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Audiobooks: Authentic Acting On
Demo Is 'Square 1' To Getting Hired 

Note: The author presents a two-day audiobook narrator's workshop in Dallas, Nov. 12-13, Intensive Voice Acting & The Business of Audiobooks - Getting Heard and Hired. For details, please visit

By Bettye Zoller
Voice Talent &Coach
Voicesvoices LLC  

Being an actor is the best way to discover who you really are.

Yes, it’s true. Actors explore roles, roles in real life, they mirror the life around them as they learn how to talk in different ways with different accents, they  must portray different types of people who react in different ways to various scenarios that happen to them.

That’s what audiobook narrators must do.


Actors become people other than themselves.

Without costumes, sets or scenery, audiobook narrators must show these skills on an audiobook demo with delineated characters if they are to impress a publisher or producer enough to hire them.

An audiobook narrator must reveal all of the "who’s” inside a book and inside him or her.

Everyone has "niches” and "types” and "personas.”

You must clearly show these on an audiobook demo. Show the people or publishers authentic emotions, reality, honesty, the truth.


This requires literature interpretation and perceptions of an author’s intentions.

Publishers hire audiobook narrators who can portray pirates and lonely housewives and brazen bandits and fervent preachers and brave civil war heroes and Vietnam soldiers and every other imaginable type of person.

That’s the word! IMAGINEABLE! Audiobooks Imagine!

That’s why radio was referred to as "theatre of imagination.”


You must show that you are a great narrator, too - not only a voice of the characters in the story.

Audiobooks need storytellers, commentators, teachers.

And remember … you are speaking an AUTHOR’S WORDS. You are an interpreter of an author’s intentions and opinions and thoughts.

It’s complex.

If you fail to show these skills, your demo won’t impress.


Are you a cowboy voice, a farmer, a Southern gentleman, a college professor?

Are you a raucous loudmouthed know-it-all or a quiet thinking person who is a good listener?

Are you a kindly grandmother or a sharp-tongued businesswoman?

Are you a rural Georgia farmer or a Boston schoolteacher, a Russian spy or a French lothario?

All of these characters inhabit audiobooks.


Audiobook narration is so much more than "reading out loud.”

Just because you like reading books does not mean that you can narrate them well. It’s a skill and an art.

Most of all, you are the author’s mouthpiece. You are NOT the star. The author is! You are an interpreter.


In this brief article, we’ve not talked about the business of audiobooks - another essential ingredient to getting hired. Keep studying and learn the craft and the business and you’ll succeed.

Realize that audiobook narration is very precise and well defined storytelling.

It differs markedly from stage acting and other types of voice overs.

Also realize that most of the time, you have to find jobs for yourself. Agents seldom book us for this work.


Bettye Zoller, a top voice talent and voice over coach, trains voice talents and narrators in VoicesVoices workshops and in private sessions, in person and by phone. She is also well known as an audiobook narrator, author, narration coach and advisor to publishers. And as a former audiobook publisher with best-selling titles, she helps authors get their books into audio formats.

On Nov. 12-13 in Dallas, she presents Intensive Voice Acting & The Business of Audiobooks - Getting Heard and Hired! - a small-group workshop for voice actors on narration skills and the audiobook business, at which four of her successful students will also teach.

On Tuesday, Nov. 1, she teaches the VoiceOverXtra webinar, Setting Fees and Budgeting Voice Over Jobs - a comprehensive review of guidelines for voice over payments in all genres.

Phone: 214-638-TALK (8255)

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Comments (1)
Roy Wells
10/27/2011 at 7:26 AM
Good article Bettye, your last sentence sums up the situation nicely.
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