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I first started wondering what it would take to become an audiobook narrator while on a road trip with my brother one summer nearly ten years ago. As we left the northeast and began the 700 mile hike to visit family in the south (after making the crucial mistake of leaving at 9am instead of 5am), we hunkered down for a long ride. At the time, books on CD were our main source of audiobooks. Unlike digital audiobooks, with their instant access to a wide range of titles, books on CD were more restrictive. If you didn’t have the book you wanted to listen to handy, you were out of luck.
Although we didn’t have many books on CD, we had the giant fancy doorstop books that we read in print. For my brother it was A Storm of Swords by George RR Martin, and for me it was The Well of Ascension by Brandon Sanderson. As we drove through the rush hour traffic of New Jersey, we both wanted to read the books we had brought. However, we felt bad about one of us silently reading and fucking whoever was driving. Sibling loyalty at its finest.
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I think we ended up sitting in the car for about 5pm that day, not thanks to our late start, so that gave us plenty of time to come up with an ingenious idea. We decided that the passenger would read aloud from our printed books. We played fair by alternating chapters between our two books. And so, we became audiobook narrators for the day. While we were a long way from someone like Roy Dotrice, who set world records for 234 character voices, we had a blast.
My brother was so successful with the different character voices that I suggested he study becoming an audiobook narrator. Years later, he told me he had made inquiries, and unfortunately, it’s a little more complicated than we thought. Since then, I have always wondered what Is it takes to become an audiobook narrator? If you have the same question, I’m here to help. After doing some research, I’ve put together a six-step guide to becoming an audiobook narrator.
6 Steps to Become an Audiobook Narrator
Step 1: Research and develop useful basic skills
When you’re ready to dip your toe into the pool of audiobook storytelling, the first step is to research useful skills. AudibleBlog Writer Luis Daniel Gonzalez (2021) discusses basic audiobook storytelling skills, including acting, languages and dialects, research, and endurance.
Much to his chagrin, my brother had discovered the same thing. Acting experience is part of the process when trying to become an audiobook narrator. Gonzalez (2021) shares Audible Studios Kat Lambrix’s thoughts on this. Lambrix said, “Storytelling is an acting gig. You play different characters, you tell stories. Although a degree in drama isn’t always required to become an audiobook narrator, a background in theater can help.
Knowledge of various languages and the research needed to become more fluent in those languages are also important skills. In a piece of 2019 for The Guardian, Tim Dowling describes Clare Corbett’s experiences as an audiobook narrator. He writes: “More recently, she told Flights, International Man Booker Prize-winning Polish author — and now Nobel Prize winner — Olga Tokarczuk. “Approaching that was very difficult,” says Corbett. “There was Russian and Polish language in it, and Russian, Polish and Croatian pronunciations.” Eventually, she contacted other women in her area who spoke the languages and could guide her through the pronunciations. “I meet my community at the same time,” she says.
Along with the steps above, Masterclass (2022) also recommends adding breath control to your skill repertoire. When you start thinking about becoming an audiobook narrator, think about ways to develop these basic skills.
Step 2: Research the craft by listening to audiobooks
It may seem obvious, but the more you listen to audiobooks, the more adept you become at telling them. I also have this impression of writing. As I work on my writing skills, I try to read as much as I can in my genre. Immersing myself in my craft helps me learn to become a better writer.
Masterclass (2022) gives advice on what aspiring audiobook narrators can look for when listening to audiobooks. “Research and listen to a range of audiobooks featuring prominent or promising storytellers in the field. Carefully examine their rhythm, cadence, inflections, and other reading techniques. Study how experienced storytellers regulate their breathing and switch between different voices can enlighten your reading and performance techniques.
Listening to audiobook narrators not only involves listening to the different voices they create, but also their breathing and rhythm. For a starting point, check out Rioter’s list of 21 prolific storytellers and Rioter’s list of 5 rising stars.
Step 3: Set up a Home Studio and start practicing!
Now that you’ve started building your basic skills and listening to lots of audiobooks, the next step is to practice. Creating a space to record yourself narrating audiobooks is an important part of this process.
You don’t need to invest in a lot of equipment to start recording. Masterclass (2022) recommends finding a space in your home, like a closet, where you can line the walls with soundproofing material to reduce noise. Buying a professional microphone can also impact the quality of your audio recordings.
Step 4: Promote yourself as an audiobook narrator
Once you start practicing, you can move on to promoting yourself as an audiobook narrator. Masterclass (2022) suggests recording a voice-over demo and offering your services in projects such as student films and podcasts. This can help you build your portfolio of recordings. Creating a website to showcase your work can also help you share that portfolio.
Another important part of promoting yourself involves networking. Gonzalez (2021) advises networking through professional organizations such as the Audio Publishers Association, as well as social media. He shares how social media can affect, along with the thoughts of Kat Lambrix, writing: “From connecting with other storytellers and reaching out to authors and editors, there are many ways to social media your best friend during your storytelling. career. “Put your work on social media. See what people’s reactions are — see what people engage with. Many storytellers are followed on social media and listeners find them through their accounts. Sometimes writers even approach storytellers through their social accounts,” says Lambrix.
Step 5: It’s time to apply!
You’ve researched basic skills, listened to audiobooks, practiced in your home studio, and promoted yourself as a storyteller. Now is the time to apply for audiobook gigs!
While you may first find freelance work through typical job search engines, there are also websites specific to audiobook positions. Gonzalez (2021) suggests checking out the following sites: ACX.com, VoiceBunny.com, and Voices.com.
Step 6: Keep honing your craft
Between applying and working for various audiobook narrator jobs, it’s important to keep honing your craft. Follow the latest promising audiobook narrators, keep listening to audiobooks, search for languages, accents and dialects.
Finding a coach is another great way to hone your skills. Gonzalez (2021) shares an important point to keep in mind: “Remember that just because you have a coach doesn’t mean you’re doing something wrong or not being good. The opposite is true – you are trying to perfect your craft, which is a huge step in the right direction.
Having an attitude of always looking for ways to improve will serve you well on your journey to becoming an audiobook narrator.
So, are you ready to become an audiobook narrator?
My brother and I had a lot of fun reading aloud during that car ride, but as we’ve since learned, there’s a lot to be done to become an audiobook narrator. I hope this guide will help you achieve your bookish dream of reading your favorite stories aloud. To dig deeper into what it takes to become an audiobook narrator, check out this Rioter’s interview with audiobook narrator, Noah Michael Levine.