Reading is a pretty all-encompassing activity, maybe you can listen to music while you do it, but not much else. You can’t do the grocery shopping or drive a car while holding a book in one hand, but you can listen to them. Whatever stigma may have been associated with audiobooks in the past (i.e. “oh you haven’t really read it if you only listened to it) has been swept away with the massive influx of audiobook content. Awesome, I say! Audiobooks are fantastic, perfect for road trips (or traffic), a wonderful way to while away a lazy afternoon or distract the kids. In 2020, for the first time, US audiobook sales were higher than e-book sales, and that number is only rising. There is also more choice than ever before, and happily, quality is on the rise too. A professional voice over artist is a must-have to do great audiobook narrations.
Audiobooks are an exciting genre for voice over artists, the challenge of a long-form project, multiple characters and emotions, captivating the audience and bringing the ideas and story to life. Pulling the listener in, wrapping them in a new world and new ideas. I call it the theatre of voiceover because it’s very performance-based. The narrator has become such a factor when deciding what to listen to that big sites like Audible and Libro.fm allow their users to search by narrator as well as author.
Characters That Come Alive
As a narrator of several audiobooks (about 50% non-fiction and 50% fiction) with a formal acting background on camera and on stage, I really get the need for realistic but entertaining characterization in audiobooks. Each personality needs to be fully realized and distinct, true to the way they were written. Quirks, tags, and tone hooks keep the listener’s attention and distinguish each character, realistically, authentically, and with creative flair. And the main narrator along with the main characters needs to be sustainable to perform and listen to for 10 hours or more.
Voicing multiple different characters requires a deft touch, careful organization, and a thoughtful planned approach. Enhancing the personality of each character’s viewpoint and arc through tone and pitch. Fulfilling the vision of the author, bringing their characters and story to life before their ears. Here’s a little dive into some favorite fiction genres.
Mystery, Thriller, and Suspense Genre Audiobook Narrations
Mysteries, thrillers, and suspense continue to be one of the most popular audiobook genres. And that makes sense, a rattled breath or a menacing cackle is much more effective when they are whispered directly into your ear. Shivers tingling up the listener’s spine, done right it can feel like they are standing right next to you, about to get you. It’s creepy, it’s fantastic.
Narrative pacing carries the listener through the story, adding suspense and intrigue, urging the listener to solve the mystery, find the bad guy, and figure out the twist. There’s no room for skimming in the audiobook, the intent of the author can be better served through narration. Building excitement and intrigue. Sure, the listener can push pause and take a break from all the tension build-up, but why would they when the stories are just so darn good.
Romance Audiobook Narrations to Fall in Love With
Most books are going to have a touch of romance in them, but there’s romance and then there’s Romance (capital R-omance). Romance audiobooks are a top challenge. The stories can be incredibly fun and light or heart-breaking, or a mixture of every genre out there. Historical, contemporary, or a time-traveling love story that spans the ages. Characters change and grow, spitting fire at each other one moment and flirting the next.
Whole websites are devoted to breaking down romance audiobooks and their various levels of sizzle. Stats vary depending on who you ask but the romance genre is often wildly underestimated, it’s a power horse, and (oddly) guilty pleasure and that can be goofy and humorous or rich and sweeping. As a narrator, the trick is to know the difference. To hook into both the author’s and his/her character’s voices and deliver it as such. Those of us with years of industry practice, develop base characters that we recycle and recast through various books, delivering the right tone to sweep listeners into a different world.
Magical Voice Over to Transport You
Interweaving plot points, time periods, made-up words, and magical creatures. Sci-fi and fantasy books paint a picture that is outside of real life but often reflect it. The love and devotions readers and listeners have for these books borders on the reverential, and it’s thrilling to hear someone weave the story in your ear.
Complete suspension of disbelief is a must and strange terms need to be spoken as though they have been rolling off the tongue for decades. These stories have gruff-throated dragons who have been alive long enough to be wise, tired, and annoyed. Newbies who are just discovering a whole new world and are a little bit awe-struck by, well, everything. And lady warriors who snarl and sword fight all while wearing a tiara and dress. Not to mention that spaceship that just landed…
There are so many other great genres for audiobook narrations: dystopian, crime, and of course, literature. In audiobook form, they can be inspiring, motivational, tearjerker, or laugh out loud and they are almost always deeply personal. The authorial voice is massively important. As a consumer of audiobooks and a narrator of them myself, I love them best when I feel the narrator has found the essence of that author’s voice and lets it unfold. What about you?