How to Work With Your Narrator


Once you’ve chosen your audiobook narrator, you may feel as though your side of the work is done. After all, you’ve done your part and now the narrator has to do his, right? While you won’t have to sit beside your narrator as he spends over a dozen hours reading, correcting, and mixing, it’s in your best interest to make your audiobook a collaborative process.

You only get to listen to a several-minute audition and a 15-minute sample if you go through the normal Audible channels. That leaves a lot up to chance on the creative side of things. Additionally, you’ll want to start figuring out the marketing aspects of your project, which is a 50/50 joint venture if you’ve done the royalty share deal. If you make both sides of the process collaborative, then you’ll end up with a better product that sells more copies.

Here are six action steps you should take once your narrator begins work on your audiobook:

1. Schedule a Call

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You’ve already gotten to know your narrator, but now it’s time to figure out how you can best work together. In the early stages of the process, your narrator may need some creative input from you. Certain words and pronunciations, as well as character accents, may post some trouble. Ask when you should make yourself available to help and the best way you can respond to questions.

You’ll also want to get a feel for your narrator’s plan of action and schedule. Determine when you’ll need to lend a hand to keep him or her on schedule. If your narrator needs you to listen to the first 15 minutes of the book within 24 hours of its completion, this call is the time to figure that out. You’ll also want to schedule a dedicated marketing chat somewhere down the line.

2. Ask For Character Samples

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Most fiction books have over a dozen characters, which means your narrator needs to come up with over a dozen unique voices. If you trust your narrator implicitly, you can let him take a crack at it alone, but you can also help out by listening to a sample of each character prior to the first 15 minutes milestone.

Start by asking the narrator if he would be willing to let you listen to his take on the main characters. If he agrees, you can send him a description of each character. Include notes on any vocal quirks like a regional accent. Then compile a very short scene from the book to showcase the character. For time’s sake, it helps to pick short scenes with multiple characters.

When the narrator returns the series of recordings, listen to them a couple of times over before passing judgment. It’s unlikely that characters will sound exactly the way you’ve heard them in your head. That’s okay. They won’t necessarily be identical to your vision. Let the narrator have some artistic freedom and only step in when something is blatantly wrong. Give a few notes if necessary and ask for a re-do on any characters that were way off. Once you’re pleased with all the main characters, give your narrator the go-ahead to start recording the first 15 minutes of the book.

3. Plan Out Your Marketing

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As we’ve mentioned before, narrators who agree to the Royalty Share deal split any sales your book makes going forward. This gives the narrator a vested interest in spreading the word. Schedule a chat to talk about nothing but marketing early in the production stage. During the meeting, set down certain responsibilities each of you should have in relation to promotion.

For example, one of you could reach out to audiobook reviewers on the day of the release, while the other one can contact podcasts to find some appropriate joint interviews. Brainstorm to come up with cost- and time-effective promotional methods. Divvy up the responsibilities and hold each other accountable for due dates.

4. Listen to the First 15 Minutes

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After your narrator posts the first 15 minutes of your book to ACX, the project cannot go forward until you give it the go-ahead. This is your chance to listen intently and find the words or character names that aren’t quite right. Submit changes to your narrator and quickly listen to any submitted corrections.

Once you’ve approved the first 15 minutes, you can actually listen to any chapters your narrator posts to the project. Ask him if he’d rather make corrections on the fly or do them all at the end. Regardless of his decision, it’s a good idea for you to listen and take notes as chapters are posted. If you do so, you’ll have all your notes ready when the narrator needs them, as opposed to whenever you get a chance to listen.

5. Completion and Approval

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Once the book is complete, you’ll want to listen all the way through to identify any issues. You may also want to get a friend or colleague to listen to identify issues you couldn’t. Remember at this point in the process that even $1,000 an hour professional audiobooks aren’t perfect. You can expect someone to work completely on sales commissions to fix 75 points at which a word was about 10 percent too breathy. Don’t expect perfection. As long as it’s free of egregious errors and you’re happy with the performance, you should avoid being an overbearing author.

After you approve the book, it can take Audible between 48 hours and a couple of weeks to make it available for sale.

6. Sell Your Books Together

When your book is up and available, it’s time to fulfill the obligations you set out during your marketing meeting. Encourage each other to push harder and farther with your promotional efforts since a win for one of you is a win for all parties involved. The more you do to push the book, the better your chances will be for launching a successful project.

The Beginning of a Beautiful Friendship

If all six stages of the process go well, you’ll be able to forge an author-narrator relationship that can last for multiple books. As your audiobook presence continues to grow, so will your narrator’s. By building a dual following, you’ll ensure that more readers will find you and listen to the subsequent books in the series. Be a great partner, and you may find yourselves successfully working together on multiple additional projects.