Would you like to make an audiobook that sounds great and conveys your special message to listeners or entertains fans with your brand of wit? Are you interested in easy-to-follow tips to help you get started?
This article is for authors who’ve written their manuscript and are now working towards narrating their own audiobook. It isn’t as well suited for voice actors or voice over talents who have training. Instead, it’s meant as an easy guide to help authors convey their enthusiasm for the ideas in their audiobook.
I also recommend a companion article I wrote “How Do You Prepare Your Voice Before Recording Your Audiobook.” In that article, I discuss the steps to get ready to narrate your audiobook. I also go over eating the right foods for your vocal cords, staying hydrated, getting a good night’s sleep, pampering your voice, practicing vocal warm-ups, and more.
One last thing before we continue, if you’re new to narration, you may be better off starting with non-fiction. In this way, you’re doing a straight read and you have more leeway if you speak a little too fast or sound a little nervous.
Fiction audiobooks require more vocal work to set the tone, pacing, and overall feeling during recording. As you improve your narration skills, you can move to fiction. I don’t think you need to do the voices of each character, but it’s much more critical for you to sound engaged and enthusiastic.
When Stephen King records his audiobook, he also does a straight read—reading without creating voices for the characters. However, he still manages to draw the listener into his story with his other narration skills.
The rest of this post contains tips to help authors deliver their best audiobook.
Tip #1 Create an Audiobook Script
Before you begin, it’s important to create a set of instructions to use while recording your voice. These instructions are attached to your manuscript, and they tell you how to read the words. They may include changes to the original manuscript.
For example, if your manuscript has “See Figure 7 for …”, your listener won’t see this figure. Instead, add instructions to your audiobook script that may say “See the companion PDF to find Figure 7 for …”
Companion PDF’s are allowed on Audible. In addition, you could include these PDF’s on your author website. The audiobook script makes the manuscript’s information clearer to the listener.
If you would like to learn more about creating audiobook scripts, take a look at my article, How Do You Write an Audiobook Script.
Tip #2 Sound Engaged
As an author narrating your own book, you’ll be naturally enthusiastic, interested, and engaged. It’ll be easy to think about what you’re saying and bring life to your work.
Bill DeWees, a voice over coach, has a surprising tip. He feels that it’s essential to focus on the words directly in front of you instead of trying to read ahead. In this way, your narration will sound more authentic and you’ll greatly reduce narration mistakes.
Marc Cashman, a narration coach on Voices, says that it’s important to be physically connected to the page. You stay connected with your eyes as you read, your gestures for emphasis, and facial expressions that match your emotions. The listener won’t be able to see your gestures or facial expressions. However, they will hear a difference in your voice if you speak with a flat intonation instead of modulating your voice.
Tip #3 Sound Credible
If you’re an author reading your own audiobook script, it’s easy to sound like you know what you’re talking about. Or, is it? Many authors become nervous while reading their script and end up sounding either unsure or flat with no intonation.
Bill DeWees has a few tips to sounding credible. He says you should speak from the lower part of your diaphragm. This means relax while you’re speaking.
You can do this by slowing down, taking deep breaths, and yawning. Do anything that will make you forget that your voice is being recorded and instead focus on your audiobook script and your own special message.
If you would like to learn more about yawning to relax your speaking voice, take a look at my article How Do You Prepare Your Voice Before Recording Your Audiobook.
In addition, Bill DeWees recommends intentionally inflect down at the end of sentences. When experts are explaining something complicated, they take their time and inflect down at the end of sentences to show a complete thought.
On the other hand, a nervous person or someone asking a question will inflect upward. While you’re speaking, you are the expert. That confidence needs to come through in the audiobook.
Tip #4 Narrate Consistently
If you’re new to audiobook recording, then you may not realize how crucial it’s to be consistent. If you’re narrating a book that’s 60,000 words, it’ll take around 40 hours. This may take you five 8-hour days but probably more.
If you would like to learn more about the length of time it takes to narrate an audiobook, take a look at my post How Long Does It Take to Record an Audiobook.
As you return to your home studio day-after-day, it’s important that you sound the same. The listener experiences you in 2 or 3-hour chunks of time. If your voice changes during that time, it decreases the enjoyment of the audiobook.
The best way to stay consistent is to start every recording session by listening to the previous day’s recording. Then try to match the same pacing, energy, and articulation of that day.
Tip #5 Breathe
If you’re nervous while narrating your audiobook, you’ll make short, shallow breaths that won’t sound right in your recording. The breaths may even become raspy and therefore irritating to your listener.
To correct this nervous breathing, you’ll need to focus on your breath. However, before you begin, take a moment to calm down while drawing in large breaths.
Patrick Fraley, a voice over coach, recommends that you read through a passage without recording. Focus on your normal breathing as you read. If you’re reading fiction, there may be passages where the pacing is faster, and it’ll be natural to breathe more frequently. In addition, there may be sections with slower pacing, and your breathing will naturally slow.
Next, start recording, but continue to focus on breathing. This should decrease short nervous breaths and increase your natural breaths that the listener is expecting.
Tip #6 Stand and Gesture with Your Body
Earlier, I mentioned that you should to gesture so that you sound engaged. This is vital for authors new to narration who may feel nervous. As a result of the nervousness, these writers stand stiffly while reading, which inhibits the enthusiasm they have for their work.
Kevin The Basic Filmmaker, recommends standing and gesturing with your whole body. That movement will translate to interest or even excitement which will come across in your audiobook.
Tip #7 Pronounce Words Clearly
In order for the listener to understand you, it’s important to speak clearly and not slur your words. This may seem obvious, but it’s easy to forget if you’re nervous. Several times, a narrator’s nervous habits bothered me so much that I didn’t finish the audiobook.
If you’re new to narration, you won’t want your words, and all of your effort wasted because you were nervous. The remedy is to slow down. Most people naturally speak better when they talk at a natural pace.
Tip #8 Stay in the Moment
There are two schools of thought as far as reading words on your audiobook script while narrating. The first is to read ahead a little so that you’re aware of what’s coming up. In this way you won’t be surprised by an unfolding novel.
The second is to read the words as you’re saying them. The advantage here is that you’re in the moment with the listener. If a character is feeling sad or happy, you can convey that to the listener.
Bill DeWees’s advice is to stay in the moment or go with the second school of thought. There is a possibility of making mistakes because you’re not ready for unexpected words in the audiobook script. However, it’s just as easy to rerecord while continuing to bring excitement or enthusiasm to your narration.
Tip #9 Sound Warm and Natural
Most of the time, an author should sound warm and natural or conversational while narrating their own audiobook. The audiobook is usually something meaningful to the author. If the writer reads it with the emotion that they feel, the author’s natural style will come through. The result is that the listener will enjoy the audiobook.
Gary Terzza, a narration coach, says the audiobook should sound intimate as if you’re reading it to one person. It shouldn’t sound like a TV announcer who’s enthusiastic but impersonal.
In another video, Gary Terzza recommends relaxing into your voice in order to sound conversational. This means with time you’ll get to know your voice as you relax and enjoy creating your audiobook.
Tip #10 Read with Modulation
It’s essential that the author read their audiobook script while modulating their voice. The listener will be bored if you read with a flat monotone. However, a nervous author may not realize that they are reading with no inflections on their voice.
The remedy for this is to take deep breaths and slow down. Once you’re relaxed, you’ll read with the natural enthusiasm you have for your subject.
Tip #11 Stay Hydrated
An author new to narration may not understand how quickly your vocal cords dry as you speak. You may spend a few hours a day speaking, and while you speak, you’re losing moisture. Not only will your vocal cords become dry, but your mouth and lips will become parched as well. The remedy is pretty easy. Always bring water to your recording sessions.
Marc Scott, a voice over coach, recommends taking lots of breaks to drink water. This keeps your vocal cords in their best condition. In addition, it helps remove mouth noises like clicks and pops. The result is easier audiobook editing.
Bonus Tip: Read with Confidence
I know the title of this post is 11 Voice Narration Tips, but I thought I’d add a bonus tip which is Confidence. Self-confidence is the best thing an author can bring to their recording session, according to Marc Cashman.
Self-assuredness automatically creates engagement and credibility. You won’t have to work to sound conversational because you’ll already be warm and natural. In addition, you’ll effortlessly speak clearly while modulating your voice. Finally, you’ll find it easy to stay in the moment and gesture when appropriate.
This post listed the most important tips for authors new to narration. This tips center on being relaxed and speaking conversationally. This is something authors do naturally but may struggle with when they’re nervous during a recording session.
Have you performed your first narration? What was the most difficult part of recording, and how did you overcome it? Let me know in the comments below.