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Audio Books: DIY

Narrating your own tale would be a lovely gift for loved ones, for them to have your voice to hold onto when you aren't there. I highly recommend "reading" picture books to your grandkids then sending them the recording and the book. There are even books created for you to record your voice for each page.  Your family might appreciate your life stories related by you. Too often we wait too long to be interested in parents and grandparents as people apart from their role in life.

However, if you wish to have an audio version of your book, you have to decide if you really have what it takes to narrate it.

Have you ever done voice work? Do you have a pleasant voice? Do you know how to read in a way that adds interest rather than a flat monotone? Narrating a book is much like singing a song. Do you know when to riff and when to stick to the melody? Narration is a form of verbal poetry. It is a skill set.

I highly recommend downloading a few high quality audio books to know what you are aiming for.

If you are determined to proceed, here are tips on the nuts and bolts of creating an audio book.


You will need a high quality microphone and recording software installed on your laptop, PC, or tablet and a sound-proof room. No kids yelling in the background, telephone rings, dog barks, or interruptions.

If you feel you have the right voice and sufficient skill, your audio file must meet certain standards to be eligible for upload to services.

Author's Republic specifications

Audible/ACX specifications.  

You must choose mono or stereo, provide opening and closing tracks, have the right decibel ranges, length, and not exceed maximum of 120 minutes or file size of 170 mb. If this is all Greek to you, consider turning it over to the pros.

Still determined? There are people willing to help you go it alone. This is a thorough list of steps and materials from by Bo Bennett, PhD, Founder of eBookIt.

Here are more tricks and tips:

How to Convert Audiobooks for Use in Itunes

Creating Audiobooks: What Every Author Should Know

Yes, You Can Record Your Own Audio Book

Ultimate Guide to Recording Audio Books

Read Your Own Audio Book


With the DIY option, you are responsible for making distribution arrangements with the different platforms such as iTunes, Audible, BookBaby etc. The files must be in the correct digital format.  You will have to check each site's guidelines. They will ask for either MP3 or .mp3 or Windows Media Audio .wma. For iTunes, you need M4B or .m4b.

There are several smaller companies that help you with distribution.

Author's Republic  can help walk you through the process.

Big Happy Family will present your titles to major download sites, work with them to get approval, let you know exactly what materials and formats each site needs — and handle the paperwork, reporting, royalty collection, and payment.

Scribl is a crowd-sharing and crowd-pricing site. If you like to gamble, this is a good way to get discovered.

Scribd is another innovate way to share your work. You first upload your work through Smashwords, INscribe digital, BookBaby, draft2digital, or Publish Drive.

If you managed self-produced audio book success, please share it in the comments section. I would love to feature your story in a future blog post.

Next week, we take a look at writing Master Classes.

Audio Books: Hiring a Narrator

This is not the time to phone a friend, unless your friend is Morgan Freeman.

If you know, or are related to, a famous celebrity, are they appropriate for the book? If yes, can you bribe or coerce them? If not, it is best to look for professionals with good credentials.

Please, don't utilize text to speech programs to narrate your book. If you haven't heard the end result of computer narration, visit YouTube. Examples are rife and they are horrid.

I highly advise listening to a few quality audio books to get a feel for the medium.

Like illustrators, professional narrators get paid by the job or the hour, in the range of $100 to $500 per finished hour, at a spoken rate of 10,000 words or less per hour. They do not want part of royalties that may never materialize - unless they are your above cited celebrity connection or best friend. That's between you. I'd still get the agreement in writing.

You must transform your book into a "script" for the reader, noting where you want pauses, words emphasized, quoted speech, etc. You may need to revise run-on sentences. This would be a good time to correct any existing typos.

It is important to include author, publisher, and copyright information at the beginning and end of your script. If you didn't self-publish, make sure you have your agent's and publisher's permission to have the audio book version made. What does your contract state? How much of the royalties do they get to keep?

There are multiple services that offer audio book creation from script development to final format.

I found Author's Republic offers terrific advice on producing audio books as well as finding the right service.

Here are a few reputable production companies.

1. Deyan Audio pioneered the audio book industry twenty-five years ago, becoming the world's largest independent producer of audio books with 12 Grammy Nominations and 5 wins in the category of spoken word.

2. Pro Audio Voices is a San Francisco Bay Area based company serving clients internationally as a go-to place for exceptional voice-over services for audio books, animation, and advertising, with an emphasis on those with uplifting and inspiring stories and messages.

3. VoicesforBooks makes it easy to produce your printed page or digital manuscript into compelling audio, ready for listening on any advice, anywhere, at any time.

4. BeeAudio has a roster of over 300 narrators, many of whom have a lifetime’s experience on stage or in front of the microphone. They have specialists in every area of audio production: producers, casting directors, editors, proofers, and researchers. A team will collaborate throughout the production process through to quality control.

5. e-AudioProductions has a team of experienced musicians, talented voice artists, and producers offering high quality audio production services.

6. Common Mode Inc is an award-winning digital audio recording and post-production facility located in East Hanover, NJ specializing audio books. They offer technical services including engineered recording sessions, editing, mixing, mastering, QC, audio restoration and repair, studio consultations, and more.

7. Reel Musician Pro is a full-service audio book recording production facility offering voice over talent, CD duplication, artwork, sound effects, audio book trailers, video book production, radio and TV spots, with graphic design for CDs and jewel cases. They can make your audio files compatible with virtually any re-seller, including Audible, iTunes, CD Baby, Amazon, and many others.

8. Tantor Media provides narrators for books. You must contact the narrators individually for pricing and availability.

Next week, we take a look at DIY audio book options. Desperate times, and empty bank accounts, sometimes call for desperate measures. Though I would consider it a last option, many have decided to try it. 

Audio Books: Hiring a Pro

Audiobooks are a fast growing segment of publishing. They are not just for the visually impaired. Many people listen to audiobooks while exercising, driving, doing house or yard work, or just relaxing in a hammock.

Do you need an audiobook version? Need is a strong word, but an audio book expands your customer base. Why not cover all of the bases? 

Here is an article on the pros and cons from NY Book Editors.

If you want the best book possible, turn to the professionals. It really is the difference between singing at a Karaoke bar (where you may find an amazing singer), hiring a wedding singer, and getting Barbra Streisand to blast your sales into the stratosphere.

Budget is always a problem and you may not be able to afford Babs, but there are multiple services that handle the complete process from scripting the novel to the final distribution. This is truly your best bet for a bestseller.

They have access to get your books uploaded to AudibleiTunesDownpourOverdrive, and other audiobook providers for libraries.

Audible aka ACX/Audiobook Creation Exchange is the most well known and works directly with Amazon. They can help you produce an audio book, hire a gifted narrator, or just distribute the finished audio book.

Here is an interview with an audible narrator. 

BookBaby is also well known.  Authors can pay a one-time setup fee to upload completed audio files and cover art with sister company CDBaby handling the manufacturing of discs and distribution for both physical and digital editions of your book.

Blackstone is one of the largest independent audio book producers. They have their own recording studio and work with the big five publishers. 

Brilliance Audio has been creating audio books since 1984 and works with big name publishers. 

Dog Ear Publishing gives authors the option to record their own book or hire a professional narrator. They will master the recording and distribute it through all major online bookstores.

eBookIt pairs authors with voice artist and readies the audio book for upload. They provide you with the recording, you take it from there. You can also use this service to convert your print book to e-book.

Graphic Audio in Maryland specializes in action adventure, science fiction, and fantasy titles and has its own production facility. 

Harper Audio/Caedmon  is an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers and produces their audiobooks. 

Infinity Publishing charges by the finished hour which includes professional narration, editing, and distribution of both physical CDs and digital files. ($600 for 10,000 words).

Oakhill was founded in 2005 and has had success with both children's literature, historical fiction, contemporary fiction, and crime thrillers. 

Oasis Audio works with fiction, non-fiction, children’s, business, and religious titles. 

Podium is a startup with experience in both audio and publishing.

Recorded Books works with the big five publishers. Join bestselling and award-winning authors such as Danielle Steel, Diana Gabaldon, Francine Rivers, William Kent Krueger, Jeff Kinney, Sarah J. Maas, and many others who have unlocked the true value of their audio rights by working with Recorded Books. 

Strathmore is London based and has been creating award-winning audio books since 1996. 

Especially when you self-publish, and have made sure you have a top notch product, adding an audio book expands your audience. Do it well, and you benefit from good reviews and word of mouth.

Next week, we take a look at the option of hiring a professional narrator to record your book should you choose to do your own production and distribution.

Book Interior Designers: Hiring A Pro

 Susan Kaye Quinn
The cost depends on the level of expertise and the complexity of the design. Do you want a basic book layout that doesn't look amateurish or do you want flourishes, fancy page numbering, and original chapter headings? Basic design can start at $200.00 and run toward $1500.  If you have a nonfiction project that is heavy in graphics, tables, etc. expect to pay considerably more, up to $3000+.

Interior designers work with your existing manuscript. Do not expect editing or corrections. The text you present is what you will have in the finished product: typos, omissions, and wrong words included. Proofreading and editing are separate jobs requiring additional pay.

Do they have permission to use the fonts? Ask. You don't want to be sued for using a font they provided but don't have the licensing to utilize. Worst case, look up the fonts yourself and see what their licensing permissions are. Many are free for anyone to utilize in any way, but not all.

Hiring a professional can take your interior design to new heights. The example provided is from Susan Kaye Quinn's Daughters of Dharia series which has unique chapter headers and page numbers to reflect the bollypunk theme of the book.

Make sure you know what you are paying for. Are revisions and changes extra? Most will not work up an entire project without pay. They may send you samples for approval. While you have the right to a design you like, don't ask for the impossible or impractical. The more elaborate your design, the more it will cost. Have an idea of what you want. Changing your mind twenty times will run up the bill considerably. It helps to do a little reconnaissance and find designs that appeal to you beforehand.

Do your research. Look at their body of work. Do you like their style? Ask for references with contact information.

Get the details in writing before you pay. Verbal agreements can sometimes be held up in court if you have emails, texts, etc. However, protecting yourself with a written contract is always best. If they have you agree to terms of service, make sure you read them before accepting ... yes the fine print!

As with cover designers, interior designers are not your employee. You don't get to make unreasonable requests or endless tweaks. They are professionals. Treat them with respect.

1. 99 Designs provides handpicked interior book designers. Give them the details of your project and you will get a list of candidates. Then you send them a request to work on your project. 

2. offers their expertise to create a well-designed layout for your book that you can be proud of. They design books in a wide range of genres, including novels, nonfiction, poetry, illustrated children’s books, and cookbooks. Contact them for a quote. Basic layouts start at $149 (add eBook for $50). Custom layouts start at $375 (add eBook for $100).

3. Book Designers pricing runs $750 to $5500. Contact them for details of their options.

4. David Moratto breaks the pricing down based on the aspects of the design, which is good for comparisons. Custom designs start at $400 and typesetting/composition start at $3.75 per page.

5. Reedsy  is a collective from the European Union that provides quotes for specific projects.  They also offer an interior building tool.

6. Ampersand offers a questionnaire for you to fill out. They will ask followup questions if needed then provide you with a solid estimate. Prices start at $75.00 for a basic fiction interior and run up to $1000 for nonfiction.

7. Upwork matches you with the appropriate professionals based on the details of your project. You view proposals and choose who you want to work with.

8. Illumination Graphics  offers examples of their work for you to view. Visit their site for sample pages of books in your genre. Also good for researching ideas. Email them for rates. They can also create charts, graphs and sidebars for your nonfiction.

9. BookBaby is located in New Jersey and offers custom design professionals. They send you proofs to review and approve. They send you proofs of your designs to review and approve and advertise a 100% quality guarantee.

10. Book Cover Designer interiors are provided by designer Kerri Ross. Pricing for fiction begins at $4.50 per page, for nonfiction $6.50 per page, with additional charges for artwork, tables, graphs, etc.

11. Baker & Taylor offers standard and custom interior designs, typesetting, and art creation. Contact them to request a quote.

12. Columbus Publishing  quotes on a case-by-case basis. Most books cost $400 to $600 for a complete interior design, including export for both a printer and e-books.

13. Fiverr is an online marketplace for many computer related tasks from basic to expert, users vary in expertise. You describe the scope of and budget for your project and users bid for the job.

14. TLC Book Design provides custom interior designs. Email them to set up a free phone consultation to discuss your plans or fill out their survey to get the conversation started. They use your cover to create a unique look for continuity. Upon your approval of the initial page designs, they lay out the entire book, eventually saving to a PDF file that’s ready for proofreading.

15. Mill City Press  has a team of designers who offer their expert opinion on what options are best for your book. Contact for pricing.

16. The Write Place offers a questionnaire for you to fill out for a no obligation quote.

17. Design by Indigo offers custom designs based on the genre. Prices begin at five cents per page.

18. Book Interior Design offers custom interior designs. Contact them for a quote.

19. Jaad Book Design offers custom designs, no template. You work directly with the designer who will create a chapter sample that compliments and builds off the cover design of your book. The sample chapter establishes the fonts, line spacing, headers, chapter pages, as well as (for more complex layouts) the look of bulleted paragraphs, tables, and call outs. Upon your approval the design sample will form the skeletal framework for the rest of your book. Basic fiction starts at $400. Complex fiction $600. Complex books with images $800-1000.

20. Six Penny Graphics offers interior design as well as cover design. Contact them for a quote.  

Next week, we examine Audio Books.

Book Interior Resources

There are many sources that make formatting your interior easy. With templates, the margins, gutters, etc. are precalculated for you. It is simply a matter of inserting your text. In many cases you can customize with fonts, symbols, images, etc.

1. KDP (Kindle Print) has a tool for creating the appropriate interior template. Choose your trim size and download the template for use in Word for Windows and other word processing programs. 

2. In-Design by Adobe is a program professionals use that you can purchase to create your interior. It has a steep learning curve and is an expensive option. 

3. Book Design Templates work within Microsoft Word, Apple Pages, or Adobe InDesign. Their pre-designed templates have built to industry-standard specifications that help you avoid newbie mistakes.  

4. DIY Book Formats offers easy-to-use book formatting templates in Word and InDesign, and a guided video course to help you format like a pro. 

5. Book Baby offers a downloadable .ZIP file that contains templates for use in multiple design programs. 

6. Empire Book Publishing offers free interior templates for different trim sizes. 

7. Ingram Spark also offers interior templates. 

8. Book Design Wizard is a software add-on you can use in conjunction with Word for Windows to format your interior.  

9. Vellum 2.0 is a MAC based program for formatting print and ebooks. 

10. Calibre is a software program that could help you create an ebook format for upload. It was created to organize your ebook collections. It also allows you to create and convert documents into EPUB, AZW2, and MOBI for editing and upload to your e-reader or a publishing platform. 

If you can change fonts, insert pages and page breaks, and add headers and footers in a word processing program, you will find customizing templates a breeze. If that feels too intimidating, with a simple search, you can find many sites and technicians to create customized interior designs for a fee.


With ebooks, the goal is to strip all conditional formatting, leaving chapter and section breaks using [Control] + [Insert], [Page Break]. You should use Times New Roman or Arial as the font. Other fonts will turn into gibberish. No hyphenation or full justification. If you are allowed to use images, you do so by [Insert] [Picture], not copy and paste.

The following are resources for formatting ebooks to the platform's specifications:


Next week, we will explore audio books.

Book Design Formatting Interiors

Proper formatting of the interior of your paperback is as important as your cover. It advertises that your book is polished and adds a bit of sparkle.

Font choice, chapter number art, ornamental symbols, or images at the ends of chapters can be simple or elegant. These choices can support the genre and tone of the book.

As mentioned in the previous post on font choice, you should obey all laws and licensing restrictions. Make sure you have permission to utilize the fonts and symbols.

Common flourishes and asterisks are inserted with [Insert] [Symbol] commands. You can create your own unique symbols and chapter heading designs. In Word, they would be inserted as images. You may be able to insert them in your ebook.


Fonts should be easy to read. Therefore, you should stay away from fancy fonts such as comic, handwritten, and script. They may be used for the word "Chapter" and chapter headings, but should be avoided for your interior text.

There are instances of inserting handwritten and cursive fonts for items like letters, newspaper articles, diaries, etc. Of late, there are many "creative" ways of inserting text messages, emails, social media posts, mechanized voices, etc. into books. Those methods are a personal choice, but visually interrupt the flow and act as low-grade speed bumps.

Your fonts should not be too thick or too thin. Times New Roman is good for newspaper articles that cram a lot of words in a tight space, but is not necessarily the best font for your book.

The size of the font matters. Each font has its own vertical and horizontal sizing within the standard space. Some are evenly spaced. Others are squat or tall and thin. They also affect line spacing. Some fonts may look small at a 16 point size, but make it look like you have double spaced the text.

If you choose an unusual font, make sure it looks visually pleasing in a block of text and is easy on the eyes. It is best to stick with a size 11, 12, or 14. Sizes 9 and 10 are hard to focus on. They are sometimes used for extremely long tomes to minimize page length. Readers won't thank you. Make sure the font does not crowd letters together so they are hard to distinguish.

Size 16 is considered large print for standard fonts. Sizes 18 to 24 are considered giant print. If you wish to produce an official large print version of your book, there is more than font size to consider. You can read more here.

In addition to permission to use the fonts, they must be supported by the software. It is also important to make sure the fonts are embedded in both Word and PDF versions.

You can learn the steps for Word here.

You can learn the steps for Adobe here.

For MAC users, go here.

If you utilize specialized fonts in a print version, they must be returned to a supported font for ebook submission, usually Arial or Times New Roman. The e-reader will have different options for the viewer to choose from. Unsupported fonts and symbols produce garbled letters.


Line spacing can help or hinder the visual flow of your text. Single line spacing is the standard. You can utilize 1.25 or 1.5 to enhance readability. Some writers go so far as double spaced to unnecessarily bloat the page count. The font you choose affects the visual aspect of line spacing. If the font you choose looks too cramped with single spacing, utilize the slightly larger 1.25 or 1.5.

It is critical with block paragraphs to separate them with a line.

End of paragraph one.

Start paragraph two.

It is not necessary with indented paragraphs but can add to the readability.

End of paragraph one.
     Beginning of paragraph two.

End of paragraph one.

     Beginning of paragraph two.

The same is true with lines of dialogue.

"Do you want to go?" Sally asked.
"No, I don't," Dick said.

With spaces between:

"Do you want to go?" Sally asked.

"No, I don't," Dick said.

Indented with spaces between:

     "Do you want to go? Sally asked.

     "No, I don't," Dick replied.


With print books, titles can be left or right justified or centered, depending on the effect and artwork you utilize. Justification should be full for the body of the text. It provides a satisfying column effect. You can use left justification if you want to be radical, but I don't recommend it. 

Justification must be left for all text in an ebook. The size of the page shifts with the font style and size the reader chooses. Therefore, centering or right justification will not look the way you hoped.


Hyphenation word breaks can be used in the print version. However, with the text justified, it is unnecessary. 

Hyphenation should not be used in ebooks. Hyphens will appear mid-word rather than at the end of a line.


This is another personal choice. Both can work. With block, the first line of the paragraph is flush with the left margin. The standard is one tab space in on the first line. Some designers choose to indent only the first paragraph of the chapter. If you wish to customize it, it is best to change the settings to zero so the program does not automatically choose for you.

You find this setting in Word under Paragraph Layout. 


Since you have a left and right side, margins should be set to mirror each other on odd and even pages. For a 6 x 9 trim size, margins should be set at 0.5" on the top, outside, and bottom and a 0.75" for the gutter or inside margin (they are the same thing). If you set a gutter margin, then enter the value zero for the inside margin.

There are minimum requirements for a gutter margin depending on the number of pages. The larger the binding, the more distance you need. For up to 300 pages, the gutter can be 0.5 inches. If your book is 300 to 500 pages, you should increase it to 0.625 inches. If you exceed 500, it should be 0.75 inches, and if you exceed 700 pages, it should be 0.875 inches.

Anything that appears outside the margin guidelines is said to "bleed." If you include tables or images, it is critical they do not cut too close to the edges. Images, inserts, and table edges should remain one quarter inch inside the inner and outer margins.


Drop caps can add drama to the first letter of the first word of your chapter. As with any font, you need to make sure you have permission to utilize it. You highlight the first letter of your paragraph, select [Drop Cap], then right click the drop cap to change font, size, position, etc. Three lines is the default height, but two lines are better for most fonts. Indented is also better than having the drop cap hang out on the left by itself.

Next week, we look at tools for interior design.

Book Covers: How To Videos

Thanks to the wonders of the internet, and You Tube, there are many gracious artists and designers willing to teach you book cover design with How To videos.

Here are links to the top twenty tutorials. 

Checking out one usually leads to more. It is a glorious time sink. A few have annoying music. You can mute them.

1. How to Make a Book Cover in Microsoft Word 

2. How to Make Your Own Cover Using MS Word 

3. How to Use Create Space's Templates  (Note: Create Space's templates may be removed as CS closes down).

4. KDP Cover Creator Tutorial 

5. Foolproof Book Cover Designs 

6. How to make a cover on Photoshop

7. How to make a book jacket on Photoshop 

8. Book Cover Design Tutorial 

9. Book Cover Fantasy Tutorial 

10. Book Cover Design Tricks 

11. Five Tips for Great Design 

12. How to Make Book Covers That Sell

13. Foolproof Book Cover Design

14. Three Book Cover Design Mistakes to Avoid 

15. Book Cover Design Mastery 

16. Design a Paperback Book Cover with InDesign 

17. How to Make a 3-D Book Cover in Photoshop 

18. Udemy Learn Book Cover Design 

19. Corel How to Design a Book Cover 

20. PSD Box How To Create a Realistic Book Cover 

Next week, we explore interior design and ebook formatting.