Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Improve Sales of Audible Books with a Good Narrator: Dos and Don’ts of Book Production on ACX

After listening to numerous audiobooks on the Audible site, have discovered listeners will sometimes upload a book because of the narrator rather than the author. A good narrator can elevate an ordinary thriller. A bad narrator can spoil a great story. Some narrators get it right. Others can drive potential listeners away by bad practices. What are the common pet peeves caused by narrators of audio books?

How to Improve Sales of Audio Books on Audible

Great Book Narration
A great book, good studio microphone and perfect recording are far from enough to create a good customer experience when it comes to listening to audio books. Books in audio form are complex, having gone through many stages before arriving on the audible store. The thriller must have a brilliant plot, great editing, a compelling cover design and blurb. Then there is the recording equipment. A dead room free of background noise, a studio quality microphone and sound editing software.

How Not to Narrate Audio Books on ACX

But even when everything is perfect, the audio book can fall at the last hurdle with the voice narrator. Audible allows the customer to rate an audio book in three parts: overall, performance and story. The last thing a narrator needs is poor rating for performance. So let’s look at the most common irritations for listeners when it comes to audible books.

Monotone Reading in Audible

Some narrators forget that, like musical instruments, the voice box can express different notes. Not varying the pitch may result in a monotonous narration that is devoid of emotion, nuance or expression. This can lead to a dull listening experience, rather like listening to a robot. The listener may liken the audio book to-text-to speech on the Kindle. The culprit might be nerves, the narrator sounding stiff. Voice exercises prior to recording might help loosen things up.

Good Audio Book Narration

Any noise other than the voice itself can put the listener off. I’m not talking about background noises such as birds or traffic, but sounds from the voice artist, which might be swallowing between words, breathing, lip-smacking or gulping. No matter how soft, these oral sounds are, they can be off-putting and may result in a low star rating for narrator performance.

Who’s Speaking in the Audio Book: Mistakes of the Narrator

Not all attributes to who the speaker is will be ‘he said’ or ‘she said,’ so the narrator would do well by adopting different voices for various characters. Audible customers often complain that they don’t know who is speaking, as the narrator uses the same voice for every character. Some narrators have a natural flair for creating a different voice for each character. Doing so effectively can really help the listener get engrossed in the story.

Bad Narration of Audible Books

But the voice artist can also go too far the other way, hamming it up when it comes to accents, nuances and voice quality. An overly-booming voice or a sickly sweet whine can result in a listening experience that equates to watching a cartoon. It would be hard to get engrossed in the story if the listener cannot believe in the characters.

Patronizing the Listener of Audio Books

Some narrators can really irritate the listener by using a tone of voice that patronizes rather than engages. A sickly sweet tone suited more for kindergarten, or speaking too slowly can insult the listener’s intelligence. Care is needed to get the tone and pace right (not too fast, not too slow). This will lull the listener into the story without the obtrusion of condescension.

How Not to Narrate for Audio Books: Regional Accent

Another peeve is a narrator failing to convince an accent. One example is an American narrator trying to do a British accent or vice versa. The narrator would do better not to attempt an accent that does not convince, but differentiate characters by means within the comfort zone. Some listeners dislike Americanisms inserted within British books, using words such as ‘candy’ or ‘jello’ instead of ‘sweets’ and ‘jelly’.

Getting the Man or Woman’s Voice Right

A woman narrating an audio book may overdo the baritone of a male character; a male character may not achieve the soft tone of a female. Overdoing the tone of voice can be off-putting and fail to convince. The best thing to do is to differentiate the character tones in a subtle yet definite way.

Immersible Reading Abridged or Unabridged

If the words spoken by the narrator are in any way different to the Kindle version of the book, the words will not be in sync. Immersible reading or whispersync for voice would be made impossible. This would be a shame, as the customer is robbed of reading choice. Books that are ‘unabridged’ as opposed to ‘abridged’ means the words are the same as the audible version and reading in sync with the voice is kept intact.

How to Increase Audio Book Sales

Audio books are borne from hard work and complex elements. It would be a shame if a good story and great recording was spoiled by an unsuitable reader. Basic mistakes in narration can be put right. This will include avoiding making any other sound other than reading the words on the page. Watch out for attempting accents not within the comfort zone. Nerves can cause the narrator to overdo character voices resulting in a patronizing tone or characters that seem comical. Getting right the common pet peeves of listeners on Audible will go a long way towards increasing sales of the audio book.

More Tips on Creating Audible Books

What is an audio interface and why the audio book creator needs one
Essential sound equipment for narrating books
The best microphone for voice acting
A home studio for audio book recording
Tips for voice narrating


  1. I'd add another issue to the list. Pronunciation. It is important to work with the author when possible on the correct pronunciation of any names of characters, places or things that are used in the book. Especially in cases where another narrator has read earlier books in a series, it is extremely jarring for a listener to hear a name of a person or place severely change simply because the new narrator is unaware how the previous one pronounced it. As an example, a character in several series I recently listened to whose written name is Lyam, was pronounced by three different narrators as Lee-on, Lee-am, and Lion. while the first two are similar enough to not be overtly disjointing, the third halted listening altogether in favor of reading the ebook since there were dozens of other names of people and places that were also 'off' to the point of causing confusion.

    1. Good point. That must have been confusing.

      I had a recent issue with pronouncing the name of a French painting (Les Grandes Baigneuses by Cezanne) and a place name. If unsure, I found it helps to listen to the word spoken on YouTube by a native and to say it back.
      thanks for comment

  2. Interesting insight, thank you for sharing it here with us. I'm quite sure that the implementation of ax dynamics erp software contributed to our sales increase significantly.