You’ve probably heard that audiobook narration is a marathon, not a sprint.
That phrase not only describes the type of work, but it also conveys the amount of time you may need to reach the level of success that you desire.
Like any business, audiobook narration has start-up costs, and it may take a while before you begin to see a profit.
Like any field in the performing arts, audiobook narration is an EXTREMELY COMPETITIVE field. Each job has exacting requirements the narrator must fulfill.
Before you even THINK of submitting yourself for publisher work, assess whether you:
- Have a home studio with sound quality comparable to audiobooks produced by major publishers
- Have completed more than 1 audiobook without asking the producer a lot of questions
- Can do punch and roll when recording
- Can differentiate characters
- Do your own research about pronunciations
- Are able to complete narration of an 8-hour book in a single week
Each person follows a different path. Some people do a handful of books on ACX and soon get cast by audiobook publishers like Blackstone and Tantor.
For others, the climb may take years. People who are viewed as “overnight successes” usually have been working diligently for 5-10 years.
You need to build a relationship with people in a position to hire you. An audio publisher might have invested $20k in a title they are going to produce. They don’t cast books on the basis of 1 random email from a narrator.
They don’t have the time or staff to train you. They have to know they can trust you — first, as a person who understands the industry expectations, and second, with the particular project — before they will cast you. If you are cast in a project, you must prove that the producer’s trust in you was warranted.
Unfortunately, narrators can break that trust after being cast in many ways, such as:
- agreeing to a rate for the contract and then saying they needed a higher rate
- accepting an audiobook project and then bailing on it because they had never recorded a book and didn’t know how hard it was
- delivering audiobook files late because they took a VO job
- communicating in a disrespectful manner, for instance responding with frustration when you aren’t cast
In addition, producers are working with and being contacted by 100s of other narrators. You need to distinguish what you bring to the table that they don’t already have.
You must continue doing your best work and marketing yourself to those who can hire you for as long as it takes.
Therefore, you must patiently persist and persevere by setting goals which include:
- setting up and treating your recording space
- obtaining coaching to answer your questions and improve your performance
- creating compelling demos with a coach’s guidance
- developing a web site
- auditioning for quality titles you’re suited for on ACX, even if they are only available for a royalty share contract
- completing a strong portfolio of audiobooks that demonstrate your strengths. If you aren’t getting cast to narrate an audiobook, look at producing your own work, perhaps with Public Domain texts.
- Receiving favorable listener and professional reviews
- researching publishers and contacting them AFTER your skills are at the level of the narrators they cast. You only have one chance to make a good first impression!
- attending industry events to meet people and build relationships
- sending regular emails to update casting people whom you’ve met about new skills, awards, and other areas that may help them cast you
- believing in yourself
- enjoying your life
The last 2 bullet points are important because it’s easy to feel frustrated, disappointed, etc. when it seems that it’s taking a long time to gain traction.
Remember, if it were easy, everybody would be doing it.
Some of the points in this article are based on a public Facebook post written by narrator/producer Tanya Eby that is no longer available.