Becoming an audiobook narrator can open an array of opportunities and take you places you haven’t considered possible. For example, imagine narrating for one of your favorite authors or being paid to read books aloud!
If you dream of working as an audiobook narrator you’ve come to the right place. In this article we’ll cover the equipment you need to do the job and review five key skills to develop as you begin your journey. Lastly, you’ll find options for finding your first audiobook narrator job. Let’s get going!
Table of Contents
When deciding to become an audiobook narrator it’s crucial to determine if you want to work as a freelancer or for an audiobook publisher. If you work for a publisher, they should provide much of the equipment necessary. All you need to be responsible for is being prepared to narrate.
If you decide to work as a narrator as an independent contractor, then creating an industry standard recording room is crucial to ensure quality. Here are a few of the basics:
- Microphone and laptop
- Sound booth and workstation
- Stand for the device or pages from which you will be reading
When creating your sound booth make sure that outside noise such as traffic cannot be heard in your recordings. For more in-depth information, read the article, how to record an audiobook on your specific budget.
Audiobook Narrator: 5 Skills Needed
Now that you know some of the equipment you will need, it’s time to discuss the soft skills that help set you apart from other audiobook narrators.
Public speaking is often viewed as a “public” career—after all, it is in the name. However, public speaking is an immeasurably helpful training ground for the private career of audiobook narration.
The more opportunity you have to speak in public, the better you will be able to articulate your words under pressure.
Voice, Tone, Inflection
Just as the speaking voice, chosen tone, and the various inflections you choose impact how others perceive you in conversation, the same is true for audiobook narration.
Imagine reading a thriller in a happy, comedic tone. Your voice would not reflect the content you are reading. Mastering these three aspects is crucial to lasting success as an audiobook narrator.
With the idea of inflection in mind, think back to the last time you heard someone read aloud. Did they impersonate the characters they read with their tone? If they were reading a narrative, did they speak softly in appropriate parts and raise their voice in others?
As much as acting is about gestures and facial expression, much of the subtext in our favorite movies comes from tone. Consider the following dialogue:
“I would love to take you on a date tomorrow evening.”
“Well yes, of course.”
These three lines could be read as a joke, sarcasm, or genuine. Audiobook narration is acting without facial expression.
I took a speech class in college and the feedback I received most was to slow down my speeches. I talked too fast and although people enjoyed my content, they struggled to understand me because of my pacing.
Self-awareness is a valuable asset, particularly for audiobook narrators. If you are aware you are speaking too fast, too slow, or not adding enough inflection then you can make the necessary changes.
Have you ever been reading and stumbled across an unfamiliar word? This is an audiobook narrator’s nightmare. Honing your research skills can help you proactively avoid these issues. When choosing to become an audiobook narrator, invest in educating yourself on a myriad of topics, particularly concerning the genre you would like to record.
Even if you plan to be an audiobook narrator for sports memoirs, familiarizing yourself with a variety of topics will help your recording process run smoothly. You never know what illustrations or examples a writer may use!
Platforms to Find Narration Jobs
Now comes the fun part—finding your first audiobook narrator job. There are many ways to land your first job, paid or unpaid, and every session you book helps equip you for your future as well.
Reading for Children
Volunteering to read at a school, local library, or even if you babysit young children, all act as a platform to find jobs. Libraries can be a particularly helpful place to practice reading due to the type of people who come in:
- Aspiring writers
- Published authors
You never know who you may meet and network with.
Reading for the Visually Impaired
Reading for the visually impaired or blind is a great way to help your community while at the same time gaining invaluable practice for your dream job. When reading for those visually impaired, how you use your inflection and tone will dramatically influence how they experience the story.
Search for Online Writing Groups
For your first paid job, you may want to start by researching online writing communities. Facebook, Twitter, and Medium are a few places to start your search. If you have your own recording equipment, you can offer your services to these writing groups.
Offer Your Services to a Self-Publishing Company
If you hope to bring in more steady work as an audiobook narrator, you might want to consider reaching out to self-publishing companies and querying your services to them. When querying, be sure you have an updated website for future clients to contact you, or at the very least, a Facebook page describing your services.
Take Advantage of Online Job Sites
Open to your favorite job site and type in the keyword audiobook or audiobook narrator. Sometimes landing your first job is all it takes to start you on the path to booking yourself on a regular basis. If a job site helps you in this journey, all the better!
Next Step: Spend More Time on Your Phone (really!)
Now that you have concrete steps to improve your speaking voice and you know places to look for jobs, it’s time to practice.
If you have a smartphone, open your recording app and begin reading one of your favorite stories. After you read for several minutes (enough time to get comfortable), play your audio and review it.
Take notes on what you did well and areas you could improve. Create your own constructive criticism by asking the following questions:
- Was my voice monotonous or did I use inflection?
- What speed did I speak? Too fast, too slow, or just right?
- Did I stumble over anything?
During your practice sessions, don’t worry if you hear background noise. The purpose is to pay attention to your strengths and weaknesses. The more you listen to your audiobook narration practice sessions, the more self-awareness you instill.
It may feel like a waste of time to read into your phone (or whatever recording device you have), but even just a few minutes of practice in a stress-free environment can draw your attention to nuances you may have otherwise missed.
The key is consistency over time. Rather than cram three hours of reading in over the weekend, try to practice for five or ten minutes a day. Track your progress, and let us know when you book your first audiobook narrator job!