Newbie! Need to know some basics before beginning to record audio book

Hello Audacity Forum, I’m brand new to this platform and audio recording space. I have an amazing Dad who wrote a fairly long autobiography of his life and had it published years ago and it was a best seller. He is now 98 years old and he wants to make an audio version of his book. I would like to help him get started (and finished :slight_smile: asap. He will also be doing some podcasts. He is a public figure. Is Audacity the right product for him? My next questions are as follows: How much space do we have on Audacity to record his book? I don’t want him to run out of space after hours of already recording.

My next questions are as follows:
2) Where is the audio recording stored?
3) How to back it up?
4) Is this a good choice for the audio book and to be able to share it with publishers or to publish it directly on the web?
5) Can it be converted into other formats if necessary?
6) Please also send me some resource links /preferably very simple videos to give me a brief (but thorough) tutorial about how to use Audacity for audio book recording and sharing to start.

Thank you very much,
Kim

Hello Kim,

I am also a newbie–well, I’ve been working on my audiobook for a number of months now, and I’ve learned an awful lot by using Audacity and especially on this forum.

There are true experts that help out on this forum, and I’m sure you’ll hear from them (e.g. Koz). But to try to get you some early answers, and maybe for me to give a little back, I’ll share some things I’ve learned. I will not be offended whatsoever when they correct any stupid things I say!

Is Audacity the right product for him?

I would say yes. It is very capable. It is free and well-supported. This forum provides good assistance.

How much space do we have on Audacity to record his book?

Ok, no. Audacity is a program (application) that runs on your PC ( or Mac). The recordings your dad makes will be stored on the PC’s storage, so on a hard disk drive or solid-state drive (SSD).

Read as many forum threads as you can about getting set up and started. Your dad’s “recording studio” and equipment are probably the most important things in the whole process. The studio needs to have as little noise as possible–no garbage trucks or trains or sirens. Turn off the A/C fans if you can hear them at all. Turn off other computers if they have fans running. If the recording PC (tower or laptop) has running fans, put it down and away and isolate the microphone from that sound. Koz and the others have successfully beat into my brain how important the original recording is. You do not want your dad to have to record his whole book a second or third time. So set up the studio and have your dad practice, and then submit a RAW unprocessed WAV file here:

https://www.kozco.com/tech/audacity/TestClip/Record_A_Clip.html

Equipment – I’ve been learning the hard way. I started using the boom microphone on my EPOS Sennheiser GSP 300 Headset. Big mistake. The mic is too close to the mouth and picks up plosives (e.g. bursts of air during “p” sounds) and sibilance (strong “esss” during “s” sounds). Also, a noise-cancelling mic is a no-no. But your dad does need a closed back headset. Listening to his recordings on speakers will not cut it for editing and mastering. So, I switched to using a Samson Q2U USB/XLR Dynamic Microphone, positioned obliquely to avoid plosives and sibilance, with good results so far. I use the USB interface to my laptop. XLR is supposedly “better”, but that requires additional hardware. My headset ($40) and mic ($70) are fairly low-end in price. But don’t rush to order–wait to hear recommendations from some others on here.

By the way, audio-only work is typically sampled at 44,100 Hz (44.1 kHz), and audio for video typically at 48,000 Hz (48 kHz). Because I am doing audio-only work, I set my mic to a sample rate of 44.1 kHz. Because otherwise the 48 kHz digital audio will eventually be resampled at 44.1 kHz, which should work fine, but why ask for trouble? (At 44.1 kHz sampling, the Nyquist frequency is about 22 kHz, which is above most human’s hearing.) In Windows 10, I right-click the Speakers icon (lower right on screen), Sounds, pick the mic, Properties, Advanced, Default Format.

Ok, back to the storage question. Audacity offers to save your work in “Audacity project” files. I don’t do that, because I’ve read on here that it’s better to go with the compatibility and safety of WAV files. If you don’t understand how audio is digitally stored, you’ll need to read up on that. Some formats are “lossless” meaning they don’t throw anything out to save storage space. Other formats are “lossy”, meaning they use less storage but throw away some things. So, for example, WAV files are lossless, and MP3 files are lossy. So you will NEVER store your dad’s original recordings in MP3 format, because every time you edit an MP3 things get worse.

When your dad finishes a section (like the preface or a chapter, or several chapters if he likes narrating in longer sessions), from Audacity you will EXPORT to a WAV file. The parameters you will use will be:

WAV, Mono, 44100 Hz, 32-bit float (always let Audacity work at 32-bit float)

Do everything in mono!

In File Explorer, you will make a directory (folder) for your dad’s audiobook. Inside that folder, you will make subdirectories. For example, you can name one “Raw WAV Files”. That is where you will point Audacity to save the raw recordings. Name each file in a smart way, like maybe “Chapter 1 Raw WAV File.wav”.

So now, finally to your question–how much space. For WAV, Mono, 44100 Hz, 32-bit float WAV files, I am seeing roughly 11 MB per minute. So in Microsoft Word (or wherever your dad’s autobiography is stored), get the total number of words (in Word, use Review, Word Count). Let’s say it’s 23,000 words. A reasonable narration rate is 155 words per minute (wpm), or 9,300 words per hour (wph). Note that this is not a GOAL, it is just a number that gets thrown around. Your dad should narrate at a speed that’s comfortable for him and the listener. So your dad’s book would take about (23,000 words)/(9,300 words/hour) = about 2.5 hours = around 150 minutes, which would take up like (150 minutes)(11 MB/min) = 1,650 MB, so less than 2 GB. That’s nothing. Then you will have other folders, like “Edited WAV Files”, “Quality Control WAV Files”, “Mastered WAV Files”, and finally “ACX-ready MP3 Files”. (Do ALL of your work in lossless WAV files; only encode to high bitrate MP3 files at the very end, before submission to ACX). KEEP ALL FILES! I doubt that all of your dad’s audiobook files will add up to more than 10 or 20 GB. So storage should not be an issue at all.

Where is the audio recording stored?

Answered above – on your computer storage drive(s).

How to back it up?

Ok, I am anal-retentive about backing up. You must do your backups to a different drive than the drive on which you are storing the original (and working) files.

This is what I do (for all my work, not just audio stuff):

a. I copy all files to an external USB hard drive. These are cheap. I have a 4 TB drive that is powered through the USB-C cable, so no other power cord.

b. I copy to a USB-3 flash drive (thumb drive). You can use a small 16 GB or something larger. I happen to use a 256 GB drive and some 64 GB drives. I carry them with me (honestly), so that I have backups that are offsite in case something happens.

c. I use a cloud backup service. You can use whatever you like. I happen to use Backblaze. This backs up all new files every night. I think it’s like 8 bucks a month.

Is this a good choice for the audio book and to be able to share it with publishers or to publish it directly on the web?

I believe so. It’s how I’m doing my audiobook.

You should know if you’re going to publish the audiobook online, you will pretty much have to go through Amazon’s Audible (and then add others). Which means submitting to ACX, which is part of Audible. So first the book needs to be already available to buy as an eBook on Amazon. And second, your final audiobook files need to meet ACX’s standards. The people on this forum can help teach you about that.

Can it be converted into other formats if necessary?

If you mean other file formats, yes, of course. But there will probably be no need.

Please also send me some resource links /preferably very simple videos to give me a brief (but thorough) tutorial about how to use Audacity for audio book recording and sharing to start.

I will let the experts recommend that best online video tutorials for you to view. You can just do a google search on “audacity training videos”, but be aware that some are old and Audacity evolves.

But for learning about the audiobook PROCESS, I highly recommend you go through the four-video series that Koz pointed me to:

You might also appreciate the discussion Koz and I have been having:

So… don’t let all of this scare you. The more you play around with it, the more sense it makes. I’m finally getting near the point of being ready to record. I only want to do that once! :slight_smile:

Please keep us informed!

Zash

IMO the latest version of Audacity, v3, is not as reliable as the previous version, v2.
v3 also takes up much more memory for the same duration project as v2.
I would not use Audacity v3 to create a long project like an audio book: it’s too laggy & flaky, (sorry, but it’s true).
I would use v2 or its free competitor OCENaudio to make the recording, or a standalone audio-recorder device.

As above, we can’t emphasize room noise enough.

Sit in your recording space and make a list of everything you can hear. Right this second I have two clocks ticking, the refrigerator, my office monitor hummy noises, the dog next door is lonely-barking, and there goes the westbound Metro Bus. That happens once an hour during the day.

You don’t realize how noisy your environment is.

I record in my quiet, echo-free, carpeted bedroom.

It’s not unusual for people to record at night when traffic dies down (and the dog goes to bed).

Also see recording in your car. Drive to a quiet place, turn the engine off, and have at it. You can record using a portable sound recorder or (gasp) your phone. The only people who insist on computer recording are makers of home microphones.

“Fix It Later (Fix It In Post)” is an invitation to a forever job. Each noise can take its own patch or correction and can introduce distortions and problems of its own.

You can’t fix noises that change. There is no filtering out the lonely dog or the Metrobus from your voice. You have to not record them.

Koz

Hi All,

And Kozikowski … I used to be Kozlowski! So, depending on how old you are, I may be the original Koz. No answer to that one needed! Haha!

I love the detail here re the Audacity and related tech. Yes, it is overwhelming and I shall reread and take this all step by step.

The practical info is priceless. So, as stated, my Dad is 98 years young and we need to keep it super simple for him! I love the idea of a good portable recording device which he can speak in at a very quite time and in a very quiet room. Because my parents are about an hour away, I’d love it if my pretty tech savvy 79 year old mom could easily download and send to me recordings my Dad makes so I can review and be the judge of the recording quality - likely chapter by chapter.

So now … More advice/enlightenment is needed:

  1. Recommendation for a portable device simple enough for my dad to use (a Harvard grad, but way back then … and he believes technology has complicated many things - can’t say I disagree ;-). And one that can be easily downloaded or uploaded (to where?) for me to review as we go, in a format which will be easily transferred or accepted by likely Audible.

  2. Speaking of Audible - An Amazon company. His book is on Amazon and another person? has done the Audible. We were unpleasantly surprised when we saw (and heard) that on Amazon and I need to get to the bottom of that issue. That is why we are not just recording directly on Audible. Because of his age and the time it may take to clear this up, I need to get him started ASAP on his own voice recording while I work on the legal issues. Does anyone have any advice on who to contact at Audible other than the Contact Us? I started down the path of the Contact Us and am at somewhat of a dead end. I need to also contact the publishing company, Sports Publishing (sold out to Sky Horse … I think). But if anyone knows anything about Amazon just pushing authors or maybe AI to read written books, please enlighten me.

First things first, I need to get him reading aloud ASAP to preserve his legacy!

Thanks for your help!

Mine means Herder of Goats. What does yours mean?

Say that again…?

His Book is available for me to buy on Amazon right now and somebody else has already performed and published the audiobook? Who is Sports Publishing?

Is the book a story? Does it have plot, characters, and setting? Unless the pathway to the paper book is clear and straightforward, ACX won’t even talk to you.

Audible/ACX used to have pretty good hands-on, touchy-feely with performers, producers, and artists. I can tell you who the reviewer was who read my work.

Then the pandemic hit and most of the staff called in sick. At that exact instant, everybody in the country with pulse, respiration, and heartbeat decided to read and submit for audiobooks. ACX went straight underwater…and stayed there. They discovered that they could strip out most human client contact and servicing, automate some of it, and people would keep right on playing.

There is no pre-publishing quality control of a short sample reading like there used to be. There is only submit finished chapters for The Whole Book with perfect sound, voice, theater, emphasis, and technical quality and hope to goodness you got everything right.
`

In my opinion, you should straighten out the book publishing crosses and then get someone to announce the book. It’s awkward enough interacting directly with a performer on the forum, but trying to solve third-party recording and sound problems would, again in my opinion, be unworkable.

“One of the forum elves tells me he thinks you should tell John’s wife to tell him to get closer to the microphone.”

Someone else may post.

Do either of them have an iPhone? There is Utility > Voice Memo which is a perfectly serviceable sound/voice recorder. Dig in Settings > Voice Memos > Audio Quality > [X]Lossless.

Assuming a quiet room, the setup can be as complicated as this. The microphone is on the bottom of the iPhone and should be aimed toward the performer.

The cable is just so the battery doesn’t run out. Do Not use the iPhone as a microphone to record on the computer.

I published a performance test.

https://www.kozco.com/tech/audacity/TestClip/Record_A_Clip.html

The iPhone will give you an M4A file, not WAV. Forward that along to the forum.
`

One of the ACX services is promotion and publicity of Readers for Hire.

Koz

Missed one.

ACX will not accept an AI reading.

Koz

Is that because they’re starting to do it themselves and don’t want the competition? :roll_eyes:

I don’t know but I found that in a relatively recent post. I know I have troubles with some lower quality YouTube presentations when they mis-pronounce a word here and there. Hey! There’s a robot.

ACX is still deteremined to avoid Distractions.
`

How would you solve the kimmyalex dilemma?

Koz

Handheld digital audio recorders are great, like ones made by Zoom (H1n gets good reviews). Get a 32GB micro SD card and he can record for hours and hours…

Or if he already has a phone, find a good recording app. I use and like Smart Recorder on Android. I don’t know what’s available for the i (Apple) devices. Phones these days have pretty good mics.

iPhone.

There is a trick to that. That laying on the desk thing is not an accident. That’s Pressure Zone Configuration (Microphone Design and Application, Burroughs, 1974). There are theater microphones that work this way. It doubles the good quality voice volume and halves the electronic noise.

I was able to produce an ACX quality voice track with this configuration (after Mastering) and I would have no trouble doing a book this way, given I cleaned up my lip smacks, tongue ticks, and glottal stops.

Darn those glottal stops.

The only catch is you can’t have a noisy house/floor/desk. There is no putting down the ceramic or metal coffee cup hard while you’re presenting.

There is the file transfer problem, but in a stretch, you can mail it to yourself. It is an iPhone, right?

Enjoy,

Koz

Writing that down…

This is a fully configured H1n recorder.

It’s stereo, so you will have the extra step of reducing to mono for production.

I figured out once how long you got to record on that chip, but it was weeks of continuous performance. That and you don’t need to make the backup emergency recording file. It’s already on the chip in the recorder.

I would kill to say I bought the paper towels at Piggly-Wiggly, but they’re really Costco/Kirkland.

That blue thing is a heavy furniture moving pad. It helps with noise.

Headphones are recommended to avoid volume swings while you’re recording. You are the performer and the recording engineer.

Koz

Awkward Question.

How long can the 98 year old man sit in one place?

Koz

The Starbucks is wearing off.

You can’t mix the blue furniture moving pad and the cellphone pressure zone recording. You can, oddly, put the H1n directly on the bare desk like the iPhone.

You can also put the iPhone on the Pig… sorry, paper towel roll, but you will get lower volume and higher background noise.

Note both the iPhone and the H1n are off to one side and not straight on? That helps suppress breath noises and P-Popping.

Koz

Christop, I searched Google Play Store for “Smart Recorder”. Is it Smart Voice Recorder by SmartMob? There’s a Smart Recorder: TapeVoice by CJSVM, but it’s for an outdated version of Android.

Thanks.

Zash

Fair warning. Be very careful about “Voice Recorders.” Most manufacturers apply processing, filters, and effects to the work whether you want them or not. This is the “quick memo” model (Remember to buy milk on your way home), not the Theatrical Presentation model.

ACX hates that.

Many voice recorders also force you to save the work in MP3. Never do production in MP3. It creates permanent quality damage which gets worse during editing.

I was really concerned when Apple removed Music Memo in favor of Voice Memo doing everything. After testing, I found that all Voice Memos does is apply a soft limiter which gently pushes voice volume down as needed. I can’t hear it working.

Voice Memos can be set for Lossless and delivers files in M4A format.

I don’t know anything about the Android tools. Someone else may post.

Koz

Hello All!

First of all, I’d like to say Thank You Very Much for all of this info! I have kids now who are freshly off from school and my attention has been distracted with them and my other various day jobs!

I have just printed this string and plan to sit down and read it thoroughly as soon as I get a moment. This is something I’d like to sort out before Father’s Day and present to my Dad very simply! (OMG! What ever happened to the days of piling up on cassette tapes and pushing record and speaking!? ) I hope I can synthesize all of this and make it simple for myself so I can thereby come to some decisions and make it simple for him. I have to admit, I’m slightly overwhelmed by the info (but a good problem to have for someone who doesn’t get overwhelmed very easily :wink:

Truthfully, I’m just very grateful for the level of detail and guidance here and I plan to pop into this forum again with questions when I get a minute to look this all over.

There are a few things I want to restate/better explain as questions were asked:
Yes, my dad wrote an autobiography of his life and it has been published and offered on Amazon for many years. I suggested he begin recording it on Audible a few months ago. I then searched up Audible to find out the process and see that the audio book already exists and it is not my Dad reading his book! I contacted Audible/ACX and plan to again contact them as I received a canned email back and also I plan to contact the publisher as well to get this all sorted out asap. But because of my Dad’s age, I want him to get started working on his version (the real version) of his book simultaneously as we work out the other issues and that’s why I popped into this forum! Can’t wait to figure this out!! - Kim

Yes, sorry, it is Smart Voice Recorder by SmartMob. The app itself is called “Smart Recorder”. I like it because it saves uncompressed audio (WAV), and it can calibrate the mic level (or use AGC). It also doesn’t do any speech/audio processing as far as I can tell.