Audiobooks: What You Need to Know
Your guide to getting started with audiobook work
By Christina Care
Audiobooks are a very unique part of the possible voice work out there, and we spoke to Alice Lee from ID Audio about all the essentials you need to know to come to understand audiobook work and production better!
Scripts are sent to the production house directly from the publishers of the book, who may already have a narrator in mind or even already have someone cast. This is often the case for memoirs, or where a particular celebrity or personality is already attached to the story. When there isn’t someone in mind, the production house begins the casting process.
Depending on the script, sometimes readers are required to put on accents, though this is mainly for characters in novels – in first person novels, the reader is generally only required to have their natural accent.
If there are any technical issues with pronunciation, these are flagged at this stage and a pronunciation guide is developed to go with the script.
When there isn’t a reader attached, sometimes casting notes are provided instead. These might indicate specific requirements of the reader (e.g. an accent or age bracket), though if this is not provided, the production house will come up with it themselves.
Agents are contacted, as well as a list of established people to work with. Occasionally the casting process is determined by availability, though Alice says they always try to work around people’s schedules for the right person.
Once a few names are found, these are sent to the editor or the author of the book for approval, as well as the publishing house. Sometimes multi-casting is required, for books with more than one first person narrator.
To get your foot in the door therefore, it is also helpful to get your voice reel to a production company. If they like what they hear, they can suggest you to the publisher. They will also keep you in mind for future jobs.
Your reel should include a few narrative extracts. Other kinds of voice work are very different, so material for other kinds of voice work isn’t necessarily suitable for audiobooks.
Giving the actor at least a week with the script is ideal, though this can depend on many factors, including the complexity and length of the script. It is advised that the book be read at least twice ideally, before recording. There is no rehearsal period.
Alice asks that readers only mark up their notes for reading on the final copy of the script – not a draft. Sometimes drafts are sent ahead of time to help give the actor more time to familiarise themselves. However, it is important not to bring a draft in for recording. The final script should be the only place the actor marks up any notes.
The actual process of recording normally consists of an actor coming in to read at the studio. The Engineer/Producer is often one and the same person, who is present while you record. They will have produced numerous titles, and know what is expected, so will be there to listen out for mistakes, but also to guide the overall tone of the book. They can also offer help with any unforeseen pronunciation queries (though hopefully you will have picked most of these up prior to recording!).
Different production studios will have different methods, but ID Audio use the “drop record” method, when mistakes are made. This means if a line is fluffed, there’s a short rewind, re-recording, before continuing the recording smoothly to the next sentence.
As a general rule, for your average adult fiction book, a day of recording tends to equal 100 pages of reading. Days can be long, but breaks should be available. Make sure to ask for one if it’s not offered!
Finally, make sure you clarify what kind of payment is being made to you, and if any pick-ups are required, whether they are included in the fee.
Thank you to Alice Lee and ID Audio for their advice on all things audiobooks! If you have any questions you’d like Spotlight to investigate, be sure to ask us on Twitter.