How to pick your audio book narrator

Audio book publisher Jennifer Feddersen is my guest blogger today.

Hello and welcome, Jennifer!

Now that independent authors are taking charge of getting their novels into audio, they are faced with the challenge of acquiring a whole new set of skills in order to get the results they want. Just like independent authors must learn to choose quality editors, formatters and cover artists for their self-published ebooks and print books, when it comes to audio they must learn to spot a narrator who can produce a quality audio product. That’s not easy when you’re new to the field.

Regardless of what company you use to publish your audio book, when it comes to choosing a narrator you’ll want to look for a few particular things:

1. A clear, measured, pleasant voice. Before you choose your narrator, take the time to listen to a number of professionally produced audio books, preferably bestselling titles. You can usually find them in your local library – or listen to demos online. Listen to the pacing and tone of the professionally produced audio books, so that you get a feel for what you’re looking for. When it’s time to find a narrator for your own project, beware of narrators who speak too quickly, whose volume rises and falls dramatically, and whose tone isn’t even. Always ask potential narrators to submit a sample made from your book that is several pages long. That way you’ll get a real sense of their pacing.

2. Accuracy. If you are taking charge of producing your audio book, it will also be up to you to proof it. Again, ask potential narrators to provide a demo of several pages. If their demo contains several mistakes, you can be sure their final product will be chock full of them, too.

3. Professional Equipment. Think back to the professional audio books you listened to before seeking your narrator. Did you notice the warm tone to the recording and the quiet background? Always ask narrators to make their demo on the equipment they’ll actually use to record your audio book. New narrators often get demos professionally edited and mastered, but then do work on their own cheap equipment at home. Demand that the demos they submit be of equal sound quality to the product they deliver. Don’t be afraid to ask for references from satisfied customers, either.

All in all, the best way to make sure you are happy with your final audio book is to do the legwork up front to pick a quality narrator. By asking for demos that are several pages long, made specifically from your manuscript, you are likely to get a real sense of what your narrator can…and can’t, do.

Jennifer Feddersen owns AudioLark Audio Books, AudioMinx Audio Books, and One Acre Audio Books. She has produced and published over 200 audio books since 2010, and is thrilled to see how far digital audio has come.

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6 Responses to How to pick your audio book narrator

  1. KittyKarate says:

    One key thing is to think about the ‘voices’ in the novel. A person can meet all the technical requirements above, but may not have the correct range/style to meet what you need. For example, I recently bought the audio book of ‘Cyteen’. For most of the book’s characters (both male and female), the voice is good, but there are 2 characters that have a more grizzled outlook, and as part of this the female narrator uses this fake croaky voice that is like fingernails on a blackboard for me. So I think if your book has several major characters that require unique voices, then you need to consider the range of voices your narrator can provide.

    Sorry if I’m not making sense here, I’m a consumer of audio books rather than an author.

  2. Great information to have! Thank you!!

  3. Kitty – you’re perfectly right. It isn’t a bad idea to present a potential narrator with a demo script that contains at a least a few lines from each main character in your book, so you find out how they intend to voice them.

  4. Carly Carson says:

    That’s a good tip about the equipment. I haven’t heard that before. I’m not looking to do an audio book, but…never say never.

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