Is Audiobook Work Really All That Grueling?
Hey there, hero!
One of my favorite performance areas is audiobooks. I’ve done over 200 of them over the years.
And I also love teaching how to be a great audiobook narrator and producer.
One of the most common pushbacks I get when I broach the subject with a client is that audiobooks seem to them to be really tedious and grueling to produce.
I guess they can be, but they don’t have to be. Here’s what I think those people are unfortunately assuming.
Hope this helps!
Raw YouTube Captioning
well hey there it’s David H Lawrence the
17 that is going over my notes I was
just at the union hall for a meeting of
one of the committees that I’m on and I
heard something mentioned that I’ve
heard mentioned several dozen times this
year and every time I’ve had the same
response for it and this time it was
mentioned by people who maybe don’t have
the experience that they should have but
they should at least be closer to the
situation and should have a better idea
than they do and here’s what I mean by
that one of my colleagues on the
committee that I was meeting with said
oh yeah audiobooks oh my god that has to
be the worst possible job ever it’s so
grueling and I said you know as I’d
mentioned in a video here maybe three or
four months ago how do you know that and
she said oh I just I can only imagine so
I said well you might want to imagine
something different because I don’t find
it grueling at all and I’m no one that
has superhuman stamina I think maybe you
might have a misconception about what
recording an audio book is like during
the time that you’re recording it and
this applies whether you’re going to a
studio somewhere working for a major
publisher or if you’re doing audio book
work at home but because audiobooks are
so big when they’re done 5 10 15 20 30
hours who knows and then what are sort
ER but most of the time they’re 10 hours
or so between 7 and 12 on average and
that seems like an almost insurmountable
task to some people it must take forever
you got to work so many hours on each
finished hour and it’s just crazy but
that assumes that you’re doing it all in
one fell swoop you
assumes that doing the actual work is
somehow boring or repetitive or is
taxing and it’s not I mean when you
think about the amount of work that goes
into doing on-camera stuff I mean I’ve
been on set from 6:30 in the morning
until 3:30 the next morning made some
great buck there but the point is that
was grueling and they made it beautiful
I mean I had lots of breaks and we did
meals and you know there was lots of
downtime where you’re sitting in chairs
or in video village or in your trailer
or whatever so it seems like it’s
grueling but it really isn’t and that
was much more taxing on me physically
and energy-wise than ever doing an audio
book an audio book is for the most part
a series of short sessions anywhere
between 15 20 minutes maybe up to 45
minutes or an hour and then you take a
break and then maybe you do a little bit
more after the break and then maybe you
do a little bit more after that
but the idea that it is this huge long
slog of a project just hasn’t been my
experience now if you don’t have your
systems down if you have the wrong
equipment if you have a noisy
environment if you don’t know how to do
the actual work of primary recording and
then editing and mastering yeah it can
become a bit of a slog because you have
to learn that stuff for it to be easier
on you but when I go to a studio
somewhere I’m not doing any of that
stuff I’m just reading I’m prepping I’m
enjoying I’m I’m narrating it’s not what
you think it is if that’s your
impression of what audio book work is
like and when I said all this to her
she’s like oh huh well I just I guess I
just thought that’s must be what it is
because I guess that’s just what I
thought and that kind of falls into the
category of yeah well it must be that
but it really isn’t
sometimes we assume that things are a
particular way when the truth of the
matter is they’re not and I think that
audiobooks is often thought of in a way
that it really doesn’t deserve so my
question for you is what were your
thoughts about audiobooks what are your
thoughts about audiobooks lots of people
that watch these videos are audiobook
narrators I’d love to know what you
think and especially if you’re an
experienced audiobook narrator do you
still think audiobooks are a slog do you
think they’re a pain they’re they’re
gruelling do you think it’s tough let me
know I’d love to know the comments below
this video just leave me a comment let
me know what you think if you’d like to
be on my list I’d love to have you I
just scroll all the way down to the
bottom if you’re on vo heroes com
there’s a form you can fill out you can
be on my list will be doing one a day of
use for the rest of the year and then
we’ll switch over to once a week on
Wednesday I’d love to have you on that
list so I can tell you when that happens
I’m David H Lawrence the seventeenth I
thank you so much for watching and I
will talk to you tomorrow
I’ve been trying to get my fiance to start doing audiobooks and she keeps saying she doesn’t think she has the stamina and I try to explain this. It’s also about knowing your limits. I have found that I can comfortably do around 2 finished hours a day. I have done up to 4 and can do it, it’s just not as enjoyable and I start to get tired. So, I plan my schedule accordingly.
As far as it being enjoyable… If you’re an actor, what better gig than where you get to play all the parts!?
It’s been less than 2 years I’ve been at this and I make a full-time living and should be getting my SAG insurance from it shortly. Pretty solid deal.
You are rocking this, Curt!
Narrating and producing audiobooks is a process with many steps. It breaks a large project into manageable bites., so what may seem like an insurmountable marathon becomes an interesting journey with each new book. The actual narrating portion is only a part of it and it’s the part that I call Time Travel. When I go into the booth I lose all track of time as I am so focused on the acting, the words. the intent. A certain degree of physical stamina is necessary but that can be developed and cultivated. David, your positivity is always a welcome part of my day. Thanks.
I enjoy narrating audiobooks. At first, I didn’t like the idea of long-form narration. I only wanted to do commercial work. I found it far more difficult before I took the ACX Master Class. Now, I have a system and can set my schedule to work for me. I like being able to choose the books I want to work on too. I love the fact that I recieve residuals and PFH books, at union rates, qualify for benefits. It is a nice piece to my voiceover business.
I am petrified to do an audiobook! My fear is messing up the progression of recording, editing, and sending off the files. I have watched to lessons on audiobooks and it seems so complicated to me. I do have a profile on ACX and could send out auditions, but fear gets in the way! Just sayin….
This is when I must stop my sarcastic self from saying “absolutely, audiobooks are grueling work, don’t do it, stay away ( more work for me). But the Rodney that Betty & Jerry raised to “be nice” will say instead – this is fun work, creative work, and energizing work and joyful work. Come play with the rest of us, you’ll be so glad you did!
When I finally got serious about doing VO work on the side at home and set up my studio, the plan was to do any and all work EXCEPT audio books. But, I have a cousin who wrote a book, so I volunteered to do it on the ACX platform. 75 hours of labor over a period of 2 months later, I fully understood that it took just as long as I thought it would…..but, it was a very enjoyable experience. Its very rewarding! I have been producing audio books for the last 10 months and have 14 under my belt ranging from 20 minutes to 10.5 hours long.
Now, I must say, that I am still honing my craft, working very part time, and not too concerned about the revenue stream yet. However, over time as my authors become more well known, and I diversify the number I work with, I can see this becoming a full time gig for me. It’s a long game, but well worth the process!
I’m not sure what your workflow is, but hopefully things will be moving faster as you acquire additional refinements of your processes. Did you get any formal training on your workflow?
David, thanks for this little jewel about audiobooks … I’m diving in, now, after lurking for a couple of years (and, hearing the same thing, as well as, “Well, audiobook narration is sort of the busboy of voiceover.) : /
I loved doing my first book, last summer, and will count myself fortunate to work more with J Rodney, and others you know, as well as prolific audiobook narrators who’ve never put one toe into social media!
Happy Christmas to you,
Oh, *that* Leslie from LinkedIn. ; D
Wow…I’d love to know who identified audiobooks as the “busboy” of VO. For me, it’s more like the sommelier.
Thank you for this! When I’ve told people lately that I’m exploring voice over and am particularly interested in Audiobooks, I’ve repeatedly received negative responses including: “Why would you do that? You’ll only make about $0.15 an hour.” Sigh.
And my response is usually, “…or I could pay my mortgage every month doing that.” But then, there’s a small part of me that hopes people like that are discouraging themselves from voicing audiobooks: less competition for the work.
I’ve had the opportunity to do a few audiobooks, and the most grueling part for me has been the editing. I don’t mind narrating, but the production part gets to me at times. I think I also get frustrated with how long it takes at times. I’ll be honest and say that I don’t have the best scheduling or method of managing my time when it comes to audiobooks, but I’m trying to figure something out.
Getting those systems down so that you look forward to the editing and mastering is key. It should never be a slog, and most people make it that way for themselves, unless they learn and rely on a system.
Really glad you went here, David. I love nothing more than having a book going where the deadline is loose enough that I can record maybe one finished hour per day. I can do more if necessary but an hour (or two tops) leaves me with much of the rest of the day intact. I look forward to the next morning’s pages and inhabiting the next part of the story. Sure, there’s the constant awareness of when a pickup is needed (I’ll self-correct myself 30 times in a chapter) and there’s the editing and tech, but once that becomes second nature (and it must if you wanna get seriously into audiobooks), to me it’s just performance and interpretation with a daily “to be continued” for me to look forward to.
A few days ago I was watching a video where the host asked the question, ” Is getting paid by Royalty Share on ACX worth it?” I shut if off after a few minutes because he was kvetching about having to be the producer AND the engineer AND the reader, etc. I thought as I was watching him complain, “This cat is obviously NOT a musician.” Musicians have had demo studios in their homes since the Beatles, and Paul McCartney’s first solo release, “McCartney”, was recorded at his home in Scotland. The home recording boom really exploded when Bruce Springsteen released “Nebraska”, which was cut on a Tascam 144 Portasudio, which used cassette tapes. Since then, musicians have learned all aspects of the recording process, which makes us better creators (I learned a lot from my own home demos).
I loved doing my first audio book, and because I come at this as a musician who’s used to recording studios, especially the at home kind, and who lived by the old maxim that 1 minute of a finished song takes one hour to produce, I didn’t find the work tedious or grueling. I look at the entire book as I would an album, and the chapters are the songs. The only difference for me was not having an instrument in my hands. The skills are VERY transferable.
I love the process of narrating audiobooks. I’ve only done about 23 projects and only 1 was almost 10 hours, the others were between 1 and 3 hours (more for my own initial experience and audio education). I now have all my ducks in a row and am looking forward to doing many more. I enjoy editing and mastering, but must admit the narrating is the mosst fun.
Thank you David for the excellent video. I do radio commercial work and recently wrote a book 1:15 and recorded and produced it. I will be releasing it hopefully next week. I have the first 12 chapters to my second book written, and while in the studio tonight I found it difficult to read large chunks. I guess that’s the curse of doing 30 second spots all the time. Any advice is welcomed. I have started doing all my typing in CAPS which we use in radio copy. Please help!!!
My VO friends who fear audiobook narration often talk about dreading the “dues paying” part of the process where you start out narrating a lot of poorly-written or perhaps boring books. Personally, I think narrating a badly-written book can be as much fun (or more) than working on a gem. As the narrator, I have the opportunity to pace the work on my own terms and employ inflection and pauses to help a poorly-constructed sentence land better in the listener’s ear. Less pressure. More freedom. As the narrator’s profile heightens, the books get better and the stakes get higher but that’s a pleasure as well. Now you have a clearer author’s intent to work with. It’s all good!
This is tangential but lately keeps jumping out at me whenever I hear or read about an audiobook narrator. It seems as if the single most important metric is the number of books they’ve narrated, as opposed to the quality of their narration. It’s as if that number alone (200, 300, 400, etc.) is synonymous with the quality of their work. I think we need to be cautious not to fall into the trap of equating volume with great acting. We tend to fall in love with big numbers, but as far as I know, there’s no award for sheer volume.
I graduated from the ACX course in July and with David’s and Dan’s instruction, audiobook narration has been great! I have 5 books under my belt and none of them were a slog. The stair step method of editing is a dream. I actually enjoy it! Thank you David and Dan.