(But You’re a Complete Newbie)
First, I want to make my perspective and expertise clear. I am not an audiobook guru with 1,000s of titles under my belt. I am currently recording my 7th audiobook. I like to think of myself as an experienced apprentice who is almost a journeyman (because I’m also a fantasy geek).
So, what qualifies me to write this article?
That very inexperience. This article is intended for those who are interested in being a professional audiobook narrator/producer, but are starting from square one – as I did almost exactly one year ago in January 2020. If that sounds like you, or something you’re interested in, read on my friend!
Test Your Commitment
Being an audiobook narrator requires some very unique skills. For instance, the ability to sit comfortably in a darkened closet for hours at a time without feeling like the walls are closing in.
My coach, Sean Pratt, has a YouTube video (So…You Want to be an Audiobook Narrator) that talks you through how to test (and build up) your tolerance for this kind of work. Watch the video, take the test, and then – if you’re still interested – proceed.
Get a Coach
Getting a coach, whether that’s Sean or someone else, will help you become a professional caliber narrator much faster than you could achieve on your own. Do your homework, get someone who will cover both the performance and business aspects of the job, and expect to pay at least $150-200 per session.
That definitely feels like a lot of money. But that money is a feature not a bug. If you’ve got “skin in the game,” you will work harder and your commitment will be firmer…or you’ll decide that you don’t want to be a professional audiobook narrator. And, you know what? That’s totally fine!
But, if you are a complete newbie and you want to be a professional: GET. A. COACH.
Join Audiobook Communities
There are many online narrator groups on Facebook and Linkedin. I particularly recommend Indie (ACX And Others) Audiobook Narrators and Producers.
Whether you participate or simply lurk, seeing the kinds of questions and discussions that come up will, over time, give you a deeper and more nuanced understanding of this job than researching what it’s like in articles (as I did and, I assume, you are doing right now).
These groups are great resources for any questions you might have. Just one word of advice: use the group search function first. It is likely your question has been asked and thoroughly answered already. Repeat questions will probably still get an answer, as well as a lecture about being respectful of people’s time.
Still, it really is wonderful to have a community of artists and aspirants with which you can talk, celebrate, and commiserate.
Even with a coach, you will likely not be comfortable producing audiobooks right away (even if you could land them – a big, though not impossible, if). Volunteering for an organization like Librivox or Learning Ally, will give you experience recording books and credits you can put on your resume.
For my first five books I volunteered – four titles for Librivox and one for Learning Ally. Both were great experiences in their own way. I would highly recommend either.
Complete Your Profiles and Audition
Time to put your mouth where the money is…or something like that.
Once you are comfortable recording books and are confident you can do a good job, you need to create a profile (on ACX) and start auditioning. Everyone has their own ideas about how many they should do and you’ll find what works for you.
For me, if I’m actively working on a paid project, I try to do 2 per week. If I’m working on a volunteer project, I try to do 5-7 auditions per week.
Do the Work
That’s it, really. Do the work. Keep auditioning, keep recording, keep refining your craft.
When I first started with Sean he told me, “This is show biz, there are no guarantees.” And that’s true, there are no guarantees. But if you keep showing up, I’m confident you can get where you want to go.
It’s worked so far for me.
PS – for further reading and a great all-purpose resource, see Karen Commins’ Narrators Roadmap.