So, you have a book that you have published or a manuscript that will be published soon.
There are many steps involved in getting your audiobook made, such as choosing a publisher or distributor for your audiobook, and deciding whether you will narrate it yourself or not.
If you do choose to hire a narrator to bring life to your manuscript, how, exactly, do you go about choosing the right one? Just like choosing a contractor to paint your house or install your in-ground pool, there are some things you can look for in your search to ensure that you end up happy with the delivered product. Your audiobook is the culmination of all the hard work you put into your book, and it deserves the best treatment it can get!
Matching genre expectations
One of the first things to consider in your search for a narrator is the character whose point of view the book was written from and the genre of your book.
Imagine listening to…
- a captivating horror novel… in a child-like sing-song voice!
- a first-person teen drama from the girl’s point of view… read by a male senior voice!
- an Asian coming-of-age drama… read in a Western-American accent.
Though these combinations might be possible to pull off, most will be too jarring of a disconnect for the listener to ignore. Before starting your search for a narrator, you should identify the qualities that the narrator should possess to make them an ideal candidate.
What is your budget for producing the audiobook? This is something to seriously consider, as the old adage holds true:
You get what you pay for…
There are three ways to have an audiobook produced: Payment per finished hour (PFH), some form of royalty share, or both.
The per finished hour rates range as low as $50 to over $400, with $257.50 being a SAG-AFTRA union minimum rate.
Royalty share involves splitting the royalties from any and all royalties received from sales of the audiobook, after the distributor’s share has been taken off. In this model, you do not pay the narrator directly. They will get paid in the future through royalties.
There are compensation models where you agree to a royalty share deal, but still pay the narrator a rate per finished hour.
There are pros and cons to each model that you must carefully consider.
Portfolio and experience
Cost and experience are tightly linked. You need to decide whether to try out a new narrator who commands a lower cost or go with one who has already produced a few audiobooks, though at a higher cost, and match all that to your budget.
Prepare a suitable sample script, and have a few prospective narrators read them for you. This is a great way to “try out” potential inexperienced authors, and pit their narration skills against more experienced authors. Try to find a narrator who sounds right for your book, and who demonstrates good technical skills in their audition.
Personality and communication
During your communications with the prospective narrator, how was the experience? Was the narrator listening to your input, or going off on their own on a tangent? Did you get responses within a day or so? Don’t expect instant responses (narrators have lives too!) but you should not be waiting days for responses.
You will be working with this narrator for a month or more, and you want to be comfortable with the communication you receive.
In the author communities, ask for references. Have they done books in the genre and style you require? You still need to vet them and compare them against other candidates, but it is a way to add a somewhat known quantity to the list.
Of course, narrators in high demand may have a backlog of work, or have a holiday or vacation trip coming up. You need to determine whether you are in a rush against a deadline, or whether you can wait for the author of your choice.
Where to look (possibly another article)
There are many places to look for prospective narrators, and the list and comparison of these deserve its own article, however I will seed the list with the most popular choices.
ACX - Audiobook Creation Exchange
Audiobook Creation Exchange, or ACX as it is more commonly known, is perhaps the best-known venue for matching authors with narrators.
One method they offer is to browse their catalog of narrators and select those narrators you wish to contact. This is great when you already have a narrator in mind, having heard them narrating an audiobook on Audible, which is the primary distribution site for ACX.
The other, far more common way you can use ACX to find a narrator is to create a book profile, attach an audition script, and ask for reviews.
ACX does not cost anything, however, there are royalty implications based on your distribution choices (exclusive or non-exclusive to Audible). Your contract with your narrator can be either an amount per finished hour (PFH), Royalty Share, or Royalty Share Plus — which is really a Royalty Share in addition to a PFH amount.
Findaway Voices offers a Marketplace for you to browse through potential narrators, or a managed service where they curate a list of potential narrators for you to consider.
You provide an audition script for the narrators in your shortlist and make a final selection if one meets your approval.
Findaway has recently (in June 2023) done away with all exclusivity arrangements, meaning that your audiobook produced through Findaway can be taken back and distributed through a different service at any time. Granted, there is no need to do this, as Findaway has a global distribution network and you get to keep a good share of the royalties.
Voices are perhaps better known for its commercial voice over services, however, they do offer full audiobook narration services. They have four different ways to find an appropriate narrator:
Browse Projects - These are project offers from various voice talents and include their rates for a set the starting number of words.
Browse Talent - This is more generic way to filter through the talent, where you search directly through voice over artists offering narration services, and then can see the packages they offer.
Create a “Job” - This is where you describe your project, prepare an audition script, set a proposed budget, and all Voices talent can audition for your book if they so choose. Their offers may or may not be within your budget range, however, it is a differentiator for you to use in your narrator selection.
Managed - This is where you enlist the assistance of the Voices staff to curate a shortlist of voice talent. They will manage the entire job posting and audition process to make it a relatively hands-off process for you until the final selection. Of course, this service comes at a premium.
So there you have it - a basic rundown of how to search for and evaluate a narrator for your audiobook.
Of course, I’d be remiss if I didn’t suggest that you search me out on your favorite platform because who knows… I might just be what you are looking for! Click through any of the icons at the bottom of this page to jump straight to my profile on that platform, or click the email icon on the left to contact me directly.