I wonder if authors ever consider the value of a good narrator for their audiobooks. Whether you’re a mainstream author or a self-published writer thinking of having a story transformed into an audiobook, the importance of a good narrator is not to be underestimated.
A good narrator does more than merely read a book, he or she lends character to the story.
My first love is and always will be an actual book, but with the amount of reading I do, buying books became too expensive, not to mention that I was running out of space in my private library. When I received a Kindle for Christmas a few years ago, I switched to electronic books. At first, I didn’t like it at all, I much preferred the feel and scent of a real book, but ebooks saved me a lot of money.
When I got involved in crafts, I no longer had time to sit and read, and so multitasker that I am, I switched to audiobooks. I could make my creations and listen to stories at the same time.
Over the past year, I’ve sampled hundreds of books. Some I sampled and rejected, some I downloaded, and some I downloaded because I knew the authors’ style, but deleted the book because of the narrator.
Some narrators read too fast, some too slow, some suffer from dry mouth syndrome, while others still were so annoying I couldn’t stand listening to their voice.
One such narrator is Hollis McCarthy. McCarthy has narrated quite a few books, 14 pages of Amazon books to be exact, but that doesn’t mean she’s good. I listened to two of the books she narrated and … let me correct that, I started listening to two of the books she narrated and I stopped midway the first chapter. McCarty was so awful I couldn’t stand listening any longer.
She overdid it with the portrayal of the characters, especially the main character. She talked in a childlike, silly voice, with way too much emphasis. Now, this might be fine and cute if the character was a four year old, but the woman she narrated for was 27 and then a little girl voice just isn’t cute anymore. McCarthy thinks she does an excellent job and as such she doesn’t realize that she makes a farce of narrating the story.
Another annoying narrator is Lesley Sharp. She has two Amazon pages of books she narrated, but I’ll never listen to another book she performed. In the beginning it wasn’t so bad, but the more I listened to her, the more her voice got on my nerves. She too overdid it with her portrayal of the main character. So much so that I eventually switched off the book and deleted it.
On the other hand, there’s Sarah Zimmerman, a narrator par excellence. She has a naturally beautiful voice, knows the perfect balance between reading and performing, speaks neither too fast nor too slow, and reads in several dialects, including Scottish and Australian English. It’s such a pleasure to listen to her, she could read the phonebook to me.
Penelope Keith is another excellent narrator. She gets into character within overdramatization.
Sarah Zimmerman and Penelope Keith aside, I wonder if audiobook companies audition their narrators. Audiobooks are not all that popular yet. While there are thousands of ebooks, audiobooks are rather limited. One reason being that the narrator has to be paid, and they don’t come cheap.
How narrators get picked by publishing companies I don’t know. Do they hire just anyone to read books, or do prospective narrators have to go through a screening process, an audition as such? If there’s an audition, surely these publishing houses or audiobook companies can hear that certain people just aren’t qualified for the job.
You wouldn’t believe how many books I’ve started and deleted after just one chapter. Nothing wrong with the story, some stories were quite compelling, but I just couldn’t stand the voice of the narrator.
For some people, a voice might be unimportant or mildly irritating, but I’m funny that way. If I don’t like a voice, I can only stand so long and then the book has go. It’s different when watching a movie or a play. The actors interact with each other and as a listener, you hear different voices. With an audiobook it’s very different. In most cases you hear the same voice for several hours, always the same voice.
There are exceptions, some books are narrated by two, three, or even five voices. If all two, three or five voices are fine you’re in for a pleasant listening experience, but if even one of the voices is irritating, it spoils the whole story.
So, whether you’re a mainstream author or a self-published writer, pay attention to the voice of the narrator. It’s more important than you might think.
About the Creator
Conny is the author of Waiting for Silverbird, Voice of an Angel, Lily, Kitten Diaries and Debbie. Contributor to various hard copy and online publications.
She lives in Toronto with her son and cats.