Tips for Growing into the Growing Audiobook Field – Part 3
TIP NUMBER FOUR: MORE RESEARCH — KNOW WHAT YOU’LL NEED
If you are good at this genre and want to do it, you are going to need a place to work. Many narrators today work out of home studios. If your home has some extra space, you may be able to create a usable studio. It is true that some producers will call you in to their studios and have you record there — with the benefit of having a director and/or engineer. But recording in the producer’s studio is becoming less and less the norm. If you are willing to work only on evenings and weekends, many sound studios will rent studio space for very reasonable amounts during those periods. Look into that.
Creating a home studio is outside the scope of this article, but you’ll find lots of guidance elsewhere at EdgeStudio.com. As you may already know, it involves purchasing a suitable mic and audio interface, and having a suitable computer and some recording software (some software options are free). Beyond that, your needs will depend on your home’s location and the nature of your studio space. The studio will of course need to be “soundproof” (so outside sounds don’t get in) and “sound conditioned” (e.g., not a lot of reverberation). Information and materials for this are also widely available. (A bit of good news is that your audiobook studio needn’t be totally silent. Unlike other genres, a bit of noticeable “room tone” is usually desirable. But it must be very low, and consistent from session to session.)
Start by seeing what other narrators are doing. Can you get by on the cheap and still produce studio quality sound? Maybe. Will you need to invest in high-tech products like a sound booth or soundproofing materials, or will you just need some sound absorbing drapes and such? Decide what your budget will allow. Remember — you must be able to record your book in a place that the producer finds acceptable. It should also be a space that you find acceptable – because audiobook narration takes a lot of time per project.
TIP NUMBER FIVE: RESEARCH YOURSELF — KNOW WHY YOU ARE DOING THIS
Audiobook narration is an acting task. It requires stamina and skill. Audiobooks usually require two hours to narrate a finished recorded hour. In other words, if your audio book will run 10 hours, it will have taken you — according to industry norms — 20 hours to record it. And that doesn’t include any time spent on editing or proofing or prepping. However, you get paid only per finished hour. If you do all the editing and mastering (something I do not do), you should ask for more money, in addition to your standard hourly recording fee. Audio editing is a skill set completely separate from narration — but that is a discussion for another day. Just remember that if you negotiate a rate of $180 per finished hour, you will get $1,800 for the 10-hour recording that took you 20 hours to record. You likely will not be paid for prep, research or retakes. And if you need to rent studio space or build a home studio, that will come out of your own pocket, too. So if you want to do audiobooks for the incredible money, you will be disappointed. You can make a fine living doing this, but there are many other voice over opportunities that will pay you lots more. Be aware of that.
If it’s fame you seek, marry a Kardashian, move in next to Justin Bieber (unless he’s in jail or deported), or win American Idol. Fame is fleeting and is not automatically bestowed on audio book narrators. Most famous actors who have done audio books (and admitted, by the way, how difficult a job it is) were famous before they got hired to do the book, and likely they got to do the book only because of their fame. For most of us in the business, we toil in general anonymity. We might become well known to audiophiles and librarians, but for the most part, we are not famous.
The nature of the art is for the accomplished narrator to be only a conduit for the author’s truth. We narrators merely tell his or her story, so the listener, after a short time, becomes unaware of the narrator. The listener soon hears only the tale unfolding, as the author wrote it.
So, what have we learned here? It’s that audio book narration requires some research (okay, lots of research!). And that’s okay. A learning process can be fun (well, interesting), and learning should never stop. It seems that there’s always something new — whether it’s a new word, or a new piece of time-saving equipment, or just a wonderful new book to read and enjoy and share. I think the field is wonderful and challenging.
I’ve only touched on a very few tips here. There is so much more to this genre. Audiobook work isn’t for everyone — that’s as it should be. It’s a difficult job, but to the serious actor it can be immensely satisfying on many levels. I encourage you to investigate this craft and learn more, and, if it’s for you — join us!
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.