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Tips for Growing into the Growing Audiobook Field – Part 2

NOTE: This is part two of Johnny’s 3-part article.   Read Part One.   Read Part Three.


If you want to be an audiobook narrator — study acting. Actors must always be in learning mode. Our field of study is humanity and the human condition. That takes more than a lifetime to master, so get to it. When people learn that I am a narrator, they frequently ask if I am still acting! Yes!!! Audiobook narration is an organic acting experience. You have a guide — the author. You have an instrument — you. You have an audience. You create the roles — every character — and you control the pace and vocally create the author’s world for your unseen audience. Even in nonfiction, you must “play” the narrator. If you’ve never tried an acting class, look into one for beginners. There are various sorts. Some are better than others as a foundation for voice over. I suggest one that focuses on scene study or improv, but any acting-based class is good in that it gets you out of your own head and makes you create. Voice-training classes? Sure! Audiobook narration classes? Absolutely!

I realize that classes cost money. A teacher deserves to be compensated for sharing his knowledge. But do research teachers, too, so you don’t study with someone who doesn’t know their subject. I’ve recorded nearly 500 titles and won every award a narrator can get, so I think my credentials to teach are pretty good. I’ve been teaching commercial VO and audiobook narration for nearly 10 years. I highly recommend me, but you may hate me! Chemistry is important. Actors comprise the single most committed group of professionals this side of, oh, brain surgeons. But actors also seem to be the most easily bamboozled. Some classes or workshop “come-on” videos make my skin crawl. So be smart when you select teachers and coaches, and as you proceed, evaluate how well your learning process is going.

Let me help with that evaluation right here: There are no get-rich-quick schemes in this business. You cannot do this job “easily.” You can’t do it with “little or no effort.” You won’t immediately make a huge, wonderful boatload of cash. And you cannot physically audition for 99% of the jobs available. For people with the right work ethic and the talent to get gigs, there are only opportunities to compete and succeed. But that’s enough.


You have to know where your sound can take you. What do you sound like? What genres do you envision yourself narrating? Your distinctive sound will allow you to do many genres, or only a few — it depends on your sound. Knowing what you sound like will help you market yourself effectively.

If you don’t have a voice that lends itself to Erotica/Romance (or if you giggle at the d***y bits), then don’t do that genre. If you find non-fiction mind-numbingly dull, don’t do that genre. If you can’t do a decent New York accent, then don’t try. If you frighten children — even your own — every time you speak, well, then don’t do kids’ books. It’s common sense.

That tip applies to everyone. For example, despite my wide audiobook experience, I have yet to do Kabuki Theater. I just don’t have the requisite skills and knowledge.

Next week…Part 3!

Johnny Heller is an Edge Studio coach. For more information about coaching with Johnny or any other Edge Studio instructor, please call our office at 888-321-3343 or click here.