Total Neophyte Needs Help Getting Started Recording my Tracks for an Audiobook

Hi, I’m using Audacity 3.0 and a on MacOS Big Sur 11.2.3. I’m brand new to Audacity and digital audio recording of any kind. (though I was a talk show host and audio producer 35 years ago, when we still cut tape with razor blades–nothing since then).

I’m recording an audiobook for a memoir I have coming out next fall. I’m working with an audio production company that is going to do all the editing and processing of the audiobook. I don’t have to edit or process the sound.

I’m doing the general narration and my character’s speech (there’s a lot of dialogue) and a professional actor (and the head of the audiobook company I’m working with) is going to voice all the other voices in the book. We’re going to be on Zoom together reading the scenes, each recording on our own computers. It’s a 90,000 word book, so we’re talking about a LOT of recording and a lot of files to manage.

I only need to know a few basics to get started and have been watching videos on line and going through the manual and have so far 1) downloaded audacity, 2) set it up with an external mic and recorded a test of my voice, 3) built a sound recording booth in my office closet, 4) Learned how to export a file at WAV 16 (the requested format). But i haven’t found some very basic answers to my very basic questions:

The project is the book. I’m assuming that each chapter will be recorded as a separate track, and I’m assuming i’ll be uploading them to Dropbox or something similar because I obviously can’t email such large files.

I can’t figure out how to open different tracks to record a new part of the book and have it be part of the same project. It seems like I just open a whole new project. “how to create a new track or stem” I can’t figure out how to do that–only how to start a whole new project.

I obviously want to save my work as I go along. I’m used to hitting command SAVE all the time when I’m writing–what’s the comparable process in audacity. I’m assuming I’d be saving the work to my own computer first and only when the chapter is done would I export it? Is that right or have i got that wrong.

And once I end a chapter or a track. how do I get rid of it so i can start a new one?

I’m wondering what length to make my files (whether to use the natural length of the chapters or something else)

If I make a mistake and want to go back and record over a section, I can’t figure out how to do that. the recording only picks up at the end of where I left off before.

wav files 16 bit 44.1Khz is what they’re asking for–Is this the same as the 16 bit PCM?

I know these are super elementary questions, but I’m not finding the answers.

I’d also love links to tips of anything that will help me with my voice (exercise before I start recording for the day, what to drink, etc). And anything else that would be helpful for me to review before I get started. I don’t even know what I should be asking.

I have my first test recording in a week and we’ll be doing our recording sessions throughout May–so any timely answers would be appreciated.

Thanks ahead for any help you can give me. I am not a techie, so the simpler the better.


I’m recording an audiobook for a memoir I have coming out next fall.

I assume with Audible/ACX. They have a New and Improved requirement that your audio production is of a book already for sale as paper or ebook on Amazon. Don’t get the publication order off. They make several cross-references in your application process.

Another requirement that’s not so new is your book has to be a story. Characters, Plot, Setting. I don’t think you’re going to have any trouble with that. It’s not silly. Forum posters have told us they plan to publish cookbooks and Yoga chants. There are desirable offshoots. I’m enjoying “Hero’s Journey” by Joseph Campbell. That’s a discussion of other people’s character, plot, and setting.

It’s going to take some time to address all that. There are a number of common mistakes and assumptions. No, you can’t ‘microphone purchase’ your way out of most recording errors. I just watched a video by Casey Neistat where he responded to the pile of questions about what camera to buy. Turns out he does quite a bit of recording on his phone. Nobody wants to hear that.

I’m doing the general narration and my character’s speech (there’s a lot of dialogue) and a professional actor (and the head of the audiobook company I’m working with) is going to voice all the other voices in the book.

Do you have assurances that that format is OK? People slide comfortably into Radio Theater—stingers, intro and outro themes, and background music. ACX isn’t always OK with that. I can’t prove this, but I suspect it’s pure copyright and attribution problems. This is a product for sale, not a fluffy podcast.

We’re going to be on Zoom together reading the scenes, each recording on our own computers.

One computer? Zoom likes to take over the computer when it’s working. It really, really likes doing that. It’s not fun when you’re both struggling to adjust “your” microphone. When you enter a Zoom call, it’s Zoom’s microphone. What you want is frequently irrelevant. You should bring that up with the production company. They may be old hands at managing that. My earlier clear-voice Skype recording was done on two computers, and my technically successful audiobook audition was done on a stand-alone sound recorder. Not a computer.

Wear headphones. Most audio distortion comes with Zoom having to manage hands-free echoes and sound direction. That brings up how to listen to your voice (very highly recommended) and the Zoom call at the same time.

You were golden until you said the “Zoom” word.

As we go.


I’m assuming that each chapter will be recorded as a separate track

Separate file. Think of how you’re going to identify each chapter/file. It’s pure bookkeeping. You can do it by date/chapter, but don’t use punctuation marks in the filename other than -dash- and underscore. Use ISO dates. Today is 2021-04-11. You will have to coordinate with the production company so your file system gets along with theirs. DO NOT use slashmarks /\ in a filename.

There are specifications for quiet Room Tone at the beginning and end of each chapter/file. You don’t just dive right in reading and it’s not manufactured silence. It’s actual background room sound. That’s what room tone is

Your production will be interesting because you two will have different room tone. ACX likes everything to match. Actually, they hate distractions. Pumping background sound is a distraction, and zero background sound isn’t so good, either. That can cause voice distortions.

I need to drop for a while.


Audacity doesn’t save sound files. It saves Projects which, in the case of 3.0.0, are single, unique files that save production information such as tracks, configurations, etc. I think it’s still true they do not save UNDO. You can’t open a Project and “Go Back.” You can Edit > UNDO all you want while the current chapter is open.

Projects only open in Audacity, and 3.0.0 Projects only open in 3.0.0 (or later).

It is strongly recommended that you Export a WAV (Microsoft) 16-bit sound file of your raw reading; mistakes, fluffs, and all. This will be interesting with a Zoom reading. Anyway, this is to guard against Audacity becoming unstable or failing in the middle of your post-production efforts. you should never have to read anything again. If something messy happens, restart Audacity, open the backup WAV file, and keep going. Build “RAW” or “BAK” into the filename system. Bookkeeping again.

Perfect quality WAV files may be more familiar to you as Audio CD files. They are terrific quality, stable, and open up on all three computer types all over the world. It’s Pulse Code Modulation (PCM). That’s the arrangement of the 1’s and 0’s in the file.

Even though ACX demands submission in MP3, you should do all your work in WAV. MP3 creates sound damage when it works and you can’t stop it. The last hand on the production should make the MP3 copy of the WAV Edit Master just before submission. Your Edit Master to save forever should be WAV.

I need to go back and read the post again. The Tea is just kicking in.


Nobody said you can’t save Audacity Projects in the middle of production. You can totally do that, but it’s important that the first reading and the edit master also be in WAV.

A word about your constant saving.

You are creating one save. You are constantly updating one Project file and if anything happens and you have to open it up, you’re only going to have one layer of backup.

It is recommended that you do create periodic backups, but Save As with unique filenames so you can go back as many layers as you have backups. Bookkeeping again. This layer is up to you. You can continue to do what you’re doing, but please know that if Audacity goes face-first into the mud while it’s doing your backup, both the Project file and the current, open show may be gone.

Open up your raw WAV reading…if you have one.


I don’t even know what I should be asking.

S’OK. There is a list of common questions and mistakes.

If I make a mistake and want to go back and record over a section, I can’t figure out how to do that. the recording only picks up at the end of where I left off before.

Editing in the middle is hard. There are the Punch tools about which I know very little because I’m perfect and never make mistakes [cough, cough]. Actually, I’m not a very good editor. Someone else may drop in.

The R key will pick up recording at the end of the current work. Shift+R will start a whole new timeline.

This is a question I’ve been thinking about since the beginning of the thread. How much “production” is the production company going to do? Detail, word-by-word editing? If so, you can just record the corrections, tell them where they are, and go to lunch. If you are expected to produce perfect chapter/files, this process is going to be a lot more entertaining…and slow.

As a side issue, are you going to master the chapter/files or are they? Nobody can read directly into ACX Standard (except by accident). You always have to Do Something to the work to make it pass. Audacity publishes an Audiobook Mastering Suite of tools which guarantees 2/3 of the standards and if you read well in a quiet, echo-free room, the third one falls in and you’re done.

I make that sound so easy.

You’re going to submit to the Production Company and they submit to ACX? ACX has their own file management system. You will need Dropbox or other file handling service. Does the Production Company have a favorite? Make sure it works end-to-end and correctly before you commit large quantities of files to it. There’s a common problem on the forum where someone will post work for us to look at and we can’t open up the file handling service.

You can post a sample voice file on the forum and we can master and review it. Sometimes we can catch errors before they blossom into weeks of work.

Read down the blue links. They’re very short.


How are you going to do the Zoom thing? Given the problems it can cause on your machine, Zoom will happily record your voice for you, even, as I understand it, split your two voices, but it’s Zoom Quality and generally not theater quality fit for audiobooks.

You should settle that pretty quick. That can be a show-stopper.


Sound files.

They do say so. The sampling rate (lower left in the Audacity window) has to be 44100.

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That’s the number for Audio CD. That’s not the only common number. 48000 is the rate used in video. I’m pretty sure they won’t accept that, but you can convert between them.

Also, ACX likes mono—one blue wave. Not stereo—two blue waves. They will accept stereo, but it takes up twice the storage and you and the production company will be stuck doing the whole book in stereo.

That brings up a modern, up-to-date problem. Do Not use cloud storage directly in Audacity. I know Apple would kill to have you do everything in iCloud, but that’s a bad idea in Audacity. You can store stuff up there, but don’t make Audacity do it directly. Do your production locally, close Audacity and then push files around as you wish.

With a book that big, you’re going to run into storage problems. Do you have backup hard drives in addition to your Mac’s internal drive? It’s Common Knowledge that it’s a waste to get a Mac bigger than the minimum, but I’ve always gotten the fattest Mac I could get my hands on because I’m not sharing cat pictures on-line. I’m shuffling video and audio files around and they’re not tiny or delicate. Some of them are massive and file management can involve enough time to go make coffee.

Just a thought.



Thanks so much for your generous responses. It’s going to take me a bit to go through everything you said and talk to my production company. I’ll come back with a response…but it might be a couple of days. thanks so much!


Stress two questions: Who, exactly, is going to do the word-by-word corrections and editing. That’s the part that can take days and days for each chapter.

And how, exactly how, are you going to shoot the book over Zoom? That’s the part that feels like somebody making it up as they go. How many other books have they done this way?


Hi Koz,

I’m working with a reputable audiobook production company, ProAudio voices. I did write to my liaison, who’s the owner of the company about the Zoom question and she hasn’t gotten back to me. They’re going to do all the production and editing. All I have to do is record. Only we’re trying to record this book in two voices, hence the Zoom interface.

I’m going to set that aside for the moment until I hear back from her (I forwarded her the salient parts of your message). But in the meantime, my son, long distance from Boston, helped me get my headphones paired (Sony MDR-XB950BT so I can hear myself when I record. However, there’s a lag of half of second or something and I can’t imagine being able to record and hear myself back a split second later. Is there something I can change in the settings? Eli (my son) had me transport options to Software Playthrough. Was that correct? I notice when I go in there that overdub is also on. Is there a way to make the sound I hear in my ears simultaneous with my speech?

That’s today’s question.


Listening to yourself when recording is highly recommended. It helps even out your delivery and allows you to accurately control your pitch, emphasis and theatrical expression. You just can’t do it through the computer. The official phrase is computer latency.

I call the sound coming out of the machine “one computer late.”

You should turn off “Playthrough” in Audacity preferences and plug your headphones into your microphone, preamplifier, or interface. The Samson G-Track microphone can do this trick.

Screen Shot 2021-04-14 at 7.00.26 AM.png
It’s hard to see, but the headphones in this setup are plugged into my Behringer UM-2 (black thing on the left), not the computer.

Whatever you plug the headphones into has to support “Zero Latency Monitoring” or “Direct Monitoring.”

Screen Shot 2021-04-14 at 7.05.10 AM.png
It sends you your voice before it sends it to the computer.

A note about these pictures. I don’t recommend using Apple Earbuds to monitor and those Sony earphones are terrible. They were all handy for the photo to illustrate the point. I’m going to look up your headphone model. Without being too egotistical about it, it’s not the worst idea to post the model you intend to buy and we can tell you about the problems and shortcomings experienced by our forum posters.


This is entirely between you two, but I am curious how you are going to deal with errors. Have they talked about this? You’re going to make mistakes and there are several ways to announce corrections and indicate where the mistakes are so they can find them later.

One note is to announce corrections right away while you’re “in the moment” and not try to do it a week later.

If they have an accepted process for this, it’s nice to know about it before you start reading. Not have them try and explain it to you the first time you fall over a sentence.

I don’t care how you do it, it’s pure theater management, but it’s nice to be able to tell other forum posters how you do it. It’s a Forum. Users helping each other.


I did write to my liaison

Are you going to liaise with them?

Imagine my surprise that “liais” is a verb.

Sony MDR-XB950BT

This one?

Screen Shot 2021-04-14 at 7.32.18 AM.png
Did you save the papers? Wireless headphones are zippy and cool, but they’re usually limited to listening to the computer (with the echo). Microphones, Preamplifiers and Interfaces don’t normally support wireless. You have to plug in a wire to them.

Screen Shot 2021-04-14 at 7.44.53 AM.png
Way down the list is the bass boost. Unless you’re planning on listening to your bad self cuttin’ and jivin’ to the beats, that can be a problem. My favorite headphones do that and I have to remind myself that the thumping bass “isn’t real” and nobody else is going to hear it.


There is a soft, fuzzy recommendation. The Movie Industry’s Standard Headphone is the Sony MDR-7506. Find at least one pair on any movie set. This is David Greene, NPR-West wearing his.

Their claim to fame is a little odd. They’re perfectly comfortable, soundproof, fold up for your runbag, etc. etc. You just don’t want to sit and listen to a movie with them. They don’t sound pleasant, but they will absolutely show you sound errors before anybody else can hear them. That’s their job in production.

Several people on the forum like the Sennheiser models. My eH-150 headphones have that bass-boost thing and last I checked, are no longer made.

One of the senior forum elves has a Sennheiser model he likes.



Turns out one of Waxcylinder’s requirements was size, so the large muff to snuggle up against your head isn’t there. You need that fuzzy muff to help keep your headphone voice from leaking into the microphone.

And you thought this was going to be a simple “write a check and go home” problem.

What you’re doing used to take three seasoned professionals. It still does, but you’re it.


My requirements were fold-ability for travel - I used to have some folding Sennheisers but replaced those a couple of years ago with a pair of Bowers & Wilkins PS3s which are excellent.

I do still have my studio Sennheiser HD25-1 which are over ear and I really like. You see a lot of BBC OB folk using them.


Yes, a bit too much information! Your input is appreciated but overwhelming. And hard to me to parse through.

At this moment, before I start purchasing new equipment, I’d like to see if it’s possible for me to make the equipment I currently have work before I start purchasing more for this important but only one time project. The Sony headphones i have, the MDR XB9508BT and the mic, a SHURE MV5 (what my audio company told me to get) both have input and output jacks that would accommodate a cable running between them. I’m wondering if that might work and if so, exactly what kind of cable I’d have to purchase to tether them together.

Thanks all…

Yes, a bit too much information! Your input is appreciated but overwhelming.

What you’re doing used to take three seasoned professionals. It still does, but you’re it.

There’s an additional layer of this as well. We don’t, as a rule, recommend hardware and devices. Audacity is an audio editor. So the best we can do is post the requirements of the job and that post can get into the weeds in a hurry.

The Sony headphones i have, the MDR XB9508BT

That doesn’t show up on a Google search.

??? Is the number right?



I guess I can’t see print that small anymore.