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Becoming an Audiobook Narrator: What You Need to Know

by blindertech

Smooth-voiced, expressive, and a bookworm, you want to know how to become an audiobook narrator and put your vocal charms to good use. We see you — this comprehensive post contains everything you’ll need to know, from how you should start out to booking your first gigs and being at the top of every author’s list. Let’s go!

What makes a good audiobook narrator? I’ve been told I have a nice voice – will that help?

Having a voice that people like to listen will certainly help! But it isn’t the only, or even the most important, quality. A good audiobook narrator is a good reader. They understand the subtleties of language and they can quickly interpret complex sentence structures. They’re able to sink into the text and reflect all that emotion with their voice. They’re able to tell a story.

Honestly, it’s a rare skill. It’s not the same as being a good speaker, or even being a good actor, although both of those things can help. It takes mental agility and stamina along with the technical skills.

I do love reading – but I hate certain genres of books. Can I choose what books I narrate?

Generally speaking, you will perform better if you enjoy the text you’re reading. But the answer to this question probably depends on whether or not you’re pursuing narration professionally.

You always have the freedom to turn down a book you don’t want to narrate, but if you’re trying to break into professional narration then you may find you have to cut your teeth on books you wouldn’t necessarily choose to read yourself.

When it comes to volunteering for Listening Books we are interested in both your strengths and your preferences when casting. That’s why we ask you on the application form to tell us what kinds of books you prefer.

Do I have to have my own studio or be a trained actor to become a professional audiobook narrator?

Neither of these things are necessary. Some freelance narrators do create their own studios, but here at Listening Books we record all our audiobooks in our own professionally equipped studio. You also don’t have to be a trained actor, although admittedly this can certainly help. Not all most famous voice actors are good narrators and vice versa – but there is a significant overlap!

How much do audiobook narrators get paid?

How long is a piece of string?

What you will be paid depends not just on how experienced or famous you are (or aren’t), but also on things like whether or not you’re recording in your own studio and handling the post-production as well. However, it is most common for narrators to be paid per finished hour. In other words, no matter how long it takes you to record, you will be paid according to how long the finished audiobook is. This makes for a great incentive to slow down when narrating! You’re less likely to make time-consuming mistakes that way, and you’re also increasing the amount of money you will be paid.

How long does it take to record an audiobook then?

That will depend on the book and your experience. It will take longer if you get frustrated when making mistakes – and making mistakes is frequent and inevitable! One of Listening Books’ volunteers, who is also a professional voice actor, has a great habit of saying “thank you” instead of “sorry” whenever he’s corrected. That’s a wonderful habit to get into. It keeps things positive for everyone, and it means he doesn’t get flustered, which saves time.

On average, though, a typical novel of about 100,000 words takes four pretty intense, long days to record.

If it takes that long to record, do I have to read the whole book before I start recording?

Yes please! You’ll want to check for any words or names you don’t know how to pronounce and research those for a start. Plus you need to note dialogue that isn’t clearly tagged (is Harry or Sally speaking here?) and for sneaky descriptors that come after the fact – like “Come here,” she hissed.

All these things will need to be marked up in your text as you prep so that you don’t get into the studio and start yelling, “COME HERE!” she hiss…oh.

This is also when you’ll want to make character choices. If there are lots of characters then you’ll need to keep pretty organised notes.

Should I do voices for all the different characters?

Again, this is really dependent on the book (sorry!).

Some of the audiobooks we record at Listening Books, like the Murderous Maths series, benefit from really exaggerated, cartoon-like character voices. Then there are some that are just straightforward nonfiction that may not require voices at all. And then there are others that are somewhere in between.

Especially when there’s dialogue in fiction there should be at least some change in inflection so that the listener knows someone new is speaking. The extent to which you change your voice will depend on the type of book, your own instincts, and the producer’s direction. But my own preference is that the voice shouldn’t distract from the text.

Thank you for your reading. Good Luck!

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