Audiobooks, podcasts, smart speakers — it's clear that audio content is not only on the rise but is exploding with popularity. Audiobooks, in particular, have seen a massive uptick in sales reaching a reported $1 billion in 2018. With a 25% year-after-year growth, audiobooks aren't going anywhere. And where there are audiobooks, there must be audiobook narrators. But how does one become an audiobook narrator?
If you have a passion for literature and language, audiobook narration might just be your next career path. Read more below to find out how to become an audiobook narrator whether you have past voice acting experience or not!
Table of Contents
- How To Successfully Become An Audiobook Narrator
- What Makes A Good Audiobook Narrator?
- What Styles Of Voiceover Narration Are There?
- How To Land Your First Audiobook Narration Gig
- Can Being An Audiobook Narrator Replace Your Day Job?
How To Successfully Become An Audiobook Narrator
The “greats” of any industry achieve their success in one way or the other, but it's never without having an undying passion for what they do. To become an audiobook narrator and carve out your own space in the industry will take just that – passion. Passion for books, for reading, for acting, for storytelling. So much that you could spend hours and hours doing it.
Audiobook narration definitely isn't a side hustle to earn a quick buck. In order to become an audiobook narrator, one will have to practice for hours, recording readings of books out loud ever before seeing any success or even landing a first voiceover gig.
It's a serious, professional job that requires lots of grit, skill, and patience. Not everyone will have a career that takes off, but over time, you can definitely become a trusted and reputable audiobook narrator.
If you're already interested in audiobook narration, chances are you'll know some of these famous narrators below. If not, then hopefully you can get inspired by these 5 examples of reputable audiobook narrators who've made audiobook narration their life's story:
- Jim Dale – legendary English narrator, most famous for his comedy and his narration of all 300 characters of the beloved Harry Potter series.
- Frank Muller – Dutch-born voice artist who, in many ways, paved the path to audiobooks' popularity. Choice of narrator for authors such as Stephen King.
- Robin Miles – acclaimed actress and award-winning narrator with over 250 books to her name.
- Davina Porter – Audie recipient for “best female narrator” for her performance on classics such as Anna Karenina and for for the hit novel series Outlander.
- Rachael Beresford – leading British female narrator and voice over artist as seen in Amazon Audible, BBC, Volvo, and others.
What Makes A Good Audiobook Narrator?
A description of what constitutes as a good audiobook narrator will vary, but ultimately, to be good at audiobook narration you should aim to embody the voice of the character as the author intended it.
Audiobook narrators will not only recount the story as it's told but tell the story in such a way that brings it to life. Without that, the essence of the characters, their personalities, environment, and emotions, cannot be conveyed. That's why to be a good, or skilled, audiobook narrator, one must combine the skills and know-how of acting and storytelling with pinpoint accuracy.
Skills will vary from narrator to narrator. While one audiobook narrator might be renown for doing a multitude of accents and personalities, another narrator might find success in conveying humor, or effortlessly engaging the listener.
Bringing your own skillset to the table is especially rewarding in career choices such as audiobook narration. People love unique. So if you have something unique to offer, don't hold yourself back!
With that said, the qualities audiobook narrators bring to the table might differ from person to person. However, there are a few indicators for skills you might already possess, or can learn, to become an audiobook narrator.
- Have the ability to read aloud for hours, maintaining consistency, focus, and professionalism throughout the recording.
- Finding just the right balance in tone, rhythm, and pace, so that the story and characters remain consistent and believable for the entire reading.
- Enunciate well and have clear and concise speech
- Be able to relate geographical regions and accents with accuracy and authenticity.
- Be intuitive and responsive to emotion while reading; knowing when to pause, create tension, or ease the listener with simple changes in tone and breathing.
- Staying consistent!
Sometimes recordings can take days to complete. Professional audiobook narrators will always keep a simple line of voice recording for each character they create, so that they may refer back to that particular voice when they need a refresher. That's at least Jim Dale's Harry Potter strategy for when he had to remember the accents and voices of over 300 characters.
If you really want to become a good audiobook narrator, consider looking into audiobook narration training.
Narration training essentially serves to teach you to be a voiceover actor and artist. Whether you're a complete newbie at narration, or whether you need to brush up on your skills, narration training is a worthwhile investment. Most professional narrators today have had some form of formal training for narration or have had a background in voice acting.
Luckily, audiobook narration is something you can train for at home via online classes. Udemy and ACX (Audiobook Creation Exchange) University (both offer in-depth masterclasses at how to become an audiobook narrator.
Narration training will take you through the process of narration recording, gear, performing, editing, marketing, and more.
If you're a complete beginner, enrolling in one of the above online courses is a first actionable step toward becoming an audiobook narrator!
What Styles Of Voiceover Narration Are There?
It's good to know that there isn't just one style of voiceover narration out there. Here is a quick rundown of the kinds of narration styles to know as book authors will search for the perfect person to narrate their work based on this criteria.
A full-voiced narrator will be able to perform several voices to distinguish the characters within one novel. This is the most common form of audiobook narration, and authors will specifically search audiobook narrators with rich experience in this style.
Meanwhile, a partially-voiced narrator aims to bring a distinguishable voice to only certain characters, not all characters.
“Unvoiced reading” sounds a bit misleading, but it actually makes sense. The goal of this style of narration is to not give any dramatic attention to any character, allowing for a natural, pleasant tone of voice to shine through.
Multicast / Full cast Readings
Full cast readings enlist the help of multiple voice actors for one reading. This style of narration is suitable for recording plays, dramas, children's books, and more.
Knowing the differences between the styles of narration can help you, as a budding audiobook narrator, widen your skills to become more hirable. Authors will often look for leading narrators in these above styles before choosing who to work with. Knowing this, you can plan and prepare accordingly!
How To Land Your First Audiobook Narration Gig
So once you've done your homework on how to become an audiobook narrator, the next step forward is to figure out how to land your first audiobook narration gig. Here are some ways to do just that.
The Audio Creation Exchange is the number one way that authors connect with established audiobook narrators and vice versa. To start narrating on ACX is easy, but remember you'll want to already be ready to audition by the time you create a profile on ACX. Creating a profile is easy. Once you're set-up, you'll add samples of your voiceover work, apply to jobs/books you want to narrate for, record a manuscript sample, and wait to hear back from the Rights Holder if you have been selected for the job. For payment, you'll either choose a per-finished-hour rate or choose to share 50% of the royalties – or both.
Freelancing Platforms (Upwork, Fiverr)
If you feel like ACX is too “pro” for you right now, but you want to try your hand at audiobook narration nonetheless, you can always start out by doing freelancing work. Both Upwork and Fiverr have clients who post jobs in search of audiobook narrators. You as the freelancer will pay a 20% commission fee but if you earn $501.00+ with the same client, the fee will decrease to 10%.
If you prefer to apply to audiobook narration jobs in person, or if you have a memorable “stage presence,” you could always attend casting calls for audiobook narrators. The easiest way to do this is to sign up on Backstage.com where you can search for available casting calls and auditions in your local area.
Can Being An Audiobook Narrator Replace Your Day Job?
Are the earnings from audiobook narration enough to replace your full-time job? Can you really make money with your voice? Is it even worth it?
Audiobook narration is certainly a time investment, and many novices won't make enough, or pursue it long enough, to quit their day job. However, you can earn quite a bit of money from doing either one-off narration jobs or by building a rapport with an author for a series.
The benefit of using ACX to find narration jobs is that you can opt to share 50% of royalties with the author. In the case that the audiobook is widely successful, that time investment will continue to earn you money over time, whereas a fixed-fee job on Upwork, for example, pays you only per project completed.
Basically, you could potentially earn WAY more on the royal share model IF the book sells well.
How Much Can You Earn As An Audiobook Narrator?
Beginner audiobook narrators might earn $50-100 per hour on the per-finished-hour model, while professional narrators can charge a premium of up to $350 per-finished-hour. Per-finished-hour means that the narrator will be paid every hour of finished audio (recorded, edited, and all), NOT for how many hours it takes in total.
As audiobook narrator Krystal Wascher shares on her blog, audiobook narration is definitely not a “get rich scheme.”
Building a profile and becoming a reputable audiobook narrator is an investment. But if you're impassionated by books and storytelling, audiobook narration will pay for itself in the long run.
Don't give up just yet! Becoming an audiobook narrator is a long journey, one that's likely full of bumps and challenges. But practice makes perfect, or so they say, and audiobook narration is definitely a career choice that takes practice.
You might not get paid well on your first narration job, but by building a portfolio that “speaks for itself” you will eventually land high-paying audiobook narration gigs!