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Becoming an audiobook reader requires a combination of a clear voice, the ability to record remotely and a love of reading. You must also be adept at expressing each author's intentions. Not every audiobook reader or narrator is a trained voice-over actor, though some performing arts training helps.
A demo tape is not a tape at all in today's audiobook narrator world, but the essence is the same. A demo tape is a portfolio of your work and abilities. Most demo tapes are maintained in an online database and are sent electronically.
A good demo tape includes a variety of book genres that you read to give a prospective client an idea of your intonation, expressiveness and overall clarity. If you intend to read for different types of audiobooks, create a sample for each. This might include nonfiction, adult fiction and maybe children's stories requiring various voices.
If you are just starting out, it might be wise to have your demo tape professionally recorded at a studio. This gives you an extra set of ears to help direct you for maximum effectiveness. If you already have recording equipment, you can record or update your demo at any time. Either way, make sure the quality is good without any background noise.
More and more audiobook narrators find themselves working from home. You need to have a quiet room, protected from any outside or background noise. You'll also need a computer with audio equipment and a lot of storage. Audio files are large and need specialized software to record and edit. At the very least, you need a headset, professional microphone and a monitor set-up that allows you to track the various levels while managing files. How much you invest is up to you; voice-over setups cost as little as a few hundred dollars to thousands. Just make sure the quality is good.
Network and Apply
You don't need a voice-over agent to get work, though it can't hurt. You may not have enough experience to get an agent immediately. There is a lot of freelance work available. Set up profiles on freelance sites such as ACX, Voices and Voices123. Other sites such as Guru or Upwork have voice-over categories as well. Complete the profile with your best audio samples and demos.
Prepare Your Mindset
Rejection is a big part of any performing arts career, and voice work is no different. Get the right mindset so you don't become negative about the industry or your abilities. Expect to send out a lot of inquiries and applications. While there are those with unique sounding voices who get work quickly and constantly, the norm requires a lot more patience. Keep your voice tuned, and continue to work on your craft.
- Read out loud to students, to the blind or to the elderly to gain experience
- Ask others to critique your reading skills
- Take acting classes
- If possible, ask other audiobook readers how they broke into the industry
- Knowing other languages and dialects is a plus; you need to stand out
- Don't expect to become an overnight success because "you've been told you have a nice voice"
- Ask publishing houses and agents about the process for sending in demo tapes - don't assume
- Don't overact on your demo tape
Kimberlee Leonard has trained more hundreds of professionals in telemarketing, sales and promotional events over the past 20 years. She brings humor and simplicity to her writing whether writing for small local brands such as Hawaii's Funlocity.com or major marketing sites such as NeilPatel.com. Kimberlee is a proud fourth generation Hawaii local.