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Competition Grows For Audiobook Narration
Jobs, But Remember: We All Have Skin

Note: The author presents the educational session, Newcomers - Set Your Business Goals for Success, at the Voice Over Virtual online conference, September 18-20, 2013 - an online, customizable event. For details, please visit

By Bettye Zoller
Voice Actor, Audiobook Narrator & Coach

I won't "name names" but a very well known cosmetic company's slogan fits us voice over folks to a "T". Their slogan is, "Never worry about competition in selling our skin line products. Everyone has skin!"

Same with us. Sure, there are umpty jillion folks who've been told (maybe by mom) that they "have a good voice and should be doing this."

There are a jillion more who do not realize that a successful voice over career (or forget the word, 'career,' and let's just call it a part-time extra income job) is probably 10% talent and 90% advertising yourself, getting agents to sign you, selling clients yourself, and keeping them loyal, etc. etc.


And now...guess what! The audiobook narration field is becoming equally cluttered with newcomers, but it's slightly more difficult to be a book narrator because of the level of audio expertise required to record and edit a 10- to 20-hour audiobook.

However, if money's not an object, the narrator can hire an audio person to do the editing (and many do).

Also, if a voice performer is NOT an actor, he or she should be limited to narrating non-fiction titles. That shouldn't be too much of a problem, however, because, as we all know, there are lots of non-fiction books in the world that need narrators.


Case in point: Recently, I auditioned for a book on the history of theater, one of my favorite subjects, for a well-known publisher, and I wanted that book so much it made my teeth ache.

Now, I seldom feel this strongly about a project, but in this instance, I really really cared. So I watched my email. Finally, an email arrived.  I was NOT chosen.

But the publishing house wrote a nice line or two in that rejection email that said, (paraphrase) "Although you obviously are an excellent narrator, experienced, and besides, a teacher to actors, we've decided to choose someone else. However, we'll keep your audition on file to consider you for future books of this academic nature."

That's good. But also, the email writer, a rep of the publishing house, added, "Recently we've noticed that audiobook narrators' numbers have increased exponentially and the field is really crowded now! That was not the case only about a year ago."


So here we go, folks: too many narrators. But let's remind ourselves of the cosmetic company's slogan at the top of this diatribe. Remember that millions of people have skin, so your market for sales worldwide is huge!

And more and more audiobooks are being published daily, and they all require narration.

So take heart, fellow warriors. Man the battle stations with spear in hand and fight, fight, fight. Don't give up. Keep studying your craft, voice overs and voice acting. And good luck.
Bettye Zoller is a voice actor, coach, vocalist and owner of the VoicesVoices voice over production and training company. She began her career as a child actor on the MGM movie lot and toured the U.S. as a leading vocalist for many years before targeting voice overs. Today she focuses on audiobook narration and conducts voice over workshops in home city Dallas and world-wide, and presents webinars for VoiceOverXtra.


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Comments (2)
Mark Nelson
9/2/2013 at 12:58 PM
I was recently rejected for an audiobook, even though the rights holder raved about my audition, saying it was "perfect" and sounded better every time he listened. Then went on bizarrely to complain about the other narrators he'd hired: how one was a disaster and had to be fired, another just makes excuses and never delivers, and another who "isn't even worth his breath." Hence, he was reluctant to hire someone he didn't know, despite my more than 30 published audiobooks, being an Audible-certified producer and offer to provide references.

Thanks to ACX, anyone with a laptop and a Blue Snowball can call themselves an audiobook narrator. People with no training, no experience, and maybe not even any intent except to dabble until they get a new day job. Unfortunately, the revenue-share model of ACX is going to attract publishers who get an audiobook produced for basically nothing, since the narrator essentially donates his/her time. Of course, one of the results is bound to be experiences like the ones above, which make us all look bad.

I think there will have to be an eventual shakeout. Audible helped create this glut of book narrators; maybe they'll come up with a way to deal it. When it happens, I hope to still be around.
Ron Whittemore
8/30/2013 at 8:50 AM
Great insight Bettye!! Thanks for sharing!
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