Voice actors have been around for a long time, but audiobook narrator jobs have become a surprisingly big part of that industry in recent years.
If I had to venture a guess, I’d say it’s thanks to people’s long commute times and the boredom that comes along with that. Whatever the reason, it’s great for anyone who’s been looking for ways to read and make money at the same time.
If eloquence and precise articulation get you excited then maybe becoming an audiobook narrator is your calling.
It definitely sounds like an incredibly fun career track to pursue.
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Before I start telling you all about this profession and how you can land your first gig, there’s something important you need to know first:
In voice acting, your voice is the thing that’s going to get you hired.
It sounds obvious, I know, but think about that for a moment.
You need to have a pleasant voice.
Unfortunately, no amount of training or preparation can give you that.
Like with other forms of acting – you either have it or you don’t. That doesn’t mean audiobook narrating doesn’t require training or preparation, because it certainly does.
But those things need to be fueled by natural talent.
What skills do you need to apply for audiobook narrator jobs?
I’ve marveled at the unbelievable talent some people have for manipulating their own voices.
There’s something wonderfully entertaining about hearing someone tell a vivid story, or seeing a fictional character come to life thanks to the voice behind it.
People don’t always realize the amount of skill and talent that actually go into audiobook recordings.
You have to consider the right pacing and tone but keep it entertaining, speak clearly, bring life to the story and the characters, and stay true to the original intent of the text.
All of these are necessary skills that you need to work on.
On top of that, very successful book narrators can modulate their voices to portray different characters (in what is known as solo narration), including ones of different genders and with different accents.
This isn’t a dealbreaker skill, but it can open up a lot of doors for you.
Narration is a technical art form and requires dedication and stamina.
You have to coordinate with the publisher and other voice actors (if there are any), you have to deliver hours upon hours of reading work, and you have to be your own director.
Reading a book out loud is like directing a story that you’re telling; during every moment of the read-through, a narrator has to stay focused on the rhythm, characters, intonation, and enunciation.
Any mistakes means doing it all over again.
Possibly one of the most important skills an audiobook narrator should have, however, is good organizational skills.
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Books often have a lot of characters to keep track of and it’s important for continuity that the voices of each and the pronunciations of words stay the same throughout the book or sometimes a series of books.
How to Get Started as an Audiobook Narrator
Finding audiobook narration training is a good option, but it’s not necessary.
Someone who has had voice training or acting lessons can also make for great narrators. Which is why classically trained actors regularly branch into this line of work with a lot of success.
Mainly, you’ll need recording equipment to get started.
This could mean a considerable investment from your part, but you don’t have to own the best to start out with.
Having somewhere quiet with few distractions to record the audio is much more important.
On top of that, you’ll also need audio recording and editing software.
Most of the time, you’ll send over the raw-edited audio files, which means that there’s still a bit of editing involved to remove any mistakes or piece the recordings together, depending on whether you prefer a punch and roll technique or a straight recording (I’ll explain the difference below).
Some publishers provide a studio where audiobook narrators can go record their lines, and they do all of the editing themselves.
This rarely happens with fledgling narrators or smaller publishers, though.
Meaning you’ll more than likely have to invest in some equipment to get started in this industry.
You will probably feel nervous for your first reading, whether it’s at home or a studio.
Being prepared is one of the best ways to counterbalance that nervousness.
Preparing for a reading requires getting the manuscript beforehand so you can read through it and mark important details.
For instance, things like character descriptions and dialogue tags (such as “she sneered”, or “he shouted”) should be noted beforehand so you can accurately read the dialogue and make it sound the way it was intended to sound.
Being a professional means being prepared.
5 Different Types of Audiobook Narration
There are three main types of audiobook narration:
1. Solo Narration
This involves just one person reading out all of the lines.
They could be acting out different voices for different characters, or use one tone of voice throughout.
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It depends on the publisher’s needs and the type of book.
2. Duet Narration
This is where two people are reading different parts of the book.
It could involve one person as the narrator and another acting out the characters or both acting out different characters.
Sometimes, a book has two different points of view, of which each is then read separately by the two people.
3. Full-Cast Narration
A full cast is a whole production where a group of people is each assigned a different character role to read for.
Sometimes a person can still have more than one role.
As I mentioned earlier, there are also different methods of recording the audio:
4. Punch and Roll
This method of recording involves rolling back the audio a bit to before a mistake was made and then “punching” in a new recording that continues where that part left off.
C.C. Hogan does a great job of explaining this method if you’re interested.
5. Straight Record
The recording keeps rolling until you decide to stop. T
his includes mistakes and rereadings to correct those mistakes. You then have to go back later and edit out the parts where mistakes were made.
How Much Do Audiobook Recording Jobs Pay?
According to established audiobook narrators like Krystal Wascher, someone that’s just starting out in this line of work (even those with no experience) can expect anything around $80 per recorded hour.
From what I’ve gathered, there’s a lot of fluctuation in how much voice actors, in general, get paid. There are too many variables and branches of voice acting to get a solid number.
That said, audiobooks can be a great source of both active and passive income, depending on the deal.
Sometimes, a gig pays a flat rate (usually per hour) and other times the narrator will get a percentage of the royalties paid to the writer over a number of months or years.
A ‘recorded hour’ does not refer to the number of hours you put in, but the length of the audiobook.
Some narrators say it takes them about two hours of recording per one recorded hour depending on the number of mistakes, stops, and retakes involved.
Where to Apply For Audiobook Narrator Jobs
Searching for audiobook narrator jobs on sites dedicated to that specific area is one good option.
Stick to the following popular voice talent marketplaces:
They offer hundreds or thousands of new opportunities that you can take advantage of.
The competition on these sites may be fierce, however, with many other experienced applicants competing for the same roles as you.
There should be less competition and more people willing to give a newbie a chance.
The Bottom Line
Audiobook narration is only one branch of an over-arching voice actor industry.
There are plenty of other ways to earn a part-time or full-time gig with your voice, though you have to be dedicated and know where to get started.
This isn’t always an easy industry to get into, but it can be a very rewarding one with plenty of career satisfaction.