So You Want To Narrate Your Own Audiobook
Things to consider if you're narrating your own book. Written by a narrator/writer.
So you want to narrate your own audiobook?
I’m just kidding. I’m a professional, full-time narrator, so I have to say that.
I’m also a USA Today bestseller of the the indie series MAN HANDS, written with Sarina Bowen. So I totally understand an author’s perspective.
Maybe you feel so connected to your own work, that you feel you’re the only one who can voice the piece. Maybe it’s hard to surrender control to an actor who may or may not understand your vision. Or maybe it’s simply financial. Maybe performing your own work will keep costs low so you can get your words out there, and hopefully earn some extra money.
Whatever the reason, you’re doing this (and we thank you for not using AI instead to voice your words.)
Here are some basic things to know:
1) Narrating your own piece will save you some money, but probably not as much as you think.
2) If you’re going to perform your piece, remember that about 9K words equal one hour of listening time. If your piece is 100K words, really think hard on if people will want to listen to your voice for 10-12 hours.
3) Reading your work out loud is more like acting than giving a reading at a book launch or as part of an open Mic or MFA presentation.
4) Narrating is as hard and as grueling as writing the piece. I say this from experience.
Narrating your own piece will save you some money, but probably not as much as you think.
The costs include having the equipment to record, the space to record, the hours you spend narrating, and the hours you spend mastering your audio.
You’ll need a computer, a good mic, headphones. You’ll need to soundproof a space to record in. Make sure the sound isn’t ‘hollow’.
It will take you a couple of hours (or more) to record a single hour of text.
You will need to stop every time your tummy grumbles, there’s a sound outside, your heater or air conditioning kicks on, or you make a mistake. You will invest many hours recording, and then you’ll need to either process the files yourself or hire someone to do it.
So, yes, you will save money, but there are hidden costs you need to consider: does narrating your book take you away from writing? Are you ready for the grind? Is it a good ROI? I’m not trying to discourage you, honestly. I’m just telling you plainly things you need to consider.
Do a test run of a chapter to make sure your levels are good. You may want to ask for some help in this and there are studios you can hire to check your levels.
If you’re going to perform your piece, remember that about 9K words equal one hour of listening time. If your piece is 100K words, really think hard on if people will want to listen to your voice for 10-11 hours.
Do you have a pleasant voice? You need one if people are going to listen to you. I have a favorite author. She recently recorded her own book, and as much as I love her, it’s hard to listen to. If you’re not sure on your voice, record a sample and get some feedback. Post it to your website. Ask writing colleagues. Resist asking friends and family. They love you and it will be hard for them to give feedback. Try not to take the feedback personally. Putting an audiobook out there is a business decision. Try to make the best choice for your business.
Reading your work out loud is more like acting than giving a reading at a book launch or as part of an open Mic or MFA presentation.
If you’ve made it this far and have the equipment and the support of colleagues, get in the booth and perform! Some narrators read without any inflection or differentiation in characters. And AI is doing this too. You can do this, but it’s not a great experience for the listener.
Audiobook listeners are used to hearing performances.
So, resist the lyrical impulse of the MFA reading where the words are music. Words are not music in an audiobook. Words are meaning.
You must read in order to light up the listeners’ brains with images, characters, and emotions.
Try to differentiate your characters voices so they sound like different genders or personalities. You can do this with pitch, pacing, accents, texture, etc. Listen to audiobooks to get a feel for what people do. And have fun while you record. Don’t re-write. Just perform it like it’s a monologue.
Narrating is as hard and as grueling as writing the piece. I say this from experience.
Writing a book takes hours and hours (sometimes years) of dedication. While an audiobook should only take you about a week or two to record (a few days for professional narrators), keep in mind it is physically and mentally grueling. Sometimes it’s emotionally draining too. Try to be consistent with your voice. Do some vocal warmups before recording and start at the same time each day. Don’t record longer than an hour. Take a break between sessions to loosen your body and drink some hot water. Be energetic in your reading. Pretend you are telling this story to a dear friend are excited to share it with them.
That’s it. Those are the things to consider that are the most important. I’ve probably forgotten some things, and am happy to write additional posts or answer questions. If you decide narrating your own book isn’t for you, consider the following:
· Submit your book to a publisher for a production
· Hire a production company
· Work with an online audiobook-production platform
· or Reach out directly to a narrator to perform and produce the piece for you
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TANYA EBY is an award-winning audiobook narrator of over 1K titles. She owns the indie audiobook production company Blunder Woman Productions.
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