So you’ve read Part 1 of Breaking Into Audiobooks and you’re still interested? Great! Now that you know the recipe for a successful narrator, here’s a list of eleven practical things you can do to get started!
Take “The Test”: This suggestion was originally offered up by colleague Sean Pratt in his excellent blog post “So you wanna be an audiobook narrator?” – a must read for any aspiring narrator! In a nutshell, he suggests the following: Go to your bookcase and grab a book. Open it to a random page and take it to your nearest closet or small enclosed space. Sit down and begin to read out loud. Every time you make a mistake, or if your diction isn’t clear, or if there’s some external noise, stop and go to the beginning of that sentence and begin again. EVERY TIME. Do this for AT LEAST two hours. Consider doing it for another four after that (the average audiobook session is about six hours/day). Then imagine doing that same thing at least three days in a row. If you are still enthusiastic about narrating audiobooks after that, go for it!
Invest in a class. In a safe environment, free from the “repercussions” of putting yourself out there before you’re ready, you will be able to test out your skills, learn some new things and find out if this is even for you. Make sure the person that you study with is reputable! Do your research; ask people who have been in the business for a while for suggestions about who to study with. You will start to hear the same names suggested over and over again…word of mouth is King!
Sign up to read for the Blind and Dyslexic. Build your skills while making deposits in your karmic bank account! Not only is this an awesome thing to do, it provides an opportunity to gain some practical experience. If this isn’t available near you, consider volunteering to read to seniors or children. Any chance you can give yourself to read out loud will help you immensely.
Join some online groups. Online groups can be useful for asking questions, discovering resources, hearing about opportunities and more. As with all things online, be sure you’re joining the right group! Look for groups that are open and welcoming to narrators of all skill levels. Connect with colleagues and absorb as much as you can.
Get yourself set up to record. These days you can set something up relatively inexpensively. You’ll need a very quiet space with room for a desk, a chair and a microphone. Any setup will do for practicing, but if you truly want to make this a career, a professional sound is crucial. If you don’t have experience with sort of thing, consider hiring an expert to help set you up for success.
Start a workout group. When I was a newbie, I met three other women in an audiobook weekend intensive. We kept in touch and formed a long-distance workout group, sending each other samples and offering feedback. We’d also share notes and information on who to contact and how, and generally cheer each other along. We did this for at least a year. I am proud to say we’re all working audiobook narrators today…(and one is even a publisher)!
Make some high quality demos. The demo is the “headshot” of the narration world…but it tells people a lot more than a picture does! Your demos are your calling cards, and before you have any actual work, the only tools you will have to showcase what you can do. Make sure they are high quality and of course, be sure they show off your best work. Create a separate demo for each genre that you are interested in and be sure they are long enough for the listener to get a good sense of your storytelling. Unlike in voiceover, where demos are usually only about a minute, audiobook demos are typically anywhere from 3-7 minutes, leaning towards about 5.
Join the APA (Audio Publishers Association). Joining a professional organization is a signal that you are a professional, and that you are committed to the craft and the industry as a whole. It also gets you discounts on things like APAC (see below), access to members-only mixers, free narration seminars and industry news. Here’s an insider tip: If you really want to start getting to know people, finding out who’s who, and becoming immersed in the audiobook community, volunteer for a service position within the organization! Offer to help in any way you can and get to know the players. You will be glad you did.
Go to APAC. If there’s one event that every “serious” narrator needs to attend, it’s the annual Audio Publisher’s Association Conference. Held in conjunction with the BEA (Book Expo of America) every May, it’s an all day event full of panels and workshops, with special opportunities for networking and instruction.
Check out ACX. The Audiobook Creation Exchange is where many narrators get their start these days. It’s an online platform where rights holders (mostly authors) can connect with producers (mostly narrators) and have their works made into audiobooks. A word of caution: make sure you know what you are signing on for, before accepting a job. In addition to narration, you will be responsible for producing the entire book…be sure you know what that means and know how to do it, or hire someone who can!
When you’ve done all (or most) of these things…connect with people who can hire you. This should be the very last thing you do, after you are confident in your skills, have gotten some proper training and have made several high quality demos. It’s a small industry and you want to put your very best foot forward when introducing yourself to the community. Do your due diligence and find out who to connect with at various publishing houses and how they like to be approached. Be sure to check their websites for information before submitting and follow their guidelines! If you don’t hear back right away, it doesn’t mean they’re not interested. People are busy. Be consistent with your follow-up and update them on your progress. Don’t give up. Anything you truly desire will require some blood, sweat and tears…you’ve got this!