Becoming an Audiobook Narrator

Becoming an Audiobook Narrator

In PerformInk’s series “The Craft”, we invite professionals in the educational field to discuss the benefits and/or the history behind the craft they teach. To read past blogs click here.

By Kevin Theis

Whenever I meet someone who is considering getting into the audiobook industry as a narrator, I always make the same recommendation:

“Go grab a book, a flashlight and a stopwatch,” I say. “Then go lock yourself in the closet, turn on the light and read out loud to yourself for 30 minutes. If you can do that- read straight through for half an hour without wanting to blow your brains out –congratulations! You’re in the club, Sparky!”

Because that’s really the job. You hole up in some little, homemade studio (usually in a closet or a basement), you pull up a manuscript on your screen, plug your microphone into your laptop and…you talk.

And talk.

And then talk a bit more. Until you’re so tired of the sound of your own voice, you’d rather listen to Gilbert Gottfried read the complete works of Ayn Rand.

But if you can do it, if you have the discipline, the talent and the necessary time, embarking on a career as an audiobook narrator is a lot easier than you might think. Within just a few days, if you have the right tools, training and equipment, you can actually turn audiobook narration into a convenient supplement to your acting career, if not a full-time means of employment.

All of this (or most of it) is due to the advent of the Audiobook Creation Exchange, or ACX. ACX.com, which is owned by Audible (which, in turn, is owned by Amazon, which owns everything), is a website that directly introduces authors/publishers seeking narrators with the talent willing to record and process the audiobooks themselves.

There is no middle man. No agent. No up-front fees. Nothing. It’s all free to both parties.

Prospective narrators sign up with ACX and create a free profile. You load up samples of your narration that you’ve created in your home studio, reading one- to two-minute sections of various types of books (fiction, non-fiction, books featuring dialogue to show off your acting chops, a piece that might highlight accents that you do well). No worries about copyright infringement- you’re just reading tiny snippets of the books- and then you post these samples on your ACX profile.

Then, you begin searching the auditions. Those with control of the published materials (or “Rights Holders” in ACX parlance) offer their books on the ACX site for either a per hour fee (which can vary wildly) or they agree to broker a Royalty Share agreement with you.

In the case of a Royalty Share, you agree to work on spec, narrating the book for no fee but, once the audiobook is published, you and the Rights Holder split the royalties evenly (50/50) for the next seven years. (Audible tracks the sales themselves and pays you directly.)

Essentially, with Royalty Share, you’re betting that you will make enough through the audiobook sales over seven years to justify the work you put into narrating the books, a gamble that can either pay off or…not at all.

The real trick to all this is to set up your home studio. But with a small investment in a decent microphone (a $130 Yeti Blue mic will do nicely), a laptop and a quiet space in your home- far from the sound of rumbling El trains or barking dogs- you can be up and recording in a few days and, if you pick your projects wisely, can be supplementing your income for years to come.

Oh, and one other note: Audiobooks appear to be the one sliver of the entertainment industry where women are sought after far more than their male counterparts. It isn’t often that the female talent has an advantage over the males but, in the recorded book industry…they do.

Audiobook publishing, once a tiny slice of the book market, has exploded over the past decade and is now a multi-billion dollar publishing behemoth. The result of this boom in the popularity of audiobooks? They need talent. And if you can hack spending a couple of hours a day talking to yourself in your closet…

…they might just need you.

Kevin Theis is a local actor, director and writer with over 170 audiobook titles available through Audible.com.  His class “How to Become an Audiobook Narrator” will next be offered August 1-3 at Foxhole Chicago.  For more information:  AudiobooksChicago.com.

About author

Kevin Theis

Kevin Theis is a local actor, director and writer with over 170 audiobook titles available through Audible.com. His class “How to Become an Audiobook Narrator” will next be offered August 1-3 at Foxhole Chicago. For more information: www.AudiobooksChicago.com.

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