Voice Actor's Notebook

The making of an audiobook – part 1

About two months ago I was hired through ACX.com to narrate an audiobook. It’s a full-fledged, 14-hour, fantasy-fiction novel filled with a multitude of unique characters with varying ages and accents (about 5 main characters, 5 minor characters, and at least 15 or so periodic characters. Oh! And the narrator’s voice, too.)

Having reached the half-way point in the production, I thought it might be cool to start a series of articles on narrating an audiobook; what I’ve been going through, my thoughts, some techniques, etc.

And so, here is part one!

Do you really want to do this?

I figure that the best topic to write about first is what narrating an audiobook entails. Many aspiring voice actors think that recording an audiobook would be an amazing thing to do. And for me, it really is! But is it right for you?

Audiobook narration isn’t the same as doing 60-second radio or TV spots. Nor is it the same as voicing characters for animation. And it’s not the same as narrating a documentary either. Many aspects of character/personality creation from these come into play when recording an audiobook, but there are some big differences you need to know about before diving in.

It takes time – lots of it

If you don’t work for an audiobook production company that has its own directors, sound engineers, proof readers, and editors, then you’ll be doing all of those jobs yourself. It normally takes anywhere between 4 to 6 hours to record and edit only ONE hour of finished audio. So, with the audiobook I’m currently working on, it will take me approximately 56 to 84 hours of work to finish it.

Please keep in mind that even before you begin to record, you need to read through the whole novel – making marks and taking notes along the way – before you even begin to record.

Another thing to remember is that even though your reading speed might be the “average” 10,080 words per hour, no one reads flawlessly. There will be mistakes made, especially in novels with sections of dialogue that contain multiple characters interacting with each other.

I’ve found that I spend about 1.25 times longer than the final recorded section. So, if a finished chapter is supposed to be about 1 hour long, it takes me 1 hour and 15 minutes just to record it.


How long can you read? Actually, the question should be “How long can you act?“, because you’re not just reading for maybe an hour or so at a time, you are focusing your attention and acting out all the characters (and remember, the narrator is a character, too) for that period of time. It can be draining. But it can also be extremely fun!

Your homework

If you’re interested in working on audiobooks, I highly recommend that you start NOT by auditioning on ACX, but by just practicing reading (Oops! I mean acting) and recording some short novels. There are many public domain ebooks available on the Internet that you are free to use. And if you’re feeling generous, you can even send your finished, public domain audiobook to websites like LibriVox.com

The goal is to find out if you really have what it takes to do this very special style of long (sometimes very long) form narration.