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A Narrator’s Perspective; Audiobook Narration Tips

By Arcady Shteynberg

“Hi Deb. This is Arcady, Alexander’s father. How are you doing today? You might recall we spoke last year about signing up Alexander for soccer. We wanted to find out about the class on Saturday.” This is what we would say started out my voice-over career? No bang, no pop, not even a zing. I wish I could say it was something more uplifting, inspirational, or even dramatic. From the time I was 8 years old, I often got in trouble for mimicry in school. I loved getting a laugh. As I got older, it was simply a matter of having a dialogue. I even had a situation, whereby an operator from AT&T called me back, and had said: “I just wanted to call back because I thought your voice was sexy”. Really?! I was frankly so flattered, that a sexual harassment suit against a major telecom conglomerate didn’t seem to be the most important thing on my mind.

It was after that day talking to Deb, that I realized it was time to set the wheels in motion, and determine my mettle for this industry. That was 2012.

It has been a rather windy road to landing my first book. How did I do it? What is it that makes an audiobook narrator successful, or at the very least professional? There are a few things that go into this….

Audiobook Narration Tips

  • Always always always make contacts and continue to communicate with them. Don’t become a face in the crowd to these people. It can happen that one day, you simply get a call back from one of your contacts, because they “had a role that they had you in mind for”. Just because you may not have gotten the audition for the present book they are working on, doesn’t mean that they may not consider you for something in the future. Contacts are the most invaluable resources you have in this industry. It allows your name to be pollinated, especially if you are a strong, hard-working professional.
  • Never EVER take things personally. This is still business. From my “first-career” background I learned, that if you allow yourself to take things too personally, you couldn’t cut it in most fields. There are many people, auditioning for many roles. You cannot simply believe that you will be the first diamond in the rough that will be scooped up.
  • Make sure to take the time to listen (once you get a role), to what your author asks. Ask questions, so you feel comfortable with all the material that they put forth in the book. You do not want to have to do many takes for the author to appreciate, and recognize the quality in your work. Remember, TIME IS MONEY. The more time you take, the less money you keep.
  • Be flexible. This will give you the ability to work in many arenas or genres. If you are having difficulty, but you insist on ONLY working on science fiction, be prepared you will have a bit harder time landing a role. If you are prepared for the long fight, then it is ok. Otherwise, consider other book types that MIGHT allow you to still express yourself. Most importantly though, always recognize your areas of expertise. If you are the type of person who is good at narrating kids books, don’t decide tomorrow that you now have the presence to do the autobiography of Winston Churchill.
  • Time management. The true sign of a working professional. Make sure to hit all of your deliverables for the author. Always be on-time, and always work extra hard to deliver the best possible product. The author will appreciate the effort, and again, can help possibly in your future endeavors to endorse you for work.

Let’s see what new things we will run into as my projects unfold. I’ll be quite happy to share more exciting thoughts with you of the “Novice Narrator”.

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