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Traits & Habits Of An In-Demand
Audiobook Narrator: Alan Sklar
Sept. 29, 2009
What makes audiobook listeners and publishers return to a particular narrator time and time again?
Voice acting skill, of course.
But also personal traits and habits - the behind-the-scene things that are less obvious, but ever important for success - read, long-term employment - as an audiobook narrator.
For instance, in published interviews excerpted below, veteran narrator Alan Sklar allows glimpses into how he has mastered the craft - from enthralling and entertaining listeners to clearly communicating complex business problems and solutions.
He is the award-winning narrator of more than 120 audiobooks - many of them AudioFile Earphone Award winners and Audie Award finalists.
Working for all major audiobook publishers, Sklar has been called "the go-to voice for complex works of non-fiction and business" who commands equal attention with dramatic reads. 
Among his traits and habits:
  • Research and preparation, including study of the text, choosing character voices, learning pronunciations;
  • A commitment to convey the author's intent and style, enriched when possible, by personal chats with the author online or by phone;
  • Passion to make material interesting and compelling;
  • Love of language and creating character voices and dialects - even asking people on the subway, "Where are you from?" to tap into their dialect;
  • Constant listening to narrations - other audiobooks and his own - to learn where to improve.
Of course, this former Shakespearean actor and businessman also has a "bag of voice acting tricks" - and he'll share them and much more in a unique workshop, Mastering Audiobook Narration, on Saturday, Nov. 7 in New York City.
Presented by VoiceOverXtra, the full-day event will entertain and teach attendees how to "dance with authors through the text" by narrating like the masters.
Attendees will also learn how to market themselves to audiobook publishers.
The workshop will be held from 9:30 to 5 p.m. at Shetler Studios, Ste. 1205, 244 West 54th Street (near Broadway and Times Square), in New York. For details and to register, please click here, or visit
"As this industry continues to boom - who's got time to read hardcovers? - publishers and producers are chronically shopping for new voices," says Sklar.
"I can't promise the seminar participants employment, but I can promise that they will come away with a much clearer awareness of how their narrating skills need to be honed, and how to arrest a listener's attention and entertain him or her," he explains. They will also learn:
  • how the audiobook industry is structured,
  • how to locate publishers and producers who hire narrators, and
  • how to market to them.
"At the end of the class, we'll relocate to an 8th Avenue Irish pub for wassail and more stories."
An AudioFile magazine profile of Sklar describes him as "a totally engaged voice actor."
"Alan has become a go-to voice for complex works of nonfiction and business books," the review notes. "Alan's deft phrasing and ability to modulate vocal intensity keep his pleasing voice well matched to the energy in the ideas."
Sklar is quoted as wanting to make books fun. "I want to grab the listeners' attention and make it interesting," he says.
Also in the review:
  • "Listeners can sense Alan's involvement with the story, and that commands attention - much as you would never turn away from a friend who was telling you something fascinating. Alan is the perfect example of how the right narrator can dazzle listeners and involve them in troubling aspects of history or contemporary life.
  • "He also has a passion for mysteries and loves to use character voices."
Sklar adds:
"I'm listening all the time - usually with three or four books going at once." And he eavesdrops, "on the subway or wherever I am."
Skilled in Russian, French and Italian, he studied Arabic researching his narration for The Looming Tower.
In a Library Journal interview earlier this year, Audie Award judge Lance Eaton says, "You know when you're listening to Alan Sklar - his deep yet gentle voice."
Eaton asks Sklar how he prepares for a reading. Sklar says,
"By doing as much homework as possible. Sometimes I have a month to study the text and select character voices, look up pronunciations, chat with the author online or on the phone to get some coaching."
But that's not always possible.
"With The Way of the World, I had about three or four days to prepare. So that last 20 percent was a cold reading by yours truly. But by that time, I had become comfortable with the author's style, his language, his humor."
Sklar adds that he listens to his own audiobooks "to hear if my skills are growing."
And he's adamant about conveying the author's intent.
"Feeling well aligned with the author is a joyous feeling. Dancing with him or her through the text is a delight."
To learn more from Sklar at the Nov. 7 workshop, please click here or visit


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