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Five Realities Authors Need to Consider Before Self-Narrating an Audiobook

by Michael Courtneay, R.N.G.

So you’ve written a book. Great start! And now you’re thinking about doing an audiobook version. Great thought!

But before you put that great thought into action, there are five realities you need to consider.

And who am I to say that? Well, just someone who has narrated/produced/promoted more than 15O(and counting) audiobooks.

So, bottom line, I “walk the walk about talking the talk.”

And I’m going to give you those “from the trenches” realities here. For FREE! Sound good?

OK – Let’s dive in:


Reality One: Is your voice boring? You wouldn’t listen to an audiobook with a boring narrator, would you? No matter how jazzed you were about the topic.

So – how do you find out if your voice is “not fit for radio?” Simple.

You download some free recording software, grab a reasonable mic.(or use your webcam audio), and record an excerpt/chapter from your magnum opus.

Then, you send it to (this is important) People who don’t know you personally. Your list(if you have one),writers groups, writers forums. and you say: “Thinking about doing an audiobook version of my book – free excerpt attached. hit me up if you’d like to hear more.”

If they don’t reply, or,worse, if their replies are negative, you need to be looking for a professional narrator, or passing on audiobook fame/riches.

(DO NOT – repeat, do not send this to friends and family. They love you, support you and want to see you succeed. So their feedback will be coated with lotsa sugar.

Bottom line: Their thoughts/hopes/wishes do NADA to advance your chances of audiobook success.)


Reality Two: (Fiction writers only) Can you approximate the vocal tone of your characters? (You’ll note I said “approximate” not “imitate”) Can you do a convincing Type A businessman?, a five year old kid? , a neurotic woman, an eldery man? a shape-shifting, dog eating, trans-gender, vampire postman? (Ok, maybe you don’t really need that one.. but hey…good to be prepared – yeah?)

If so – you’re good to good. If not – you’re looking for a” Voice Actor.” Not a “Narrator.”


Reality Three: Recording an audiobook is the emotional and physical equivalent of digging a drainage ditch in the Sahara. (Even with AC!)

It’s not for wimps.

So get over the glamour image of you sitting in a cosy chair blissfully sharing your immaculate creation with the World.

You’re sitting, as motionless as possible, in a non-squeaking chair, in a sufficiently soundproofed room, reading words off a computer screen three or more hours a day for two or more weeks. (And drinking more water, more often than you ever have.)

This is the non-religious equivalent of beating yourself with whips and chains. And, worse, for no immediate return. (Honestly, no guarantee of ANY return.)


If you’re up for this – then dive in!


Reality Four: You’re going to screw up. BIG TIME. Logical, right? It’s your first time, in a strange new environment, with precise parameters. You’re going to be(at least) a little nervous/hesitant/unsure.

This will produce: MISTAKES. And those mistakes will have to be edited out. Can you do that? (Pro Tip: outsourcing this to some third World “expert” on a freelancing site is NOT – trust me – not a solution.)

And it’s not just your flubs that need to disappear. “P’s that “pop”, S’s that “SSSSSizzle”, mouth sounds, breathing, barely audible noises are the audio gremilins ganging up to destroy the pristine audio quality of your materpiece.

They, also will need to die. And when all the editing is finally done – what about mixing,mastering? Can you do that too?

Can you bring your edited opus up to the tech snuff audiobook distributors require?


If so – Yes, you’re good to good. Otherwise, it’s “searching for a pro” time.


Reality Five: Who knows you – Who cares?

Just as having your name in the phone book, doesn’t guarantee that people who don’t know you are gonna call – the same is true for an audiobook with no promotion.

Fierce demand(and isn’t that the best kind?) for audiobooks, means also fierce competition.

Which means to have more than a snowball’s chance in hell – you need to have – A PLAN.


How are you going to let audiobook junkies know that your “fix” is available to “mainline?”

Paid ads? Giveaways? Facebook/Twitter posts? Review Co-ops?

Yes, it’s that cutesy old cliche again: “Those who fail to plan, plan to fail.”


BONUS Pro Tip: Similarities/Differences between Print and Audio.


A) Print books and Audiobooks BOTH need a cover that stops browsers in their tracks. If your print version does that, you’re in good shape. Otherwise you’ve got work to do on both.

B) In Audiobooks – your “book description” is the very much shorter – “retail sample”. This is your (no more than) one minute “elevator pitch” of propelling prose that (hopefully) sends browsers scrambling to click the “play sample” button. Which is the audiobook equivalent of print’s “look inside” feature.

It is then that “the rubber meets the road.” Your first few sentences, (Minutes, if you’re lucky) of narration need to send them frantically panting to click the “buy now” button.


The Take Away: If you seriously take the realities I’ve shared into account, you’ll know whether or not self-narrating/acting your audiobook is for you.

But don’t be swayed by the false factoid that : “Audiobook listeners prefer books narrated by the author.”

This is squirrel dookie. The majority of audiobook buyers want a comfortable listening experience that reflects the tone and vibe of the print book.

Food for thought: One author who has sold (so far) over 100 million books, doesn’t self-narrate.

His name : Lee Child.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Michael Courtneay is a seasoned Audiobook Narrator/Voice Actor/Producer who has narrated/acted in more than 150 Audiobooks in virtually all genres.

Contact him with your queries and questions at: [email protected]

CONTACT: [email protected]