Guide to Audio Books Narrator Skills [2022]

Narration is an Art:

The voice actor or artist requires special skills to be successful. Certain parallels between an audiobook narrator and a film actor can be drawn. The narration of audio books is an art form requiring talents that are far more than just having a pleasant sounding voice.

Considerable preparation is required for the successful recording of a digital book. The narrator will normally pre-read the material for the purpose of applying the skills of script analysis. Considerations include how best to portray the characters by utilizing various styles of voice delivery using accents and emphasis at predetermined points in the manuscript.

More Then Just Reading Out Aloud:

“The basic skills for the professional narrator combine the natural sensitivity, nuances and shading to the meanings of words”

The narrator must also be capable of maintaining consistency,stamina and rhythm during all aspects of the reading, flowing well through each chapter consistent with the imagery of each and every scene. Much emphasis is placed upon the intonations and rhythmic aspects of the language using proper pauses and tone.

The dynamic range (the ratio of soft and loud sound), pitch and timing all contributing to the variable color of the voice to effectively convey the character’s emotion, whether it be a frown, smile or shrug into the listeners mind. An experienced and talented recorded book narrator will be capable of accomplishing these tasks as a matter of course.

According to The basic skills for the professional narrator combine the natural sensitivity, nuances and shading to the meanings of words. It requires the correct pronunciation for both native and foreign words applied accurately and naturally, all delivered without breaking the rhythm of the narration.The recording of talking books takes place in specially designed sound recording studios.

The studio production team, typically a narrator, sound monitor and reviewer, require on average of 5.5 hours for each single hour of text recorded.

Celebrity Narrators

Recently, reported that British actor Stephen Fry’s comments about loving audiobooks on BBC2’s Top Gear have increased audiobook sales.

Do celebrity endorsements and readings entice readers to purchase audiobooks? Let’s take a look…

Mr Fry:

On June 28th, Stephen Fry offered to viewers of Top Gear that he has been enjoying audiobooks while exercising. That week internet searches for the term audiobook increased by about 20%. I love Stephen Fry, so I would certainly respect his endorsement.

Fry has also embarked on a new serialized audio feature called The Dongle of Donald Trefusis, available on iTunes. I’ve just purchased the first episode and it really is incredibly funny. He has narrated several audiobooks including:

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, a UK version of Harry Potter, and several children’s books such as Paddington and Tigger Comes to the Forest. His narration skills are quite good.

Other Celebrity Readers:

I began wondering about other celebrity book narrators. Essentially, narrating of this type is creating an audio performance. Who better than an actor to provide it? I found some very interesting performances…

Imagine The Edgar Allan Poe Audio Collection read in part by Vincent Price. Could there be a better match? Perhaps James Earl Jones Reads the Bible? How about John Lithgow and Ted Danson narrating Dr. Seuss’s Oh, the Places You’ll Go? Jamie Lee Curtis lent her voice to Little Women. Winona Ryder has read Anne Frank and Ben Kingsley has performed Schindler’s List. All of these and many more are available.

Does a Celebrity Reading Always Appeal?

In the cases listed above, I have to say yes. I would love to hear Vincent Price read Poe. But not all celebrity readings are matches made in heaven. Brad Pitt’s reading of All the Pretty Horses is not as heartfelt as it should be… and he obviously does not speak Spanish. But Brad Pitt fans will surely enjoy listening to his voice.

Sean Penn reading Bob Dylan’s autobiography lacks emotion is not clearly voiced. Again, it is subjective. Penn’s fans may value his reading. Joan Rivers reading Mary Higgins Clark’s Murder on the Aisle is… well, I didn’t listen. I suppose if you are a fan of Joan it would work. For me, no appeal.

Celebrity Campaigns:

The ALA has a celebrity poster campaign. Various personalities from movies, TV, and music are featured reading books. These photos are plastered on walls of libraries across the US. So why not do the same for audiobooks? If Stephen Fry can increase sales with a mere mention, think what might happen if a poster of Hugh Laurie listening to P.G. Wodehouse showed up in libraries…

Spotlight on Audiobook Narrator Dan Boice

Welcome to our new Narrator Spotlight feature articles. Each article will highlight the work of an audiobook narrator as they answer our questions about their careers.

Our first audiobook narrator interview is with Dan Boice.

Dorothy; What inspired you get into narration?
Dan Boice; I have had a need to read articles and news stories aloud to my friends and family for years. So this finally developed into a circling of this career field from recording IVR up-front messaging while working in the telecommunications industry. My favorite author posted an open casting for his short story work to be voiced. I submitted a few short recordings and ended up the highest seller.

Dorothy; How long have you been an audiobook narrator?
Dan Boice; Not long enough, ha ha. I recorded short stories in 2010-2011, and completed both my first novella and novel in audio this summer.

Dorothy; What books or projects have you narrated?

Audio Book Narrator Dan BoiceDan Boice; A 72,000-word novel from Anne Baines titled “Hunting Delilah” and a 13,000-word novella from Annie Bellet titled “The Light of the Earth as Seen from Tartarus”.

The short stories I voiced for the open call have been taken down but may reappear in another format soon. I have also provided a voice for a new iPhone game “Geronimo Joe”.

Dorothy; What projects are you currently working on?
Dan Boice; Auditions, auditions, auditions, for both fiction and non-fiction.

Dorothy; How do you approach a new project? Do you read the book first and make stylistic choices?
Dan Boice; I have a bookshelf of unread material I have kept for years, intending to read for leisure one of these days, so my projects are works that I would like to read for personal interest and be able to produce something out of. A two birds, one stone, sort of thing.

I always read the book thoroughly and take notes as I go of interesting phrases, difficult words, and ages, accents, sexes, etc. to prepare myself for how the book should sound to the listener.

Dorothy; Does your approach change depending upon the genre?
Dan Boice; Absolutely. If the work is intended as satire it should sound completely different than the thriller novel I completed this summer. Mysteries and thrillers should be brooding and mysterious, while non-fiction should be informative and neutral-sounding to convey the information. Each genre should have a different approach for the performer.

Dorothy; Does the author have any say in how you narrate their work?
Dan Boice; My work has come through ACX where the author gets to approve the first 15 minutes to make sure the narrator has matched the tone, pace, and sound of the work. If they approve of it, you’re set. If not, you have to re-do it based on their direction.

Dorothy; What are your favorite books?
Dan Boice; “The Wolf’s Hour” by Robert R. McCammon and “Everybody Pays” by Andrew Vachss.

Dorothy; What is your favorite of those you have narrated?
Dan Boice; Since I only have a few, I’d say I’m proudest of “Hunting Delilah”. I did two-dozen voices and really stretched myself to record and produce the whole thing. It was such a daunting and rewarding task all at once.

Dorothy; What is the most challenging thing about being a narrator?
Dan Boice; Finding voices for all the characters within a back-and-forth dialogue and making them sound unique, and realistic in delivering their dialogue.

Dorothy; Do you have any advice for people considering becoming an audiobook narrator?
Dan Boice; Practice, practice, practice. Read everything aloud, road signs, articles, closed captioning on TV, etc.

All those voices you imitated on Saturday morning cartoons, and playing make-believe as kids, keep them around. It’ll help you when you have to find a voice to a character that may only have three things to say but when you have to make them stand out, you’ll have something to draw on.

Dorothy; Is there anything else you would like to share with our readers? A website or blog?
Dan Boice; It’s amazing how many words you think you know how to pronounce until you are forced to give voice to them via a script in front of you. I’ve seen words in print a dozen times but never had anyone use them in conversation. So learn how to pronounce things properly.

I can say I haven’t recorded enough to offer much through a blog at this time, as most of my time is still spent auditioning and practicing. But I thank the readers for their interest and I foresee lots of books being published on audio and e-versions simultaneously in the future. Thanks for your time.

Dorothy; Thank you for sharing your insights with us, Dan. We hope you enjoyed a look inside the world of audiobook narration. Be sure to check back for new interviews with narrators of all kinds of audiobooks! This ongoing feature will shine the spotlight on the unsung heroes of audiobooks, the narrator.

Audiobook Narrator Spotlight on Michael Lane

Dorothy: What inspired you get into narration?

Michael: My folks used to love to have me read out loud from the newspaper from about the time I was 3.

Of course, I had no IDEA of what I was saying, but I knew the words. Narrating is taking the place of actually writing the “great American Novel” for me!

Also, I was a radio DJ for 25 years and have done a TON of amateur theatre, musicals and comedies, mostly. As much as I love to read, this is a natural extension of what I’ve done for a lifetime (just more credible!)

Dorothy: How long have you been an audiobook narrator?

Michael:I started in April of this year. I’ve done 12 kids’ books, completed one novel, working on my 2nd and contracted for 4 more after that one. I’m actually about to start on my 3rd book, so I’m going to see what it’s like doing more than one at a time!

Dorothy: What books or projects have you narrated?

“Day 9” by Robert T. Jeschonek,(Pie Press) and many kids’ books, including “The Color Blue”, “Creepy Crawly Bugs”, “Dogs” and “Mr. Marvelous Needs a Friend” to name a few!

Dorothy: What projects are you currently working on?

Michael LaneMichael: “Of Thieves and Elves”, by A. P. Stephens (Fanda Publishing) and “Tamed” by Douglas R. Brown. (synopses follow)

Day 9

Somewhere in the world, a genius builds a machine to bring mankind closer to God. Somewhere in time, another genius builds a cathedral with a mind of its own. Somewhere on the road, three searchers race a serial killer to find the man with the key to salvation.

It takes the sound and fury of Day 9 to bring them all together. If God took six days to make the world and rested on Day 7, humanity has spent Day 8 tearing it all apart. Everything changes on Day 9, when we get it right at any cost…or lose everything.

On Day 9, a God’s-eye view of the world collides with the visions of a living, breathing cathedral in a war between the delusions of yesterday and the dreams of tomorrow. A war between beauty and mediocrity…love and hate…madness and sanity…life and death. If the unlikely heroes in the heart of the storm can’t face down their own demons, the deepest secrets of maniacs and murderers could bring the hope of the future crashing down forever.

Of Thieves and Elves

A monumental tragedy has befallen the Clan of Ionor, an ancient brotherhood of elven warriors. Concerned when their Master does not reach his secretive business in a distant kingdom, the Elders learn that Tryn, their beloved leader, has been captured by a cutthroat gang of bandits known as the Steel Claw. Yet this is not the darkest of their tidings. The relic under the clan’s safekeeping, a weapon of terrible power that was forged by the gods themselves, is also missing.

The Ionor dispatch Eonen, a headstrong Elder, and a young and talented apprentice, Tride, to rescue the Master and the relic by infiltrating the bandits’ stronghold-the formidable Fortress of Toppledom. As the two determined elves hasten into the unknown beyond their borders to restore balance and honor to their clan, they encounter the true darkness behind the matter-the very origin of the world’s evil.

Allegiances will be twisted. The fates of many will be set into motion. And the destiny of one will be realized


Werewolves are real, and they make excellent pets.

Owning one of the legendary creatures is the latest fad. The WereHouse insists their werepets are loyal, docile, and 100% safe, but what happens when these gentle giants turn on their masters?

While on a routine EMS call, paramedic Christine Alt is attacked by a rogue werepet. She escapes with her life, but the encounter leaves her with more than just scars. As her body begins to change, she discovers the WereHouse is hiding a terrible secret, and they will stop at nothing to keep her from exposing them.

Tamed is a werewolf tale with a twist from the author of the The Light of Epertase trilogy.

Dorothy: How do you approach a new project? Do you read the book first and make stylistic choices?

Michael: Two full reads. One for the fun of it, then the 2nd to capture subtexts, now that I know what happens to everybody! For example, if a character trait is revealed very deeply into the book, I need to bring the idea of that to my delivery from the character’s first appearance.

Dorothy: Does your approach change depending upon the genre?

Michael: It might would change for non-fiction, but I’m such an avid reader, I’d end up reading it twice anyway. I assume that I’d most likely engage in some side research to understand the author’s perspective about the topic at hand.

Dorothy: Does the author have any say in how you narrate their work?

Michael: As much as they’d like. My first project, the author was very encouraging, but didn’t offer a lot of direction. My current project, the author has been rather hands-on and we had a delightful conversation about the characterizations before I started.

The one I’m about to start; I’m working with the publisher quite a bit, but I’ve gotten a recorded pronunciation guide from the author. I suppose I’m open to accepting any involvement they’d like up to a point. After all, these characters have had voices in their heads for much longer, and I think it’s my challenge to try to bring some of that to the surface.

Dorothy: What is your favorite book?

Michael: Tough choice! Top 4 would be “Atlas Shrugged” (Ayn Rand), “Catcher in the Rye” (J.D. Salinger), “1984” (George Orwell) and “The Stand” (Stephen King). Looking at that list, I must be seriously messed up – LOL!

Dorothy: What is your favorite of those you have narrated?

Michael: From a READER’S perspective, I can answer that, BUT…from a NARRATOR’S perspective, I’m finding that each one has its joys. The plot and pacing of “Day 9” had me thoroughly captivated and there were two or 3 characters that were fun. In “Of Thieves and Elves”, I have a wide palette, since the world of Londor is fictitious. So the accent patterns can be whatever I want them to be. Also, the construction of the “good guys” and “bad guys” allow a big stage to play on. My bad guys are real narcissists and LOVE to hear themselves talk!

Dorothy: What is the most challenging thing about being a narrator?

Michael: THE BUSES that run all day outside my studio…and EDITING! Just ’cause it looks good in print doesn’t mean you can say it out loud – LOL! I read down a whole chapter at once and any given sentence may have 4 or 5 false starts before I get the one I want. So a 32 minute chapter may run 50 minutes raw, then everything has to be pieced together with the right amounts of silence and the breathing has to be blended or eliminated to fit.

Dorothy: Do you have any advice for people considering becoming an audiobook narrator?

Michael: Hydrate! Get software you are REALLY comfortable with (I like Adobe Audition), and find a place where you can work without interruptions. If you’re learning an editing style, I’d suggest that you NOT try to go for long passages without a mistake. That can lead to a lot of frustration. All hail you if you can do it, but I just go for the VERY BEST READ I can get on a given sentence, then I move on. If I happen to string 8 or 10 sentences together without a screwup, then great! But I an VERY critical of each syllable; a little mouth click, or a swallowed consonant or something sets up a reakte.

Dorothy: Is there anything else you would like to share with our readers? A website or blog?

Michael: is a GREAT place to get started! The first demo I put was from my son’s 21st birthday present. I made an audiobook out of “Goodnight, Moon”, as that was a favorite childhood book of his. It worked!

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