Pursue a path in “the biz” that gives you anything close to a regular income and you’ll invariably pique the curiosity of fellow performers. They want to know what investment, in time and money, you’re making to be able to pursue the elusive “steady” gig actors crave. With the growing popularity of audiobooks, many fellow thesps have those questions about narration.
“How” to narrate an audiobook is the subject of an entire blog, not just one post, but the basic equipment one needs to get started is easy enough to list. Here’s a jump-start on what introductory equipment to get and how to use it. This is a very brief overview; if you have questions, feel free leave a comment to ask.
Good for you for wanting to narrate audiobooks! The market seems to be growing by leaps and bounds right now, and for the first time in a long time, bona fide actors are actually in demand!
To competently produce your first audiobooks, here’s the basic equipment you’ll need:
- Mic Start with something simple. The AT2020 USB from Audio Technica costs about $100 and is an excellent introductory mic.
- A quiet laptop to plug the mic into helps. It’s best if you have access to the computer while you’re recording, as you’ll need to be able to edit as you make flubs (if you’re like me, you’ll make a lot). While you can use a standard desktop computer to record, laptops have the advantage of being easier to position away from the mic.
- A “dead” room in which to record. To start, a clothes closet tends to work well. The clothes absorb most of the “echo” and do a decent job of blocking outside noise, too.
- Audio recording software A free program called Audacity is excellent for both recording and editing. It works on all OSs.
- A decent set of headphones These will help you edit. You need the sound close to your ear to be able to hear breaths and mouth noise (icch — occupational hazard). Speakers aren’t enough. To start, you don’t need big, hairstyle-ruining, over-the-ear headphones. A good $10 set of ear buds will do nicely (Sony makes good ones).
Now, here’s some advice on how to kick things off:
Once you’ve figured out how to record and are comfortable with the process (not hard with Audacity), you should fill out a profile on ACX.com. ACX is Audible.com’s Audiobook Creation Exchange and is a place for authors to post their books and short stories and for narrators to audition for them. The site gives a lot of info on the process. It’s not hard (I figured it out within an hour or two).
Once you have a profile and log-in credentials (Audible is owned by Amazon, so you can use your Amazon log-in), you can search for books to audition for. You can also search for other narrators’ samples to listen to, which can give you a good idea of how to format your auditions and the sorts of material to use (I recommend mine, or Alex Hyde-White’s, or David H. Lawrence’s, for a start. Sorry, I’m not familiar with female narrators. We don’t compete!).
The other thing you should do is listen to good narrators read audiobooks. Guys like Scott Brick, George Guidall, and Grover Gardner (to name a scant few) have been doing this for years and know what they’re doing. Many libraries offer audiobooks for online check-out (for listening on an iPod or similar), and any audiobook for sale on Amazon displays a short excerpt you can listen to (here’s a link to one of mine, in the interest of education and shameless pluggery).
One thing you’ll notice from most good audiobooks is that the narrators speak really, really slow. It seems almost unnatural, but most people listen to audiobooks while doing something else (driving or exercising, mostly), so they need the time to process the action. All the good narrators do that. Check it out.
There’s your start. Now go forth and record! And write me when you have more questions.