Let’s talk about audiobooks.
Who doesn’t love audiobooks? Yet, at the same time, have you considered what it takes to narrate and produce them? For an author, it starts with selecting a narrator you think can capture the story, one who can really nail the characters’ voices so you put out a quality audiobook that draws listeners into the plot. Not every narrator, no matter how qualified or award-winning, is going to work for your story.
There are some basics. To be a narrator, you have to have proper equipment and sound-proofing of your own, or you need to use a studio with the equipment and setup to produce a quality audiobook free of distracting background noise. You also need a pleasing narrative voice. We as authors outline some of the characteristics of each character, but for narrators, it’s important to differentiate between them.
As for me, I currently have over fifty of my books already produced and available as audiobooks, but that process doesn’t happen overnight. The production process is time consuming, even though I’ve been fortunate enough thus far to have chosen some exceptional narrators who are truly gifted and have provided some very clean finished products that needed few to no corrections.
What many don’t realize is that at the end of the day, it’s the author who needs to make sure the final audiobook isn’t filled with errors, mispronunciations, and bad pacing. I do my very best to make sure my readers have a really good listening experience, and even then, I’ve had to cancel only one contract with a narrator who submitted a really sloppy, substandard narration and refused to fix his endless errors, instead implying that I was too picky.
Well, yes, I am! I think as readers, you would hope an author has made sure the final audiobook is going to do the book justice instead of settling for substandard. Even worse was this narrator pointing out that other bestselling authors have had no issues with his narration. Did I go back and listen to those samples? I did, and I was surprised to find that they had background noise and plosives, and they were a little rough in places. After seeing that these authors had approved that sloppy narration for sale, I could see why their audiobook sales were so dismal.
Were their reviews good, at least? No, they weren’t, with many readers pointing out the same issues I had noticed. As my daughter told me, it’s more than likely that those authors didn’t listen to the final narration before approving it. I hadn’t thought of that, as I listen to each of my narrators and approve the final product. This is my book, my story that I put countless hours into. I love these characters. At the same time, although I can write, I’ll do everyone a favor and not narrate these books myself!
Many factors can result in substandard narration: Maybe there’s background noise, or the sound levels are off, or the odd character voices don’t work for the story. Maybe there’s monotone narration, or choppy narration. The worst, which always has me turning off a book, are endless plosives. Yes, those loud, jarring plosives can be so distracting that no matter how good the story, if an audiobook is filled with them, no one is going to listen to it, and they certainly won’t spend their hard-earned money on it. At the same time, a really good narrator can skyrocket your sales. I know I’ve searched for other books narrators have worked on because I enjoyed their narration so much. As narrators, they pulled me right into the story, so much so that I felt I was there.
Does everyone enjoy the same narrators? Well, no, absolutely not. Some narrators I’ve listened to haven’t been able to draw me into a story, and their voices didn’t work for me. Even in cases where I don’t finish listening to a story, I often discover that many readers out there loved that same narration. Then there’s my daughter, who loves audiobooks over reading. She’s listened to every one of mine on audio—but at the same time, the narrators I love to listen to, she doesn’t, and the narrators she loves to listen to, I don’t.
So no matter who your favorite narrators are, and we all have our favorites, remember that the most important part of a narrator’s job is to make sure to clean up the recording before submitting it for the final listen, because the rough, unedited audio just won’t cut it.
Here is a sample by the talented Scott Smith who Narrated Out of Time from The McCabe Brothers
Click here to see my titles currently available in audiobook!