Why do narrators charge $800 to $1,000 to record an 18,000-word audiobook, when you can easily do it yourself?

5 Answers

  • 3 months ago
    Favourite answer

    Because you WON'T do it yourself.  

    There's a skill to reading for adults,  voice inflections,  pacing,  cadence, etc.  

  • 3 months ago

    Go on, then.      

  • 3 months ago

    cause they want the money

  • Anonymous
    3 months ago

    If you find reading an 18,000 word book to be easy, then you are an exceptionally talented voice narrator who should consider becoming a professional in the field.

    However, for most, including some talented voice actors, it’s an exceedingly difficult task.

    Here’s what a typical 60 second narration recording session might look like:

    The client hires a local theater actress who is great on stage. Seems logical. She’s experienced in absorbing text and using her voice.

    As recording commences, problems jump out.

    Take 1:

    She’s reading too quickly and the delivery feels tense and rushed. The coaches instruct her to relax and slow the pace.

    Take 2:

    The reader slows the pace and the coaches realize there are insufficient pauses at places where the pace needs to come to a short rest. These short silences have to be well executed so the listener has a brief moment to digest, but not so long that the pause keeps him waiting.

    Take 3:

    With pace and pauses improved, the coaches notice that the tonal inflection might be flat and monotone, or conversely, too dramatic and overstated. So they discuss, phrase by phrase, how they’d like to construct the dynamic arc of the tonal inflection and expression. Take 3 proceeds and it’s a little better than take 2.

    Take 4:

    The coaches realize that the voice actor is not using her natural voice in a conversational tone that we’d expect from a face to face conversation. She’s changing the way she expresses her voice based on how she believes it will come across through a microphone and on a car radio. She sounds a little detached, contrived, not engaged with the listener in the conversation.

    Take 5:

    Natural and conversational tone have improved but we still have a problem. The topic is contemporary but the voice actor is starting to sound like the voice narrator from an old cowboy movie. It’s a good delivery, but not appropriate to the topic.

    Take 6:

    While trying to remember the changes she’s made on takes 1-5, the voice actor presses on.

    Take 7:

    The voice actor is beginning to tire and her mouth is becoming dry. The coaches give her a small bite of fresh apple to freshen and moisturize the mouth, which clears up the mouth noises.

    Take 8:

    Ooops! The mouth noises are fine, but we’re hearing faint lips smacks so we put a little vaseline on the actor’s lips and teeth. Really, we do that.

    Take 9:

    Going great, but then the coaches realize that after certain phrases, the voice actor has started using little “kissing” sounds in the pauses. You’ve heard people do this, where they press the tongue against the roof of the mouth, suck in just slightly as might be written in text as, “Tsk, tsk, tsk. For the recording, it comes across as a little sassy and arrogant, so that issue is addressed and corrected.

    Take 10:

    Just a few minor details need attention, but by this time, the voice actor has a kind of emotional droop. Despite having been given encouragement, all she’s thinking about now is what she’s doing wrong. The quantity of information she’s trying to process and remember has become a blur and she can no longer deliver a compelling read.

    Take 11:

    The coaches still don’t have what they want but they understand that this is all they can squeeze out of the voice actor. She’s done. Spent. It’s all downhill from here. The producers have over-coached the voice actor.


    The producers listen to the eleven takes, trying to figure out if we can use this word from take 3, another phrase from take 5 and the final phrase from take 9, or whatever they can come up with.

    We spend an hour editing and the producers stop the session in despair. One of them says, “This is terrible. Where can we find a better voice actor?”

    Seriously folks. It’s not at all like reading to the kids at bedtime where little fumbles, restarts and “oopsies,” don’t matter. Absent the talents of a professional voice actor the issues can take the session on a slow grind down the swirly tube. Multiply this by the number of words in a book and the budget and frustration levels can become insurmountable.

    The best voice narrators I’ve worked with can read a 180 page book in four, 6 hour days. Then I’ll spend about the same on editing. Typical billing for studio time alone - about $1000.

    If you know a voice actor who can produce a book reading for $1000, you’re getting a bargain. If you can do this easily yourself, you may have a career in the waiting.

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  • 3 months ago

    Because they are far better at it.

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