“From You, I Get the Story”
Like most people, I loved being read to as a child. What are bedtime stories except the audiobook experience with the people we most love and trust acting as the narrator? At some point, we all seem hardwired to enjoy oral narratives. Maybe it harkens back to mankind’s early communes around a fire with some spellbinding bard.
But somewhere along the way I simply lost the ability to enjoy listening to stories, leaving me a bit envious of people who can absorb audiobooks while they’re driving—or exercising, for that matter. Thanks to digital downloading and Playaways, enjoying audiobooks at the gym is easier than ever. It was pretty hard to pump iron while trying to keep that Sony CD player from skipping, after all.
What’s interesting to me in light of recent technology and publishing developments is the opportunity for almost anyone to lend their voice to a story. For example, Youtube, better known for hosting millions of videos, is also a popular audiobook venue. Some of the titles are uploads from professional recordings such as Recorded Books; but others are just recordings of a person or group of people reading a book they like. These books may or may not be in the public domain—when it comes to Youtube, copyright laws get abused like a red-headed stepchild.
With even amateur recordings getting thousands of Youtube hits, it seems like there’s potential money to be made here if you can read well out loud. Audiobook narration used to be the exclusive domain of people with professional broadcast experience and equipment. But just as Amazon.com has helped spear-head a rise in self-publishing, their digital format allows those authors to contract for audiobook services. Companies like ACX connect freelance narrators with writers looking to have their books recorded. While some of the most popular audiobook narrators have been Hollywood voice actors, an increasing number of them are average Joes.
If you’re of a more charitable bent, you can also volunteer your vocal talents as an audiobook narrator. Librivox is always looking for volunteers to read public domain books. Closer to home, you might volunteer your talents with the Colorado Talking Book Library (CTBL), a state-funded resource that provides audiobooks on special equipment for the blind. CTBL often needs people to volunteer their time reading in a professional studio. It’s a win-win situation, as you get experience in the art of narrating audiobooks while helping needy members of the community.
So if you want to be an audiobook narrator, give it a shot and put yourself out there. Who knows, you just might be the voice that gets me listening to stories again.