Audiobook sales have exploded, but not every narrator is a good fit!
I currently have over 120 ebooks published and 70 narrated and produced into audiobooks, with a further seventeen in production.
As an author who isn’t new to the process of audiobook production, I’ve had the privilege of working with some really good narrators, as well as a few who couldn’t fulfill their contracts, a few who disappeared in the middle of production, and only a couple who didn’t produce the kind of quality that was required.
Having said that, when I put a book up for auditions, I reject far more than I ever consider. Sometimes the narrator may be good, but not for that book or series. When I write a book, I have a certain narrative style and vocal quality in mind already. Although I do prefer having dual female/male narration, I’ve been less inclined to look for both over the past year, since the narration is often being done in different locations, which requires a producer to work some magic, fixing the audio quality and balancing the sound from the two recordings.
Audiobook narration comes down to acting. If you’re a radio announcer with a great easy listening voice, that does not necessarily make you a good audiobook narrator. You have to get the radio announcer out of your voice and build up your acting ability. Audiobooks require the most “acting”: You have to capture every single character in the book in a believable way, with a unique voice style for each. I’ve listened to a number of audiobooks where the narrator uses the same vocal style for every character. It not only takes away from the telling of the story but also fails to make the narration believable.
Then there is the audio quality—a big consideration! This encompasses anything from background noise, to electrical buzzing, to whirring from a computer fan. I even had one audition where it sounded like a microwave was going in the background. I’ve heard pops of the “p” on the mic and volume fluctuations where a narrator or amateur producer has played with the volume to hide a flaw or some background noise, from rustling papers to throaty noises and swallowing. These are sounds we shouldn’t hear, not in an audition or a finished audiobook.
Let’s talk about editing. This is another of the really big considerations in audiobook production. The audiobook producer, who is sometimes also the narrator, has to listen to the audiobook and get rid of all the crap and noise and everything before sending it in to be approved. When narrators submit auditions with the sound of someone washing dishes or kids playing video games in the background, an author can expect that to also appear in the final audiobook. A sloppy, unprofessional audition equals a sloppy, amateurish audiobook. Finally, never, ever do I consider a narrator who submits an audition using a sample from someone else’s book. That’s something I receive far too often and means an automatic rejection. I need to hear the narrator voicing my characters from my book, not another author’s.
Editing is a hard job, I know all too well, but the narrator has to do it. There is more to being a good audiobook narrator than sitting in front of a mic. You have to know pacing, when to have room tone, how to find any and all noise that shouldn’t be there, how to fix words you missed or stumbled over, and how to eliminate annoying breathy sounds, pops on the mic, and throaty noises. Because without good editing you’ve destroyed what could have been a great audiobook.
Then there’s unprofessionalism. I could write an entire blog post on egos and tempers, from having an inability to follow instructions, to demanding rights or special credits, to fighting with Audible (yes, this has happened), to refusing to edit and put out the best work. All this does is ensure a narrator won’t get hired or rehired.
Even though I’ve written the book, which is my baby, a narrator can make or break the narration. The only thing a really good narrator strives for is excellence. Right now, I’m fortunate to be working with a handful of outstanding narrators. Not only do they make the finished products enjoyable to listen to, but they are easy to work with, providing quality audiobooks with narration styles that bring the characters I created to life.
Coming Soon to Audio
New O’Connells audiobooks are on the way–this eBook and boxed set are expected this week, so stay tuned!
THE O’CONNELLS, BOOKS 1-3
Follow the O’Connells on their journey to the dark and dangerous side of love in a series of romantic thrillers you won’t want to miss.
Narrated by John Mo
What will happen when the secret Marcus has been holding on to begins to unravel, and someone uses it as leverage?
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