How to make an Audiobook

Look behind the scenes of making the audiobook version of The Child of Fire and Earth.

When I realised that I was going to self-publish The Child of Fire and Earth, I immediately decided to make an audiobook of it. The reason is quite simple, and it stems from the cartoon Transformers.

When I was a kid, the first book I can remember reading by myself was a book from Transformers. It came as a book and, more importantly to my younger self, a version on cassette tape (remember those, anyone?) read by none other than Optimus Prime. Hearing his voice, and following the text as he spoke, was sheer magic to me.

It was a logical step to make my children's book follow in such grandiose footsteps, but the challenge then became: how?

I have a strong background in audio and have the means and knowledge to record myself, but I know the limits of my own acting skills and, frankly, didn't really know how an audiobook sounded. I needed help.

By chance, I spotted someone I follow on Twitter (Lucien Spooner) who posted that they were just getting into narration for audiobooks. A quick check on their website with examples showed they had a lovely voice, steady and calm narration, and they also claimed they could do a range of accents.

Sounded too good to be true, I thought. There must be a catch. High fees? Rubbish audio quality? Arrogant reader who didn't take notes?

I'm glad to say I was wrong on every single count.


Lucien was an absolute joy to work with. They suggested I send a sample chapter over so that I could hear their voice and they could read my writing. Knowing my book had some tricky Scottish in it, I deliberately sent them the chapter with Nesta, the water dragon who lives in Loch Ness.

Nesta's dialogue relied heavily on old Scottish words and phrases that were deliberately difficult for the reader to understand (Hew, the main character, certainly hasn't got a clue, so why should the reader?). I sent Lucien this text, along with a pronunciation guide on the more difficult to pronounce words, such as 'draoidheachd'.

They made an amazing job of it, bringing Nesta to life. You can hear an example here.

From there, we agreed a fee and they talked me through what was needed.

Then came the tricky bit.


I wanted to get the audiobook onto Audible, and that meant using ACX. That was easy enough to join up to, but I also wanted the audiobook to be released at the same time as the ebook and paperback.

That was harder. Way harder.

To begin with, I couldn't hire Lucien until I had my book on ACX. And I couldn't get my book onto ACX until it was out on Amazon. If it was out on Amazon, then the audiobook couldn't be released at the same time as the book. After a bit of experimenting, I discovered two important things.

1 - Ebooks can be up on Amazon for pre-order, which ACX would accept;

2 - ACX only searched US Amazon, which my ebook wasn't showing up on. It did, however, find it by searching for the ASIN.

(ASIN is a unique number for an Amazon product.)

So, now that ACX found the pre-order for the ebook, I could hire Lucien and get cracking on making the audiobook.


One thing to realise with ACX is that there are two fee structures with hiring a narrator. One is where you don't pay the narrator anything upfront, but they get half of your royalties on any sales. This is great if you haven't got the cash to spare to pay the narrator and they're willing to take the gamble that the audiobook will actually sell.

Personally, I had the cash and did not know how well the book would sell, and so I wanted to make sure that Lucien actually got paid for their trouble, so we agreed on a fee that was acceptable.

What this also meant is I get the full 40% of royalties from sales. So when the audiobook becomes an international bestselling phenomenon (hey, I can but dream) then I'll get more money coming in.


From there, Lucien made recordings and sent them to me for review. ACX lets you click on each chapter to say you've reviewed and accepted them as they are. Sometimes there might be issues which needed addressing. For instance, at first I wasn't too keen on Grenville's voice, as I found it too nasal. I even experimented a bit with audio software to reduce the nasality of it to save Lucien from re-recording, but they were more than happy to re-record it with a different tone which worked much better.

Lucien's work became so solid and dependable, I knew before listening to it that every chapter which came to me would be excellent. Not only did they do a great job at the artistic level, but also the technical. Noise floor was low, there weren't any intruding background noises, and the technical specifications to get it accepted on ACX were met perfectly.


The audiobook complete, I figured there was a "Publish Now" button that I could hit to release it, the same as with the ebook. Hah! Shows what I knew.

Turned out, once you'd cleared a project as being complete, it then had to go through ACX's quality control. At this stage, my release date was only a week away, yet ACX claimed their QC could take two weeks or more. I resigned myself to having the audiobook arrive late.

However, they must have had their coffee strong as the book passed QC in just a few days. They automatically released it ... a few days before the launch date I wanted!

A few months later I checked the landing page for it on Audible and spotted the category they had placed it in. For some reason, it was in Animals and Nature. I mean, sure, there's a picture of a dragon on the front cover, but I didn't think that counted as Animals and Nature. A quick email fixed that, along with making sure the book was WhisperSync enabled (this means that someone who has both the ebook and audiobook can link the two together, in just the same way Optimus Prime read to me all those years ago).

One last thing that ACX does is to have promo codes. This means you can give people a free copy of the audiobook in the UK or US so that they can listen and, ideally, review it. I still have a few codes left, and I am giving them away first to those who have signed up for my monthly newsletter.

If you'd like a free copy of my audiobook, just CLICK HERE to sign up and then send me a message asking for the promo code. Or, if you are new to Audible, your first audiobook is free anyway, so you can use THIS LINK to go straight there.


It was quite a headache navigating the vagaries of ACX, adjusting the cover design to meet their square standards, and getting the book recorded and processed. Lucien did the lion's share of that and did it admirably.

Money has slowly been trickling in and, compared to paperback and ebook royalties, it pays more but sells less. It will, though, keep on being there as a wonderful way to engage younger audiences into a fun and exciting fantasy world.

Would I do it again? Definitely. As long as Lucien had time in their diary for me.

Lucien Spooner's website can be found here:

Listen to a free sample of the audiobook below:

You can get the audiobook directly on Audible by CLICKING HERE. Remember, if you are new to Audible, your first audiobook is free!