Choosing the right narrator for your self-published audiobook can make or break its success, but what's the best way to go about it? Historical mystery writer Anna Castle‘s shares what she learned by recruiting narrators for the audiobook of Murder by Misrule in the form of an interview with her final choice of candidate, Joel Froomkin, followed by their five top tips
Insights from anAudiobook Narrator
Anna: Has the self-publishing revolution impacted your work significantly?
Joel: The self-publishing world has been the lynch pin to my audiobook career taking shape. It allowed me to build up a portfolio, hone technique, and record some amazing projects before even being on the radar of the major audio publishers. Approaching authors and encouraging them to foray into audio production is an incredible thing.
My big breaks with traditional publishers almost all came out of relationships with authors I had worked with on indie projects.
I think indie authors who aren’t exploring audio don’t realize they are missing a whole new way to find readers who embrace their work.
Anna: How is the process different with indies versus publishers?
Joel: The primary difference is the amount of interaction you have with the author. I work closely with my authors to get a real sense of what they want for each character. With ACX, the author has to approve the first fifteen minutes to make sure they agree with the direction things are heading. With a mainstream publisher, the author has approval on casting (usually); from that point the narrator is working pretty much on their own. It can be nerve-wracking when you know the author isn’t going hear what you’ve recorded until the day the book goes on sale!
Anna: Do narrators tend to specialize in terms of genre or expected audience?
Joel: Every narrator has a genre they’re the most passionate about. Personally, I love books that give me the chance to jump in the sandbox and play, with large casts of colorful characters and bold personalities. Those books can be YA, fantasy, or historical. I love humor and wit. And although romance is my bread and butter, I would be pleased as punch if most of my career was narrating middle-school books! Weird, right? I’m basically a big kid.
Anna: Can you offer us any advice in choosing a good narrator for our work?
Joel: How you list your audition can make a huge difference.
- Tell us something about the characters in the audition material — their age, origin, personality. You would be amazed how often auditions are posted with dialogue between five different characters and you have no information about who any of them are. Who would you cast in those roles if it was a Hollywood movie?
- Don’t be afraid to give us a clue about style – gritty, humorous, lively, dry. If you need to hear several characters, use excerpts, rather than one long section.
- About 775 words will give you a five-minute audition, which is on the long side. A three to five minute sample is the usual.
- Above all, before you begin the process, listen to some audiobooks in the genre you write. Take a look at Audie finalists and Earphones Award-winners in Audiofile Magazine, and you’ll find great examples of excellent narration.
Anna: What can authors do to make your job easier so we can achieve the best audio edition of our work?
Joel: It’s better to give us too much information than too little. I ask for a character dossier including everyone from the hero to a one-line taxi-driver. Tell us if a minor character is going to become a major one in later books OR if they will be a romantic lead later in the series. We aren’t mind-readers!
Anna and Joel's 5 Top Tips for Choosing an Audiobook Narrator
A reputable, professional narrator will be recording four or five books a month, minimum, to sustain a full-time career. So it isn’t possible for them to be productive while being micro-managed or to have you listen chapter by chapter. That’s why the more information you give us up front, the happier you will be with the final product.
- For fantasy or sci-fi, nothing makes narrators happier than a recorded list of all the names and places. Everyone write pronunciations differently, so a recording of how you pronounce Captain Bozick Flurnschrumpf from the planet Regnara is a godsend! And I love authors who write with audio in mind. Try not to describe EVERY male character as having a deep, growly voice!
- Find a voice you love, give them all the information you can, and then trust the process. If you need to hear another short section of material to be sure, don’t be afraid to ask. Cast the right person. Narrators aren’t fixer-uppers.
- It’s also important to know that even if you hire the best narrator in the world and you LOVE the result, there will always be things that, to your ear, miss the mark. If you add up the number of lines Meryl Streep has in a movie where she wins an Oscar, it MIGHT total 30 minutes of dialogue. Bear in mind that narrators have to sustain hours of material, solo, playing all the characters.
- Before you send your book to press, read it out loud. Do it hidden in a closet, whisper it to your cat, but do it. You will be amazed at the things that your eye skims past on the page but suddenly don’t work in your mouth!
To find out more about Joel Froomkin, a three-time winner of AudioFile Magazine’s Earphones Award, visit www.joelfroomkinaudio.com.How to pick the best narrator for your #audiobook - by indie #author @AnnaCastl - new on the #ALLi Author Advice Center's daily blog Click To Tweet
OVER TO YOU Do you have any top tips to add to Anna and Joel's great advice? Join our conversation!
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