You know what? I do, I truly do. I have the best job I can think of. I love what I do, and it’s one of the most amazing things I can imagine doing.
Interestingly, while there are things that are simple but not easy and easy but not simple… honestly narration and voice work is neither. Fun? Rewarding? Magical?
Simple or easy? ….no
I get a lot of questions about how people get into this, where they can get started, who to talk to, how it works. I know well that it’s a daunting world to ponder, and so I’ve put together a set of concise places to get started. I hope it inspires you, I hope you find your toehold and that you can really get launched into this. I send you all the best of vibes!
First and foremost: get comfortable with research and reading.
Your new world will be 90% that. You need to research each new book, each author, each world and word and place. You need to research foreign languages, learn to sift the crap from the solid leads. You need to research business licenses in your area, codes and tax implications. You need to research acoustic treatment and isolation, audio editing, business planning, acting and physical stamina and posture and so much more.
Some places I suggest you start your research are:
- Edge Studio
- The Audio Publishers Association
- World of Voiceover
- Audiofile Magazine
- Voice Over Body Shop
- Voice 123 and Voices.com
- Blogs by Karen Commins, Jeffrey Kafer, Sean Pratt, Johnny Heller, Steven Jay Cohen and more.
- Facebook communities Audiobook Crowd and ACX Narrators and Producers
Here is an excellent, and very no-nonsense response from my colleague Andi Arndt, on research and how it hinges on YOU.
Second, you are an actor.
You will want to become very familiar with the language of acting, because narration especially is acting first and foremost. You should read books by Stella Adler, Augusto Boal, Sanford Meisner, and Uta Hagen. Participate in acting workshops, and improv.
You will need above all to become steeped in the emotion, the connection of acting. You are telling more than the words on the page, you are creating a connection to the world of the author. You may BECOME the author to tell the point of the book. You must, above all, connect… believe… honor the work.
Do small sips of one on one coaching with established professionals. Take a bit from each coaching session, and don’t be afraid to ignore some of it as well. Be your own person, and add tools to your toolbox as an artist. NEVER replace all the tools in your collection with any one new tool; no matter how shiny the tool or the person who sold it to you.
See some of the excellent thoughts of some of my mentors and colleagues here:
Third, you are a reader and consumer.
You must read to write. You must consume to perform. If you don’t already have an Audible.com subscription, GET ONE. You need to listen to books, see what works and what doesn’t. If you don’t like to listen, you are unlikely to be successful in audiobooks. This is a marathon of a production, requiring upward of 60 combined hours of effort for an average 80k word novel when all is said and done. If you don’t love this, you will not survive.
Look in Audiofile magazine for EarPhone awards in the genres you like. Listen to those. Follow those narrators and listen to what they do. DON’T JUST SLAVISHLY DUPLICATE. Steal with forethought. Take a bit here and there; emulate, don’t imitate.
Look at the Audie award winners, listen to those. See above.
Fourth, you are an endurance athlete.
There are so many forms of voice talent work… and audiobooks are the quadruple marathon of this world. They are long, they are intense, the pay is low compared to a 30 second promo spot. You must be a little strange in the head to really love and thrive in audiobooks.
You must build up a personal endurance to spend hours each day recording. To make a living, you need to produce 10-12 hours a week of final audio ready for editing. That’s just a fact. You need the physical and vocal and emotional stamina to do this.
Training for that takes time, and dedication and effort. You will obviously need to build up your endurance for it… but a regular regimen and personal dedication are a must.
I highly suggest you try my mentor Sean Allen Pratt’s “Audiobook self test” explained here:
Finally, you are an artist.
Don’t be afraid to be an artist. It’s frivolous and silly and UTTERLY, COMPLETELY, NECESSARY.
You will fuck up. You will be imperfect. You know why? Because art is human, and HUMANS ARE IMPERFECT. Art must be FINISHED, not perfect. Don’t get absorbed in perfection… strive for it, and know that you will fail. Every. Single. Time.
We need all the artists out there, and millions upon millions of pieces of art, because art is a mirror of the human condition, but no one piece can show us more than a single view. It takes millions of tiny fragments of truth scattered throughout our world to show us every side of ourselves.
See you on the other side.