Can your voice capture audiences? Do you have a captivating voice and love telling stories?
If so, you should consider becoming an audiobook narrator.
Becoming an audiobook narrator is a creatively fulfilling role and an immense opportunity. Seventy-four thousand audiobooks were published in 2021 in the US alone.
If you want to read audiobooks for money, you’ve come to the right place.
I wrote this guide to teach you how to become an audiobook narrator.
I’ll also give tips on developing your skills, building your portfolio, and more.
Becoming an audiobook narrator starts with understanding the skills you need to succeed.
The best audiobook narrators have specific skills that help them create quality work and get clients.
A background in acting can be a significant advantage for audiobook narrators. That way, you can read in a way that captures the audience.
Of course, people won’t see you when you’re narrating an audiobook, but they will feel the emotion in your intonation if you can narrate well.
Acting also helps you understand the script and character motivations.
This skill is precious in fiction audiobook narration, where you must portray certain characters.
If you have little to no experience in acting, training with a voice actor can help you understand how to use your voice to convey emotions and bring characters to life through your voice.
Learning to narrate audiobooks means mastering your voice and making it flexible. Audiobook narrators need to have the ability to create distinct voices for different characters.
It also helps to accurately mimic various characters’ voices, accents, and dialects. Most audiobook narrators have mastered a few character voices, allowing them to work as vocal talent for multiple roles and narration styles.
Speaking in different voices and accents can be a challenging skill to develop, but it’s crucial if you want to bring the story to life and making it more engaging for listeners.
Try listening to other accents and studying how people naturally speak in those voices. Seek training from voice actors who can voice multiple characters.
Aspiring audiobook narrators can start with a handful of voices and accents and slowly expand their capabilities with time.
Aspiring narrators must research to stand out as voice-over artists.
An expert audio-book narrator can dive deep into the context of a story and connect with the character. Conducting the proper research helps you understand the background of the characters you will portray.
If you’re interested in audiobook narration jobs for non-fiction books, you’ll also need to understand the subject matter.
Suppose you land into narration work for a book on neurolinguistic programming. You’ll need to have some form of understanding of the topic to read the words naturally and pronounce all technical terms correctly.
Established narrators also take the time to research the author, the setting, and the historical context of a book to bring more authenticity to their voice-over work.
Becoming an audiobook narrator also means learning to connect and network with people in the industry.
Networking is crucial in audio-book narration because most opportunities are freelance work, meaning you’ll need to hunt for clients.
Audio-book narrators need to be able to connect with authors, publishers, agents, and other industry professionals to find audiobook narrator jobs. There is no shortage of narration jobs, but there’s also an abundance of competition.
Networking entails standing out and putting yourself out there. You can’t make “shyness” an excuse if you want a steady flow of voice-over jobs.
The audiobook industry is constantly evolving.
Audiobook narrators should be willing to learn and adapt to new technologies and trends. You must stay up-to-date on new equipment, software, and industry standards and continue to develop your skills.
Artificial intelligence tools like Speechify should also put audiobook narrators on their toes. You can’t rely on simply being able to read aloud or having a pleasant voice and breath control.
Becoming an audiobook narrator means constantly improving. It also means giving your clients top-level service that makes working with you a pleasurable experience.
If you have the skills to become an audiobook narrator, the next challenge is finding work.
Here’s a step-by-step guide on always finding audiobook narrator jobs.
The first step if you’re learning how to become an audiobook reader with constant voice-over work is to study other voice actors.
This step is crucial to becoming a successful audiobook narrator because it exposes you to work that works.
Listening to various titles also helps you understand the conventions of specific genres, the techniques of other narrators, and how to develop your style and skills.
Listen to various audiobooks, including different categories, styles, and formats. Doing so will give you an idea of audiobook production and narration processes.
Moreover, this step will help you select what niche or specialty you want to become an audiobook narrator.
While the audiobook narration world has stiff competition, it’s not equally distributed. Some industries and niches are more saturated than others.
So finding a niche or specialty is a great way to stand out in the competitive world of audiobook narration.
A niche is a targetted group or market where you can easily stand out and differentiate yourself from other narrators. Finding your forte helps you attract a specific client or project more quickly.
There are several voice-acting niches. Determine where you thrive best and serve a segment that doesn’t have that many voice actors.
The more specific your niche, the easier it will be for potential clients to find you. Instead of just saying you specialize in audiobooks, narrow it down to audiobooks for science fiction or audiobooks in Spanish.
Research the audiobook market and identify areas that are underserved or in demand. For example, there may be a shortage of narrators specializing in children’s books, non-fiction, or books in a particular language.
Do you want to know how to become an Audible narrator? The first step is creating a demo (or set of demos) to showcase your work.
If you have done professional work as an audiobook narrator in the past, you can use previous projects.
If you’re only starting, you can create demos from scratch. Try offering your services for free to build up your portfolio.
Alternatively, you could just read any existing material that you believe will showcase your best work. You can record a demo of yourself narrating a short excerpt from a book.
Practice reading before you record your demo. Investing in a good microphone and background noise-canceling headphones is necessary for your future work.
Your demo should showcase your range, versatility, and ability to bring the story to life.
After building a demo, you’ll need to promote your work, which means putting your work out there for potential clients to hear. You can create accounts on sites for job postings or create a social media channel.
You should also have a platform where people can listen to your audiobook work. Use a platform like SoundCloud to showcase your voice-over work.
You’ll also need to include a CV, headshot, and other relevant information or credits. These platforms will be a way for you to reach out to potential clients or agents.
I recommend creating a dedicated website with a landing page for all your job prospecting work (I’ll share more info on this later.).
Once you have a demo and platform, you’re ready to start networking with people in the industry. The best place to start is by joining online communities where authors and other industry professionals hang out.
You can join Facebook Groups, LinkedIn Groups, chat groups, and other specialized business networking platforms.
Reach out to audiobook publishers, agents, and other industry professionals to introduce yourself and promote your services.
It also helps to attend online and offline events where you can mingle with people in the industry. You’ll also learn a thing or two because most of these events are educational.
Use social media to connect with potential clients and try creating accounts on job sites. Here are a few places you can start looking for freelance work:
Consider reaching out to people directly. If you want to learn how to become an audiobook narrator for Amazon books, check out Amazon’s book center and see if there are titles without an audiobook version yet.
You can then research that author’s contact details and send a cold email. The conversion rate will be lower, but you’re bound to land on a client if you do it strategically and consistently.
One of the most powerful marketing tools for any business, including audiobook narration, is client testimonials. They prove that people love working with you and that you’re a reliable resource.
You can ask for written or video endorsements from satisfied clients and use those to promote your services and build trust with potential clients.
After completing a project, reach out to your clients and ask them for feedback on their experience working with you. Don’t forget to say thank you if they do.
Make it easy for your clients to leave testimonials. Ask them to put a review on your Facebook page or website so it’s also visible to the public.
If you’re just starting, you can offer minimal audiobook work for free in exchange for a testimonial. While working for free should not become a habit, it does help if you’re still establishing yourself.
Working for free will allow you to address any concerns and ensure clients are happy with the final product.
The following last step to learning how to become an audiobook narrator with regular work is one a lot of freelance voice actors and narrators skip: asking for referrals.
Asking for referrals is a great way to grow your audiobook narration business and attract new clients, especially if your current clients love working with you.
A referral can be a powerful form of marketing as it helps you multiply your current network. It also gives referrals more reason to trust you given that a friend or colleague sent you their way.
Don’t be afraid to ask your clients directly for referrals after recording sessions. After you complete a project, reach out to your clients and ask them if they know anyone who could benefit from your services.
When you read audiobooks for money, there’s a lot of opportunity for creative and financial growth. Professional authors can earn a comfortable income if they choose voice acting as a career path.
There are a few ways that a voice actor or professional narrator can earn from their craft.
Here are the three best ways to make money (and how much you can make).
- Per finished hour (PFH)
A per-finished-hour rate is the dollar amount you charge for every hour of finished audio once you’ve completed your recording sessions or sound editing.
Typically, clients will pay you for the per-finished hour output. When you’re starting, you might have to charge a little lower.
$10 per finished hour might be an excellent place to start. However, a more established book narrator can charge as much as $100 to $350 per finished hour. Thus, you can make four digits per project with a few hours of audiobook recording.
- Royalty share
Up-and-coming narrators can receive a royalty share from recording projects. That means that you get a share of each audiobook sold.
This approach is excellent when you know that an audiobook will sell well online or if you believe in the author’s vision.
With this setup, you could earn more over the long term.
This kind of setup merges the setup of the two arrangements above. That means audiobook narrators with this kind of contract get paid a lower per-finished-hour rate and a share of each audiobook sold.
Here are some tips for audiobook narrators that can get you more voice-acting work.
Impostor syndrome is one of the biggest enemies of personal growth. You might sometimes feel that your voiceovers and narration work aren’t good enough when recording audio.
While it’s normal for artists and professionals to feel unsatisfied with their work, you can’t let it stop you from putting yourself out there. There are many people out there who will be more than impressed with your vocal skills.
An imposter syndrome can also stop you from introducing your narration services to authors. Your growth as a professional narrator depends on constantly stepping out of your shell.
Build up your confidence by improving your voice-over and acting skills. When you begin auditioning, realize that you will get rejected in several casting calls before you land something.
Continuously apply for job openings and go to auditions and casting calls.
Practice recording by recording a book aloud when you get the chance. Improve your technical skills like breath control, accents, and voice modulation.
Keep taking classes, workshops, and other opportunities to improve your skills and stay competitive. Give yourself time, and you’ll move from a satisfactory narrator to an excellent one.
Seek ways to improve your skills. Listen to your recording after every project and ask yourself how to improve the next one.
I always recommend every voice actor, and virtually any freelancer or solopreneur, to create their own websites.
A dedicated website makes you appear more professional and reliable. It’s also an excellent opportunity to showcase your narration work and experience.
Not every narrator can afford to pay a web developer and designer to create a website. In this case, you can use a responsive website builder that doesn’t require coding skills.
These website builders often have many templates, meaning you don’t have to build your narration portfolio website from scratch.
You can also feature audiobooks you narrated on your site to help promote your client’s book to your network.
You don’t have to learn how to edit and mix sound like a professional recording studio, but it does help to know the basics.
Sometimes, your voice-over work will need a little tweaking, like splicing out bad takes or increasing the volume. It’s an excellent add-on for your clients and those you work with if you can do that yourself.
Your audio recording software will likely already have editing features available. So learn to minimally improve your voice and narration work.
I highly recommend using Adobe Audition to edit your voice recording.
I hope this article helped you learn how to get a job as an audiobook reader. If you follow these steps, you could be recording voice tracks for audiobooks in no time!
If you have a passion for reading and audiobooks, being a narrator isn’t your only option. There are other ways to make money on a platform like Audible.