On Becoming An Audiobook Narrator
I’ve had a lot of people ask me how I became an audiobook narrator. Audiobook narration is, at its heart, a task that requires a creative performer with a love of storytelling. I think just about any audiobook narrator will tell you that getting where they are takes time, talent, training, and money.
I’ve always loved stories. When I was young, I remember my parents reading stories to me. My father, in particular, was adept at creating character voices and telling stories to me out loud. In time, I read books to myself, and the stories I read seemed to come alive in my head. The characters each had their own voices, their own motivations. I loved reading. I loved story. That’s where it started for me.
In high school I had an English teacher who read Charles Dickens’s Great Expectations aloud to the class. But his reading wasn’t in some boring monotone. No sir. He voiced the characters. I remember Pip, the protagonist, as a sort of shy boy who was swept up in things he (at first) couldn’t understand. The convict was gruff, scary, and seemed to have the threat of violence against Pip dripping from his every word. Miss Havisham was old, wicked, and downright disturbing. Her witchy voice haunts me still. This was true storytelling. It was what I did in my head every time I read a story. It was acting, but with the reader as the voice of every character, every member of the acting troupe. I remember thinking that this was storytelling at its finest — a combination of a great voice, a great actor, and a great story written by a great author. It was thrilling.
Many years later I became a high school English teacher myself, and I tried to bring this love of story, this ability to make characters live out loud, to my students. It was during this time that my wife read an article about audiobook narrators. There were actor-storytellers out there that read to even wider audiences! How could I become one of them?
I started looking for resources online, for knowledge that would lead to my goal of becoming a published audiobook narrator. I found some online forums and groups, podcasts, and other information about the world of narration and voice-over. My wife and I decided to start purchasing what I would need to create an in-home studio. Most professional recorded voice work is done by the voice-over artist in a home studio that was built over the course of months, years, and decades. At a minimum, I knew I would need great recording software, a computer workstation, an audio interface, and a great microphone. In some ways, creating my home studio is a continual process that I have been working on ever since. I’ll be adding a new piece to my home studio this month — a professional vocal booth. Then I may look at getting a new microphone, some new software for audio editing, and… you get the idea.
As I got my first home studio together, I realized there was a lot I didn’t know. I needed a mentor, or maybe more than one. My wife found a website where professional audiobook narrators were offering workshops. Though I would have to travel to L.A. and pay for airfare, accommodations, and the workshop itself (with audiobook narration superstar mentors Pat Fraley, Scott Brick, and Hillary Huber), we decided the expenditure would be worth it. It was a wonderful opportunity for me to learn the ropes from seasoned pros.
And the workshop was fantastic. My readings were great, and I was complimented (there was a general positive vibe from everyone) by the mentor narrators. I learned valuable things while recording as well as while listening to my fellow narrators record. I learned where my strengths were as a narrator, and what I still had to work on. I learned that my voice was a great fit for contemporary fiction, but other genres of work were open to me as well. I learned about acting the emotions that the words evoked on the page, how to separate multiple character voices, and the ins and outs of the business of audiobooks. I was able to come away from the workshop energized, enlightened, and with a confidence I had never known. I could do this. I had the necessary skills. I had a wonderful demo recorded. It would be hard work, but more than worth it. I loved recording stories and wanted to do more.
Not long after that I secured a contract to record my first audiobook with University Press Audiobooks. A second soon followed. As with most independent voice-actors and audiobook narrators, my career is a work in progress, and I am always looking for new clients and new studios to work with. Please contact me if you have any questions, or are looking for an audiobook narrator or voice actor. I love being a professional storyteller. Thanks for stopping by. Please check out my demo while you’re here. I hope you enjoy a good story — I’ve got several to tell now.