Best Audio Books

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What Makes the Best Audio Books

Today, some of the best audio books are those commodities that help the world move along a little bit easier. If some were honest, reading, though a very important skill, is somewhat time consuming when having to commit time to enjoy a fictional story. We constantly hear of stories where people bundle up under a warm blanket and knock out a book over the weekend. But there are those that have lives that are very busy and any of their fictional story intake outside of television is through the recruiting of audio books.

Over the years, I have enjoyed some of the best audio books on long drives. One my favorite authors when it comes to audio books is James Paterson. His audio books are created with very high quality. Some of the factors that contribute to that high quality of production are the voice actors chosen to narrate. Notice I said actors, another element that adds value to the production is the various voice actors used in contrast to independent writers that may only utilize one voice actor.

In addition to using more that one voice actor in order to be consider one of the best audio books, the use of audio special effects or what we call in filmmaking sound design, is also a contributing factor. Most of the audio books I hear are mostly straight narrations. But James Paterson’s books seem to have a very good balance between story and support sound and music. I have to admit, being a large fan of music; I’ve been known to over use music. But Paterson uses it very well in those lean forward moments.

Lean forward moments are those moments in the story where something is being revealed or the story is taking a significant turn. The use of music and sound design in this way truly accents and amplifies the best audio books. Don’t get me wrong, there are many audio books that are made well but to be consider part of the best audio books club, a little extra work to the sound design always adds up in my book. Take a listen to a portion of a ghost story I produced for a writer friend of mine, Adam Fenner. Listen here to the 5 minute audio dissertation of THE RED DOOR.

Was it a little heavy on the effects and design? Some would say so, other would think not. It all comes down to taste.

Besides having a good voice actor(s), a well thought out sound design and a music score, quality recordings are essential for the best audio books. I recently listen to a story that had background noise during the performance and then the noise cut out to silence in between dialogue deliveries. This was VERY frustrating to me and it actually took away from the story. If the recordings were not that strong and were infected with ambient noise, having that noise run through the whole thing and then eq’d would have been an effective approach.  Or using a sound design to hide it could have worked to.

So what are the steps to getting your book into an audio format? There are many options from the DYI book writer. And there are many options to sub-contracting your work. Here’s a couple simple steps to get you started.


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    Step #1 - Write Your Story

    I always suggest keeping it short so you can learn from your mistakes quicker. Either way write your story.

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    Step #2 – Find Your Voice Talent

    That can be you or someone you know. You can always find great actors who are willing to perform for you just for a copy of the project and the credit. But remember it’s a performance not just a reading. If you get lost in this idea, just try to remember how either your mother or school teacher read to you. With enthusiasm and emphasis.

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    Step #3 – Record the Performance

    There are many microphones and digital recording software out there. What you’re basically looking for is a large diaphragm, condenser microphone with some sort of mic stand. The software needs to record at least at 16bit 44.1kz. But most will do far more than that. You can really create some strong sounding recordings with low cost gear. Make sure wherever you record, it’s quiet.

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    Step #4 – Export Your File

    Export your file according to the platform preferences you plan on sharing your audio book on. Most times you can get away with exporting to an mp3 file.

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    Step #5 – Share Your Audio Book

    You’ve written a story, casted your talent and recorded their performance. It’s your duty to share it with the world.

Remember, to make one of the best audio books, you need to have a good story. Story will always be king. But by following these 5 simple steps, you will be well on your way to making great audio books.

Below is a list of equipment and software I use. I also included a couple links to audiobook platforms and their supporting services.

Scarlet Sound Card
Behringer Large Diaphram Microphone
Table top mic stand
Pop screen
Sony Headphones
Adobe Audition
ACX – voice talent service

Or go cheap and yet effective.

Blue USB Microphone
Audacity (Free recording software)
Any headset around the house



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