How to Produce and Distribute Your Own Audiobook

Make Your Own Audiobook

If you create an audio version of your book, you can make CDs, stream it on your website, offer it as an MP3 download, or serialize it in podcast format. Make your own audiobook and gain new readers.

Suddenly you’ve transformed everyone who owns a smartphone into a potential customer. And amidst the usual bustles (commuting, grocery shopping, going to the gym, cooking dinner) people love to listen to audiobooks. So why not make your own audiobook?

Of course not every author is lucky enough to work with a professional audiobook company, but that doesn’t mean you have to be entirely shut out of the game.

Yes, it’s possible — even EASY — to produce and make your own audiobook.

Budget to record your audiobook

You’re not going to have to spend a fortune to make your own audiobook, but you’re going to have to spend some money to get it done right. Start saving, or take the expenses out of the funds you’ve set aside for your marketing budget.

Find the “talent”

No. I’m not asking you to go on some creative vision-quest. You’re already talented (at writing)!

But what about dramatic reading? Can you clearly switch the tonality of your voice to match the character or mood? If not, start recruiting.

The good news: you only need to find ONE good person. They might be hiding out in a local theater troupe or a college drama department; they might be a radio DJ or someone who does commercial voiceover work.

Once you’ve found ’em, discuss the project and your limited budget. See if they’ll work for a reduced rate (since you’re doing this indie-style) over a long weekend.

You’ll probably need them for 1-3 days, depending on the length of your book.

Locate a professional home studio in your area

You’re not recording a concept album with full orchestra. It’s just going to be one reader and one microphone. That means you don’t need to be in the fanciest studio. A professional home-studio will do.

I recommend asking around within your local music community to get recommendations for a reliable audio engineer who works out of a home studio. Who works efficiently? Who captures pro-sounding audio with limited recording equipment? Who’s affordable?

Because recording a single person reading into a microphone requires far less hustle than tracking a 6-piece band, you may be able to get a slight discount on that engineer’s usual hourly or daily rate.

Oh, and you’ll probably need to book another day or two with the engineer to piece all the audio files together, add any effects (compression or EQ), and get it into shape for mastering and distribution.

Do your audiobook “pre-production” work

You want everyone involved in this project to deliver their best. Meet once or twice with the talent before you go into the studio.

Essentially, you’ll be acting as the producer and director of this project, but you need to work collaboratively with the reader. They’ll need to feel comfortable in order to give their best performance, and your trust will go a long way. However, come to your pre-production meeting prepared with ideas and constructive suggestions so that the reader isn’t approaching the text “blind.”

Similarly, you should meet with the audio engineer once before the session begins. Unless you have experience in a recording studio, it’s best to let the engineer “do what they do” — but you don’t want to be left in the dark either. Be open about your own limited knowledge of recording techniques and technology. Hopefully they can explain to you the basics of their approach so that you’ll feel comfortable with the choices they make during the session.

Remember: it’s the engineer’s job to capture a “hot” signal without any clipping (meaning: a loud, clear sound without distortion). It’s NOT their job to make magic happen. Magic will happen when all 3 of you are focused on what you each do best.

Also, make sure you’re on the same page about how the book will be broken up in terms of recording. Will there be separate audio sessions (different files/tracks) per chapter? Or are you just going to hit record and let it rip?

Whatever system you use, make sure it’s set in stone before you press ‘record.’

Record your audiobook

Go time! You’re going to record a whole audiob00k in 3 days; budget those minutes wisely. (Oh, and if you can help it — don’t work with people who need to take frequent smoke breaks — they’ll waste plenty of those minutes on your dime).

Pay close attention to the performance of the first chapter. Get it right, because that is what’s going to suck the listener further into your book. If you can finish more than 1/3rd of the book on the first day, great! That’ll leave you time at the end for touch-up work and editing.

If there are any obvious mistakes or awkward moments in the reading, go back and fix them right away, but keep your own notes on any moments that may seem lackluster (make sure to mark down the info for chapter/track/file/minutes/seconds). If you have time on the final day, go back to those sections and record them again.

“Mix” and master your audiobook

After the reader has finished reading, you and the engineer will need to go back through the sessions and piece it all together. Choose which takes you like best. Get it all in order. Apply any additional compression or EQ that is needed (they’ll know) — and print it (meaning: they’ll give you the final product on a CD, file, or drive).

Choose your audiobook format

Do you want to sell CDs of your audiobook? CD Baby can help you professionally and affordably manufacture any quantity of your audiobook on compact disc and ship them to you in a matter of days. For a quote, click HERE.

If you only want to sell a digital version of your audiobook, get your book designer to modify the existing book cover slightly (be sure to include the reader’s name).

Distribute your audiobook

For a one-time setup fee, CD Baby will warehouse your audiobook CDs and ship them to customers around the world!

You can also offer it as an MP3 download on your own website, or create a podcast that releases one new chapter per week.

Recording and selling an audiobook not only opens up a new revenue stream for your writing, but it can also be a great way to interest new readers in your book. Some of those people might never pick up your physical book or eBook, whereas an audiobook fits neatly into their lives. Don’t miss the chance to capture those new fans!

Have you recorded an audiobook, or had your book turned into an audiobook? Let us know all about the process in the comments section below.


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Chris Robley is an award-winning poet, songwriter, performer, and music producer who now lives in Portland, Maine after more than a decade in Portland, Oregon. His music has been praised by NPR, the LA Times, the Boston Globe, and others. Skyscraper Magazine said he is “one of the best short-story musicians to come along in quite some time.” Robley’s poetry has been published or is forthcoming in POETRY, Prairie Schooner, Poetry Northwest, Beloit Poetry Journal, RHINO, Magma Poetry, and more. He is the 2013 winner of Boulevard's Poetry Prize for Emerging Writers and the 2014 recipient of a Maine Literary Award in the category of "Short Works Poetry."


  1. Excellent – thank you for these tips and ideas. I would very much like to put my upcoming book out as an audiobook, especially for visually impaired readers, and this has given me ideas of where to start

  2. My book will be published soon by Christian Faith Publishing and I want to make it also available to the millions of Truck Drivers I know who can use its contents to improve the overall quality of their lives. I learn a lot of new thoughts and ways of life by listening to audio books as I drove for twenty plus years. I called my truck “the rolling university” because I look to it as way to learn something new while I spent those boring hours behind the wheel. That way the time wan’t wasted as I traveled from state to state.

    I want you folks to contact me so I can begin the process of making an audio version of my book.

  3. Hi Chris, thank you for Your well timed advice. I had a cd made in studio a number of years ago called White Linen. It’s my autobiography which started off as a book which sold well and is on Amazon. I have been encouraged to get this recording out to a wider audience and would value any advice you could give me. Thanks, Rose Lunt.
    Ps my website is out of date but can still be viewed.

  4. I record the draft version of my audio book before publishing the book.
    I have my own studio, so why not?!
    It helps A LOT with final proofreading!
    Of course, I polish it later to release when the time is right!


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