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!