Initially, I was going to tell you how to debreath your audio automatically, but the truth is that if you’re using Audacity, you can’t. I did find a way using the Auto Duck feature, but that put static in the middle of the vocals. The minute you hear it, you won’t use that method anymore. Just to be sure I had all the freaking information on debreathing, I talked to two sound people. The end result of those conversations – You can’t debreath the audio automatically, and you will drive yourself nuts doing it manually.
How Will You Drive Yourself Nuts?
Let’s say you have 20 chapters and each chapter is 10 minutes. That’s 200 minutes of audio. If you try to debreath it manually, you will spend 40 minutes+ on each of those 10 minute chapters. That’s 200 minutes to record and 400 minutes JUST to debreathe it. So about ten hours just to get the breathing where you think it needs to be. Oh, and in the process, you’re going to take your sound floor above 90, and ACX won’t accept that. If you try this, you will burn out. The only reason I haven’t is that when I set a goal, I complete the goal. There is no other option.
Who’s Going to Get Pissed if You Leave All That Breathing in?
Anyone who’s ever worked in music or sound, and btw, if your school had music and/or you sang at any point in your life, your hearing will come back, so you’ll piss yourself off too. If this is you, your hearing is better than 90% of the general population. You are not the metric for average hearing. Ignore yourself. That itty bitty pop? No one else heard it!
What Metric Should We Strive For?
First, don’t strive for professional sound. It’s not going to happen. You'll either drive yourself nuts, burn out or go bankrupt. Your metric should be bedtime story or campfire story. That recommendation was from my brother who has worked in sound for 13 years. Record the whole book like you’re talking to your friends. That is your strength. You know the material. You know where the inflections should be. You won’t be PROFESSOR MONOTONE. (and arguably when I was listening to pro narrators, that’s what I heard. Professor Monotone or Whisper Wendy. If you listen to erotica narrators, you’re going to hear Breathy Barb or Porn Star Patty.) Even if you write erotica, you don’t want any of those guys in your book. They’re obnoxious. I’m telling ya, those guys will piss your listeners off faster than your nose whistle.
What Should You Do Before You Record?
If you are worried about your voice, record a chapter. Get it on youtube, then post that to your social media. Ask your friends how your voice sounds. Not the quality of the audio, your voice specifically. If you sound like nails on a chalkboard to your listeners, you really shouldn’t record your own books. The good news is that I’ve only ever heard about three people I couldn’t listen to. One of them was the lady that played in the Nanny. The other two had high, breathy voices.
If your complaint is that you hate your voice, get over it. If you don’t do your books yourself, you are looking at between $200 and $500 upfront per book (at the $50-$100 an hour setting) or splitting your audiobook royalties for the next 7 years. You can double-check that 7 year thing, but I think that’s what I saw in the one contract I did read. And you do NOT set your audiobook price. The platforms do. You are not wholly in control of your royalty amounts here. You can get either 40% or 20% of whatever price THEY set.
How Should You Start?
Start with a small book or a book that doesn’t sell. There’s a good chance that if you’re not selling print or ebooks of X book, they won’t buy the audio either, so if you fuck it up royally, no one cares. This is the same thing I tell you about professional editors. It doesn’t matter how well that book is edited if no one reads it. It doesn’t matter how bad or good the audio is if no one listens to it. So, find a practice book. I started with my Naughty Reads. These are books that are between 8,000 and 10,000 words.
How to Do Your Audiobook
1. Record the audio book. You can start with a paragraph or chapter. Up to you.
2. Listen to it. Is it good, bad, terrible, passable? If it’s passable, it’s time to start cleaning it up.
3. Take out all the clicks and pops. This are itty bitty dots and dashes, usually in the middle of the dead space. When working inbetween two sentences, do NOT get too close to that front sentence. You will cut off your Ks and Ds.
4. Remove huge gaps. Look at the average gap between sentences and cut them all about equal.
5. Look at your big cuts or your stops and restarts. These are very thick lines. Your biggest audio problems are going to come where you stopped and restarted.
6. Run Normalize
7. Run the compressor
8. Take your peak amplify down to -3.5
9. Listen to it, and I don’t mean listen to it while you’re focusing solely on the audio. Do ANYTHING else while listening to it. If you hear something that makes you go – WTF, run back to your computer, backup, fix it. Those are the things your listeners are going to hear because the bulk of your listeners probably aren't sitting on the couch with a set of headphones in. They are probably cleaning the house, taking care of kids, driving, yada yada. You want to simulate that listening experience.
10. For the really really obnoxious breathes where you sound like you just ran a marathon, go to Effects, Amplify and set it to -8 or -12. Deamplify it.
11. Look for your air conditioner or furnace. If you have central AC or a furnace, it will be picked up by your mic. Find that noise and noise reduce it.
12. Export it as an MP3
13. Once you get your whole audiobook recorded, listen to it from ACX, preferably while you’re reading your own material. You might as well fix the last of those typos and reupload the ebook and print books after you send the audio off to be approved. That's another benefit of doing your own audiobooks. You WILL find the last of your typos, and you're not wasting time just listening to your book while you are editing. You are creating an audiobook that can be published.
I've found that doing any more than I've listed results in overprocessing and puts an echo in the file. You can try doing a few other things, like adjusting the bass and treble and running equalize on the bass setting, but those may or may not help. You're best off just letting the audio stand on its own. Although, if it's really really terrible, rerecord the chapter. I wouldn't recommend trying to record a sentence and cutting and pasting it in. I haven't had good luck with that because that single sentence sounds extremely different than the rest of the recording.
The other thing to note is that you're probably going to like your initial recording better than the ACX passable recording. That just is what it is.
An initial recording of Avia Chapter 20 that's been declicked and normalized. (AKA: It's been processed to step 4.)
A finished Recording of Avia 1 chapter 1. The fun part about this one is that the entire chapter is a tongue twister. I rerecorded this chapter 3 times. This is the best it's ever going to get. From a writing/editing standpoint, this chapter is overwritten, compared to how I write now, and the audio is almost overprocessed. I was still nailing my processing when I was doing this. If you want to know whether this is small or just non-selling, it doesn't sell. I couldn't sell one of these if hell froze over first. (I do have books that sell. This just isn't one of them.)