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On Becoming An Audiobook Narrator

Updated: Sep 1, 2020

There’s been a fair amount of interest in how I got started audiobook recording since I posted about it today, so I thought I’d put it all in one handy dandy post to make it easy for people to refer back to without having to filter through a bunch of Facebook comments. 

Reading is one of those things I have always loved to do. So is acting. Reading aloud is basically acting out a story all by yourself. I mentioned to somebody (I forget who) that it’d be a dream job to read books for a living. They suggested I google how to do that because there has to be a way - audiobook narrators don’t magically appear - so I did. The course I found is by Krystal Wascher - it’s a good course. Very thorough, though a tad redundant in places - and not much help for recording and editing if you're not going to use Audacity. If you want a step by step How To guide - you can start here - except, I've just been told that there's nothing actually there anymore, which is weird since I can still access the course. Maybe I will have to make my own then! OR - ACX (which is who you’ll be working through mostly) has a bunch of video tutorials as well. And theirs are free. ACX also has a blog with more info and tutorials. They’re very helpful.  

You’ll need a computer, a good microphone, and an audio interface. Drew recommended this Focusrite Scarlett gizmo. Which isn’t too awfully expensive - it’s about $100. If you don’t have a mic and headphones (because you have to listen to your recordings in order to edit and master them) they also have a bundle which is about $200! So the mic plugs into the audio interface, the interface plugs into your computer so that it can translate that to a recording. 

She recommends using Audacity in that course. It’s free and fairly simple to use. However, I am married to an audio engineer and after I FINALLY went through the whole course (two years after I bought it) and got everything set up equipment wise, I asked him to check it all for me and make sure my levels were good and all that. So he played with it for a little while and declared Audacity to be kindof a piece of junk that would make my recordings poor quality and noisy. I played around with Reaper for a while and had the hardest time getting levels right and it was just... clunky to use. So I switched to Studio One with RX7 and life is SOOOOO much simpler now! I also highly recommend Red Baarns Audio for their tutorials!

So… once you get everything set up and ready to go, you’ll need to pick at least three things to use as audition pieces. Public Domain works are best since you won’t get in trouble with copyright laws. There’s a huge resource for public domain works at Gutenberg complete with digital files to use. You’ll record your samples - 3-5ish minutes each - edit and master them. Then upload them to your profile in ACX. Then you’ll want to go search for books looking for a narrator. You can narrow your search parameters by genre, accent, male/female, language, etc. You find one you like the look of (here is where I totally judge a book by its cover), download the audition script and see if you like that, too. If you do - record, edit, master and upload with a little note (just as a courtesy) and then wait for the author to respond. I wouldn’t stop with just one audition. I’ve done 10 this week. I also started at the end of the list with books that have been waiting longest for narrators. 

You probably won’t get high paying jobs at first. But the more experience you get the more you can charge. They can pay you on a Per Finished Hour basis, Royalty Share, or a combination of the two. I like the combination idea - so you get paid for your work up front, and you keep getting paid on royalties as it sells. 

A note on editing - when you’re reading and you mess up (because you WILL mess up), there are two things you can do... you can clap (or snap, or click a dog training clicker) then go back and edit. OR, you can learn to Punch & Roll - which is where you go back a little bit to before you messed up, start recording again, and just record straight over the top of that error. Then you have drastically reduced editing time, which is always a win!!

Another place that publishes audiobooks is Author’s Republic. All I’ve done with that is bookmark it, though, so I can’t really comment on it any further.  There are several others I'm discovering. Most want you to have some books under your belt before you even apply with them, though.

Oh, and if you’re like me and you love old books, there’s a website called Librivox where you can listen to public domain audiobooks for free. AND - they need volunteers to read ones they have waiting, which is another good way to get some exposure! 

A great resource is The Narrator's Roadmap. I highly recommend it!

I can’t think of anything else at the moment. If you have questions feel free to email or message me and I’ll help out as much as I can! 

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