Audiobooks for Fun and Profit – Part 2: Narrating Your Own Book

Last month we talked about whether or not you should narrate your own audiobook: a time-intensive but potentially lucrative way to add elements to your publishing empire. If you came out of that article thinking “no, thanks,” then move on with your day. This isn’t for you.

If you’re still here, that means you’re considering narrating your own audiobook. That’s great!

Done right, it can escalate you into the elite authors who commit that much to their careers. Let's talk about how to get ready to record. We’ll look at the gear you need, your recording area, and the decision about whether or not your voice is the right voice for your story. 

Ready? Let’s get started. 

The Hardware

Don’t let the amateurs just using their phones and the free headphones fool you. You need better gear than that if you want to record a good-sounding audiobook. 

Don’t let the professionals with their setups that make a Hollywood sound engineer weep with envy fool you. The gear you need to make an audiobook sound good isn’t that expensive. You’re going to need the following items:

  • A microphone. Look into “podcasting microphones” with a Google search to choose what suits you best, and with an Amazon search to find the best price. You don’t need to spend more than $150 on this, and can likely find a perfectly acceptable solution as low as $40.
  • A pop filter. These inexpensive screens go between your mouth and your microphone, and filter out the pops and whistles from letters like b, p, and s as you exhale into the microphone. They run less than $20 and improve the quality of your audiobook recording substantially.
  • A computer. You can get by with a tablet, but really a laptop will have better components and run more options for software (more on that in a minute). Laptops work better than desktops here because they run quieter. Recording and editing audio files isn’t that resource-intensive, so the laptop you replaced recently can do just fine if you use it for this task only moving forward.
  • Headphones. These don’t need to be fancy at all, since their only job is to let you hear what you’re saying while you say it. Use a simple pair of headphones, without a microphone attached, for best results. Wireless/bluetooth options can be good since they won’t come out of your ears when you shift position. 

You can spend a lot of money on extras and upgrades, but there’s really no reason to do that. Start small with your first audiobook, then spend some of the profits to get better equipment for your next recording. 

The Software

With your hardware in order, you also need software on your computer that records the audio well and converts it into a usable file. In the bad old days, this required multiple different pieces of software, not all of which worked and played well together. Now, though, you can install a single program to do everything you need it to. 

Although hundreds of options exist, really four are worth the most consideration. Each is better for a certain kind of audiobook author. 

  • Audacity is a free and open source software that provides all the tools you need with a simple interface. It’s best for people working on a budget and/or who have minimal audio mixing skills. My first few audiobooks were initially recorded using Audacity.
  • Pro Tools costs between $10-$99/month or $$99-$599/year and is so robust it’s been the mainstay of the indie music scene for decades. If you’re a dedicated audiophile with the editing chops to put the tools here to use, it’s worth the investment. Otherwise, stick with the simpler, less expensive options.
  • Adobe Audition costs $32 a month (or $252 per year, up to $50/month if you want access to all of Adobe's tools), and offers a pretty flexible setup that will do most of what hobbyists want out of audio software. It’s the best bet for intermediate players in this field and I've used it in the past for some of my audiobooks. Adobe often offers a 2-week free trial if you'd like to see how it works.
  • offers the best mix of functionality and price, with a one time fee of $60 for a personal license or $225 for a business license. (You can use it commercially with a personal license as long as your author business brings in less than $20,000 per year.) They offer a whopping 60-day free trial, which should let you put it through it's paces for an entire book before you even need to purchase a license.

One last piece of advice on this. Once you choose your software, stick with it. The learning curve is an issue for all four — and for any kind of audio or video editing program. If you quit one, you have to start learning all over again. For most people, the difference between them isn’t big enough to warrant re-learning the interface. 

The Recording Cave

Great recording equipment and the right software won’t do you much good if you’re recording in a train station or construction site. That’s a bit of an exaggeration, but sound quality depends at least as much on where you record as what you record with. 

You do not have to set up a full recording studio in a spare room of your house, although it can be fun to do that if you have the space and money. All you really need to do is take care of two factors.

Background Noise

Some background noise you can’t do anything about. If you live next to an airport, you’ll need to record when flights are few and far between. If you have a big family and four dogs, they’ll probably need to go to the park during your sessions. 

Other noises, though, you can reduce or eliminate with just a few small details about your recording space.

  • Have a door that closes, preferably with a sign on the other side reminding people you’re on the air. 
  • Put curtains (not blinds) over the windows and glass exterior doors to minimize outside sounds. 
  • Choose a location with few vents, or cover the vents while recording. 
  • Put distance between noisy areas in your home and you by choosing a spot that’s out of the main traffic areas.
  • Replace fluorescent bulbs. Their buzz picks up disproportionately on most microphones. 

You’ll also benefit from checking out your home for big noise makers and making plans to keep their noise pollution out of your recording area, if only temporarily. 


Once you have good basic equipment and eliminate background noise, echoes are the next thing that are likely to mess up your sound quality. Flat walls and hard surfaces bounce sound waves back to you and distort the recording. This messes up your sound quality, and hurts your audiobook. 

The cure for this is to create sound absorption. Put soft surfaces in your recording area. Soft surfaces like clothing on hangers, curtains, quilts or blankets, bookshelves, or the soundproofing pads you can buy online for a couple of bucks per square foot. 

When sound waves hit that sort of thing, they get absorbed. They don’t bounce back, and you don’t pick up echoes. 

It’s most important to have absorbent materials in front of you when you record. You send the most sound in that direction, so that’s where your biggest risk and highest point of return will be. 

Pro Tip: If you have a walk-in closet, it can be perfect for recording. You’re in a small room with a closed door, that has an extra room of insulation from the rest of the house, and you are surrounded by clothing. Just be mindful that you remain hydrated and don't overheat, especially if you are using an older laptop.


Before you record for real, take a couple of test recordings. Start with just a minute or so, to make sure your gear works, you’ve plugged it all in, and you’re running what software you need. 

Move on from there to a five-to-ten minute recording, maybe one chapter from your book. Pay attention to what’s hard for you and easy for you. Note when you start to slur and need a break. To minimize your mouth noises, stay well hydrated and brush your teeth before each session. Consider keeping a cup of apple juice nearby. Listen to the final product to identify problems. 

Go solve those problems and test again. Keep repeating the process until you’re happy with the result. Then, and only then, you can go ahead and record your whole book. 

Not sure that recording your own audiobook is for you, but still want to produce one? In part 3, we talk about how to hire a narrator for your audiobook, followed by a discussion about auto-narrated books using artificial intelligence. Finally, we discuss how to sell your books and get them into the hands of your readers.

Alternatively, have you just finished recording your audiobook and wondering how to get it into the hands of your readers? Check out training #364 on how to market your audiobooks.