Audiobook auditions offer an excellent opportunity to gain confidence behind the microphone and in the editing process. Plus, audiobooks are available in SO MANY GENRES, you’re bound to find something that’s both interesting to you and a good fit for your voice. When you’re starting out, I recommend auditioning for anything and everything. See what works, what feels good in your voice, what doesn’t bore you after a few hours, and what you’re genuinely interested in – those indicators will be extremely helpful when you’re signing on to a long project.
Because an audiobook is a LONG project. In fact, it’s not even officially an “audiobook” unless the finished product is over 3 hours long. So, while auditioning all over the map in lots of different genres, it’s great practice to sharpen those editing and reading skills. Accepting a job you’re not interested in isn’t recommended.
But I digress. Before we discuss producing audiobooks, we need to dissect how to audition properly so you can BOOK THAT GIG.
Where to Find and Submit Auditions
ACX. ACX is Amazon’s Audiobook Exchange. It’s a direct pipeline from authors and rights holders to Audible. There are thousands of auditions available there every day. It’s where everyone should start and where most voice actors book their first audiobook gig. It’s an ideal place to perfect your skills, find the genres that work for you, and hopefully create some lasting author relationships once you book a few titles.
Other places I’ve had luck include Ahab Talent, Findaway Voices, Upwork, Fiverr and Voquent, to name a few. These change with the seasons and ebb and flow like the tide. I’ve had good periods on one, producing four or five titles back to back, then gone six months without so much as an audition. The good news is that many of these sites will offer you auditions or extend invitations to apply to gigs ONLY IF you fit the client’s needs. Meaning you’re not auditioning needlessly with hundreds of other voice artists. It cuts down competition and makes it more likely you’ll win gigs. However, these sites aren’t necessarily a good avenue for practicing your audition techniques or sharpening your editing skills. For that, return to ACX.
Submitting a GREAT Read
Once you’ve got a profile set up with professional audiobook demos, and you’re ready to roll on ACX, it’s time to start auditioning. Of course, the goal of auditioning is ultimately for authors to choose you to narrate their book, but training yourself to audition well is an art in and of itself. To book an audiobook, you’ll need to submit an amazing audition, stand out from the competition, and be right for the book. That last requirement – “be right for the book” – is something only an author or rights holder will be able to determine and there isn’t a lot you can do about it. But you can give yourself the best possible shot by submitting an amazing audition that stands out from other narrators.
Read ALL Audition Notes. Always read every single piece of information an author gives regarding their audition. Character notes. Backstory. Any accents? How much should you read? Do they want you to slate? Are they interested in dual narration? Read and internalize anything you’re given up front. This is the holy gospel of auditioning. The author’s word is law. Not following instructions is a sure way to have your audition deleted immediately.
Prep and Practice. I’m not one for overly prepping for audiobook auditions at this point. I’ve done hundreds of them and can knock out four or five in an hour these days. HOWEVER, that wasn’t always the case. When you’re starting out it’s best to at least read through the script a few times before recording. Always look up any words that you don’t know and learn how to correctly pronounce them. This happens more often in technical, business or non-fiction texts. Make sure you have the author’s notes handy if you need to refer to them while recording. I read the audition script from my phone in the booth and keep another tab open with the author’s notes in case I need to clarify a character while recording.
Consider Your Audience. When recording your audition, remember always that it’s a performance. It’s easy to forget the other end of the airwaves when we’re working solo in our closets and booths, but in order to book a gig, your voice (and performance) must connect with the story and those listening. The next big question is whether or not to slate at the top of your audition. There are differing opinions on this overall. Some say, jump right into the read with no distractions, which is definitely an option. Personally, I prefer to slate. A quick introduction makes you human to the author listening and reminds them of your name. “Hi, I’m Caroline Cole and I’m reading for Cry Wolf.” Then, after reading the excerpt, I generally close personally as well. “Thanks so much for listening and best of luck with casting.” Or something of that nature. After decades of in-person audition experience, I find the audiobook audition experience to be no different. You’re not a robot with no name or manners and neither is the author listening. Make it personal but keep it professional. No need to go on and on with one-sided small talk either. Whether or not you decide to slate, make sure you label the audition with your name so the author knows who’s behind the brilliant read. 😉
HAVE FUN. Remember always that voice over is a FUN job where we get to read stories for a living. Each audition, whether it’s a young adult fiction novel, a romance trilogy, or a dry and boring business text, is an opportunity to perform and have fun. The author is looking for a narrator who will bring their manuscript to life (yes, even that business text!) and will cast whoever does that most effortlessly.
Make Editing Easy. The best thing about audiobook auditions is you get to edit it before sending it in! To make this easier for you, get in the habit of clapping, snapping or clicking with your tongue into the microphone each time you make a mistake. This way it’s easy to see the audio spikes when editing and you can quickly cut mistakes and save time in post-production. It’s important to note, however, that you should use this technique when you’re editing on your own or working with an editor you’ve communicated with beforehand. Personally, I find it’s easiest to edit my own audiobook auditions, since they’re usually under 10 minutes and I can submit them quickly by doing it myself. But when working on the whole audiobook I always partner with a professional editor.
Keep in mind when auditioning that you have two goals running simultaneously. First, is to practice behind the mic, sharpen those editing skills and submit the audition. That’s your primary goal when auditioning – to submit a good audition. Your secondary goal is to book the project. It’s an afterthought, a bonus goal. If you book it, GREAT. If not, just keep moving. Submit four more auditions and cast a wide net. Auditioning is part of our job as voice actors, we can only control so much in the end. So learn to audition well and leave the casting up to the fates (and the authors).