How to Become an Audiobook Narrator: Step-by-Step

Here, Stewart Storrar of voice over and voice acting service Voquent explains how to become an audiobook narrator, what you'll need, and how much narrators make.

In the online world of ePublishing, there is a growing demand for expertly narrated audiobooks. By the end of 2021, the projected revenue reach of ePublishing is staggering – US $27 billion. Consumers are buying audiobooks in droves, and the audiobook business is booming. Now is a good time to consider becoming an audiobook narrator.

Become an Audiobook Narrator

I'm Stewart, I am a writer from voquent.com, and I am here to shine a light on this industry and audiobook narrators. Voquent.com is a world leader in providing voice-over, voice acting, and narration services, and we've produced hundreds of audiobooks for authors across the world.

With all this said, I am going to address how to become an audiobook narrator.

1. Practice Audiobook Narration

Start with reading your favorite books aloud, record yourself and listen back. Do you sound like an audiobook narrator?

Audiobook narrator at work
Obtain a vocal coach to strengthen your vocal cords for day-long audiobook narration sessions

Voice overs are hard work. It is essential to obtain vocal coaching to strengthen your vocal cords for day-long audiobook narration sessions. Any qualified singing or acting coach can help get your voice ready for recording sessions. Daily practice over a few months will stand you in good stead before you set out to land your first job as a narrator.

If you are already a published writer or author, you will have an exceptional idea about what makes a good book. What makes a good audiobook, aside from an artfully crafted story, includes the following factors from the audiobook narration:

  • Quality of the recording
  • The pacing of the narration
  • Tone & vocal characteristics
  • Acting proficiency
  • The gender, age, and accent

Some of these factors are more applicable to non-fiction and others to fiction. For example, if narrating a fictional book, you may be required to perform the various characters' roles. This can be accomplished by using different vocal tones and pitches. In contrast, non-fictional audiobooks use a natural voice to ensure ease of understanding, even for non-native audiences.

2. Find Your Vocal Niche

If you're getting started as an audiobook narrator, it is best to narrate the type of literature you feel fits your voice the best.

Learning to use your entire vocal range will provide you with the versatility to describe all kinds of characters, even of the opposite gender in a book!

A non-fictional business textbook has a measured pace, with an emphasis on clarity and authority. On the other hand, a high fantasy may have varied pacing, a focus on acting, and a conversational tone.

Learning about tone, pacing, acting, and accent are the four main things to focus on as a beginner for your voice. Coaching and training are critical for any audiobook narrator. My advice would be to stick to your natural accent and tone to carve a niche around that accent for yourself.

Fictional stories may require various accents, but most narrators can't do this work well because it's a talent that takes years to develop.

At Voquent, we categorize 12 distinct tones, and fictional audiobooks can utilize every tone. For a non-fiction audiobook, it's typically eloquent, authoritative, or conversational techniques required.

Nailing just one of these will help you carve out a niche as a ‘business narrator', ‘lifestyle narrator' or ‘comedy narrator', for example. Getting good at one tone will give you a solid start in the industry while you gain experience and grow your vocal talent as an audiobook narrator.

3. Get the Right Equipment

The next big thing you will need to consider is your recording set up. It's imperative, especially in the COVID-19 era, that you have a well-equipped home studio. You don't need a professional recording studio. However, some voice actors and audiobook narrators go as far as soundproofing a spare room to set up a mid-range recording studio.

To begin, though, you will want to get:

  • A high-quality microphone
  • A good headset for audio playback
  • A pop shield
  • A basic DIY soundproofing set-up
  • A sound editing and recording app with a PC or MAC
Recording equipment an audiobook narrator uses
The equipment you choose will depend on your budget and what you plan to do with it

There are hundreds of options from each category to choose from, and the gear you choose will depend on your budget and what you plan to do with it. I would recommend reading up on the different types of microphones.

What I don't recommend is getting a gaming headset or an all-in-one headset. These are not ideal for recording voice-over and will not offer the quality required for acceptance on the Audible app.

In terms of DIY soundproofing techniques, there are many. A quick YouTube search will give you suggestions. Popular methods include using curtains, pillows, or sheets to help contain the sound refraction (a duvet fort).

A recording studio in use by voice actors
There are many quick YouTube videos that will give you suggestions in terms of DIY soundproofing techniques

For more high-end soundproofing, you may want to consider acoustic foam tiles attached to your walls. For more detail on home studios, you can read our blog on that here.

The last bit of equipment you will need is a PC or MAC with a sound recording app. Any modern computer will do. The leading professional tools are Pro Tools and Adobe Audition, but there are many other options available. If budget is an issue, then you may want to consider using Audacity. It is free and open-source.

How Much Does An Audiobook Narrator Earn?

The money you can earn as an audiobook narrator will vary wildly depending on the author or publisher hiring you.

A reasonable estimate is roughly US $70 – $150 per finished hour of audio, including recording, editing, and usage rights.

To record one finished hour of audio can take anything from 3 to 6 hours to complete depending on your experience. It may require some extra time for editing and cleaning the audio.

An 80,000-word book is around 8-10 hours of finished audio and will pay a narrator US $1,000 – $3,000. Celebrity voice actors can command much higher fees and may also get residual income for each sale.

Where Do I Find Work?

There are many places to find audiobook narration. Absolutely include freelance websites (Upwork, Fiverr, PeoplePerHour), voice casting platforms, non-exclusive agencies like Voquent and exclusive agencies (for established talent). On Voquent.com, it is free to register with high-quality audio demos.

Lastly, you could search for hiring or job hashtags on Twitter or look through employment-centric subreddits. When I was freelance as a writer, that was how I built my network of clients.

Become An Audiobook Narrator: Get Started Today

In the beginning, becoming an audiobook narrator takes a lot of effort. Audiobook narration is a skill like any other. It may be a while before you see a return on your initial investment in training or equipment. However, the market is growing fast, and more audiobooks are published every day.

Narration may not be for everyone, but if it is for you, then I hope this article helps point you to get started with this rewarding creative career!

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Author

  • Stewart Storrar is a writer from Glasgow, Scotland, that writes fiction for his passion project Lore Publication in his free time. Stewart works for Voquent developing content and Voquent is one of the world’s leading voice-over production agencies. Our mission is to empower content creators with unparalleled access to outstanding, affordable voice talent.

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