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I’ve always had a sneaky suspicion that recording an audiobook is way harder than people think. One question I’ve had is: how long does it takes to record an audiobook? I decided to find out out.
Recording and editing an audiobook requires on average of 3.5 hours per finished hour of audiobook. Recording can take shorter or longer depending on certain preparations, audio content, reader proficiency, and recording practices.
So what are the secrets to recording an audiobook as quickly as possible? It turns out there are some things you can do to make things much faster.
How Long Does It Take To Record An Audiobook?
I looked through some data of actual regular people making audiobooks and the answers varied a lot. There are a lot of reasons for this, including the actual skill of the reader, i.e. how many times does the reader mess up and misspeak, to the kind of book the reader was reading, to even how much of a perfectionist the reader/editor is.
I think that explains why I saw numbers ranging from 2 hours per finished hour of audio, all the way to 10 hours per finished hours of audio. That includes recording and editing.
The average of what data I could find was around 3.5 hours of recording and editing to produce 1 hour of finished audio.
From 11 different audiobooks and genres, I found that the audiobook reader averaged 1.71 minutes per page. With the range being anywhere from 1 minute (at the fastest) to 2.52 minutes (at the slowest).
Putting All the Data Together
We have to accept that all this stuff will be imperfect, but this should give a rough idea of how long it will take to record an audiobook.
How long will it take to record a 350 page audiobook?
“On average, readers report a 350 page audiobook will be around 10 hours of audio, and will take around 35 hours to record and edit.“
In my own opinion, I doubt that even someone who is careful counts all the time it really takes. If you are trying to budget your time, I would double all these estimates until you find your own rate. Better to overprepare than underprepare.
If you are doing it yourself and are not experienced, you can count on twice that number as it takes a while to get into a groove.
How Long Does It Take To Narrate 10,000 Words?
I did my best to get wordcounts (or approximations of wordcounts) and I arrived at 158 words per minute. This actual wordcount is not available for many books. However I did find lots of examples some and made some reasonable estimates.
Using this average, you can extrapolate the following figures:
- To narrate 10,000 words: ~63 minutes
- To narrate 20,000 words: ~2 hour and 6 minutes
- To narrate 30,000 words: ~3 hours and 9 minutes
These numbers are from professional audiobook readers. They have learned the art of pacing and they are less likely to mess up than an amateur. Even professionals have to re-record so it’s likely an actual recording session can be upwards of twice the actual finished recording.
Furthermore, the genre can really make a difference as to the speed of reading. A book with technical jargon is going to take a lot longer because the reader will have to slow down or practice unfamiliar words.
A fantasy novel has other challenges, such as impossible to pronounce mythical locations–but usually these names repeat, and often fantasy novels are very long so it evens out. For example, the famous Wheel of Time series read by Michael Kramer and Kate Reading read at around 161 words per minute.
How To Improve Recording and Editing Speeds
It takes *so* much work to record an audiobook, but there are many things that can lengthen out the process. Roadblocks such as technology, difficult words to pronounce, aside from the regular rigor of recording a book in the first place.
What can you do?
Fortunately there are many tricks of the trade that can really help the recording process:
Reading out loud is challenging. It’s a rare person that can pick up a manuscript and read it without ever reading it before and be able to do it smoothly without any issues.
It’s practically impossible to not only get the words right, but the feel of the passage without running through the words first before recording.
Use Stop Signals
If you’re recording in a studio, consult your studio professional on how they want to handle flubs. They are going to happen so it’s best to be prepared.
If you’re editing on your own, an easy to make editing easier is to make a visual landmark in the audio file so that while editing you can find the mistake quickly and fix it.
While recording, if you make a mistake you can use a distinct sound that is unmistakable (something other than your voice) such as a gentle snap of your fingers and this will show up as a certain waveform in the recording( you might have to experiment with your setup to find out what works best for you). The waveform gives a visual reference for yourself later on that there was a mistake here and to fix it.
After you wait a few seconds for the residual echo to clear (and your brain to un-fog), you can than repeat the problem area starting with a sentence or so before the problem area so can splice the new sentence in.
Record and Edit In Batches
This is up to the individual, but some find a performance improvement if they record and edit as they go. So you record a passage (whether it be few pages or a chapter), and immediately go through and edit what you just read.
This may not necessarily be faster, but you’ll remember your mistakes a lot better and you’ll discover early any recording problems (such as noise, etc.) earlier on. If you get in a groove, you can extend the passages that you read before you take an editing turn.