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AUDIOBOOKS
Audiobook Narrator: Here's How To Prep The
Book Before You Record (DIY Or Outsource)
March 26, 2020

By Ann Richardson
Audiobook Narrator

In these unprecedented times of turmoil and "shelter in place," many people suddenly find themselves with loads of free time on their hands.

The search for temporary employment done from home can be daunting, but take heart! There are some opportunities in the audiobook world that don't require a degree, large muscles, or driving.

Narrators are beginning to farm out an important step in the audiobook creation chain, in an effort to support unemployed friends, as well as keep themselves on schedule.

A quick background on the audiobook narration process...

PREP BEFORE YOU READ

In order to turn out a top-notch audiobook, a narrator must "pre-read" the manuscript before stepping into the booth, and be prepared to inhabit the story, whether fiction or non-fiction.

Much of this prep work is done at night after we've already spent the day sequestered, narrating. As one can imagine, this doesn't leave much time for family or extracurricular activities.

If your spouse, offspring or best friend suddenly needs income and something to occupy their mind while they're not mingling in public or touching their faces amidst the current Covid-19 crisis, it could be a win-win situation if they could prep a manuscript for you!

PAYING FOR PREP

How much to pay a prepper?

You might want to barter with family members (cleaning the garage or walking the dog can be more valuable than money sometimes), or you might want to pay friends/associates the going market rate for this service.

There are organizations that specialize in manuscript preparation for audiobooks, and the first one that comes to mind is Rip City Research. But for this article I'm focusing on the individual who is new to prepping.

Preppers usually charge by the hour (independent of the runtime of the audiobook) and rates range from $25 per hour to $45 per hour or more.

GET ON THE SAME PAGE

How do you communicate exactly what you need to a person new to prepping?

The process will flow smoother if you're both on the same page, and headaches will be avoided if details are established up front. Plus, you don't know what you don't know (or what THEY don't know), and it's best to be specific with your needs.

I'd like to take this opportunity to mention that Karen Commins' website NarratorsRoadMap.com has a section dedicated to the subject of prepping an audiobook, and it even includes comprehensive guidelines to her iAnnotate process.

But for brevity and ease of quickly sharing, following are two guides I've put together that a narrator can share with someone new to book prepping. One is for non-fiction and the other for fiction.

Obviously, there is overlap of information, but I felt the need to create two separate guides, given the stark differences between the two types of literature, so they can be shared separately.

How To Prep A NON-FICTION Book

There is no need to give a synopsis of each chapter or a description of characters, unless it's a fictionalized, story-style learning text.

Skip the Table of Contents, any indices and glossaries as well as footnotes. Do include research on call-out boxes, tables, graphs, charts, unless otherwise specified.

Pronunciation research should include all foreign words, proper nouns, and any seldom used words that are outside common usage, with links to audible pronunciations. You may need to consult several sources in order to find an authoritative answer. The first pronunciation listed in a dictionary may not be correct for this book. Also, names of cities, towns, and streets should be pronounced the way the locals say it. For instance, Milan, Georgia is pronounced "MYluhn".

Submit only completed research in one document/spreadsheet, unless otherwise discussed.

Think like a narrator as much as possible. ALL of the words will have to be spoken, and every one of them must be pronounced correctly!

Valuable research sites include:
www.audioeloquence.com (for foreign words)

Note: you may not find the pronunciation on any of these sites. You may have to do further research online or consult a local establishment via phone or find another creative way to get the correct pronunciation.

PRONUNCIATION SPREADSHEET EXAMPLE








Example of words (in bold) to research in a non-fiction manuscript:
"…psychologists call working memory and executive functions-how a person plans a strategic approach to a task, controls what is attended to, and how he or she manages the mind in the process, so it doesn't become flaccid. Psychologist Chandramallika Basak, then at the University of Illinois, and her colleagues showed that training in a real-time strategy video game that demands planning and executive control…Some studies have also increased the amount of practice provided. For instance, Florian Schmiedek and one of us (Lindenberger) of the Max Planck Institute for Human Development in Berlin and Martin Lövdén of the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm asked 101 younger and 103 older adults to practice 12 different tasks for 100 days...."
How To Prep A FICTION Book

Story synopsis can be from the inside cover of the book, or back flap or Amazon listing.

Chapter synopsis should be brief yet comprehensive. Acting suggestions are not necessary, but rather, focus on significant developments in each chapter including main plot points and all spoilers.

Example:
Chpt 1 – Introduces main characters John and Jane Doe, who live in a suburb of Chicago during the Great Depression. John gets laid off and comes home to Jane, who is reluctant to share that she just discovered she's pregnant.
Character descriptions should include name, relation to other characters (especially if this is revealed in a plot twist later in the book), any significant physical descriptions or descriptions of vocal qualities. Any other hints that would help a narrator solidify a character's voice would be helpful, such as if a character was hard of hearing, or a high-ranking military officer, or was an abused wife with low self-esteem. List any factors that will help a narrator make a voice choice.

Examples:
John Doe – main character, married to Jane Doe, brother to Tom Doe. Snide personality, selfish, rushes to judgment. Was a drill sergeant before being dishonorably discharged and treats others like the newly-enlisted.

Jane Doe – Married to John Doe, grew up in deep South, only daughter with seven older brothers, meek, subservient. In chapter 34 it is revealed that she was adopted and is actually the kidnapped heiress of a wealthy department store owner.
Pronunciation research should include all foreign words, proper nouns, and any seldom used words that are outside common usage, with links to audible pronunciations. You may need to consult several sources in order to find an authoritative answer. The first pronunciation listed in a dictionary may not be correct for this book Also, names of cities, towns, and streets should be pronounced the way the locals say it. For instance, Milan, Georgia is pronounced "MYluhn".

Submit only completed research in one document/spreadsheet, unless otherwise discussed.

Valuable research sites include:
www.audioeloquence.com (for foreign words)

Note: you may not find the pronunciation on any of these sites. You may have to do further research online or consult a local establishment via phone or find another creative way to get the correct pronunciation.

PRONUNCIATION SPREADSHEET EXAMPLE








SUPPORTING EACH OTHER

I hope that this health crisis soon resolves, and life gets back to mostly normal.

It would be nice if we learned, by living through this experience, how to shop smarter, be kinder and more conscious of how we interact with and support each other, even when contagious illness is not looming over our heads.

In the meantime, hopefully this article helps facilitate us supporting others by sharing some of the work, if we can. 

I invite you to visit my blogs on my website for more information on what it takes to be a successful narrator, outside of the booth.
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ABOUT ANN
Ann Richardson has been narrating for major publishers as well as independently published authors since 2008. She has been awarded multiple AudioFile Magazine Earphones Awards, as well as having been a finalist in the Voice Arts Awards competition in 2016, 2017, 2018, and 2019. She is a guest instructor at VoiceOne in San Francisco, teaching audiobook narration, and from time to time speaks to author groups and at writers' conferences about the process of making an audiobook.



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Comments (2)
Bill
3/26/2020 at 4:53 PM
Outstanding article, Anne! It's going to be required reading for all my audiobook narrators at The Acting Studio.
Elizabeth Holmes
3/26/2020 at 12:18 PM
VERY helpful advice Ann!! Thank you for sharing this.
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