In an earlier post I’ve compared audio book narration to running a marathon in the mud.
It seems like such a fun and easy job, until you actually start recording one.
If you have no idea what I’m talking about, I can tell that you have never narrated a spoken book. Do not think it’s like reading a short bedtime story to your kids. Your children do not pay for the privilege of listening to your voice, and they will pretty much LOVE whatever it is you do.
Reading to adults is a very different matter.
Narrating an audiobook at, let’s say $300 – $400 per finished hour, comes with serious expectations from the client and your future listeners. They expect that you come fully prepped with an annotated manuscript, before you even utter a single word.
I know quite a few professional narrators who just improvise, and you know what? I can always tell. There are mispronunciations, and the pacing just doesn’t flow as it should.
If you do your homework, you will always know where the story is going, very much like a tour guide who knows which sites are coming up and what to say about them.
Narrating an audiobook means that you’ll have to multitask, being the storyteller, the director, and the sound engineer all at the same time. While you are focusing on the next line, your inner critic has to evaluate the line you just read, making sure there were no mistakes.
But here’s the problem: you are so used to the sound of your own voice that you cannot be an impartial listener. I just edited an hour of a book I’m working on, and I heard myself mumble and stumble; something I didn’t notice as I was recording.
What I also didn’t hear, were the loud, distracting breaths and mouth noises that all need to be edited out. And even after I have delivered a finished hour, I know I will get some comments back from my proofer who hears all the things I totally missed. For instance, I have a tendency not to read what’s on the page, but what I THINK is on the page.
Dare I mention that audiobook narration often requires some serious ACTING chops? The majority of people recording these books have no formal training in that area (myself included), and it is obvious. Over acting is very common, and it doesn’t do the writing or the writer justice.
And I haven’t even talked about how much strain audiobook narration will put on your voice! My vocal folds were raw after I’d recorded my very first spoken book.
One colleague commented:
“I recall a textbook gig where I recorded for hours each day (thankfully, with an engineer) and my throat felt like it had been through a meat grinder at the end of each session.”
I needed to rest my voice for seven days, and I missed out on quite a few other VO jobs, which wasn’t good for my bank account.
Another colleague recounted:
“I recently narrated my first and last and only book. I wrote it. My future books will be narrated by someone else. I hated running a marathon.”
I tell you what, I much prefer reading bedtime stories!
Shireen Shahawy says
Couldn’t agree more! I recall a textbook gig where I recorded for hours each day (thankfully, with an engineer) and my throat felt like it had been through a meat grinder at the end of each session. It’s definitely not my favorite type of project.
Ted Mcaleer says
and EVERY new VO is keen to get an audiobook! I’ve sent them back in under 5 minutes for a narrator who is awful. It’s so easy to tell! I learned very early in my VO journey that I’m a middle range guy. I can do 20 pages of text without much problem… Audiobooks, running a marathon through the mud is right! But I love love LOVE ’em!
Ray Cole says
This entire blog made me smile. as I am in the midst of slogging through the mud on yet another audiobook. Thing is. I love this heart wrenching, banging my head against the wall, WTF was I thinking moments. Even the hours of editing, can be , at times Zen.
thanks for the morning smile
Paul Payton says
I “put my toe in the water” in non-fiction – a textbook on dentistry written by a dentist, including a variety of dental surgery. At least I didn’t have to look at pictures! I did it in a full-time studio (yes, it was a while ago), and my engineer reported that he only fell asleep twice! I’ve since avoided the genre, but have great admiration for those who can pull it off. But as Bob Dylan said in another context, “It ain’t me, babe, no, no, no, it ain’t me.”
Gabriel Porras says
You’re so right, Paul! I hear many people want to get into recording audiobooks because they “love reading”! That is like trying to get into the restaurant business because they love eating. Running a professional kitchen may be the best way to curve your eating disorders. Likewise, recording and editing a book -even if it is a book you love- may have the unintended effect of putting you off books for months on end.
Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt says
I will learn to do this – but only for my own novels, for the ‘as read by author version.’
I admire those who learn to do it as a career, but it must be brutal, especially getting started.
Maybe readers who love a book will have a tiny bit of extra tolerance for the author as a reader – or maybe they will have HIGHER expectations. I haven’t gotten there yet.
Basil Sands says
Amen brother! I just started a two book contract, over 45 hours of audio…then get hit mit der ‘vid!
Talk about raw vocal folds!
Paul Strikwerda says
Well, for someone with “raw talent” that’s only to be expected.