An Intro to the Art of Audiobook Narration Or: This Ain’t Easy

Johnny Heller

So, you want to be an audiobook narrator?
In the voice-over world, few genres make greater demands of your time or your talent.  On the plus side, few genres are growing at such an explosive rate. Audiobook narration is and remains a great place for new voices to find work. As the industry has grown, actors, authors and publishers have continually joined forces to create innovations in production, quality and opportunity.

There can be no question that opportunities abound for the gifted actor willing to make the effort. This is due to three factors:

  1. There are always new books being written.
  2. There are lots of books that have already been written.
  3. Voice actors have home studios to record all these books.

Audiobook narration is, simply, sharing the author’s truth. “Wonderful!” you say. “Let’s do it!”
And then – “How? How do I share the author’s truth? What the heck does that even mean?”
And that’s a great question. Here’s my answer: Consider what happens when you sit down to read a book. You get lost in a world the author created. The characters come alive in your mind and the scene is real to you – as though you are seeing a film. The same feeling -the same film idea – must happen regardless of how the story comes to you. The listener and the reader need to have the same experience. They both need to see the author’s story – the author’s truth. The successful audiobook actor is that rare talent that can disappear in the listener’s mind and leave only the author’s tale. I don’t want people to be aware that Johnny Heller is narrating the book. I want them to only be aware of the story and the scene the author has chosen to share.

I’m of the opinion that audiobook narration is a completely organic acting experience and nearest thing the voice actor has to live theater.  In theater, you play your role. In audiobooks, you play every role.

Is it easy?

Nope.

It takes dedication, stamina, talent and time to tell a story well. It takes a love of the written world, an understanding of human nature and a creative imagination. It isn’t just reading a book out loud.

And even if you have the talent to do it, do you have the time? And are you ready to run your artistic endeavors like a business? How do you find the work? Do you reach out to publishers? Do you need demos?  How do you prep a script? How do you play characters honestly? How is fiction different from non-fiction? What kind of money can you make? What time is happy hour around here? These are the questions we need to address with regards to audiobook narration.

Edge Studio and I will be hosting a 4-week Audiobook Workshop in January. We will be addressing these questions and more so if this interests you, you should think about joining us.

I want to be clear, audiobook narration is an acting job (as is all Voice Over in my opinion), but you don’t need a Masters in theater arts from Yale. You can have zero acting experience and still be a good storyteller. There are born actors and hardworking actors, and both need coaching to perfect and hone their craft.  Long term success in audiobook narration requires more than a swell sound…although swell sounds are nice. You need to act to do this. Moment to moment. Beat to beat. Scene to scene. If that sounds like heaven to you, join us!