Why We Train

My job is fun, yes. It’s a blast!

And because of this, I get frequently approached by people who ask about or talk about getting into voiceover and, more specifically, audiobook narration. I also see it in conversations and threads that have nothing to do with voiceover as a business.

For example, one of the many (so, so many) social media groups I belong to and interact with is a group for readers and book-lovers. Not even audio, necessarily, but just lovers of actual books and reading stories.

Every so often I will see a post that says something along the lines of “Seriously, I love reading so much, I wish I could get paid to just read.”  

That’s how it usually starts.

Invariably, someone will suggest becoming a narrator and signing up for ACX or, dear God no, Fiverr! And I totally get it!! It IS an awesome job! Seriously!

But, it’s also my “job”. A job. Like, a “jobbie” job. It’s work.

Lots and lots of work to do it well, and do not let anyone tell you differently.

Being a lover of books and of reading is wonderful, but it does not necessarily equate to one being able to self-produce and narrate a full length title ready for retail sale and success. 

It’ll help, yeah! But there is so much more to it than just that. So. So. Much.

Those who are looking to try this job out are welcome to, but I always feel obligated to tell them just how deep a pool they are about to dive into, what the water temps are really like, what’s lurking below, and what it takes to make it across to the other side in one piece. 

I feel a need to explain to them that the barrier to entry seems much lower than it actually is, and that it takes more than a USB mic and an ACX profile to change careers (forget about telling people how much TIME this takes too, that’s another can of worms).

Above all I tell them, in no uncertain terms, that they need training. 

All kinds of training. 

Steady, organized, and focused training in multiple areas. 

Piles of it. Out the wahzoo!

The prep work. The analysis. The characterizations. The different styles of narration and how they apply to different styles of writing, and different genres. The marking. The recording. The editing. The inconsistency of copy and specs. The futility of specs! The stamina required. The workflow needed. The organization and self management required . It’s remarkable and dense.

I kid you not. I gave myself a headache writing this paragraph.

This information and advice is often met with…hmmm, how shall I say this….”resistance” from the inquirer. It isn’t quite what they were hoping I’d say, obviously.

Is it possible to get the job and finish it without such training? Yes. I’ve done it.

Will it be a quality audiobook that entertains and sells, that a listener can stay engaged in for 6+ hours? Well, those odds are not as good.

And, thanks to groups like this one, I see the proof regularly.

This is a genuine quote from an audiobook consumer, found on social media.

This. This right here.  And it went on too.

The thread was chock full of loyal listeners and readers who were chiming in on audiobook narration and, more importantly, what it takes to keep them on board for that many hours. What they liked and didn’t like. What keeps them listening and what gets them to shut it off immediately. Who they love and why, and who they avoid like the plague and why. This was truly a wealth of knowledge.

Although we cannot please everyone all the time, in the end our goal is for these products to be of such a high quality and superior crafting, that they can be sold in large numbers and be worth it. Fans and readers/listeners aren’t doing us a favor by listening. They are buying a product. 

We want them to buy another one too, right? 

We as narrators are getting an extreme level of attention from our listeners. For this reason, we owe an equivalent amount of attention to the work we are doing for them and the art we are making for them  (aka the product they are buying).   

I can tell you that there are indeed audiobooks being produced by very inexperienced, untrained narrators with lackluster equipment in a subpar recording space. The attention to (and even awareness of) detail is simply not there. 

That narrator is working for a fraction of the normal rate in these cases, and delivering a fraction of the true creative quality needed. A book-mill, if you will. Those titles may technically be “good enough” to make it through the retailer’s checkpoints, but clearly they do not get past the avid fan who can obviously tell the difference and has no problem having this influence future purchases.

I do not have the largest number of titles under my name, admittedly, and my first title was produced on minimal training.  I can hear it in the audio when I go back. I’m sure others can too. I had bitten off, well, frankly quite a bit, and immediately knew I had to up my game here.  Intense training began right away and continues today.

The difference in quality before and after adequate training is astounding, and the unreleased stuff I’ve been continuing my training on sounds even better. 

This is why we train.  “Good enough” is not and should not ever be good enough. We should always aim to get it right from top to bottom every time. Every word. Every passage. Every moment. Make it the best it can possibly be. It simply cannot be done well without proper training and preparation.  

Remember Dan Hedaya in Joe Vs The Volcano?  “I know he can GET the job! But can he DO the job??!!”

You have to be able to DO the job. That is why we train.