Audiobook Narration: Beginning a Career in Audiobooks

A Career in Audiobooks:

When I first considered reading audiobooks for a living, I thought it was too good to be true. This was a job where I could work from home, where I was constantly faced with new challenges, and where I could experience stories on a daily basis. In other words, it was my dream job.

But Can you Make a Living Narrating Audiobooks?

All my research points to yes. Not only is the audiobook industry thriving, its growing, and looking ahead, most experts agree that the demand for quality narrators will continue to rise. The demand for audiobooks shows no signs of slowing.

None of this is to say it will be easy, but with a little talent, professional quality recordings, and a whole lot of drive, there is no reason why someone couldn’t succeed with this career.

Are Audiobooks Right for You?

Many people jump into something like this without much thought. They think it might be fun to read out loud and make some extra money, but when push comes to shove, they don’t have the tenacity to make it work. Audiobook narration certainly isn’t for everyone, but if you’re interested in pursuing a career in audiobook narration for yourself, I highly recommend checking out Karen Commins’ blog post “Audiobook Narrator Self-Assessment Quiz”. This article will give you an idea of whether or not audiobooks are a good fit.

Getting Started:

“Begin at the beginning,” the King said, very gravely, “and go on till you come to the end: then stop.” ― Lewis Carroll

Before we get started, I should state that I’m not without qualifications.  I have a degree in acting from the University of Montana, and I’ve performed in numerous stage productions over the years. I’ve had quite a bit of voice training, and in my private life I’ve read over twenty novels out loud to my wife. I’m by no means an expert on the performance aspect of this job, but I want to be clear that I’m not starting from scratch. This being said, I have zero experience in the audiobook industry, I’ve never recorded an audiobook, and I know very little about audio engineering.

It’s my hopes that this blog serves as a map of the journey from complete novice to expert in the field, and along the way, we’ll learn the ins and outs of being a professional audiobook narrator together.

Research:

The first place I started my research was on ACX. For those of you that don’t know, ACX is amazon’s audiobook narration platform. A few years ago, Amazon set up the service to make it easier for authors to find audiobook narrators for their books and, like everything amazon does, it’s grown from there. ACX a great place to search for your first gigs and get a feel for the marketplace, but once established, there seems to be other avenues which prove a little more fruitful. We’ll get to that when the time comes.

The ACX blog does a great job of explaining what equipment is needed to record a quality product with their ACX Studio Gear Series, and I recommend watching the videos and reading the blog, but from what I understand, the recommended equipment is overkill. I’m sure if you followed their advice to the letter, you’ll end up with a studio quality product, but I’m pretty sure you can get a quality recording for a much smaller financial investment.

While researching marketing in general, I came across the concept of MVP (minimum viable product) in “The Lean Startup” by Eric Ries. The book discusses the creation of a product that does what it needs to do, and no more, in the beginning. From there, user preference dictates what features are added until the product is complete.

Using MVP for audiobook narration means thinking of yourself as the product. In order to succeed, the narrator needs to have a strong feature set. These features include acting and voice skills, but also the equipment required for production. This is the next step in our journey.

Audio Equipment:

My current goal is to record professional level audiobooks and hopefully not completely break the bank during the equipment acquisition process. Many blogs I’ve read recommend that you get “starter” equipment to see if you actually like the work, but I already know this is something I want to do. As I progress, I will be focusing on quality over cost when relevant, but it will still be a consideration. I’m taking this seriously, and I don’t want to replace the gear I purchase for at least a year or two.

So, What Do I Need to Get Started?

  • Computer
  • Audio Editing Software
  • Microphone
  • Pre-amp/Interface
  • Recording Space
  • Book Stand
  • Headphones
  • XLR Cable
  • Microphone Stand

Looking Ahead:

Each week, I’ll be discussing equipment and making decisions on what to purchase. When I’ve made all my choices, I’ll teach myself how to set it all up and explain the process here. When everything is ready to go, we’ll move on to audiobook demos and my first auditions!

Thanks for reading! Questions, comments, and  recommendations are highly appreciated!

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