Audiobooks a gogo
May 8, 2009 7:02 AM   Subscribe

How does one become voice talent for audiobooks?

I love reading aloud (in high school I read most of The Grapes of Wrath out loud to my classmates), and have often been told I'm good at it.

I'm not interested in voiceover for advertising or other kinds of voice acting, just audiobooks.
posted by ocherdraco to Media & Arts (8 answers total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
You can volunteer your talents at Librivox!
posted by theraflu at 7:11 AM on May 8, 2009

Response by poster: While that looks fun, and I'll definitely check it out, I'm specifically asking about how to become paid for reading books out loud.
posted by ocherdraco at 7:27 AM on May 8, 2009

Best answer: You'll need an agent. If you're in a medium-sized to large city, AFTRA has lists of agents in it. I can never make links actually work on here, but its

I recommend union membership, because it's easy to get screwed trying to be a freelance voice talent without their protection (I know this from hard experience). Aftra has lists of union-compliant voice talent agencies to contact.

It's harder to find this kind of work without an agent, but you can try. Ask a local radio station if you can buy some time with a production director to put a voice demo together. It should be about two minutes long, with copy from ten or so different commercials, showcasing different moods. You don't want to go overboard with dialects (accents) necessarily, because most companies know where to find people who are really really good at that stuff. Us mere mortals can't compete. But just show a range of types -- authoritative, friendly, geeky, warm, upbeat, etc. Stick within what's natural and feels right for you.

Then go to a portrait studio and get some portraits taken - you'll need 8" x 10" black and white glossies for your portfolio folder.

In your folder you'll put your demo tape on cd, your photo, and a one-sheet. The one sheet is just a description of who you are and what you can offer. If you don't have a lot of radio or voice talent experience to begin with, just put anything that might have some bearing on your ability to do voice work, like theater experience or an interest in books. Stiff-looking resumes aren't what these folks want to see. It should look slick though, and can be colorful. You could get a friend who's a graphic designer or art student to design it for you, and get it printed on thick, shiny stock.

Now start sending out your portfolio to agencies and radio stations. Try to find the names of specific agents and production directors, otherwise your mail may go undelivered.

Once you do land a gig, make sure you get the terms in writing. As an AFTRA or SAG member, you won't have to worry about that stuff--it gets taken care of for you. But if you're trying to do this on your own, know that you can charge between $150 - $200 per hour. For audio books specifically, you might want to google the info, or scour the AFTRA site to find the current going rates for that. Stipulate in your contract how much you'll charge for do-overs, and how much lead time you'll need for any project (being asked to do things on a dime gets old really fast).

This kind of work is really hard to get, by the way, but that shouldn't discourage you. Just know that you'll be getting rejections or, more likely, no response at all to most things you send out. Just keep doing it.

Good luck!
posted by frosty_hut at 8:25 AM on May 8, 2009 [8 favorites]

Best answer: Listening to the TWiT podcast, they advertise and talk about Audible a lot. They've mentioned a few times that Audible is based in New York which allows them to hire a lot of local actors.

This is from the Audible Site:
If you’re interested in becoming an audiobook narrator, please email and include:

* Two-minute MP3 clip of your audiobook narration (i.e. not commercials or radio demos).

* List of books you’ve narrated, if any. Indicate which, if any, are being sold on

* Link to your website, if available.

* Contact information including the city and state where you’re located.
posted by willnot at 8:26 AM on May 8, 2009 [2 favorites]

This has been asked lots of times.

Here is probably the best answer of them all.
posted by CunningLinguist at 9:39 AM on May 8, 2009 [2 favorites]

Frosty_Hut's answer is good- one thing- headshot should be colour these days.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 10:38 AM on May 8, 2009

Response by poster: CunningLinguist, I'd seen the ones that were about general voiceover stuff, but hadn't seen any questions specific to audiobooks. Since I'm not interested in commercials, etc., those threads didn't have what I was looking for.
posted by ocherdraco at 11:24 AM on May 8, 2009

I know someone who narrates for audible. It took her years to get the gig. She just kept submitting herself over and over and over. She also said she'd be happy to narrate anything. She encouraged them to give her books to read that no one else is interested in narrating. She wound up doing a lot of bad erotica for them and some crappy romance novels.
posted by grumblebee at 1:37 PM on May 8, 2009

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