. It really got on my nerves after a while. I think I can get rid of it but I need to practice it.
  • Character voices. This is tricky because it can feel pretty silly but essentially, it’s acting. I will have to work on that too.
  1. And of course, I need to have content, a lot of content ready to go before I publish the first episode, so that I can release regularly (very important if I want to get subscribers).

So for now, all of those are long-term plans. But as I get my content ready, I can start working on the points that require practice since that will take a while too.

Assuming anyone has gotten through this long post :sweat_smile:, have you ever attempted to record a podcast or an audiobook? Any tips or lessons learned that you’d like to share?

If you’re a listener of audiobooks/podcasts, feel free to share your loves and hates. What do you love about your favorite shows? What do you wish they’d stop doing?


Nope, I never created an audiobook or podcast.
I do listen to audiobooks sometimes when I remember to listen to them.

I listened to a few podcasts, then lost interest after a while.

I did a live reading at a small von last year, and it went much better than expected.
That got me interested in recording audio of my book, and when I looked into it the podcast format does seem like the best way to do it, I’ve recorded some but I’m considering waiting until the books is finished before actually posting anything.
Alos, I’ve found that really reading out loud, and recording is an excellent editing tool. I thought I was doing it before, but when I have to really concentrate on the reading it makes clunky sentances al the more obvious…

Oh, and I’ve listened to a lto of audiobooks and two things stand out as most annoying. Really poor sound quality, and people who read in the monotone where everything sounds the same.

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I must agree.

Sound quality will be tricky. I don’t know if my house is ideal for recording. Unless I made space in the basement? Hmmm. I still have time, there’s no rush but it makes me wonder.

As to the voice. When listening to All Vampires Are Gay, I love the over the top sassy narration because it fits with the story. I don’t know if that author is also a voice actor (maybe she should be?) but she sounds great.

I cringe a little when I imagine doing it that over the top but I have to find a way to tap into the cringe and believe in the process.

Looking into this, I’ve found some really cool stats here compiled by Spotify.

For context, unless you do Comedy or sci-fi, all other fiction genres are mixed into Fiction. There’s a Drama subgenre available in the options, but I don’t see it in the stats. Maybe it’s new or not as popular.

Takeaways relevant to me:

  1. An ideal fiction podcast is about 30 minutes/episode.
  2. Gen Z makes up the majority of listeners, with 13-17 yo at the lead.
  3. Fiction is really popular in Latin Am. Not sure yet how to appeal to that audience. Representation in cast?
  4. Growth takes about 4 months. 4 months, dears. That’s a lot of waiting and hoping.

I’ve done an audiobook on my own rather than hiring, too. If you’re posting on Spotify, you get paid via Spotify per listen. You can read more about it here: How Much Does Spotify Pay Per Stream in 2023

On the equipment front, an okay mic in a quiet area paired with some post-processing can work wonders. I’ve used Audition, but I normally just default to OcenAudio. I use a Razer Seiren X, there are better mics out there, the Seiren is just ‘okay’. I don’t have any sort of proper set-up, I just record from my lounge next to a main road, so I prefer to record at night. With filters and post work, it sounds fine.

If you record in your basement you may need to do some sound dampening on the walls, especially if it’s quite an empty room with hard walls/nothing on them.

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That’s really cool. I know this is subjective, but how would you rate your narrative skills? Do you think you did a good job? Did any reader ever comment?
I have a slight accent that I can’t get rid of no matter how hard I try and I hope it won’t turn people away.

Lots of junk in the basement, lol. It’s a combination of a dungeon and a storage dumpground. I would instead have to clean it up and make myself a nice clean spot. I guess hanging a curtain or something might help reduce an echo but I don’t think there’s any. It is the quietest place in the house though so it’s my best bet.
I guess it’s a valid motivation to clean that junk.

My current WIP is actually meant to be recorded and produced as a dystopian sci-fi fantasy fiction podcast!! Check out Acast, they’re free to use, can hook you up with resources, and will distribute your podcast for you. Also, you get a website and domain. I’m an avid podcast listener and I’m excited to get started making them as well!! A good mic is important, but so is good production software (Podcastle is free through acast) and good music/ambiance (since it does sometimes get boring if all you’re hearing is the voice, but that’s just my own personal preference.) I will say that with podcasts specially compared to audiobooks, the story structure is much similar to TV in terms of an episode structure and a division by seasons, but I think if you’re sticking to audiobooks as your format you should be okay.

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That’s really cool. What is your story about?

Listening to podcasts has been shaping my preferences. Ambience - yes. Sound effects - no.

I really like the format that my case study podcast takes and that’s using ambient sounds but they also break each episode into scenes which they announce by their name and a short interlude. Then they have an outro that sums up the cliffhanger. That wouldn’t work in an audiobook but it works awesomely in a podcast. The listener can easily skip the intro or outro (though long intros get annoying - a thing I’m taking a note on).

I’m not drawn to podcasts that do a full theater production with a full actor cast and sound effects and all that. When browsing, I got really turned off when I landed on shows like that. Not sure why, could be a preference or maybe just because I wasn’t expecting it, but it felt like a lot of time was being wasted on realistic sounds when I’m fine if you describe the sound to me. Just get on with the story.

I like the “fiction podcast” format a lot more which blends the smooth listening of an audiobook and the creative freedom and episodic format of a podcast.

I’m getting excited about this. I really want to make it work. If only I could get my narration to sound better. Hmmm. Is it worth it to look for a speech coach?

Update. I found an online voice coaching service that’s really affordable. I might actually give this thing a try.

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I’ve got two I’m sort of juggling—the main one is a story that takes place 7 years ago after 97% of the living population of a fictional high-fantasy type world got killed off. The narrator is a being who survived but has permanently been severed from his body, and he narrates the lives of several notable survivors who are trying their best to live in the ruins of the world. As the story progresses more and more is revealed about the woman who ended the world in the first place, and a new plan to save the world (led by the narrator’s ex—who also dated the woman who ended the world) arises.

I’ve got another one I’m a few episodes into writing about a character whose tourist trap owning mother was caught up in a big conspiracy theory mess awhile ago after going missing. (Think Atlantis or Bigfoot levels of crazed believers.)When the character’s mother dies, though the cause of death is unrelated to anything paranormal, they begin to receive harassment from the public demanding answers and they strike a deal stating that they’ll spend 10 days exploring the old tourist trap and, if they find nothing, they can be left alone again. Over the course of the 10 days they explore the tourist trap, go into their mother’s death, and begin to uncover (while fervently denying) glimmers of the conspiracy plot that may not have been as fictional as they’d initially believed.

This makes sense, though I will say a fair amount of people do turn to podcasts specifically for that audio drama format. I guess it depends on how it’s done—there has to be a reason for all the sounds for it to work and make sense to me. For instance, Welcome to Night Vale is styled like a radio broadcast, The Magnus Archives explicitly stated to be an archivists’ attempt to audio-record statements as a means of preservation, and Alice Isn’t Dead is a woman trying to catalogue her quest to find her missing wife. I’ve listened to a few that are full audio drama and production for no reason, and I don’t like that, because the context doesn’t make any sense.

Actually, I think WTNV might be really helpful—they do a good job of balancing out sounds with narration, and Cecil’s voice is absolutely amazing.

Part of the benefit of a podcast is that you can play around with style way more than you can with a book. It’s really freeing to write.

You could try to find a voice coach, but there are also loads of resources online—how-to guides and the like. Even just listening to podcasts really helps.

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I hope so :smiley: I never got any negative feedback, a few nice comments about the narration, but this wasn’t my first rodeo with VA work. I have some acting credits under my IMDb belt :')

Any motivation is good motivation!

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Both of your projects sound really fun. If you release your podcast, I’d love to listen in.

Small world. I subscribe to Welcome to Night Vale but I must say, I didn’t get sucked into it. I just wanted to give it a try because I listen to the talk podcast of the creators and they mention WTNV often so I got curious. Same with Alice. I subscribed and was going to listen but then not sure why I didn’t. I might give it a try now.

Maybe it’s a preference thing, but from my case study, All Vampires Are Gay (which I’m using as a case study because I love everything about how it’s executed), they don’t resort to that at all and it works. It’s just a narrated audiobook.
But the narrator really does matter. The author does an awesome job capturing the sassy fabulous vibe of the protagonist and that’s all the sound effects I need.

Aside from great narration, it’s got great sound production, catchy theme jingle and they recently rerecorded the early episodes and so they sound even better.

The one thing that this show has that I can’t replicate as well is the tropiness. It markets itself on being a queer vampire show and it delivers on that. Sure, I’ve got tropes too but they’re not as clear, there’s a lot more blending within them. Or maybe I just haven’t found the best way to capture my book’s appeal.

I don’t think my narration is awful. It’s just not as clear as I’d like it to be and I want to give this a fighting chance.

I’m taking the plunge. I signed up already. It’s just $39/week for two sessions, and I can pause or cancel at any time if I don’t find it useful. Really, it’s a life skill. It sucks to always be judged for sounding like an immigrant. I’ve lived in the States for 22 years already. If I didn’t get rid of the remnants of my accent by now, I don’t think I’ll be able to get rid of it on my own ever. So even if for whatever reason I didn’t get to roll out with the podcast idea, it’s worth the investment.

But I think I’ll go for it because it really sounds like the best publishing option I’ve seen, an option that doesn’t make me feel like I’ll be selling my soul away for a fraction of a few copies sold for $3.99.

So while I’m working on my narration, I still have to finish these two books I’ve got going here, and then it would be best to find an editor to help me make them the best they can be. So yeah, lots of work ahead. And if I can make this paranormal series work, then maybe I could do the same with my fantasy series? Who knows.

As for sound editing, I’ll be doing that myself. I’m a musical person. Sound mixing sounds like a great side gig to occupy myself when I’m procrastinating writing. lol

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Hmm. The article is about music though. There are no ads during podcasts so I’m not sure if this applies at all.

On the Spotify’s page, it gives these options:

  1. Ambassador ads (promote Spotify - need to have listeners already and qualify).
  2. Subscription (release episodes only to subscribers).
  3. Donation (listen for free, donate if you want).

I’m guessing that other podcasting platforms have similar plans. I’ll look into it more when I’m closer to publishing. Things could change by then too.

Thank you so much!! I’m really excited—they’ve both got a lot of written content, I’m just looking for voice actors for one and a narrator for the other atm.

Yeah, WTNV isn’t always the most captivating, but in terms of just the audio’s quality and everything it’s phenomenal. They’re also interesting because they have books, too, so you can sort of see the difference in how they write for books vs how they write for podcast episode. Alice isn’t Dead is absolutely incredible, in my opinion—one of the best podcasts I’ve ever listened to, excellent use of the podcast format, the narrator is great, and it’s 30 episodes start to finish, so it’s not a longer-running thing. 10/10, would recommend. They’ve got another podcast on their network called Dreamboy that’s pretty good, too.

Yeah, I’ve seen it work really well and rather poorly before. In Hello From the Hallowoods the single-narrator format didn’t seem to quite work for me since there were too many characters and slightly iffy dialogue tags, but Old Gods of Appalachia (another strong recommendation) did a fabulous job with the single-narrator audiobook type format. Both narrators in terms of voice were really good, so it came down to how it was written to balance it out.

This is part of why I recommended Acast—they can hook you up with sponsors, plus the free website you can get has things like Patreon and a merch site already built into its default layout. Acast can also connect you with other podcasts that’ll pay you to give them a shoutout.

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Certainly the best audibooks I’ve listened to have been read by professional actors, but that’s not an option for self-publishing :stuck_out_tongue:

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I rerecorded a couple of chapters as further practice and I think I sound better. Practice definitely helps a ton. It only made me more excited to make this happen.

I gave Podcastle a try today. There’s a free tier to play with. The background noise removal worked like a miracle. Absolutely awesome. You can try only 3 for free sadly. They have a nice interface, pretty easy to use. Comparing it with the plain Spotify podcasting tool (previously Anchor), Podcastle definitely has more tools BUT it doesn’t give me the control over the sound like I’d like it. The transition between clips (even their own sound clips) was very loud. Maybe other tools they offer would fix that (again, limited # of uses), but it’s a little disappointing that I don’t have a way to fix them myself. What kind of an editor doesn’t give you options to edit?

I’m really leaning towards using GarageBand that’s already built into my MacBook. GarageBand has all sorts of cool features for controlling the audio so you can transition in an out of clips smoothly.

Quick googling gives me this:

To take care of your background noise in GarageBand, you’ll need to find the noise gate feature. The noise gate can dampen sound below a designated volume across your entire track. Once you set up your noise gate, any sound below the noise gate threshold will get reduced. The range goes from -100db to 0 db.

Curious. Maybe I can use GarageBand for it all? It’s free and more powerful.

The only reason why I am looking at podcasting tools is because I’m concerned how much space all those audio files are going to take up. I’d rather not have to work plugged in to an external hard drive all the time, but maybe that’s exactly what I’ll have to do.

I had my first accent coach lesson yesterday. Very informative. Working on it this way I can finally see what exactly I’m not saying right.

Besides an intro, we covered flap t’s and wow. I had no idea I was saying these very specific words wrong. It’s not about not being able to make the sound, I do flap t perfectly fine, but it’s more about knowing in which words to make it.

Lack of these flap t’s could be the culprits behind why my own voice sounds so staccato to me.
I’ve got homework now.

I’ll be walking around repeating words to myself now. I’m not crazy. I’m practicing flap t’s.