You may be looking to hire an actor skilled at narrating and voice acting books if you are thinking of producing an audiobook. Finding the best actor is a skill in and of itself, and with that actor, your audiobook can be a hit.
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Voice Acting and Voice Acting Books
Voice acting is a true skill and these actors can turn a project into something magical. When you hit on just the right voice actor for your project, sparks will fly and you will see your piece come alive. A good voice actor uses his or her voice like a finely tuned instrument, sharing your vision, adding special touches and bringing it to life.
Someone who specializes in voice acting books has a special skill set. Like a stage or film actor, they bring a story to life. This is where accents, dialects, voice cadence, and pace play an all-important role. Think about how a writer precisely chooses each word to convey what he wants. The writer creates characters, conveys emotion, paints pictures, and brings the reader into this new world. This is the same job as the narrator who will be voice acting books. Just like a stage or film actor takes on the characters, the voice actor does the same thing, but more. A voice narrator for books needs to also create the setting, share the mood, and convey the emotions and feelings of the characters all with just a voice.
In fact, many film and stage actors take to voice acting books. Take a look at some of these famous names voicing audiobooks (Insider.com):
- The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz, read by Lin-Manuel Miranda
- Ready Player One by Ernest Cline, read by Wil Wheaton
- Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll, read by Scarlett Johansson
- Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee, read by Reese Witherspoon
- The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood, read by Claire Danes
This group of actors has amazing talent, and they put it to voice acting books. This isn’t to say you have to hire top name talent, but it’s a task that not everyone can pull off. Just because someone has a beautiful voice or is a great speaker doesn’t simultaneously make them a candidate for audiobook narrations. There are special skills and techniques to use for a successful read.
Skills and Characteristics of Good Voice Narrators for Books
There are some pretty standard skills that make for a good voice actor – control of voice, good pacing, clear enunciation. Any voice actor should be able to speak with these skills. However, a voice actor whose specialty is voice acting books has a whole other set of skills. This article shares what makes a successful audiobook, and one of the key components is the narrator. Why though? Isn’t the story enough?
No matter how great the story is, listeners won’t love it if the narrator is boring and bland or hard to understand. A voice actor brings an audiobook to life. He or she builds the setting for the listener, takes the characters on, and shares emotion as well as actions. For someone to do this, they’ve got to have a true talent and a great skill set.
The art of storytelling
VoiceCrafters shares some of these skills in an informative piece. One of the most important talents that makes a great voice actor is being a great storyteller. When someone reads a book, they take that information and create an image in their mind of what it looks like. But in an audiobook, the narrator conveys that emotion, that action, the voices of the characters – all those things the reader does for himself are now the task of the narrator in an audiobook. As the VoiceCrafters piece shares, Great narrators can hold the audience under a spell, taking them on an emotional journey through the highs and lows of the tale.
Accents, Dialect, and Characters
Another important attribute is that the narrator should know when to use an accent or a particular dialect. Sure, it’s sometimes written in dialogue, but in an audiobook, it must be performed. The narrator also needs to remain consistent in turning the accents on and off for different characters and narration that’s not dialogues. This brings us to the point of different characters.
An audiobook often has multiple characters. Some informative, educational ones will just have a narrator, but if you’re thinking about fiction, you’ll certainly have more than one character. Unless you are hiring a different voice artist for each character, the one you do hire needs to be skilled at voice transitioning for each character. The listener who is speaking should recognize a character simply by the voice. Just as in a movie, the viewer recognizes the character by sight, in an audiobook, the listener knows the characters by their voices. The narrator voice acting books should be skilled at employing different, appropriate voices for the characters.
Clarity, pacing, and consistency
All voice actors should speak clearly. That’s a given. With an audiobook, this clarity needs to run the length of the book. That’s where pacing and consistency come into play. Audiobooks take hours, maybe days or weeks to record. Because of this, a narrator who is voice acting books may have to work at keeping his voice consistent throughout the recording. Pacing must be consistent throughout the reading. This can be difficult if the recording is done in multiple sessions over multiple days. If pacing changes, it can affect the mood of the book. A slower tone could sound tired and a quicker tone could sound hurried, even if neither is the case. So an actor must have consistency throughout regarding pacing.
Also, the voice itself must remain consistent. Maybe one day the voice actor wakes up and allergies have hit, or he went to a baseball game and yelled too much. His voice doesn’t sound bad…just different. You’ll have to have provisions if this happens.
A good idea is to use the first day’s recording as the baseline. Your actor can use this as a warm-up and maintain that consistency essential to a good audiobook.
Choosing the Best Narrator for Your Project
Now you know the important skills, but you still need to find that perfect narrator for your book. Some questions to ask yourself before the search begins may be:
- Male or female narrator?
- Single or multiple narrators?
- Do accents need to be taken into considerations?
- How long will the recording take?
- Will you audition and if so, how?
Speaking of auditions, many people looking for the narrator who specializes in voice acting books will want to audition several actors before choosing one. This affords the opportunity to hear the actor reading your material, or something similar. You can listen to all the recordings you like, but some people just want to hear a live-action read or a specific recorded read.
Author Marketing Experts has some great tips for choosing the right audition piece. One of these is to keep the script short, around two to three pages. You should know quickly if the actor is for you. Also, choose a dynamic part of the script, with dialogue, emotion, or action, for the audition. The first few pages of the book may not demonstrate the nuances of the actor’s voice. If there are accented dialogues, make sure to get a snippet of this in the audition, too.
You can also go with a professional voice company like our own Voice Bunny. With a wide range of experienced, talented, and reputable voice actors, this can be a good way if you are looking for someone who specializes in voice acting books. These actors are already chosen for their skills and reputations, no need for you to check references and experience. With voice over companies, a lot of the work is done for you, and you can hire someone knowing they’ll be reliable and skilled.
Communication is Key with Actors Voice Acting Books
Once you find your voice actor, communication on your part is key. Make sure they understand your expectations. Remember, no one is a mind reader. Directing voice actors is your job. Before recording, explain your vision and your goals for the book. share how you would like them to read, what pacing, character traits, any tidbit you can give can help them perform the best reading they can.
During recording, if you don’t like the way your actor is reading, constructively give feedback so they can fix it. Try to work with examples of what you want, and let them hone the art. Also, the more upfront feedback and information you can give, the smoother your audiobook recording will go. You hired your actor for a reason, they’ll be good! And if it seems they just won’t work, hire someone else. That is one advantage to a voice company – they’ll work with you until you’re pleased.
One essential piece is to respect the actor. Give feedback constructively, have conversations, and let them do their thing. Don’t be condescending or a micromanager. The better the rapport between you, the more successful your final product can be.
To Sum it All Up
Hiring a narrator who specializes in voice acting books is essential to the success for your audiobook. Think about what type of voice actor you want and what the goals of your project are. Look into some voice over companies if the hiring process seems daunting for you; they can help for sure. Once you have your actor, treat him or her with professionalism and respect. You never know when you may want to record another book, and if you enjoyed working with this actor, you can hire them again without all the searching. Good luck, and go get that perfect voice actor!