So you like the sound of your voice, the way you pronounce words but unsure where to start in an audiobook narrator career? Then here’s the guide just for you. Here, the 4K Download team reveals what audiobook narration is, which skills are required, which equipment you might need, and how to start an audiobook narrator career.
What Is an Audiobook Narrator?
So what do audiobook narrators do? An audiobook narrator reads a book out loud, embodying characters, while the reading is being recorded in a studio with professional equipment. Considering there are multiple types of audiobook narration, such as solo narration, duet-narration, full-cast, and multicast narration, audiobook narrators often need to voice different characters of different genders, accents, emotions; typically, within one reading.
Despite the common misconception, narrators often work not only with audiobooks, but also papers, magazines, and other written pieces on platforms, such as Medium. And now, in the digital era, when businesses and publishers want to be accessible, the demand for narrators will only rise.
What Skills Do You Need to Become an Audiobook Narrator?
Love for audiobooks, good voice, clear pronunciation, and a talent for audio narration are surely necessary skills for any audiobook narrator. Yet these are not enough. It’s vital to be able to bring life to an audiobook when voicing its lines.
Speaking from the soft skills’ perspective, an audiobook narrator should be organised, able to meet deadlines and work with invoices and contracts when opting for freelancing. But now, let’s delve deeper into the hard skills you need if you choose audiobook narration as a full-time or even a freelance career.
Background in Acting
Though not mandatory, it’s super helpful if you have acting experience. This might aid you in impersonating different characters with diverse backgrounds with your voice. Narration is also acting.
Ability to Differentiate Voices, Accents, and Dialects
This skill flows from the previous one: you need to learn to embody diverse characters from different locations, speaking with various dialects and accents, and distinct yourself from other audiobook narrators. For instance, when you voice three men in their 20s in one scene, you have to find a way to showcase them as different characters so that a listener can easily understand who is who.
Audio narration might seem easy at first glance, but it requires stamina to record yourself for hours sitting down in the studio. Besides, not all audiobooks you’ll have to narrate will be of interest to you.
It also might be complicated to record your voice for long hours and keep it flawless. Knowing how to control your voice, breath, when to be loud, and when to make dramatic pauses are vital.
This might seem like a generic recommendation, but without thorough research, there’s a possibility you might stumble across an unknown country name, someone else’s name, and mispronounce it. To avoid this, do your research before recording and narrating.
Reading a story beforehand to find such unknown words or audit complicated parts won’t hurt.
Essential Vocal Skills for Audiobook Narration
Having a clear voice is a must-have if you want to start making money with audiobook narration. But what is a strong, clear voice, exactly?
It’s important to know how to pronounce words correctly, succinctly, and clearly. The words have to be pronounced without smacking, whistling, lisping or other noises. The only exception is when the wrong articulation is a speech characteristic of a personage.
As an audiobook narrator, you should know how to use your breath without running out of it in the middle of a sentence. This will secure you from recording one scene several times and streamline your editing process. Besides, avoid swallowing, clearing your throat, or gulping during the recording. To cut out popping noises, use pop filters.
Ability to pace
Audiobook narrators should be able to maintain a steady pace that enables listeners to perceive the story without being rushed or bored. Choosing the right pace, in turn, depends on the story and the characters.
How to Become an Audiobook Narrator: Getting Started
Here’s your audiobook narrator starter pack:
Laptop or PC that is able to store large files and handle audio recording and editing software.
Microphone to make your voice sound better.
Studio noise-cancelling headphones.
Mic stand to hold the microphone.
Pop filters to block the popping and breathing when you put your mouth to the microphone.
Recording software or web service, such as Audacity or GarageBand.
Audio editing software, such as LALAL.AI or iZotope to cancel noise from recordings .
Set up a quiet studio area for recording.
Apart from the recommended equipment, here are the tips to get you started as an audiobook narrator:
Start practising on your own by reading out loud and working on articulation and breath control.
Work on your stamina and try to read out loud by adding an hour each day.
Record your reading and play it back to see if there are any flaws or mistakes and determine the areas for improvement.
Recording yourself and playing back audio will also allow you to hear if you’re good at particular accents or dialects.
Find the right equipment you’re comfortable working with.
Identify your niche.
Every audiobook narrator specialises in one or several specific areas – books for kids, romance novels, detective stories, fantasies, e-learning, and so on. The choice of the niche usually comes down to what you like to read, which stories evoke emotions, and which authors you love to read.
Identify your strengths and weaknesses.
Think if there’s something you can do naturally with almost no effort. Perhaps, particular dialects or emotions come especially naturally or, vice versa, challengingly. Knowing all this will help you identify your best genre and differentiate yourself from other narrators.
Match your skills to the chosen niche and genre.
Learn how to edit your recordings.
It’s not as tricky as it sounds. Modern editing solutions are user-friendly and allow even non-techies to handle them in a couple of hours. If you’re absolutely sure you don’t have time or desire to master them, you can hire an audio editor.
How to Find Work as an Audiobook Narrator
All equipment is bought, the studio is set, and you’re ready to work with actual clients. How to find the first order? Where to begin? This part tackles these questions.
Start making connections within the field right from the beginning. Connections may include authors, other narrators, and publishers who can hire you. The simplest way is to update your LinkedIn profile and add new details about yourself. If you have a website with a portfolio and examples of your recordings, don’t forget to share them. Then just connect to people and agencies within the field and be active online. The latter is of great importance for freelancers.
LinkedIn is also helpful if you’re looking for a full-time position as a narrator or want to work on a project since people post actual vacancies there.
Stay on top of industry trends and attend events dedicated to literature and books. Networking isn’t limited to online communications.
You can offer your services as an audiobook narrator and read for the blind. Thus you won’t just help people but also win some points for your portfolio if you record yourself in the process.
Create a Website with Portfolio
Today you can barely market yourself if you’re not online. Having a digital portfolio is essential if you want to gain traction and find clients as a freelancer. You can create a simple portfolio yourself with solutions like WordPress, Wix, Readymag or even Notion. Or you can hire a professional who will create a website for you.
Add the best samples of your work to your portfolio and share it with your connections on social media. Highlight your relevant skills, languages fluency, and set genres/niches you’re ready to work with.
You can also start a YouTube channel and upload your demos there, but don’t forget about potential copyright risks.
Tip: If you want to download an audiobook from YouTube, use 4K YouTube to MP3. The tool allows for saving audiobooks in MP3 and other audio formats from YouTube, SoundCloud, and other sites in a couple of clicks and original quality. So if you want to save some audiobooks for your inspiration or learning, you can do so with 4K YouTube to MP3 hassle-free.
Use Career Sites
Sites like UpWork, LinkedIn, Glassdoor, Fiver, Freelancer, or Guru are a nice starting point to find your first actual order. To make your search narrower, use platforms that are audiobook-specific.
Leverage Audiobook Platforms
Platforms like ACX.com, VoiceBunny, Voices.com connect audiobook narrators with books and publishers. And adding your demos to sites like Backstage or Voice123 will help you get discovered by even more clients.
Submit Your Demos to Audiobook Production Houses
Apart from these sites, there are also the so-called audiobook production houses, such as New Village Press, Macmillan Audio, and Grand Central Publishing that have an in-house team of narrators and accept submissions from time to time to hunt new ones. If the house is open for submissions, carefully check their guidelines and send the demo.
How Much Can You Make as an Audiobook Narrator
The amount of money you can make as an audiobook narrator depends on your experience, clients you work with, and the amount of time you’re ready to devote to the narration. Many narrators are paid per hour of finished audio, some are paid by the hour if they’re invited to work in a publisher’s studio where they work together with a director and a sound engineer.
What’s more, many audiobook narrators are members of the SAG-AFTRA union, which lists minimum rate restrictions.