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How to Become an Audiobook Narrator: man speaking into mic

How to Become an Audiobook Narrator: A 5-Step Process

Last updated: March 23, 2020
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As the demand for audiobooks grows, the demand for talented voices to narrate them is increasing, too. For aspiring voice actors with a knack for bringing stories to life, learning how to become an audiobook narrator can lead you to high-paying gigs — including many that you can complete from home.

With one in five Americans now listening to their favorite books, the audiobook industry is getting more lucrative by the year. As a result, voiceover artists have more opportunities than ever to land legitimate work-from-home jobs, as well as in-studio gigs, with their talents.

If you’re ready to develop your skills and turn voice acting into a flexible career or side hustle, keep reading to learn more about audiobook narration and what it takes.

What Do Audiobook Narrators Do?

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Narrating audiobooks requires more than your typical speaking and acting skills. This is because you’re constantly being tasked with conveying emotion and bringing energy to even the dullest parts of a text — all without using your facial expressions or body language. You may even need to change the way you speak for different characters or genres.

A big part of an audiobook narrator’s job is analyzing books. While your audience may not be reading, you can expect to read a lot to understand what a character is feeling or where a plot takes a sudden turn so you can provide the most accurate voiceover work possible. You may even need to look up word pronunciations once in a while. In the end, your recording should be able to represent any given author’s unique writing style in audio format.

On the more technical side, audiobook narrators work with professional recording software and equipment most days on the job. To succeed in the career, you need to be fairly tech-savvy. You should also get comfortable with reading from a digital screen and learn how to enunciate well without recording natural mouth clicks or swallow noises.

How Much Do Audiobook Narrators Make?

While recording audiobooks is a fairly skills-heavy job, you do get compensated well for the time you spend on your craft. The starting pay for an audiobook narrator reportedly averages out at $100 per hour, with highly experienced voice actors making $500 per hour or more.

Of course, smaller audiobook publishers may only pay $50 per hour or so, but these earnings will still allow for a comfortable living, whether you’re a full-time employee or an independent contractor.

More recently, ACX — an audiobook-producing company owned by Amazon’s Audible — has popularized a royalty-based model. Some narrators on the platform choose not to be paid for their work initially and rather receive ongoing monthly checks per book sold. This makes audiobook narration a great way to earn passive income as well.

How to Become an Audiobook Narrator

With no formal education requirements and many opportunities out there, you can get started on your path to becoming an audiobook narrator today. Here are five steps you can take to work your way toward narrating your first audiobook:

1. Take Classes

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If you have little to no experience with acting beyond high school drama classes, taking a formal acting class will get you better attuned to the skills you need to take on a character and evoke the right emotions in a scene. People who narrate audiobooks commonly come from an acting background because it’s a great start for learning how to become a voice actor.

You definitely don’t need to sign up for a complete college degree in acting, but you can look up acting classes at your local community college or at a community theater near you. If you really want to put acting into practice, you can even join your local theater or improv group.

2. Work with a Coach

Once your basic acting skills are refined, the next step is learning how to turn your acting into voice acting. You can do a Google search for seasoned audiobook narrators who do local lessons or Skype-based lessons — both are perfectly fine — that can help you apply your skills.

Your coach should be able to give you a wide variety of industry-specific tips, including what speed and tones to use to keep a reader captivated as well as how to properly speak into a mic.

When you begin your audiobook narration career, your coach may even be able to guide you on the technical and business aspects of the job. They can also provide project-specific training (for example, if you need to take on a certain accent).

3. Find or Create a Recording Studio

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Next, you’ll need a reliable place to record your audiobooks. For some narrators, this is as simple as Googling local recording studios that allow you to book by the day or hour. Some coworking spaces may even offer small, bookable recording rooms (which is really all you need) at a more affordable rate.

Still, the costs of renting recording space can add up over time, especially if you’re just starting out with your career. If you want to save money over time or if you’re committed to a remote work lifestyle, you can create your own home studio out of a closet, garage, or other small space with the right equipment.

Your home studio should be soundproofed well with good acoustic insulation. DIY tutorials can be found online, though you can always hire an expert to help you out if you want to save time and ensure you have a professional-grade studio.

When it comes to the equipment that goes into the studio, at the very least you should have:

  • A high-quality microphone and pop screen
  • Headphones
  • A tablet or e-reader
  • A table and chair

If you plan to edit inside your studio, we recommend setting up a monitor with your computer to make it easier.

4. Learn to Navigate Recording Software

Whether you’re planning to record your audio files in a rented recording studio or in a home studio, you’ll need to learn how to navigate the recording software you plan to edit with. You can work with your coach, take an audio editing course, or simply familiarize yourself with the software if you’re already somewhat familiar with multimedia editing.

Audacity is a completely free, open-source software that’s great if you want to minimize your investment, though it’s not the most refined or high-quality option around. It’s also a great option for beginners who are just learning to edit. Ocenaudio is another free tool that’s good enough for you to do your job, but it has much less flexibility than Audacity.

As you advance in your career or if you have the means to purchase advanced software right off the bat, we recommend upgrading to Adobe Audition or Avid’s Pro Tools.

5. Find Audio Recording Gigs

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Once you’re confident in your audiobook narration and editing skills, you can start to find work in the industry. You can always look on traditional job sites for full-time and part-time openings, but because most audiobook narrators are independent contractors, we recommend using the following popular platforms to find voice acting gigs:

  • ACX: Independent book authors commonly use ACX to produce audiobooks and get the final results sold on Audible, Amazon, and iTunes. You can create a profile on the site, upload samples of your narration, set your pricing, and audition for open gigs. This narrator page provides a more in-depth look at becoming a narrator on the site.
  • Freelancing sites: Fiverr and Upwork can often connect you to audiobook narration gigs, though you may not find the highest-paying gigs on these platforms. Still, this is a great way to earn money for narration, especially for beginners.
  • Voices.com: This is a platform that employers used specifically to find professional voice actors and audiobook narrators. With a free account, you’ll have what you need to upload samples and land gigs.

Turn Your Skills into Cash

Learning how to become an audiobook narrator is a great way to turn your voice acting passion and skills into a high-paying, flexible opportunity. With platforms like Audible and Google Audiobooks gaining traction among across the United States and beyond, narration jobs are more widely available than ever. If you love taking on unique characters and helping tell stories, this may be the career or side hustle for you.

With great voice acting skills, audiobook narration is just the start of how you can earn money. Learn how VoiceBunny can connect you to animated movie roles, trailer narration gigs, and even automated phone message recording opportunities.

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