Your Audiobook VO Demo

Getting Started

One of the most asked questions I get (if not the most frequently asked) is how do you get started in audiobook recording. There’s training and getting the equipment set up and all that. There are training documents and videos galore on all that. But one thing I don’t see being answered is the demo. Most gigs will be won by auditioning, but I’ve had much better luck when the author comes to me first. Clearly, they already like what they hear and want to engage my services as an audiobook narrator. The key is a good demo. Well, actually, several demos.

What To Record

Have you ever listened to an audiobook or just read a book and thought, “Man, I wish I could have narrated that one!” Here’s your big chance. Though, you’ll be limited to just a few minutes of that book. The Fair Use clause of copyright law allows you to use small portions of copyrighted work for not-for-profit work. Yes, you’re trying to get a job with the demo, but you’re not actually selling the demo itself.

What that means is you can record a five to ten minute demo of just about anything. Now, just because it can be anything doesn’t mean it should be anything. You need to pick something that matches your voice and your skill.

Key Factors to Match

  • Gender – It’s usually best for the listener if you are the same gender as the POV character. This is non-negotiable for First Person narration.
  • Voice Age – If you sound like 50 year old Marine, don’t record a teenage boy.
  • Voice Style & Accent – As much as you may love Harry Potter, if you were born and raised in Texas, it might sound a bit odd. “Expecto Patronum, y’all!”

How Much to Record

I (and ACX) recommend five to ten minutes. If the Rights Holder is interested, they’ll listen to the whole thing. Odds are, they will know if they want to use your voice (or at least put you on the short list) within a few seconds of hearing you.

What ACX doesn’t say, but I highly recommend, is to record as many demos as you can. Why? ACX’s system does not allow for multiple tags on a demo. If you can do multiple accents or a clip has different styles, you can’t tag it as such. That means you could get passed over during a voice search.

Here’s an example. One of my earliest demos was from “Around the World in 80 Days” by Jules Verne (I was still operating under the false impression that I could only do Public Domain titles for demos). It features the two main characters, one British and the other French. ACX will only let me tag it with one accent. So I picked French and did another (A Christmas Carol) and tagged it as Standard British. The same goes for style, genre, and voice age. The more the merrier (the more chances an author will find you on ACX).

Spend some time on the Producer Search page. Can you find yourself? If you can’t, what makes you think a prospective Rights Holder will?

Don’t Rest on Your Demos

Recorded some demos a year or two back? Go back and listen to them. Pretty crappy, huh? It’s OK, we all get it. You get better at your craft. You get better equipment. You improve your recording space.

You’ll need to go back and record new demos every so often. Maybe once a year. Maybe more often. I’ll leave that up to you. At the very least, I like to do it when I make changes to my recording setup. It’s a great way to “test run” things and I get a sparkly new demo out of it.

Want a quick cheat? That audiobook you just finished? The one that you had to cut a 5 minute retail sample for? That retail sample will probably work wonders as an ACX demo as well. Done and done.

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