How To Be An Audiobook Narrator (In ∞ Many Steps)

Dear friend,

You’ve asked me recently (okay, like, twenty billion months ago now) how I got into audiobook narrating. Because you’re interested. You, too–or someone you love–would like to get into audiobook narrating. This is a very reasonable desire. I ADORE BEING AN AUDIOBOOK NARRATOR. I want to HELP YOU!

But I, like I always do, instead of answering you right away, sat there stumped by my own idiosyncratic experience.

(How did I get into this? A series of accidents? A lifetime of training? $40,000+ of college debt going toward a Fiction Writing Major/Acting Minor? Narrating stories for awesome podcasts that didn’t pay much–but they ended up on my resumé at the right time? A lifetime of having too many jobs (to pay off my college debt) to ever be in theatre, so the only time I ever got to PERFORM was at writing conventions, during which I was, in essence, reading fiction aloud to an audience, which is, in essence, what narrating is? Because someone I knew happened to be a proofer at a semi-local studio that happened to be hiring narrators at the time she was working there, and even after I sent them my resumé, it was still 3 months till I got an audition–and I could have just as easily NOT gotten one?)

I AM SURE there are MORE PURPOSEFUL, LESS CATACLYSMICALLY COINCIDENTAL ways to become an audiobook narrator . . .

. . . And now that I’ve had my 3-year crash course in audiobook narration and know a little more about the business, I will suggest a few to you.

First of all, one of my colleagues at Tantor, where I do most of my audiobook narration, Elise Arsenault, has a WHOLE BUSINESS helping actors start up their voice over careers. Her first strategy session with you is complementary, so you might want to give Work with Elise a go!

From what I’ve observed, Elise is a community builder, a next-level networker, a working actress, voice over artist, and audiobook narrator, and a producer/director besides. Kind of a Guru. Or Goddess. Well, follow the links and see for yourself!

So that’s one suggestion. Here’s another.

So, I was just at my first APAC–that is, the Audio Publishers Association Conference–yesterday, and I learned, well, the appropriate unit of measurement would be probably “craploads.”

I TOTALLY recommend the conference for new narrators. The next one is in May of next year!

At APAC, one of the panels I found the most informative and invigorating was called “Building Blocks for Developing Narrators.” It featured Hillary Huber, Scott Brick, and Sean Pratt, moderated by Johnny Heller.

An aside: Johnny Heller is the voice coach for my friend and colleague, narrator Callie Beaulieu (she has a blog of her own, if you want insights from a hard-working narrator and actor!) (and an Instagram account!). She has only good things to say about Johnny! She leaves his sessions and workshops so stimulated and inspired. I was also very impressed with what Heller had to say as a panelist, narrator, and teacher. I would love to take a workshop from him sometime!

Here’s his website, if you’re looking for a coach!  Johnny “a real swell guy” Heller!

One of the other panelists, narrator Sean Pratt, is also a long-time teacher. He seems to have built his own codified vocabulary, skill sets, and etiquette–all very clear and precise–about the tools a modern narrator needs: acting, directing, producing, and engineering. This link clicks to the coaching wing of his website.

If you’re a narrator looking to start at the beginning, taking a class from a knowledgable and devoted teacher will funnel you into the audiobook community.

When I went to the “Ask A Casting Director” panel, many of them said that when they are scouting for new talent, they go straight to Audible, and listen to samples.

One of the places to set yourself up as a narrator-for-hire directly to authors who are looking is to join ACX. I haven’t done this myself yet–but ACX has its own How To Tutorials up the wazoo! (CAN I SAY WAZOO IN A BLOG? Sorry, ACX! You’re doing GREAT!) Here is a direct link to how to get started as an ACX narrator.

OF INTEREST:

Casting directors are also looking out for MORE DIVERSE NARRATORS! Narrators of color! Narrators who can speak other languages! Narrators from places other than America! The audiobook industry, they admitted, has been TOO WHITE FOR TOO LONG.

Also, native Australian accents seem to be in high demand. And MALE narrators for romance and erotica are seriously sought after! I’m just saying.

Now, personally, I got my start narrating for Podcastle, the fantasy branch of Escape Pod–podcasts of short-form genre fiction. Those links above click directly to their narration guidelines, which are very helpful and highly specific.

Another place I’ve heard about, where you can volunteer to narrate is Librivox. This might give you some practice and get you comfortable with the tools and skill-sets you’ll be needing later on in your career.

A few other useful links I found during a light search on the subject was Backstage.com’s “Advice for Actors: Voice Over Exchange.” MANY FINE LINKS TO BE FOUND WITHIN THAT LINK–A RABBIT HOLE TO WONDERLAND! And also Voice Bunny’s blog “Voice Over Work: How to Get Started.”

I know that for myself, the next thing I want to do to continue my education as an audiobook narrator is to attend a Johnny Heller workshop, or perhaps pay for a few coaching classes with Sean Pratt.

I am also EXTREMELY INTERESTED in this Masterclass Series happening a little later this year–six workshops with the biggest names in audiobooks!!!–presented by PJ Ochlan and The Deyan Institute. Here is a link to the specifics.

Dear friend, I hope that helps. And if you have a friend who is interested in audiobook narration, I hope this helps them too. I still feel like such a n00b myself, but I realize that I have resources you don’t, so I’ll try to be as available as I can to answer any of your questions. I’ve learned all kinds of hacks in the last three years, my own tools and tricks, but I am really, really looking forward to learning new ones, instead of feeling like I’m flying by the seat of my pants ALL THE TIME.

Your Devoted if Tardy,

C. S. E. Cooney

 

 

 

 

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