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What Information to Give Your Audiobook Narrator

So, you’ve decided to have your audiobook created and after listening to scores of talented voice actors, have chosen the perfect one. Congratulations! Now the hard work can begin.

Ok, I know that wasn’t what you were expecting but trust me when I say that putting the time into the following tasks will make this process go a lot smoother. It will also ensure that your narrators aren’t pulling out their hair behind the scenes!

Know your audiobooks intended platforms

Do you plan on offering your book only on Audible? Or do you want to sell it through your author website and other platforms that do not require exclusivity? Different platforms will have different requirements and it is up to you to know what they are and communicate them to your narrator before a contract is signed or recording begins. This will save everyone time, frustration, and heartache (do not underestimate your emotional investment in your work!) and ensure you end up with a final product that will be accepted wherever you submit it.

Provide a fully edited manuscript

You may feel your manuscript is as polished as it could be. It’s been published in other formats after going through stringent editing processes, gotten great reviews, and all signs point to it being ready for recording. I can tell you from experience that if you have not yet heard your book read aloud, this feeling may come crashing down upon you.

While it is easy to skip over certain things while reading, it is more difficult to do so when listening to someone else read it to you. Even if your manuscript contains zero grammatical or structure issues, there are other things to consider.

Curse words, strong adult content scenes, ‘private’ thoughts of your characters, and even interjections (i.e. ah, eh, duh, etc.) and exclamations (Yikes!) can make or break your scenes.

Make a character list

Create a list of your characters and organize them in a spreadsheet or table that includes the following when relevant:

· Character Name and relevancy (i.e. Delia Damsel, main character)

· Age

· Gender

· Nationality if it affects narration (i.e. Australian accent)

· Speech inflections, impediments, and other special traits (monotone voice, child’s lisp, nervous stutter, etc.)

· Character traits: It doesn’t hurt to provide details about the personality of your character. Keep it short and precise so you don’t overload your narrator. An example of relevant information would be if the character is a villain-type and is from an affluent background, you can tell your narrator that Susie Slander is an entitled gossiper who speaks to everyone with disdain.

Identify unique words and phrases that may cause pronunciation errors

On the same spreadsheet or document that lists characters and their traits, include a list of words and where they appear in the manuscript that fit the following criteria:

1. Foreign words and phrases - even if these are commonly used in your country or region, do not assume that your narrator or your readers are going to pronounce them the same way you do. Figure out what your target audience expects to hear and then provide this pronunciation to your narrator.

2. Brand names - Although these can overlap with foreign words, such as “Givenchy” to American ears (hint: it’s not pronounced “gah vin chee”), there are some brand names that are simply easy to mispronounce (Weis Markets knows this.)

3. Character and location names - Much like the anxiety of teachers performing roll call at the beginning of the semester, narrators can struggle with the (often unique) names of the characters they desperately want to bring alive for you. Help them out by giving them pronunciation tips...a simple “Reine rhymes with rain” will do. This also applies to the locales in your story. There are simply too many unique and wonderful places in the world for any one person to be familiar with something like their pronunciation (much less their existence!)

4. Additional considerations - The English language can be difficult to master even for native speakers. Nothing proves this point more than homonyms/homophones and homographs/heteronyms. Let your narrator know about the ones that may be difficult to spot ahead of recording. Also, pay attention to changes in your tense which may affect the script in flashback scenes. For example, “I read to her to calm her nerves” can trip a narrator up if the tense is not readily apparent. Make a note in the comment section of your word processing program or list it on your audiobook notes spreadsheet.

Your format requirements

Apart from platform and genre-specific requirements, there are also personal preferences that you need to communicate to your narrator.

Ensure the script notes what you would like on your opening and ending credits. You will not need your copyright page, although you may want to include the copyright/publication dates.

If you want music in your intro and ending credit or sound effects throughout, this may be beyond your narrator’s capabilities. Speak with someone skilled with this to see if the narrator needs to do something that will allow them to add these effects for you later.

Although you can add a dedication, it is not currently an industry norm to include lengthy dedications, author acknowledgments, and author bios. Remember that audiobooks are often listened to by book lovers that face considerable time constraints.

Your narrator will thank you

By following these suggestions, I hope to save you and the voice actor you hire from common misunderstandings that cause delays and headaches.

The sharing of stories should be an enjoyable experience for all!

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