By Indigo Executive Editor and Audiobook Producer Ali Shaw

Image courtesy of Unsplash.

Whether you’re a traditionally published author or a totally independent author, it’s worth considering releasing an audiobook version. According to Bookstat, as reported in Publishers Weekly, 188 million audiobooks sold in 2022, totaling more than $3 billion in sales, and the format is projected to continue to thrive.

I always have at least one audiobook going at any given time. They’re perfect for listening to while I’m driving, grocery shopping, cooking, gardening—basically anytime my mind can enjoy a good story but my eyes and hands have to be busy doing something else. How about you? And even more to the point: How about your readers?

Once you’re in the camp of wanting to produce an audiobook version, the next logical question is: Who will narrate it? Could you be the one who croons your story into listeners’ ears?

The answer is not exactly cut-and-dried, but a decidedly squishy “Maybe!”

But I can give some more definitive answers based on a couple factors, starting with genre:

Memoir: Yes, for sure! Readers/listeners love to feel like the author is sitting there with them sharing their story on a personal level. Telling it with your own voice just adds to the experience. Two of the top ten audiobooks for 2022 were memoirs narrated by the authors: Greenlights, written and narrated by Matthew McConaughey, and I’m Glad My Mom Died, written and narrated by Jennette McCurdy.

Self-Help: Yes! For the same reasons as memoir, listeners love to hear the advice delivered from the author’s lips. Three of 2022’s top ten fall in this category: Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones, written and narrated by James Clear; Atlas of the Heart: Mapping Meaningful Connection and the Language of Human Experience, written and narrated by Brené Brown; and Can’t Hurt Me: Master Your Mind and Defy the Odds by David Goggins, narrated by David Goggins and Adam Skolnick.

Poetry: Yes! Many poets have a unique performance style that’s evident only to readers who attend their readings—or listen to the audiobook. I’ve known some poets who even put some of their poetry to music in their performances and audiobooks. You certainly can too.

Nonfiction: More scholarly or research-based nonfiction can also be narrated by the author, although listeners of this genre don’t seem to be drawn specifically to author-narrated books, necessarily. It’s like watching a documentary—if the narrator is good, we’ll watch it if we’re interested in the topic. And if the narrator is Morgan Freeman, well, we might watch it no matter what the topic is.

Fiction: This one gets a little more tricky. The top-selling fiction audiobooks feature trained voice actors who can do multiple unique voices, bringing the story to life like an old-school radio play. Some even feature a cast of voice actors, such as #7 on 2022’s top ten: The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo: A Novel by Taylor Jenkins Reid, narrated by Alma Cuervo, Julia Whelan, and Robin Miles. That said, plenty of authors are also stage, film, or voice actors, and if this is you, then yes, you probably could narrate your own audiobook. However, if you’ve never done any acting and aren’t trained in doing unique voices that will sound consistent over the course of a nine- to twelve-hour recording, then it might be in the best interest of your listeners to hire out the narration.

What’s the Process?

If you’re excited about narrating your audiobook yourself, good for you! You don’t have to be a professional voice actor. All you need to get started is some narration coaching, which can be as little as two hours here at Indigo, and some practice. After that, you’re prepped and ready for the studio!* You’ll record your book, and then you’ll submit your files to an audio producer to do the editing, mastering, proofing, and fine-tuning. These are the processes that make your audiobook sound amazing (no mouth clicks or tummy gurgles—your listeners will thank you) and match the production specs of audiobook retailers and library databases. It may sound complex, but it’s really pretty easy once you’ve got someone to walk you through it. I promise!

And if you’re planning on hiring out your narration, that’s great too! You can post a gig at Findaway Voices or another audiobook production hub, and narrator-producers can audition for your book. Listen to their recordings, interview them, choose one, and hire them. These folks are typically trained both in narration and audiobook production, so they’ll do the whole recording, editing, mastering, and proofing process for you, delivering you final mp3s ready for audiobook retailers and library databases worldwide. All you have to do is listen to the files and approve.

Whether you want to narrate yourself or hire out, you’ll be glad you’re offering the accessibility and convenience of audiobooks to your readers/listeners. So get those headphones ready!

*I strongly encourage recording in professional, fully soundproof studio. Nobody wants to hear leaf blowers or barking dogs in the background, and even the best audio editors can’t remove those completely.

Ali Shaw learned to read by playing a read-along record of The Rescuers Down Under on her child’s record player, her small finger following the words in the pages of the companion picture book. She began listening to full-length audiobooks in the early 2000s, clumsily changing out the CDs in her car stereo on long road trips. Ali has been producing audiobooks since 2018 and is a big fan of the much more convenient and portable digital format.