The pleasure of devouring a well-crafted book is like savoring your favorite meal.
But then to listen to it read by an adept voice-over artist is the sweetest of desserts.
Producing the perfectly narrated audiobook starts with the text itself. It needs to flow with an edit distinctly for speech, so it reads naturally out loud.
In this article, we take you through the basics of audiobooks and then dive into its relationship with editing.
I. Firstly: what is an audiobook?
An audiobook, as the name suggests, is an audio adaptation of a book. It can be an unabridged version, or a shorter, abridged version read aloud by a voice-over artist and recorded professionally. Audiobooks can be purchased on Disc Media or consumed via apps like Audible & Spotify.
They are growing in demand globally. Edison Research reported that in just the United States alone, 26% of their population stated they have listened to an audiobook. In the United Kingdom, audiobooks generated £97 million in consumer downloads during 2019.
As seen from this data, audiobook popularity is increasing with no sign of slowing down.
II. How is an audiobook different from a written book?
The fundamental difference between an audiobook and a written book is that the reader listens to the audiobook version, meaning that the way in which they are consumed is different.
Instead of being actively consumed like paperbacks or eBooks, audiobooks can be consumed in passive time, such as driving, working out, or taking the dog for a walk.
III. Why should you consider converting your book into an audiobook?
a) Unlike print books, audiobooks have the potential to reach different audiences such as the blind and visually impaired, making it an inclusive medium. Other audiences you can reach include people who prefer consuming books on the move or people looking to optimize their passive time. Audiobooks are an excellent way to connect with diverse audiences and build a new fanbase.
b) You never have to worry about running out of stock! Stock management with paperback and hardcover copies of a book can be a challenge if you’re not using a print-on-demand service. This isn’t an issue when you publish a digital version of your book, be it an audiobook or an ebook.
c) An audiobook can boost your ebook and printed book sales. There are people that exclusively listen to audiobooks that, after they listen to your book, may also choose to buy a printed copy for their bookshelf. Some people like to savor the feel of paper or have the reassurance of an eBook version for Whispersync.
IV. The importance of editing a book
Whether a book is being listened to or read, you must edit a book to perfection. Editing not only means crossing your t’s and dotting your i’s (your cursory check for grammar, punctuation, and syntax) but also ensuring that the contents of your book are well written, coherent, and to the point. Many writers fall victim to including purple prose that only proves to pad out their word count.
To put it simply, editing your book rids you embarrassing errors, giving the reader an excellent first impression of the book. It gives your text a professional quality and tells the reader that a lot of thought has gone into crafting every word.
V. Why is it necessary to edit and proofread an audiobook?
We’ve told you why it’s essential to edit a book. But perhaps that doesn’t convince you to get your audiobook script edited. After all, it’s only being listened to, and the reader won’t get to see the final product.
But here’s the deal. How we speak and how we read are fundamentally different. What works for one medium may not work for the other.
When you choose to adapt your book to an audio format, you explore a new medium of publication for your work. Converting your text into a script that works for reading aloud will reduce back and forth with the voice-over artist to ensure a smoother recording experience.
You won’t have to re-record
It’s vital to edit the audio script to perfection so that you don’t have to re-record. Silly errors in grammar and sentence structure will change the perceived pronunciation of a particular string of words. Even if the grammar or sentence structure is correct for written English, it may not work the way you envision for the narrated audiobook version.
Do you really need a comma in the sentence? Or should the sentence be divided up into two sections with a full stop? Perhaps a conjunctive word like ‘and’ may be better?
These kinds of oversights are easily avoidable, and it is cumbersome to invest unnecessary time, energy, and resources to re-record. It can be costly, so why take the risk when you can check these things beforehand?
Pro-tip: It’s always a good idea to resort to professional editing and proofreading services to ensure your text is crisp and ready to be converted into an audio format.
Enhance the listening experience
Creating an audiobook script ensures successful adaptation for the medium and provides the listener with a better auditory experience.
Editing for a book is about sentence flow for your own internal monologue. Editing for an audiobook is about sentence flow for your chosen voice artist and the pronunciation that you require.
A large part of the listener’s experience boils down to how well your voice artist can perform your script. How well the voice performs, your script relies heavily on the quality of said script and how well-tailored it is for speech.
Planning how to reference visual elements
Editing the text beforehand allows recalibration and rearrangement of visual elements of the book, such as charts, tables, and diagrams. This is particularly crucial in nonfiction books when you rethink how you’re going to translate visual data to an audience who is simply hearing your work.
Audiobooks of this nature often come with a companion text that the listener can refer to. So, for example, text like “You can find the image in Appendix I” will instead say, “You can find the image on page 6 of the companion guide.”
For fiction, certain authors can delve deep into descriptive elements of the environments they imagine. This is perfectly fine for reading, but long, in-depth descriptions can be jarring when these environments are described in an audiobook.
Audiobooks have a focal point on immersion, and such long-winded descriptions can prove to break this immersion. Re-wording or re-structuring the descriptive paragraphs can be a workaround for this.
Improve voice-over artist comprehension
It’s important to edit your book to make it easier for the voice-over artist to access and understand. They should not only be able to grasp the content clearly, but it should be easy on the eyes. Illustrate with formatting. Making the text more understandable avoids the voice-over artist getting stuck, confused, or even misinterpreting the purpose of your text.
For the voice to do the intention of your text justice, you should highlight parts that need emphasis. Editing your audiobook text in terms of formatting, punctuation, etc., will help the artist understand the reader’s pacing in terms of pauses, inflections, and so on.
After editing, it’s always a good idea for the voice-over artist to do a cursory check independently to catch any immediate red flags. It should be a collaborative effort. Making the voice-over artist comfortable with the content will bring out a natural confidence in their performance.
Preparing an audiobook for its narration is no easy feat. It may be a common misconception that a voice-over artist can work from the book pages and narrate the content directly from the completed work. While this can sometimes work out, it rarely does.
Most books out there, fiction or nonfiction, will need some kind of editing before your chosen voice narrates them. Making sure that you have your content portrayed in a way that makes sense for an audiobook but also in a way that streamlines the production aspects is what you should aim for.
In the long run, this will save time, money and improve the chance that your audiobook venture will be a success.
About the Authors
Iris Scott is a language nerd. She is a professional writer and works on optimizing the PaperTrue Resource Center with carefully researched information about the editing and proofreading industry. When she’s not writing, she’s painting, listening to music, reading books, or watching films.
Cecelia Hume is passionate about all things language. As a professional writer, she regularly researches and curates content for PaperTrue’s Resource Center, a repository intended to hone the skills of anyone writing in the English language. When not busy with a pen and paper, she likes exploring cinema.
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- Writers: Iris Scott, Cecelia Hume
- Editors: Al Black, Stewart Storrar