Into the World of Audio Books: Selecting Your Narrator

Here’s part 3 of my journey into creating an audio book from my first novel, Chosen. To recap: There’s a lot of preparation involved. Don’t skip it!

You’ve done all your prep, you’ve got your account set up, you’ve uploaded your audition script, you’re ready for masses of narrators to send in their auditions! Only … you may only get 2 (or perhaps even just one!). This is where you curb your impatience and give your book some time to generate a few auditions.

What to look for in a narrator is a highly individualistic process. Much depends on how you work and how well you play with others. There’s a level of control over your work that you aren’t going to have once you’ve picked your narrator, so it’s important that you have an initial level of trust. You also need to be able to communicate very clearly what you want. On ACX, narrators or as they’re called ‘producers’, have their own pages and it’s a good idea to take a look at their experience level. Google is your friend here. Before you make your choice, do a little stalking. No, it’s not creepy at all, but a way for the author to find a good match.

If you get enough auditions, you then have to make a choice. Sometimes, this is quite difficult, particularly if you’re faced with more than one producers who have given you excellent auditions. This is where your research comes in to help make the choice. And don’t hesitate to ask questions about how each producer works. How receptive are they to input? ACX wants you to communicate only through their web interface, but it isn’t very conducive to good work flow. I don’t know how other producers are, but if mine hadn’t been willing to communicate through email we’d still be back making the audio book.

How much effort and input you as the author want to put into the creation of your audio book is also highly individual. Some authors want to hand the project over and not worry too much about the nuances. Some want more control. Before you pick a narrator, you need to know what kind of director you’ll be. I thought I’d be in the former column, but it turned out that my inner control freak came right out when it came down to letting go of how the audio book was made. Fortunately, my producer was more than willing to accept my input. It’s helpful to everyone if you have in mind ahead of time how much involvement you’d like. You need to know how much work is involved with the latter variety, where you’re more involved in how the book is read.

Each narrator will probably have an individual process on how the work is created. Will you get it all after they’ve read the entire work and then you go through and give corrections, or suggestions? Or do you check each chapter as it comes out, making those suggestions as you go. One is a big chuck of time devoted to listening to the work, the other is also a big chuck of time, but spread out over many days and weeks. For me, it was more work than I anticipated, but that wasn’t a bad thing. Just a scheduling thing. Feel free to talk to each of your auditioning producers to get a feel for how they work, how you anticipate working with them, and how you expect to communicate during the process.

In making your selection of producer, do make sure you let the others who’ve taken the time to audition for you that you are going with someone else. It’s just professional courtesy to do so. My notes to each producer went something like; Thanks so much for your audition. You were really fantastic! It was a difficult decision, but at this time I’ve decided to use a different producer. Thanks again for your time and effort. I will keep you in mind for future projects. ACX keeps track of your auditions for you, and your correspondence with each.

The choice between the two narrators came down to tone and inflection. My ‘chosen’ narrator understood through my director’s notes what I wanted with each section in the audition. He was able to change voices between characters – even characters who sound very much alike, so it was crucial to be able to tell everyone apart. There was also a range of emotionality that the other audition was missing, an intensity of voice and a vocal range that meant I’d found my narrator in Keith McCarthy.

Here’s his ACX page – go ahead, check him out!

Next: The First Fifteen minutes…


Filed under Audio books

2 responses to “Into the World of Audio Books: Selecting Your Narrator

  1. Pam Olsen


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