How to be an Audiobook Narrator

So you want to become an audio book narrator? Great! Lets separate the boys from the men and see how serious you actually are about this... Your first test is to read something out loud. Find a newspaper article or grab a book you like. Sit down and read it out loud. Make it engaging and fun to listen to without being too over the top and don't make any mistakes. Not a stutter or a mispronunciation. Do this for a minimum of a half hour and then come back and tell me if you are ACTUALLY interested in doing that full time every day. ....So... How did it go? Most people will come back and say "Holy shit that was way harder than I thought it was going to be" which is totally fine! You're new to this! It doesn't matter if you were the kid that the teacher always picked to read out loud, back in elementary school. There's a learning curve to everything. So if you survived that test, Congratulations. You MAY have what it takes to do this but voicing the book is only ONE small aspect. What equipment do you need? How do you even GET a book to voice? How do you edit this stuff to meet quality requirements? When can I expect to start making money? Am I ready to start running my own business? There is SO MUCH you need to consider before you dive in head first. Which is probably why you're here. I've been doing this for just over a year and wish I knew some of this stuff before I started. So lets dip a few more toes in the water... What equipment do you need? If you are serious about doing this, you should invest in your equipment. These days, the newest iPhones have very clear mic's - HOWEVER I would not recommend someone try to record a commercial quality audio project on their iPhone. You can get a decent enough microphone for around $180 (The Blue Yeti USB Mic) which is the one I currently use. With proper room treatment, the audio comes out clear and crisp and I generally don't have any problems with it. Speaking of "room treatment" - You'll need a nice quiet spot to record. When you listen to an audio book, you don't hear a baby screaming or dogs barking in the background. You don't need to invest in a bunch of sound proof foam or anything right away. Instead, find a closet! Just move the clothes to the side and stick your mic right in the middle. You can set up a little TV table in the middle of your closet with your mic and laptop so you have the screen to read the book from. The closet will give you some sound proofing. If you live in a busy area or have a noisy house hold, you may opt to do your recording at night when things are silent. So you've got your mic, your laptop and a little claustrophobic spot that you're going to spend about an hour a day in (or more if you can) just recording yourself reading. You'll also need a program to record the audio with and be able to edit (normalize the audio, edit out any mistakes etc) For this I recommend Audacity which is FREE! Yay! So I guess to start, you really just need to invest in a mic and have a laptop or desktop that can handle what you're about to do! So now that you're set up like a pro... How do you even GET a book to voice? Now you're ready to sign up for your Narrator account on ACX!! There are other sites that do this such as Findaway Voices but I personally mainly use ACX. These are platforms that authors use to hire narrators to voice their projects. ACX distributes the audio books to Amazon. iTunes and Audible. Once you're signed up as a Narrator, you can start applying for books! Start with something short (an hour or two) and a topic you're actually interested in. There's nothing worse than hating sports and then accepting an offer to produce an audio book all about Baseball. It'll make you hate doing audio books real fast, so try to find books you ACTUALLY WANT TO READ. Every book you apply for, you're going to record a sample for. Something that I learned while I was working in radio, was that you'll be hired based on how you sound and the person hiring you will know if they want you for their project, right away. Make sure you are recording a custom sample for each book you apply to. It doesn't need to be long, maybe 3 to 5 minutes MAX but it will greatly improve your chance of getting that gig. You want to apply for a few books a day until you get one. DO NOT ACCEPT ALL THE OFFERS YOU RECEIVE. You haven't even done ONE yet and it's easy to get overwhelmed. Recording and Editing an audio book is a marathon not a sprint. At this point in the game the pay doesn't matter, you're looking for experience. I understand you cant feed yourself with experience but everyone starts at the bottom. This is a long game, not a way to make quick cash. To be successful at this, you will need to do a lot of front loading. We will discuss this more in a bit... So lets say you applied for a bunch and finally got your first offer! Congratulations! That's half the battle. So what next? Do the work. Sit down in your recording closet, get audacity open and ready to record. Do a few test recordings to make sure your audio sounds okay (no loud background noise, you're not peaking into the red on your levels) and off you go! How do you edit this stuff to meet quality requirements? ACX has a list of audio requirements that you need to meet for them to accept your submission. You can read the requirements here. Specific things like Each file must measure between -23dB and -18dB RMS / Each file must have peak values no higher than -3dB / Each file must have a noise floor no higher than -60dB RMS. This may have you thinking "What kind of language did you just start speaking?! RMS and Peaks and Noise Floor? WHAT?" This can be confusing and time consuming for a newbie but there are lots of tools to help you figure it out. This YouTube video is specifically about editing audio for ACX with Audacity and ACX offers lots of video tutorials with various topics on audio book creation. ACX also has an "Audio Analysis" tab that will tell you if you've made a technical mistake in your uploaded audio book files, which is really handy! Another thing you want to keep in mind is the length of an audio book. Lets say you've accepted a deal for a one hour book (ACX does a time estimate for you but its not THAT accurate so don't take it as fact) A one hour book will take you roughly 2 hours to record. Why 2 hours? Well you need to account for all the mistakes and pauses you'll inevedibaly make while reading, and have to edit out in post. You may not be able to read out loud for two hours straight and need to break this up into segments, which is fine too. Everyone works at their own pace. Make sure you discuss the due date for the project accordingly. The due dates on ACX are not set in stone, but you want to aim to be professional and meet your deadlines. Due dates can be discussed with the author ahead of time. If you think you need 3 weeks to finish, take 4 or 5. You never know if you'll run into problems/delays. Once you've recorded and have the RAW audio infront of you, you'll edit with the processing I mentioned above. You'll need to listen to the audio once through to edit out the mistakes, and then a second time to make sure you actually GOT all those mistakes. When your final audiobook sounds good enough to be a commerical product, you'll submit it for the authors approval. The editing process on a one hour file will take you roughly 3 to 5 hours depending on how fast/slow you are with editing. If this is too daunting of a task, you can absoultly hire an editor and proofer but usually for a newbie, this cost is too high. Soooo... What about the dough?! When can I expect to start making money? There are two different ways to make money through ACX. Royalty Share and PFH (Per Finished Hour Rate) Royalty Share: ACX will pay you once a month; a portion of the sales from your Royalty Projects for 7 years. If an audiobook is trash and doesn't sell, you wont make money. If the author is semi-known and is advertising their audiobook it'll probably bring in a hundred bucks a month. The goal is to build up your library of royalty share projects so you can cash in every month on that passive income. Per Finished Hour: You are paid once for the project directly from the author, once you've completed the audiobook. You will not recieve residual payments for a PFH book. "Per Finished Hour" means you are only getting paid for the final length of the project. So if you spent 5 hours total, working on the 1 hour audio book, you are only gettig paid for 1 hour; so you need to make sure your rate reflects this. I dont reccomend taking any projects for less than $75PFH. Remember, you need to cover the cost of the fancy new mic you just bought too, which is considred to be a business expense so keep that recipt for the tax man. Am I ready to start running my own business? This is the real question to ponder when deciding if you want to jump into the world of audiobook recording. Ultimately, you're starting a business and the rule of thumb is that it takes two to three years for a business to be profitable on average. Can you float yourself for that long until this kicks into full gear for you? The good thing about this business is that your start up costs are generally low (other the the crazy amount of time you need to invest up front, for it to be a success) The more books you do for a royalty share, the more passive income you'll gain. At the same time you can balance that out with doing PFH projects that will give you money in the immideate. I will always tell internet creators (of any kind) not to put their eggs in one basket. So being able to do this, while also having other sources of income will be hugely benefical. This is a VERY BASIC guide to getting into Audiobook creation and there is SO MUCH MORE to discuss; like how to know if the book is going to sell or not, when to use an alias, and time management tips. Let me know if you're interested in more on this subject, I'd love to write a follow up to this blog with any questions you may have!! -BB

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