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Harnessing AI Voices for Audiobook Self-Publishing: A Comprehensive Guide

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With the rise of digital narration and the expanding audiobook market, many self-publishing authors are exploring novel ways to produce high-quality audiobooks....

With the rise of digital narration and the expanding audiobook market, many self-publishing authors are exploring novel ways to produce high-quality audiobooks. One emerging trend is the use of artificial intelligence (AI) technology, specifically AI voices, to narrate their works. This article delves into the potential of AI voices in audiobook narration, focusing on platforms like Amazon's Audible and ACX, and the process of creating and self-publishing an audiobook.

Does Audible Allow AI Narration?

As of my knowledge cutoff in September 2021, Audible, one of the largest audiobook retailers, did not officially accept AI voices for audiobook production. Amazon's ACX (Audiobook Creation Exchange) had guidelines recommending professional narrators, typically human, to maintain the quality of narrated audiobooks. Both services favored human narrators, with their unique emotional range and nuanced delivery, over synthetic voices. Authors considering AI narration should review the latest guidelines.

Does ACX Accept AI Voice?

ACX, which facilitates audiobook publishing for indie and self-publishing authors, traditionally leaned towards human voice actors. It offered a platform for authors to connect with professional narrators to produce high-quality audiobooks. Although it hadn't officially accepted AI voices by 2021, authors should check for any policy updates.

How to Make an Audiobook with AI?

Creating an audiobook with AI involves several steps. First, you select a text-to-speech (TTS) software or app that offers a range of AI voices. Many of these services provide natural-sounding, high-quality AI voices that can be used for audiobook narration. After selecting the voice, you input your text (non-fiction, fiction, etc.) into the software, which converts the text into audio files. These audio files may need some post-production editing to ensure a seamless listening experience. Keep in mind that an AI narrator, even with today's advanced AI technology, might lack the emotional depth and variability of human voice actors.

How to Self-Publish an Audiobook?

To self-publish an audiobook, you start by recording your book, either in your own voice or using a voiceover artist (human or AI). Once the audio files are ready and edited, you submit them to an audiobook publishing platform such as ACX, Findaway Voices, or others. These platforms will then distribute your audiobook to various retailers, including Audible, Amazon, Apple Books, Google Play, Kobo, and more.

How much does it cost to self publish an audiobook?

The cost of self-publishing an audiobook can vary widely, depending on several factors:

  1. Narration: If you hire a professional voice actor, this can be the most significant cost. Fees can range anywhere from $100 to $500 per finished hour (PFH) or more, depending on the experience and demand for the narrator. If you opt to narrate the book yourself or use an AI voice, this cost can be significantly reduced.
  2. Editing and Post-production: After the narration, your audio will need to be edited and mastered to ensure a high-quality final product. Professional audio editing services can charge from $50 to $100 per hour. If you have the skills to do this yourself, you can save on these costs.
  3. Audiobook Cover: While you might be able to adapt your existing book cover, many authors choose to hire a designer for a more polished look. This can cost anywhere from $50 to several hundred dollars.
  4. Distribution: Platforms like ACX, Findaway Voices, and others often take a percentage of each sale as their fee. ACX, for example, takes 40-60% depending on whether you grant them exclusive distribution rights. Other platforms, like Findaway Voices, have different pricing structures.
  5. Marketing: Don't forget the cost of promoting your audiobook. This might include advertising, sending review copies, and other marketing strategies.

Given these variables, the cost of self-publishing an audiobook could range from a few hundred dollars to several thousand dollars. Using AI voices for narration could potentially reduce costs, making it a more accessible option for authors on a budget. However, it's essential to remember that investing in quality narration and production can lead to a better listener experience and ultimately, more audiobook sales.

Can You Publish an Audiobook with AI Voice?

Yes, you can publish an AI-narrated audiobook, provided you select a platform that accepts AI voices. Notably, some emerging platforms like Descript allow the creation of 'Overdub' voices (synthetic voices based on your own voice), offering another AI-powered option for independent authors. However, always check the platform's guidelines.

How do I self publish my audiobook?

Publishing your audiobook involves several key steps, which include recording, editing, formatting, and finally, distributing it on various platforms. Below is a general guide on how to publish your audiobook:

1. Complete Your Manuscript: Ensure your manuscript is complete, edited, and ready for narration. You might need to adapt it for audio, as some phrases and formats that work in writing don't translate well to audio.

2. Choose Your Narrator: Decide whether you will be the narrator or hire a professional voice actor. You can also consider using AI technology for narration. Whichever choice you make, ensure it aligns with your target audience's expectations.

3. Record the Audiobook: Record the narration in a quiet and soundproof environment to ensure the audio quality is high. If you're working with a professional narrator, they'll handle this part.

4. Edit and Master the Audio Files: The raw audio files will need to be edited for mistakes, unwanted noise, and long pauses. After editing, the audio must be mastered to meet the specific technical requirements of the publishing platform.

5. Prepare the Audiobook Cover Art: Audiobooks require cover art just like ebooks and printed books. It should be a square version of your original cover to meet most platforms' specifications.

6. Choose a Distribution Platform: Decide where you want to distribute your audiobook. You can use a platform like ACX (Audiobook Creation Exchange), which distributes to Amazon, Audible, and iTunes. Other options include Findaway Voices, which distributes to over 40 platforms including Google Play, Kobo, and Spotify.

7. Upload Your Audiobook: Follow the instructions provided by your chosen platform to upload the audio files and cover art. You'll also need to provide details about the audiobook, like the title, author's name, and a description.

8. Set Your Price and Publish: On some platforms like ACX, you don't set the price - it's determined based on the length of your audiobook. On others like Findaway Voices, you can set your own price. Once everything is set, you can publish your audiobook. It'll be reviewed by the platform and, if approved, made available for sale.

Remember that each audiobook platform has its own set of guidelines and requirements, so always check and adhere to these to ensure your audiobook is accepted.

What is the cost of self-publishing an audio book?

The cost of self-publishing an audiobook can vary greatly based on several key factors:

1. Narration: If you hire a professional voice actor for the narration, this could be your most significant expense. Professional narrators may charge anywhere from $100 to $500 per finished hour (PFH) or more, depending on their experience and reputation.

2. Editing and Mastering: After recording, your audio files will need to be edited to remove mistakes and ensure a smooth listening experience. You'll also need to master the audio to meet the quality standards of audiobook platforms. Depending on the length of your audiobook and the rates of the audio editor, this could cost from $50 to $100 per hour or more.

3. Audiobook Cover Design: Your audiobook will need a cover, and it may cost you if you hire a professional designer. This could be anywhere from $50 for a basic design to $500 or more for a custom, high-end cover.

4. Distribution: Depending on the platform you choose for distributing your audiobook, there might be associated costs. For example, ACX (Amazon's audiobook publishing platform) operates on a royalty share system, where you give up a certain percentage of your royalties instead of paying an upfront fee.

5. Promotion and Marketing: Any advertising or promotional activities that you undertake to get your audiobook in front of potential buyers will add to your overall costs.

If you decide to use AI for narration, it could potentially reduce your costs, particularly for narration and editing. However, there might be costs associated with the AI software. Remember that while AI can save costs, the quality of AI voices, while constantly improving, may not match the emotional depth and expressive range of a human narrator.

In summary, self-publishing an audiobook can range from several hundred dollars to a few thousand dollars, depending on the choices you make at each step of the process. It's important to balance cost-saving measures with the goal of producing a high-quality product that listeners will enjoy.

What is the process for making a self-published audiobook?

Creating and self-publishing an audiobook is a multi-step process that involves careful planning and execution. Here's a basic outline of the process:

1. Preparation: Start with a completed and thoroughly edited manuscript. It may need some adaptations for audio. For example, visual cues or footnotes might not make sense in an audio format.

2. Narration: Decide who will narrate your book. You can do it yourself, hire a professional narrator, or use AI technology. Make sure the voice fits the tone and style of your book.

3. Recording: If you or another human is narrating, you'll need a quiet, sound-proof space with good acoustics. If you're using AI narration, you'll input your text into the chosen AI voice software.

4. Editing: This step involves removing mistakes, long pauses, background noise, and making sure the audio flows smoothly. This can be done using audio editing software.

5. Mastering: Once edited, the audio needs to be 'mastered' to ensure it meets the technical requirements of the platform where you'll upload it. This can involve adjusting the volume levels, ensuring a consistent sound, and checking the specs of your audio files.

6. Cover Design: Prepare a cover for your audiobook that meets the specifications of the publishing platform. It's often a square version of your book cover.

7. Publishing: Choose a distribution platform for your audiobook, such as ACX, Findaway Voices, or others. You'll upload your audio files, cover, and book details. After the platform's review process, your audiobook will be published and made available on various retailers.

8. Marketing: Promote your audiobook through various channels, including social media, email newsletters, your website, and more. This is crucial to driving sales and gaining reviews.

Remember, each step requires careful attention to detail. Quality production, an engaging narrative voice (whether human or AI), and effective marketing are all essential for a successful self-published audiobook.

Top 8 AI Audiobook Narration Software/Apps

  1. Speechify Voice Over: Speechify Voice Over is the premium AI voice over app that you can use to easily convert any book you wrote into an audiobook.
  2. Google Text-to-Speech: Provides natural-sounding AI voices, supports multiple languages, and allows customization.
  3. Amazon Polly: Offers a wide range of lifelike voices and supports multiple languages and dialects.
  4. IBM Watson Text to Speech: Has a variety of voices, supports fine-tuning, and even includes emotion and emphasis options.
  5. Microsoft Azure Cognitive Services Speech Service: Includes natural-sounding text-to-speech voices and supports customization.
  6. Apple's Siri: Provides high-quality AI voices and integrates seamlessly with Apple products.
  7. ReadSpeaker: Known for high-quality TTS voices, it offers extensive customization options.
  8. Descript: Allows the creation of 'Overdub' voices based on your own voice.
  9. iSpeech: Offers high-quality voices and supports multiple languages, with several options for voice tones and speeds.

Overall, the rise of AI voices opens new opportunities for authors in the audiobook market. Whether you're narrating a novel, non-fiction, or a podcast, these tools can help you reach your audience with a quality audio version of your work.

Cliff Weitzman

Cliff Weitzman

Cliff Weitzman is a dyslexia advocate and the CEO and founder of Speechify, the #1 text-to-speech app in the world, totaling over 100,000 5-star reviews and ranking first place in the App Store for the News & Magazines category. In 2017, Weitzman was named to the Forbes 30 under 30 list for his work making the internet more accessible to people with learning disabilities. Cliff Weitzman has been featured in EdSurge, Inc., PC Mag, Entrepreneur, Mashable, among other leading outlets.