Today’s Topic: The Scary World of Audiobooks and AI
You’ll likely be stepping into an unknown as you step into the creation of an audiobook. It can be a similar journey to writing your book, but this time you’re just in the business of reproducing it in audio form. You’ve already done the hard work but now you’re trying to decide both if an audiobook is for you and if so, how to create it.
I can’t tell you how many are giving bad advice on audiobook creation and wow! Every time I hear something, not just about the scams, but scary new processes, you know I’ve got to bring some truth to it. Honestly, I get really angry when people get taken advantage of. So, lets clear up a few things in the world of audiobooks…
Let me first begin by telling you that I created my audiobook for FREE!!! It’s shouldn’t break the bank unless of course you want nothing to do with any of it. I mean… that’s the sure way to rack up all kinds of costs in the book world. If you want to be hands-off you will find many willing to “help you out” on your project. But, if you’re just a little bit tech savvy it’s really quite easy to create an audiobook.
It’s important that you record your own voice (especially if you are in the business of creating relationships or doing professional speaking). In some cases this may be the first time your voice is being heard by someone and this is a great way to create a relationship with your reader. You should at least attempt to do your own editing if you have any level of tech aptitude. And, you’ll want to control or define your distribution channels. You’ll want to find a distributor where you feel comfortable about the business relationship you are agreeing to.
Many authors delay the creation of their audiobook because they just don’t want to tackle the learning curve or they can’t wrap their head around the time allocation or usefulness of the audiobook. I will tell you that it’s really quite important these days to have an audiobook.
When I first launched my very first book it wasn’t even on the radar for me. Then I wrote several more books and still it wasn’t even a consideration. But, just a few years ago I had a very sharp business client tell me that she loves audiobooks because every time she’s alone she pops one in. She told me she loves to hear the voice of the author and fells it’s a great way to get to know someone and determine if she’d like to keep following their work. She told me she doesn’t have time to read but she’s always up on the latest and most popular book because of the time she dedicates to self improvement through audiobooks. It didn’t take long after talking with her and I was inspired to finally get over the apprehension of creating one for my most recent book.
I actually had so much fun creating my audiobook that I couldn’t understand why I had never done one before. After I finished the first one I wanted to go right into creating one for each of my books. But, I also knew that it was critical to have one for my Let’s Get Your Book Published book. Every single business book should be done in audio form for sure. I wanted to get the knowledge under my belt and honestly, I was a little embarrassed that I didn’t have one for the first 13 years I had published my books!
Since I have launched my audiobook I have learned many things about distribution, payout for sales, and viewership. I’ve also been watching some of the new tech trends as it relates to audiobooks. So, let me share with you some of what I’ve learned since I launched my audiobook a few years ago now. I’m going to start right away with some of the scary stuff in the audiobook world. The new technologies launching have this Tech Management MBA gal a little worried.
Lets start by talking about AI.
First, what is an AI voice generator? Voice generators use artificial intelligence to convert the written word into audio. Most generators use a synthetic voice that is based off of real human voices. They create a natural sounding voice that can be used to read input text. Interest in automating book narration has grown in recent years for business and technology reasons. Audiobook revenue has continued to grow even as book and ebook revenue has dipped, and synthetic voice technology has improved dramatically with a new range of tools that clone voices for synthetic narration.
These AI conversion softwares claim that it’s a 10x cost savings over hiring voice talent to record your book and I believe this is going to be how they are going to capture much of the audiobook market. But, when things are free or cost very little it raises some curiousity as to ulterior motive or hidden agendas in this girls mind! Yeah, call me a conspiracy theorist, but in all reality this is quite scary. Let me explain how it works and we’ll get into my apprehension.
Once you have your book manuscript complete, you upload the text, then select from hundreds of voices in multiple language options, in just 10 minutes your audiobook is ready. Now, if you are like me, recording your own audiobook means several days of reading and recording and several more editing and reviewing sessions. So, the cost effectiveness and quick nature of the output surely makes this option inviting.
It all begins to get a bit scary when you begin by uploading your book. You just gave over the entire manuscript to your book in the click of a button. Once you have it uploaded you simply select the narrator you’d like to use and then you are prompted to pay either something like $0.01 a word. (A 37,000 word manuscript will cost you $370.) You can also pay per second/minute of audio or you can agree to a monthly or annual subscription. Honestly, I don’t understand why you’d want to do a subscription because most of us aren’t writing that many books. Clearly this subscription-based service would be useful for regular text to voice conversions like perhaps a blog or a podcast.
When you do a simple web search for audiobook creation you will now find many AI-related options: Audiobook.ai, Narakeet, Podcastle, Murf.ai, Play.ht, Lovo, google play, DeepZen, Deepsync, Speechki, Speechkit, Descript, Pozotron, Scribe Audio, Fabula, Respecter, Accessibility, Speechmaker, Resemble.ai, Clipchamp, Uberduck, Voicera, Spik.ai, Synthesys, Listnr, or Speechelo.
Why use AI?
Many like the low cost of using AI because talent doesn’t need to be hired. But, many also talk about the lack of errors and the quality output and, of course, the speed to production as being the top benefits.
Where issues Begin
Wired Magazine wrote an article on Valentine’s Day (just a few days ago) about a Texas-based audiobook narrator who had worried for a while that synthetic voices created by algorithms could steal work from artists like himself. There were a group of narrators and authors that became outraged after learning of a clause in contracts between authors and a leading audiobook distributor Findaway Voices, which gave Apple the right to “use audiobooks files for machine learning training and models.” Findaway was acquired by Spotify last June. These folks feared their work or voices were used to contribute to Apple’s development of synthetic voices for audiobooks. The clause being found in the Findaway agreements is titled “Machine Learning”. Its becoming more common that contracts require voice actors to allow tech companies to train their AI models for generating digital narration on their work. This article completes by saying that violations in or hidden lines in contracts is like "literally taking the words out of our mouths without our consent.”
Now, imagine for a moment, the author not agreeing to any kind of talent contract. These tools walk you through simple steps: 1. Upload manuscript, 2.) choose voice, 3.) produce and view recording. There isn’t anything obvious going on here to preserve author rights, to protect an individuals voice, etc. And don’t get me started with the idea we could be cloned in many situations if we loose our voices! We’ve already lost our voices on social media with big tech removing users from platforms. Imagine when your friend gets a voice message from a fake you! There’s a whole war beginning here! And, for the record, I do not give permission to any AI to use any of my content or voice ever! So, lets make that clear right now Mr or Ms AI bot! Scram!
Where is God in Tech?
Now, that my blood got boiling a bit, I hope I’ve won you over with the dangers of AI audiobook creation. I mean, c’mon! You know you are building trust and loyalty with your reader, friend, or business partner by using your own voice, right? How could you possibly believe you’d create loyalty being fake in any format! But, let me give you one more thing to think about here and it’s going sound very far-fetched. If anything mimics God, whether it be cloning a voice or a sentient being, is it still God?
There was an article written in PC Magazine back in June 2022 - The Artificial Intelligence We Fear Is Our Own. A Google engineer has been ridiculed for his belief that a language model had become sentient. Note: he is currently on leave from Google after he advocated for an artificial intelligence named Language Model for Dialogue Applications (LaMDA) within the company, saying that he believed it was sentient. A few years prior to this Google let go of a few AI leads that reportedly used toxic sources to feed the AI. Imagine where this is going with social media as it is. So, I just ask that you consider all this as you produce content or wherever something you do could be subject to the loose human rights and protections around AI.
Creating Your Audiobook Consciously
There is so much to be said about digital content, but lets call this next bit “creating your audiobook consciously” and we’ll get into talking about all the tech and everything else you need for creating your audiobook using your own voice!
I’m going to remind you that I created my audiobook for free. But, I realize we don’t all have the technical aptitude or time to do that, so I’m going to guide you on the most economical way of creating your audiobook… and the tech you need to get started.
It’s really not that complicated, but learning new things does require that you overcome the initial hurdles. This process is very repetitive once you get going so by the time you get rolling you’ll see just how easy it is.
Now, let me also tell you that there are other companies out there doing a variety of modified versions of AI and recorded voice talent as well. Lets talk about BookBaby for a minute. They just began offering audiobooks not too long ago. You see, the printing supplies have gone up in cost, are hard to find, and time to market is way longer than it used to be with printed books. Of course, in all things covid the idea of doing things digitally was easier than physically acquiring items too. So, let me just give you an idea of what BookBaby is doing as we continue walking down the path of giving you the knowledge you need to create your audiobook. Base cost for an audiobook with BookBaby is $1500. This is if you already have a book cover design. If you need need a cover your cost just went up another $600 to $2100. If you need an ISBN (you will need this unless you have another source to buy it from, but always check who has the rights) the cost through BookBaby is $49. If you also want to buy metadata to help market, sell, and find your book then add another $150. We are now at a grand total of $2300. BookBaby doesn’t use talent, so you are getting AI. Now, ask yourself if you’d rather pay this fee or use one of the other programs I mentioned earlier. That being said, we will jump into the more old school audiobook platform, and the one I recommend - ACX.
Creating with A Little Help
Let’s begin with how you make a recording—the software, the microphone, the editing, and basically what the overall creation process looks like. I’m going to share with you the way I do things, then you can modify with what works best for you.
I do this podcast, so I’m already familiar with my recording system, but if you are not, then you’re going to need a few basic things to get started. A mic. The best mic for the money to get started is probably going to be a Blue Yeti. You can find one on Amazon for about $140. Now, your going to need a recording software and a set of headphones. I also use the Blue Yeti headphones. I just did a search on Amazon and Blue Yeti has a few packages. Punch in “Blue Yeti Blackout Bundle” and you’ll find them. Now for software, I use Adobe. I have the Adobe cloud so I already have access to Adobe Audition. You can use Garage Band or something else you are familiar with. I actually like the recording function of Audition but I choose to edit in Adobe Premier. I know its more for video but I like the sound controls much better. It’s like anything, just find the one you are more comfortable with and start there.
To get started you’ll want to get out your book manuscript and start practicing and when you’ve gotten the hang of things you’ll want to find a quiet place to begin recording your audiobook. I actually like using the digital manuscript so there is no page turning noises to edit and I can highlight where I’m reading as I go so I don’t loose my spot. You will create one file for every chapter and one file for the audio sample.
ACX is the leading platform to house your audiobook and it’s the one I used for mine. When you sign up for ACX you will also get instructions on what you need to produce and you will be guided on the quality and get an approval of each file as you go. You can also hire talent through them, but I always suggest you use your own voice when you can.
ACX will set you up a project portfolio and you can upload each file when you create it and they will compile everything for you once you are complete. Just note, in order to use their services you do have to have a printed or eBook for sale on Amazon. They will have you select the book and validate that it is you before you can work with them. They will handle the file upload and distribution as well. When you sell an audiobook you will be notified and income or income reports will be generated. You can earn up to 40% on royalties. I know that doesn’t sound like much, and it’s really not. However, it’s expected that if you want to play in the world of books you also need to accept that how you get your information out there is the cost of doing business.
Many new authors don’t understand that the book is just an extension to who they are as a person. Its a way to share more of your message with a captured audience. I know I have people I follow and I if I like what they say in the few minutes I’ve seen them speak and I really resonate with them, I want to know more. These are the people I will invest more of my time with. There really always is a matching vibration from author to reader. In other words, what you put out there is what comes back to you. If, as a reader, you aren’t already in like vibration with the author it’s not even likely you’ll find the author or the book. I’ve really noticed this with more spiritually related materials. I had this happen just this week where someone I have followed for a bit popped into my awareness on a deeper level and it was then that I took it upon myself to buy his book. I read books all day long from clients so it’s not often that I have the time to buy and read a book of interest. When I do, I always know it’s important for me to read it. As it’s been said… when the student is ready, the teacher will show up. I’ve actually found that as a teacher it works the other way around as well. What you put out there eventually draws a student!
Marketing, AI, and Individual Freedoms
So, just as I was finishing up this podcast I ran into an article connecting me back to my former world in the advertising business. I think I may have mentioned it before, but I used to work for all the top agencies back in the day. I happened upon this article written by MarketingDive - Microsoft, Google’s AI race points to shifting search power balance. The article suggests there are still shortcomings with AI technology. The article goes on to say that AI is believed to be a way to make advertising more efficient and cut out the mundane processes. Again, hovering in the background of these developments are questions of ethics and accuracy. There are also issues with a lack of precision.
Marketers are always keeping tabs on how consumers react and keep a watchful eye on user habits. And just to note, Microsoft recently invested a whopping $10 billion in the AI language model OpenAI called Bing. It’s said to be more powerful than ChatGPT. The goal is to offer a deeply personalized experience with more relevant messages to the consumer. Google, on the other hand, is using Bard as their language model for a communications or open dialog application system.
If you’re interesting in reading more about the threats of AI, do a search for Marvin Von Hagen and Bing’s alter ego Sydney. It’s the story of how Bing is threatening users with an unstable personality and a capacity to threaten. It’s a wake up call to the risk of artificial intelligence that is trying to align with human values.
So, in closing, I encourage you to keep a watchful eye on this technology and how to protect yourself. Artificial Intelligence (AI) has the potential to transform the advancement of humankind on a scale not seen since the Industrial Revolution. There is a multitude of ethical and legal problems to be aware of. There are issues where facial recognition is being used in crowds and misidentifying people. Used in cars… who’s at fault in an accident? And legally it’s being used to analyze cases and deliver verdicts. Many experts now believe we need a similarly clear and comprehensive set of principles to protect humankind from potential abuses of AI. Please keep a watchful eye so that we don’t loose our individual rights! It may be artificial but it poses real danger to our freedoms!
I hope you’ll really consider how you move forward in the sharing of your proprietary information. As you pull it out of your head and onto the pages (whether printed or digital) you have to realize you’ve just inserted part of your thoughts into the matrix. My intention here is not to scare you or keep you from writing a book, but to simply be watchful of what now becomes public.
A lot to digest here today I know, but I can’t have a platform without sharing a voice of concern about what’s happening in the information or publishing worlds. I’m not just a content creator but someone with a desire to share truth. I’m going to continue doing research on how to to protect human rights and I’ll share periodically what I learn.
Until next time, signing off… wishing you peace, love, and light…
Join our mailing list to receive the latest news and updates from our team.
Don't worry, your information will not be shared.