The Right Voice-Over Narrator for Audiobooks
02/08/2022

How to Find the Right Voice-Over Narrator for Audiobooks

Anyone who likes to hit the treadmill or who frequently gets stuck in bumper to bumper traffic is probably familiar with the ease and convenience of audiobooks. Listening to books is a great way to squeeze in a little recreation time while folding laundry or wrapping up mindless work tasks. 

It’s easy to see why audiobooks have grown so much in popularity in recent years. In the first quarter of 2017 alone, audiobook sales rose by 28.8% and in 2016, 24% of Americans listened to at least one audiobook, which was an increase from the 22% of people who reported doing so in 2015. 

With so much interest in audiobooks growing over the years, this leaves a lot of room for authors and publishing houses to benefit from this trend. Almost any book has the potential to become an audiobook, but for it to be effective, it has to be done well. There’s a lot more to making a good audiobook than just reading it out loud. The voice-over narrator in particular plays a key role in the success of an audiobook. 

Skills Audiobook Narrators Need

The bulk of the audiobook experience for the reader centers around the narrator, which is why it’s so important to work with an experienced narrator who is up to the task. These are some of the skills you should look for when hiring an audiobook narrator. 

  • Acting ability. A good narrator doesn’t simply read text, they act it out. When someone narrates an audiobook, they need to embody different characters and be able to authentically relay their stories. Having a background in acting can make accomplishing this task much easier. 
  • Voice abilities. To differentiate between characters, the narrator will need to alter their voice, to make it clear which character is speaking. They may even need to adapt accents or speak in different dialects. While no listener expects one narrator to completely change their voice for each character, they won’t be able to follow the story if the narrator doesn’t use a variety of voices. 
  • Stamina. Narration is a tiring task and one that requires stamina and a decent amount of breath control. Recording days can be long and tiring, so you’ll want to work with a narrator who is experienced working on these types of projects and who knows what to expect during a day of recording. 
  • Research. A narrator who is also a good researcher will be most effective at their job. The whole process will go a lot smoother if the narrator does some leg work and reviews the text in advance to confirm they know how to pronounce all the words. That way, they won’t stumble through the narration any time a new name or place they haven’t heard of before comes up in the text. 

How to Find the Right Narrator

To find the right narrator for an audio project, it’s important to compare work samples of any narrators you’re considering for the job. Here’s a few things you should pay attention to when reviewing those audio samples. 

  • Their voice. This seems like a no-brainer, but the narrator has to have the right voice for the project. No matter how good they are at their job, sometimes they may sound too young or too old for a role. They may have a flair for the dramatic or pronounce words in a specific way that doesn’t work for the tone of the book. Pay close attention to their voice to get a gauge if they can help your specific text come to life.
  • Their speed. How fast do they speak? Do they speak too fast for anyone to understand? Or too slow to keep the audience’s attention?
  • Their equipment and surroundings. If your narrator will be recording the audiobook using their own equipment in their own recording space, make sure you pay close attention to background sounds, echos, and other factors that can be influenced by their location or technology. 

Every book (or audiobook) is unique, which is why it’s only logical to be in doubt about what narrator to choose. If you’re about to embark on a project like this one, feel free to reach out to the Terra team and get advice and suggestions for your specific project. The last thing you want is for a great story to fall flat because the narrator wasn’t the right fit!