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More Tips For Creating Great Audiobook Demos:
No XXX, Read The Book, Showcase Your Best!

See Part 1

By Dawn Harvey
Voice Actor / Audiobook Narrator & Coach

In the olden days, we used to start our demos with a heading such as "This is from The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, read by Dawn Harvey." 

No one actually wants that anymore. It's just wasted time for everyone.

It is equally useless to label the file with any combination of that information. Information specific to the piece is much more helpful to the casting people, such as:
  • Classics, 1st person, dramatic read;
  • NF, Business, Legal;
  • Suspense, 3rd person, M/F dialogue; etc.  

Also, new technology has made the request for compilation demos less usual in the audiobook world.

It is normally expected that you will provide your potential client with a link to a page where all of your samples are available. People generally do not want to receive email attachments they will have to either open or download.

The links you provide can be to your website, Sound Cloud or any other site where they can listen to each individual sample for as long (or as short) as they desire - and where they have the ability to download the file should they choose.

As a result, you aren't restricted to three pieces totaling 5 minutes. But occasionally someone (i.e. speed dating with the Audio Publishers Association) will ask that you provide them with just that, so you should have a compilation demo in your back pocket.

If you have longer versions of the separate pieces available as well, that's fine.  


And of course, there should be nothing X-rated on your demo, even if the demo is romance or erotica.

Find a selection that could be listened to with kids in the car because that might actually be the case if a busy producer is working on the drive to and from their kid's activities!  

I don't have any other amazing secrets to share for finding good demo materials. For myself, I spend a great deal of time listening to great books, reading samples and flagging a lot of different pieces before I settle on the ones I love.  


You do yourself a great disservice if you do not read the entire book before you prepare your demo, particularly when you are dealing with fiction.

Make sure you understand everything you need to understand about the story and your characters before you hit record.

The person listening to your sample may know a lot about the book your sample is from; they might have narrated, engineered, directed, read or listened to it.

Missing important information that you would have known had you read the book will certainly make your demo stand out - unfortunately not in a good way! 

For example, at page 285 you learn that the main character has a lisp that they find quite embarrassing – or you would have learned, had you read the book. Skimping on the homework could mean that at least one listener labels you as either amateur (missing important information in the text) or lazy (couldn't be bothered to take the time to read the text), neither of which are words you want associated with your name.  


Your demos are your resume. They are you putting your best foot forward, showcasing for your potential clients what they can expect from you if they hire you.

As someone who has done a lot of hiring over my various careers, I can tell you that I am not at all forgiving in this area. I started out very forgiving, but quickly realized it was a mistake. Your demo should be representative of the very best work you can do.

Let me say that again - the very best work you can do.

This is something that you supposedly worked really hard on and are proud to share with current and potential clients - and it contains errors caused by carelessness or laziness?

I'm sorry but I'm just not able to hire you.

If this is your best work, what am I going to get on a normal day? And when you send me your next demo, it had better not contain any more of those careless and/or lazy errors!  


If you're going to be recording audiobooks from your home studio, record your demos there so your client will know what they are getting from a technical point of view. 

Knowing that you recorded your demos in the same space and with the same equipment that you'll be using to work for them will give clients an additional level of comfort (or not, in which case you need to do some other work before you send out any more demos!)

You can (and should) still work with a coach and/or director to produce your demos. You can be taught and directed online.


Not hearing back from a publisher after submitting your materials is par for the course, even if they specifically asked you to audition for something.

It is unusual to receive a rejection note telling you how you can improve. (That's what your coaches are for.) 

If you do get a response that is not a book offer but rather a note about how much they loved your work or what you could do better, you'd best be sending off a thank-you note! That is above and beyond the call for the person responding to you, so showing your appreciation should be your natural reaction.                  

But if you aren't likely to hear anything back unless you get hired, how do you know whether you haven't heard from them because:
  • they haven't listened to your samples yet,
  • they haven't matched you with a book yet,
  • or they wouldn't hire you if you were the last narrator on the planet?
Simply put, you don't know. And that falls in the realm of "out of your hands."

Your job is to ensure that you send out demos that are great - and also to ensure that you are not a jerk.

Then don't spend another minute thinking about it.


Work with trusted industry professionals who can help you create demos that ensure you are placed among the ranks of the hirable. (And maybe a therapist if that jerk thing is a problem.)  
Note: Be aware that there are many unqualified persons/scam artists preying on people seeking training in creative businesses such as acting. Seek references from other industry professionals before handing over your hard-earned cash. And I'd recommend that you run really fast if they tell you they're going to be giving you industry "secrets," 'cause there aren't any of those in audiobooks. We're a pretty open and shut group really.
Remember that your demos are being submitted to some of the best-read people on the planet. They are busy professionals, generally with a lot more experience in this business than you and I have, and they are not easily fooled.

In addition, this is a small, closely knit community and you do not want to burn bridges because you failed to do the required work.  

Take classes, get coaching, improve your craft, work with your coaches on your demos, and produce great ones that reflect the unique person that is you.  

Dawn Harvey is an actress, singer and voice over artist who has narrated over 50 audiobooks and is the recipient of an Earphone Award and a SOVAS Award for her audiobook work. She is passionate about sharing her knowledge, developing and teaching land and law courses in her "past life" in the oil and gas industries. She developed and began teaching workshops on the art and business of audiobook narration in 2014, and now teaches several times a year in various Canadian cities, as well as private coaching via Skype.

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Comments (3)
3/10/2022 at 6:24 AM
Thanks, Dawn, so much. You made me stop and reconsider my book choices and I realised I could present myself so much better by taking that time. I feel confident and positive where I was wavering and unsure.
Greg Lee
8/4/2020 at 3:12 PM
Great stuff. Thanks, Dawn!
Sonja Bouillaut
4/11/2019 at 12:27 AM
Thank you for your very generous advice. It is almost impossible to find such online, professional information here in Australia. You are greatly appreciated by this aspiring Aussie Voice Actor. Sonja Bouillaut Tasmania
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