From an early age award-winning audiobook narrator R.C. Bray despised reading. Truly hated it with a passion. And audiobooks? Even worse. Those were for people too lazy to read (not to be confused with those like himself who didn’t want to read to begin with). R.C. eventually got older and wiser and eschewing his capricious convictions fell head-over-heels for reading. Not just to learn words like “eschew” and “capricious” so he could use them in a bio, but because someone was actually going to be foolish enough to pay him to do it!
Note: R.C.’s gorgeous wife and three beautiful children begged him not to make this his official bio.
Clearly he misunderstood.
"What advice would you give someone interested in becoming an audiobook narrator?"
Being a narrator is extremely rewarding and, in some cases, money can even be made! So I can most definitely appreciate your interest in becoming a narrator. The good news is as long as you’re under no illusions (it looks fun, setting up your own hours and/or working from home sounds perfect, it's something you "always wanted to do”, someone told you you have a nice voice) that it’s by any means easy, then you’ll do just fine.
As a narrator I hear a combination of all of the above in addition to “I really like to read!” and "is there good money in it?" all the time. And to be blunt those kinds of comments are a little insulting. It's akin to saying what narrators do for a living is so simple anyone can do it. Not the case I assure you.
Here’s an example of what I mean.
I was approached by a gentleman asking for advice on becoming a narrator. He told me he worked in Aerospace for 30+ years but had always wanted to “give narration a shot.” He loves reading and after being told several times that he has a pleasant voice, he decided to look into it. All the stars (pun intended) were perfectly aligned for my reply. Here’s my response: “Imagine me - the once upon a time paper boy, video store clerk, deli manager, and now 41-year old audiobook narrator who was never good at math - telling you - the 30+ year Aerospace scientist - that I won an Audie Award for my narration of The Martian and therefor could probably survive alone on Mars for a good deal of time. If you just could put me in contact with the dean of administrations at Space Camp…”
In short, just because I can carve a turkey doesn’t mean I should be a surgeon.
We had a great laugh about this and I’m so happy he took it as it was intended: a lighthearted way to say yes, being an audiobook narrator is pretty cool, but no, it’s not just something “cool” that anyone can do. Writers, artists, and actors likewise have folks looking to them for help getting into the industry and rightfully so. Everyone has a creative side they want to engage and get out and I applaud anyone looking to do so. But you have to be real about it. Maybe it looks so simple to do because we make it look simple. It’s work. Lots of it.
As promised, here are my two cents:
Voice talent = 20%
- Having a “great voice” makes little difference; it’s just a bonus
Performance training = 30%
- Training outshines a good voice any day, and training can take years
- You can’t just read the page/lines, you have to interpret it. Internalize it. Make it as only YOU can. Doing an impression or in the
style of Morgan Freeman, Liev Schreiber, or Simon Vance doesn’t cut it.
- You MUST be comfortable and confident in what you do. Any bit of doubt in you, then don’t do it. Because once your performance
is done, it’s “out there.” Ain’t nothing you can do about it.
- If you can’t take rejection or even if the idea of rejection bothers you in the least, move on. You’re not made for it.
Innate Ability = 50%
- Whether narrating an audiobook or selling toilet paper, you need to be a natural storyteller; not a reader.
- In addition to what I said about training, sounding like James Earl Jones and having been trained at Julliard won’t save you if you’re
not a natural. It’s there or it’s not. Take an honest inventory of yourself. This is not a power of positive thinking/“one day my dream
will come true” Disney outlook arena
- Put yourself in an honest position as an outsider and don’t BS yourself. What would an uncensored Simon Cowell or Gordon
***And remember... I could be wrong about all of this so ignore it all and go for it!
Here are a few links you should have a look at and/or read.
Sean Allan Pratt’s “So you want to be an audiobook narrator?” is first and foremost. You will not find a better litmus test for the aspiring narrator.
"How to Become an Audiobook Narrator, Really" from Andi Arndt is another must watch.
Rachel Fulginiti’s two-part blog "Breaking Into Audiobooks" is priceless.
Classes & Workshops:
APA (Audio Publisher's Association)
VO Buzz Weekly
For the Hell of It