Since audiobooks are all the rage for potential readers to encounter your work, I recommend getting an audiobook version into the world as soon as you can—after the paperback or eBook drops, that is. In my three-part series about creating my first audiobook, I discussed how the process isn’t too intimidating once you get into it. With minimal equipment and an abundance of time in the evenings, I recorded, produced, and distributed the audiobook for First Name Basis by myself. I did it mostly as a test so that when it came time to narrate my memoir, I could get my most personal story out to the world in my voice. It helped that I had enough experience in these three aspects of making an audiobook due to hobbies I had while in high school and college. You can still hire narrators, producers, and distributors for your audiobook, but these costs add up quickly.

During my panel on audiobooks at COSine 2022, there were a wide variety of individuals who had done audiobooks. The other panelists included an author who paid for narration, an author whose publishing company did the audiobook, and a narrator who did voice acting for audiobooks. I was the one author on the panel who not only wrote the book but narrated it, too. As I listened to the experiences of these panelists, I realized there are some distinct advantages of authors narrating their own work.

Cutting out the middleman

Just like commissioning an artist to create art for your book requires you to describe what you’re looking for, the same process applies to hiring a voice actor to narrate your book. This can be quite involved. You need to provide details on every character—what they sound like, their personality, any unique speech patterns, etc. If you’re creating an audiobook of a fantasy or sci-fi story, you’ll likely have to include a pronunciation guide so your narrator will know how to say the “unique” words to your world. There’s a lot that goes into preparing your narrator to read your book. If you choose to go the route of narrating your own audiobook, you cut out the middleman. As the author, you already know what your characters sound like. You know how to say all the unfamiliar words you created.

Another time-consuming part of audiobook creation is listening to all the audio your narrator records and determining if they did it correctly. There may be lines that have the wrong emphasis, or emotions that aren’t coming through in the recording. This all requires rework by the narrator (which is why it’s important to audition for a good one). If you, as the author, are recording the audiobook, you can get exactly what you want out of the performance because you know precisely how it must sound. You’ll still want to check your recordings for quality, of course, but it takes much less time to get that good take when you know as you’re recording it if you need to try again.


For those authors who are terrified of public speaking, this narration process might be a way to help overcome this fear. However, understand that narrating your audiobook isn’t just reading the words on the page. There’s a dramatic flair to how a book is read that adds life to the written word. In your editing process, you hopefully read your entire manuscript out loud so you can hear how it sounds (and fix any awkward phrasings). Recording your audiobook is just reading it out loud again, but with the right emphasis to make it interesting to listen to.

Many people hate how their voice sounds on recordings. This is the biggest obstacle you must overcome if you are going to narrate your audiobook. If that isn’t possible, there are other options out there that could be cheaper than hiring a voice actor. Artificial Intelligence (AI) is getting a lot better at creating natural text-to-speech converters that could narrate your book. A cursory Google search shows there are a few options out there, some of which can even use a sample of your voice to work its magic. Some distribution services might frown on this approach, so you might not get on Audible with an AI audiobook. There are still other distribution options, though, so you’re not completely out of luck.

When in doubt, hire a professional

Occasionally, I’ll write a book that I want to take more seriously than the “fun” projects I’ve written—like First Name Basis. I am more than capable of recording the audiobooks for my fun projects, but the serious ones I want to have professional narrators for. This means I have to go through all the “middleman” stuff I mentioned above, but it’s likely they have a better setup and are more experienced at this kind of thing than I am. Additionally, if I have written a book from the point of view of a female character, it makes more sense to hire a woman to narrate it than for me to read the entire book in a falsetto. If you’re just trying to get your book into the ears of audiobook listeners, there are benefits of doing it yourself, but also recognize your limitations before getting in too deep.


Have you ever listened to an audiobook narrated by the author?
Are there any famous authors who narrate their own books? (Hint: Neil Gaiman)
What are other advantages of narrating your own audiobook? Disadvantages?

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