With audiobook sales on the rise, indie authors are wondering whether — and how — to create audio versions of their self-published books. As Gordon Rothman explains, you might not be suited to narrating your audiobook. And for those that do, he offers some practical tips.
You have a new book. Should it also be an audiobook? More authors and publishers are saying, “Yes.”
From 2016 to 2017 revenue from audiobooks shot up 22 percent among major publishers reporting to the Audio Publishers Association. That makes audio by far the fastest growing segment of the book industry. As more people own smart speakers, that’s going to grow.
As a freelance audiobook director for some of the biggest publishers, I’ve worked with a wide rage of author-narrators from best-selling writers including Robert Caro and James Fallows, to national broadcasters and studio newcomers.
Like most industry professionals I’ve spoken with, I discourage novelists from recording their works, unless they are actors as well.
Fiction: Narrating Your Audiobook
As the writer, you know your characters and emotional arcs better than anyone. But translating them into sound is challenging. Each voice needs to be both distinct and consistent throughout the book. That voice needs to convey not just the text but the mood, the intent, and the relationship to other characters. This is the art and craft of an actor.
If you do choose to narrate your novel, listeners may enjoy your language but pan your performance. On the subject of authors reading fiction, professionals tend to agree on two things. First, it’s usually a bad idea. Second, there are rare exceptions, though the only name anyone mentions is Neil Gaiman.
Nonfiction Audiobook Narration
If, instead, your book is non-fiction, especially a memoir, advice book, or other work with a first-person point of view, you should definitely consider reading it.
A lot of authors, even if they were reluctant at first, find it a rewarding experience. It can be satisfying for listeners, too. They tend to enjoy hearing the author, for the authentic, personal connection to the material. Are you comfortable putting your heart into the reading? Then you may be the right person to sit down in front of the microphone.
How to Prepare For Narration
Let’s talk about what it takes and how to prepare for a confident and comfortable recording session.
The recording should take roughly two days in the studio for up to about 50,000 words, and three days up to about 75,000. That assumes two to three hours in the studio for every hour of the finished recording. Your finished book will probably run about one hour for every 9500 words.
Whether a publisher is arranging the recording or you’re setting it up yourself, you’ll want to be sure that, at minimum, you are working with an engineer with audiobook experience. He or she will follow along as you read to help watch for mistakes and then fix them.
New narrators agree: it’s harder than it looks. It takes physical stamina and real focus. It’ll go better and faster if you’re well-prepared.Here's how to prepare for a confident and comfortable audiobook recording session #audiobooks #indieauthors Click To Tweet
First, know your material.
I recommend that ALL authors read their books out loud, even if they are not planning to record them. Let that reading remind you what drove you to write the book, and what key ideas you’ll want to emphasize. It’s a great way to catch errors, too-long sentences, and clumsy construction. If you will end up doing the recording you may also want to mark important phrases as well as places that merit a longer pause. And if there are names or words you’re not certain how to pronounce, it’s better to check them before the recording starts.
Second, get a basic understanding of narration technique.
That includes how to achieve a sound that’s easy to listen to, how this medium differs from public speaking, how to connect to your material and your listener, and how to be comfortable for your long recording sessions.
Are You Studio Ready?
Because I have generally found new author-narrators to be not-quite-ready for the studio, I’ve created a new service called AuthorDirect Audio to help prepare them. It’s the only organization solely devoted to helping author-narrators, offering affordable video instruction, one-on-one coaching, and audiobook directing, all available online.
To learn more, please visit authordirectaudio.com
Over to You
What’s your experience narrating your own audiobook? Were you surprised how hard, or how easy it was? What tips would you offer to other authors considering narrating their own work?