Choosing the Right Voice for Your Audiobook
Choosing the right voice for your Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) audiobook can be challenging. Will it sound the way you imagined? Will the voice actor be able to deliver the nuance, humor, and energy you need to convey? How can you find the perfect fit to tell your story?
Luckily for you, finding the right voice talent to deliver the sound you need has never been easier. But first, let’s have a quick rundown of KDP.
What Is KDP?
KDP is Amazon’s self-publishing service. It allows businesses and authors to upload their material to Amazon and has recently expanded to include a variety of formats, including large print and audiobooks.
Because KDP bypasses traditional publishing houses, the impetus is on you to ensure everything is exactly as it needs to be. From audiobooks and podcasts to large print manuscripts, KDP requires the author or publisher to be diligent in their editing, recording, and formatting processes.
With the quality of the finished product entirely in your hands, hiring professional voice-over artists who are able to deliver quickly and reliably is often the way to go. The right voice actor has the expertise and ability to drive listener engagement while telling your story because, quite simply, they’re responsible for bringing it to life.
Why Is KDP so Popular?
There are many advantages to using KDP to publish, market, and create content. Let’s take a look at some of the benefits of this type of business.
One of the most immediately obvious advantages is that, depending on the plan you sign up for, you can earn substantially more royalties on your work than through a traditional publishing house.
KDP also gives content creators complete control over their work. This means you have the power to design your own covers and decide between voice-over artists for audiobook editions of your work. You can even do your own voice-over if so inclined, but that often comes with a whole host of challenges that working with knowledgeable voice actors helps you to avoid.
Ease of Use
KDP isn’t the only option for people who want to oversee the publication of their work themselves, but it’s one of the easiest. The process for uploading material, whether PDF or voice-over, is intuitive. Additionally, KDP overheads are low, making it an effective business model.
Do Multiple Formats Matter?
Depending on the content you create, you may wonder if audiobooks and voice-overs are necessary, but there are good reasons for considering them as part of your brand and your story.
You can launch your product in multiple formats rather than relying solely on written content for many good reasons, the biggest being accessibility. Authors understandably want their work to reach as many people as possible, and eBooks and audiobooks help you do that.
Both formats provide accessible alternatives to print books for readers who may be partially sighted or print disabled.
Large-print books are heavy and expensive to produce. While KDP does offer a large print option, it also offers more affordable alternatives. One of these affordable, accessible alternatives is audiobooks. The only catch is that you need to find the right person to do the voice-over or learn to do it yourself.
The Rise of the Audiobook
It’s not just the partially sighted community that responds positively to audiobooks with excellent voice-over. Since the pandemic began in March 2020, the demand for audiobooks has skyrocketed.
The early closure of bookstores meant that thousands of people looked elsewhere for their content. Because they felt isolated from the world around them, they turned to audiobooks and podcasts.
Why? Because there’s a singular intimacy that comes from hearing an authentic human voice that you can’t get with books. Even if you’re the type of reader who hears the words on the page internally, there’s another level of emotional proximity with a real person talking in your ear.
Many say it feels like the person is in the room with them, so at the height of COVID-19, cut off from friends and family, it’s exactly the experience people needed.
But don’t begin to think that the popularity of audiobooks is dependent on being in lockdowns and quarantines. While the onset of the pandemic may have ignited the spark for some, audio-first experiences were already on the rise and there’s no end in sight.
Choosing the Right Voice-Over for Your Audiobook
So, yes, multiple formats matter. They make your material more accessible and, in some cases, affordable to a wider audience. But with more people than ever accessing your content, finding the right voice actor to do the voice-over work is crucial.
Here are some things to consider.
When looking for a voice talent to do your voice-over, your first consideration should be for the tone and style of your content. Are you looking for someone to be playful? Maybe your story is a thriller, and you need someone who can channel suspense. Or perhaps you’ve created a story set in a specific country during a particular time period, and you need a voice actor who can deliver on accent and era. Knowing the tone you need will help you decide which voice talent is best suited to tell your story.
Different voice actors have different strengths, and some will be better suited to some genres than others. As you investigate candidates for your voice-over, pay attention to their experience. It will help you assess whether they have the particular skills you need to do your story justice and engage as many readers as possible.
Another consideration for businesses and authors searching for voice actors to read their work is reading speed. Reading speed partly depends on how many words there are in a book.
That said, everyone has a slightly different reading speed, and whether you read faster or slower affects the overall tone and cadence of your book.
If you can’t find a voice-over talent who pitches things at the speed you want, a good rule of thumb is to err on the side of too slow rather than too fast. People are more likely to become immersed in a story that takes its time, especially if they’re listening while doing something else, like working around the house or walking the dog.
However, as we discussed, genre and tone also play a part here, and if you need a voice actor for a high-stakes, action-packed thriller, you may choose to err on the side of too fast rather than too slow. You know your story best—you’ll know the right sound when you hear it.
Finally, you want to consider a voice-over actor for your product because it saves you time and money. That may sound counterintuitive. You may be asking yourself, “But isn’t hiring a voice actor going to take time and cost me money?”
Many people think anyone can narrate an audiobook or host a podcast. Basically, all you do is sit down at the microphone and record. In theory, it sounds simple, but in practice, it’s more complicated. A professional voice actor typically spends three hours editing for every one hour of recording you hear, and they’ve got the experience and knowledge required to do it.
There’s a good chance that, should you attempt to narrate your audiobook yourself, you’ll ultimately spend more time and money than if you’d hired a voice actor in the first place. Between the cost for equipment, software, or potentially even time in a recording studio, you’re looking at spending a pretty penny. Factor in the amount of time it will take you to do the narrating and the editing, and you may decide that working with a skilled voice actor is the quickest and most cost-effective way to complete your project after all.
Of course, this shouldn’t discourage you. There’s no reason for you not to do your own voice-over if that’s what you want. But keep in mind that if you are a novice narrator, you may spend longer than average on post-production edits, and that’s valuable time you could spend on something else, such as marketing your material.
Do I Need a Voice Actor?
To help you decide if a professional voice-over artist is right for your product, take a look at the pros and cons of each approach below. Each method has its advantages and drawbacks, and finding the system that suits your work is crucial for creating a successful product.
Pros of Recording Your Own Audiobook Voice-Over
While there are advantages to hiring a voice actor, some people prefer to do their own voice-over. Though doing the work yourself may take time, it can also be rewarding. So, why should you consider doing your own voice-over?
Much like writers, a voice actor’s paycheck depends on their ability to produce a product. For writers that’s books, and for voice-over talent, that’s audiobook narration and related work.
By choosing to do the audio voice-over for your book, ad, or other product, you save money you might otherwise spend on hiring a professional. That frees you up to use the money on other things, such as marketing.
Keeping Complete Control of the Rights
This varies depending on the kind of agreement you strike with a voice talent. Typically, people seeking professional voice talent arrange beforehand whether the actor gets paid for the work or shares the royalties generated by the audiobook.
Since many authors opt to self-publish with platforms like KDP to keep control of their royalties, it’s understandable that sharing the income generated by the success of their audiobook would give them pause.
This is equally true for businesses that want to maintain control of their products. Doing your own voice-over enables you to keep control over the royalties, as you would with other KDP formats.
Cons of Recording Your Own Audiobook Voice-Over
While choosing to produce your own voice-over for audiobooks has its advantages, it’s not a perfect system. Here are the most significant disadvantages of doing the work yourself.
Perhaps the biggest disadvantage to authors producing their own voice-over is the time they expend in editing.
As discussed, recording is often the easy part. Editing takes significantly longer because you must:
- Edit out mistakes
- Clean up unnecessary pauses
- Remove background noise
- Combine the voice-over files into a seamless finished product
Not only that, but if you commit to your own editing, you have to listen to the sound of your own voice for hours. Not everyone minds this, but many people do. It can be disconcerting until you get used to it.
How long is your book? I don’t mean “How long would it take you to read it from start to finish?” but rather “How long would it take for you to accurately and authentically bring the characters and environments to life, including nuances, pauses, etc.?”
Recording sounds easy, but it’s often a bigger piece of the project than you might anticipate.
So, what are the benefits of hiring a voice-over talent to do the work for you?
Advantages of Hiring Voice-Over Artists
There is a variety of reasons for authors to decide to hire a voice talent instead of doing the work themselves. Here are some of the most prevalent reasons why people make this choice.
Creating a Professional Product
Talking into a microphone is an art. It takes time and commitment to learn how to narrate a story in a way readers find compelling. This is true, not only of fiction, but of ads and podcasts, too. You want to produce something that draws readers—or in this case, listeners—in, and learning to do that takes time and practice.
If you take the time to select a voice-over actor who matches the tone of your product, you are more likely to produce a successful audiobook.
Saving Editing Time
The other advantage of hiring a voice actor is that someone else does the editing. Just as a professional voice-over artist has an instinct for where to pause or speed up the narrative, someone with editorial expertise can clean an audiobook significantly faster than a novice recorder.
Matching Voice and Subject Matter
Another reason to hire a voice-over artist is that you can find a professional who specializes in your particular genre, whether it’s non-fiction, romance, software, or even ad campaigns.
As much as you might want to narrate your own work, your voice may not suit the subject matter as effectively as a professional’s.
Disadvantages of Using Voice-Over Talent
As with producing your own recording, hiring voice-over talent also has disadvantages.
In addition to the expense of hiring voice talent, there’s a small element of risk involved whenever you outsource a project component to someone else. Voice-over actors do their best to narrate your work as intended, but it can still feel like a gamble until you hear the final product.
Voice Matters: How Voice Actors Represent Your Story
You must trust the actor doing the voice-over for your work because they will become the voice that people hear if they read hard or soft copies of the book afterward. In no small part, they represent the story an author tells.
Not only that, but the sample of their voice-over may be the deciding factor in whether or not listeners purchase or respond to the work. There’s a strong link between the voices readers hear and the books they read or listen to, just as there is between listener and podcast host. This makes it crucial to find the right voice talent for the job.
Where to Find Voice Talent
KDP and similar platforms have opened up the marketplace for freelance writers looking to publish. Accordingly, the work for voice-over artists has soared.
But finding the right voice-over actor for your story or brand can be tricky, especially if you’re not sure where to look.
While you can certainly Google “audiobook narrators” or “voice actors for hire,” freelance voice marketplaces are the most efficient and reliable way to find skilled voice actors for your audiobook needs.
These online marketplaces also often have safety procedures and guidelines in check to ensure that both you and the voice talent are protected and properly compensated, removing much of the risk and fear that is sometimes associated with utilizing freelancers.
And the best part? As a hiring client, it’s often free for you to access and use these platforms to find exactly the sound you need. Sourcing professional voice talent has never been easier.