At first, this article was titled, "5 Myths About How To Become An Audiobook Narrator." But to be honest, the truth is anyone can become an audiobook narrator. All you need is a recording device, a book, and an ACX, Fiverr or any other voiceover platform account.
With the explosion of the audiobook market ($940 million in U.S. sales during 2018) and the daily influx of new authors with books to narrate, many people are looking to audiobook narration as a second career or extra income. So while technically anyone can figure out how to become an audiobook narrator with the help of a Google search, becoming a professional audiobook narrator is a completely different story.
For the sake of this article, we will define a professional audiobook narrator as someone who commands at least $200 per finished hour per project and has the capacity to produce at least 144 hours of finished audio a year (two six-hour books a month).
1. Having a "Good Voice" Is Enough
Ask any professional audiobook producer or narrator how many times they've heard, "I have a good voice for audiobooks," and you will probably get a very long eye-roll accompanied by a heavy sigh. Yes, listeners definitely appreciate a "good voice," but really the secret lies in the way you convey an author's story. Connecting with subtext, pacing, and acting will be vastly more important than the timbre of your voice.
2. I Did Radio and Voiceover So I Don't Need Training
Wrong! While experience in those fields is helpful and relatable, being an audiobook narrator is more like being a theatre actor. Actually, some of the best narrators I know are theatre actors as they have incredible vocal range and understanding of how to connect with a deeper story arc. Unless you only narrator non-fiction, you must be able to perform as the narrator in addition to the characters in the story.
It's like having multiple personalities locked into your brain and being able to unleash each one in a different voice, with the correct tone and tempo, while saying the words correctly, and in some cases, speaking alien languages without missing a beat.
3. I Can Do It All Myself
Now I have to be honest here. There are certain narrators who come from the world of audio engineering or another technical audio field that can truly do everything themselves, efficiently. There are even a few self-taught folks that can handle the load of self-production and still make a good living from it. But for the general narrator, having help with their production is essential to make a living, even part-time, at audiobook narration.
4. The Right Casting Director Just Needs To Hear Me
For the audiobook popularity to be growing at the rate that it is, the audiobook community is still relatively small. To add to that, the community that works with the big five publishers is very tight-knit. Producers and casting directors risk their reputation when casting an unknown or little known talent. There are a few outliers, but for the most part, you have to put in the work before someone at the highest levels of the audiobook industry will take a shot on you.
You have to do the work to get the work.
5. I Will Make Money Sooner Than Later
I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but narrating audiobooks is not for the faint of heart (or the shallow wallet). When I started in audiobooks in 2011, publishers were still spending big money on booking studios in New York and LA for narrators to record with sound engineers and directors. Over the past four years, budgets have been slashed and rights holders expect narrators to build home studios and use their own equipment to create audiobooks. They are very demanding and expect you to meet those demands with little guidance.
If you're lucky, you may have a director or producer skype in to listen to the first few minutes of your performance and give you direction, but in most cases, you're on your own. You WILL have to invest in coaching, training and/or consultations. Coaches will help you be confident in the decisions you make in your narration, give you advice on how to choose titles that are right for you and show you how to navigate the industry and get in front of the right people when you're ready.
You can expect to spend several thousand dollars in learning the industry before you start to see a return on that investment. Having a plan and asking others who've been where you are is key.
Are You Ready To Become A Professional Narrator?
Because of technology, it is easier than ever to create an audiobook book. That doesn't mean that it is easy to work in audiobooks as a professional narrator. If you're serious about becoming a narrator, join our mailing list for our next post about "The 5 Steps To Becoming A Professional Narrator," or however many we end up with...
...This could be a long post.