Are you interested in becoming an Audiobook Narrator? This article is for beginners who want to start a career in this field. Many narrators are voice actors or voice over artists. Generally, voice over jobs include animation, cartoons, video games, commercials, promotions, podcast dramas, translations, elearning, and, of course, audiobook narration.
The best audiobook narrators have acting training, and quite a bit of experience. In addition, they work as freelancers – very few work in steady W-2 jobs.
This article will focus on audiobook narration. If you’ve been narrating for more than a year, you may find this article to be too basic for you.
How do you learn your craft?
Think of audiobook narration as a marathon, not a sprint. You must learn your craft and practice as much as possible.
Option 1 – College
Your first option is to go to college and major in Performing Arts. I like this option because you will gain knowledge and experience in many different forms of performance – like dancing, singing, and acting.
Even if you work as an audiobook narrator, some of these skills (such as singing) may become very useful. Acting is also good training for narration because you will be exposed to voice projection, directing, set design, movement, play writing, and more.
The advantage is you will learn several other aspects of acting that will ultimately help you with your voice acting skills. The disadvantage is it will take time and be quite expensive.
Option 2 – You Assemble Your Education
The second option is to take classes at a local community college or online. An example of an online course is Gravy for the Brain, which is recommended by Anna Brisbin. Another example is Voice Training – 30 Days to a More Confident Power Voice, which is an Udemy course recommended by My eLearning World.
In addition to advancing your training, you must find as many ways as possible to get in front of an audience and act. At this stage, you won’t have very much experience, so the best place to start is by working for free.
An example of where you can work for free is Behind the Voice Actors Casting Call. This site lists casting calls for voice actors by fans or amateur directors. Doing this type of work is a good way to discover if you truly enjoy narration. If you don’t mind acting for free because you are having so much fun, then you are in the right place.
Another example is to work on your own projects and place them on YouTube. This option is completely free, and it has the advantage of providing an outlet for instant feedback on how you are doing. In addition, some voice actors get discovered this way. YouTube serves as a place where you can direct potential clients so that they can see your body of work.
As a voice actor, you could get experience in local plays, short films, theater groups, and more. In addition, you could take classes in acting, improve, and singing. Try to choose options that allow you to perform live on stage because this will greatly increase your narration skills.
It’s important that you do a lot of work for free in front of others. This will give you invaluable feedback on what to improve. As you will get exposure to what it’s like to perform in front of an audience, you will also learn how to handle nerves.
These performance options or gigs will also get you exposed to other actors. Study the good actors to see what they’re doing right. Also, study the not so good actors to see what they aren’t doing well and see if you do something similar.
The advantage of this option is it is cheaper than a formal education, and you can tailor your education and experience to exactly what you want to do. The disadvantage is finding the right classes to give you enough knowledge to do your job. You could miss some aspect of performance that other narrators who have gone to school will know.
Before you begin submitting auditions, you’ll need to create a professional website and create profiles on various social media sites. The purpose of the website is to promote you and your business.
Your website is your calling card and it should look professional. It should contain:
- About page that displays your bio
- Contact page that allows agents to contact you and contains links to your profiles on YouTube and LinkedIn
- Audiobook page containing all of your samples
- Voice Acting page for other voice talents you may have (optional)
- Resume page consisting of your latest work information
This website is where others will discover who you are what you can do. I also recommend that you use Soundcloud to display your audio samples on your website.
You can decide which platforms work best for you. However, since you are a narrator, at a minimum you should create one on Audible/ACX. The reason for this is most audiobook traffic goes through Audible/ACX. I also recommend Findaway Voices because I like the way they are set up.
Your profile on these two platforms should consist of:
- Your name
- Your photo. This may be just a head shot or an image of you at your microphone working.
- Narration samples (two – six). These samples should consist of fiction, non-fiction, accents, etc. They should be two minutes or less.
- Awards and Recognitions
- Link to your website
- Link to your social media pages
If you would like to learn about places to create your narrator profile, take a look at my article How Much Do Narrators Make. In this article, I discuss serval online marketplaces where you can get jobs and essentially expand the content on your website, YouTube channel, and LinkedIn page.
As for social media, I strongly recommend YouTube and LinkedIn. YouTube is an excellent way to showcase you and your talent. YouTube’s strength is that it allows your following (and more importantly agents) to get to know something about you. This is not the place to vlog, but to demonstrate your narration abilities as well as your voice over talents and singing abilities – depending on the scope of your training.
I also recommend LinkedIn because it will work as your online resume. You can show your past projects and link them to your website for your samples.
Your website and all of your profiles are like a living resume. They should look professional. Therefore, get help if you need it.
Auditions are a narrator’s primary way to find new work. You are competing against other narrators who may be more established. Therefore, submit two to twenty auditions per month.
Before you submit your audition, you should prepare. You do this by checking the description of the book and looking through any comments on Amazon. If you are on Findaway Voices, the author usually sends Production Notes as well.
Use the Amazon “Look Inside” feature that allows a reader to see the first few pages of the book. Narrators can use that feature to learn more about the main characters, possible accents, and research any pronunciations.
After your research, read the audition carefully. Next, prepare to voice the characters of the book.
Your audition will consist of an introduction, or slate, where you state your name. After that, you start recording your audition using your narration skills. Once you are satisfied with your recording, make sure you edit the recording.
This audition is the way the author is expecting the entire audiobook to sound. It’s very important to do your best.
The online market places that allow you to submit lots of auditions are Audible/ACX, Findaway Voices, and Author’s Republic/Deyan Audio.
Networking is important for finding new gigs. Start by networking with other narrators, authors, and fans of a genre that interests you. You could attend local meetups and conferences. The purpose of networking to get inspired by others in your industry as well as build relationships that could lead to more work.
Have your cards printed. They should contain your name, contact information, a link to your website, and links to your social media pages.
Participate in meetups weekly or on a schedule that works for you. If there’s a speaker you like, talk to them. Tell them why you liked their talk.
Attend conferences when it fits into your schedule and your budget. Conferences can be expensive, and this might be a little too high for someone just getting started.
At the end of every conversation, hand out your card. It’s important to be proactive because you are laying the groundwork for your business. When you meet other narrators, ask them about themselves or their business. When you meet authors offer to help them narrate their next book.
Where do you start getting jobs?
Earlier, I listed Behind the Voice Actors Casting Call as a good place to get unpaid experience. In addition, you should start sending auditions on Audible/ACX, Findaway Voices, or Author’s Republic/Deyan Audio. You should send two to twenty auditions per month.
You can choose any or all of these online options. However, don’t choose online marketplaces that make you pay to participate. There are plenty of free options available.
If you would like to learn more about audiobook online marketplaces that work with narrators, take a look at my article How Much Do Audiobook Narrators Make. I discuss how much you would make for a typical audiobook. Note that some of these websites charge narrators to use them.
Where can you make a living as a narrator?
Many narrators work online, and as a result, they need a home studio. This has pros and cons. The pros are you can take any job that doesn’t require you to be on site.
The cons are that you must learn to operate recording equipment. This involves creating a space where your voice won’t echo, purchasing equipment, and learning to edit and master your work.
As you become more experienced, you may need to move closer to a larger city to get the notice of an agent. Some book publishers prefer to have their narrator work in a studio that they can control. You may be better off closer to Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, or Dallas.
What equipment do you need?
You must have a home studio if you are going to work online. This studio consists of a space that prevents your voice from echoing. This could be a small closet filled with clothes. Another alternative is to place a blanket over your head as you speak.
The best (and most expensive) option is to build a sound booth. This booth may be small. An example it may be four feet by six feet on the floor and extend above your head. Once you have this framed in, cover the booth with sound blankets.
If you would like more detail, take a look at this article How to Build Your Own Home Sound Booth by Joanna Penn where she describes in detail how to build a sound booth.
Next, you need to purchase equipment. Start with a microphone and a pop filter to capture your voice. I recommend a mic stand and a good set of headphones.
You probably already have a computer, but you will need to purchase Digital Audio Workstation (DAW), which is software to edit and master your audio recordings. Finally, you will need an audio interface with takes the signal from your microphone and converts it to a digital audio file.
If you would like to learn more about home studio recording equipment, take a look at this YouTube video Home Music Studio Equipment by Patrick Breen.
Now, you need to learn how to use this equipment. Start with YouTube videos that show you how to set everything up. Next, practice narrating a book. Make a recording of your narration. Edit and master it. Handling your equipment is something you will need to practice to become proficient.
Do you need an agent?
You do not need an agent when you first get started. You should concentrate on taking classes and getting gigs so that you can gain experience. You will be working on this for a few years.
Once you are well established, you will need an agent. The reason for getting an agent is to get better higher-paying gigs, like narrating a book for a large publishing house.
To get a good agent, you’ll need a great demo. You should only make this demo if you’ve several years of experience and have a great studio.
If you are interested in more information on how to get an audiobook narration agent, take a look at my article Audiobook Narrator Agents where I discuss getting an agent in more detail.
When do you join SAG-AFTRA?
The Screen Actors Guild – American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) is a labor union that represents performers worldwide. This union provides competitive wages and safe working conditions for its members, but there’s a fee to join. As a beginner, you should wait until you have a narration job that requires you to join the union.
How do you run a freelance business?
As a freelance narrator, you are running your own business. If you are going to be successful, you will need to start treating your work like a business. First, create a Sole Proprietorship for tax purposes. You don’t need to fill out paperwork, but you’ll need to fill out a Schedule C for your taxes.
Next, you’ll need to open a business account. You’ll need an Employer Identification Number (EIN) to open this type of account. Another alternative is to use your social security number (SSN) and a create second bank account in your name. It’s important that your personal transactions and business transactions remain separated.
Create a budget for your business and start keeping track of your income and expenses. When you are new to running a business, it may take a while to create a realistic budget. But, stick to it and keep adjusting your monthly goals for your budget until you have something workable.
As a freelancer, taxes are not taken out of your earnings. You will need to keep track of taxes for yourself and pay quarterly or yearly taxes.
For the first few years, you will be acting as your own bookkeeper. It’s important to keep track of income and expenses for tax purposes. I recommend paying for an accountant to do your taxes. An accountant will know which expenses are deductible and how to properly input your income for your best tax advantage.
Some things to consider are insurance for your equipment and medical insurance for your health. If you are new to narration, you may not earn enough money to pay for either one, but it should be one of your financial goals.
This article takes a look at audiobook narration jobs for beginners. These jobs are usually done by freelancers. Therefore, as a beginner, you have to learn narration while also learning how to run a business.
Have you started working as an audiobook narrator? What has been your biggest hurdle? Let me know in the comments below.