Books with headphones around themThree big name narrators were on hand for the VOICE 2010 audiobook panel to share insider tips, dispel myths and direct volunteers in long form narration.

Patrick Fraley, Hillary Huber and Scott Brick set the record straight on a number of fronts and provided information that is critical for anyone aspiring to record audiobooks, even for seasoned audiobook narrators, to hear.
Join me now in this coverage of the audiobook panel and an awesome display of talent. Enjoy!

First, Let’s Get This Straight…

Some people are of the mind that narrating Non-Fiction is easier than narrating Fiction because it’s got less character voices in it and because it is usually based upon historical fact, truth or someone’s opinion that it should be an easier read.
Not so, my friends!
Hillary Huber and Scott Brick jointly cleared up this misconception by emphasizing that Non-Fiction is actually trickier to read than people think. You are at that very moment speaking in the author’s voice and must convey their thoughts, feelings and intensity.
Now, to share some tips from each of the panelists for some big huge takeaways!

Narration Tips From Hillary Huber

  • Tell the story to that one person, not to the room (especially when narrating non-fiction)
  • When you are reading an audiobook there is no ad-libbing
  • Don’t make contractions of words as these will appear as errors to the studio and publisher and you’ll need to make corrections and record them again as written
  • Narrating Non-Fiction isn’t easier than narrating Fiction

Narration Tips from Scott Brick

  • You need to keep the end in mind even in the beginning of the book
  • People can tell in the first :30 whether or not the person reading knows the ending
  • If you mess up, go back to the last period and start again
  • Experiment: If it is too much, they will tell you to pull back

Narration Tips from Pat Fraley

  • Fear makes you tense which robs you of relaxation (in reference to being nervous)
  • Partner with syntax
  • If you let your voice take on the emotion you rob the listener of their experience
  • Read as though you’re the author’s first draft and are freshly discovering the story

On Reading Slower Than You Think

Hillary Huber: Generally, you are going to want to read slower than you think.
Scott Brick: The slower you go (read) the more your listener will lean in to hear you.
Pat Fraley: It’s about the listener so that they get some air and can better retain and appreciate the story. Go slower! Remember, they are paying you by the hour so the faster you read, the less money you make!

Words of Liberation for Narrators

“An author and writer is bound to punctuation and yet narrators can think like the author while not completely honouring the punctuation that authors are bound by.” – Pat Fraley
How’s that as permission for taking artistic liberties with your voice! Don’t let punctuation dictate all that your voice must do. Use inflection to colour words well in order to authentically express what the author has in mind.

Quick Stats

  • It usually takes 2 hours of recording for every finished hour of audio
  • The average audiobook is 100,000 words in length
  • 100,000 words = 11 hours of audio
  • 11 hours of audio = 22 hours of voice in the studio
  • Do a lot of research on the book before you begin to narrate

Doing Your Homework

You never know when you might get caught off guard by something in the book that throws you for a loop. If you haven’t read through the book before creating a character voice, midway through the story the author gives you a hint about that character and suddenly you realize that the character you thought sounded one way is actually quite opposite.
Typically narrators will read through the book if the material is new to them given that they have time to do so. Sometimes a narrator will not have to read the book before recording it. Scott Brick mentioned that this happens to him when he is reading books in a series. Once you’ve read one or two, you have a good idea of where the author wants to go with the story and of who the characters are.

June is Audiobook Month

June is Audiobook Month. How better to celebrate audiobooks than to be at a conference listening to Pat, Scott and Hillary? What a treat 🙂
Do you have any comments or thoughts you’d like to share about this article or audiobook narration?
Looking forward to hearing from you,
© Grodzka

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Stephanie Ciccarelli is the Co-Founder and Chief Brand Officer of Classically trained in voice, piano, violin and musical theatre, as well as a respected mentor and industry speaker, Stephanie graduated with a Bachelor of Musical Arts from the Don Wright Faculty of Music at the University of Western Ontario. Possessing a great love for imparting knowledge and empowering others, her podcast Sound Stories serves an audience that wants to achieve excellence in storytelling. Stephanie is found on the PROFIT Magazine W100 list three times (2013, 2015 and 2016), a ranking of Canada's top female entrepreneurs, and is the author of Voice Acting for Dummies®.


  1. Thank you for recapping the helpful advice the panelists made, Stephanie. This was one of the sessions I missed because there were several other sessions happening simultaneously. Truly, there seemed to be so many wonderful topics being discussed throughout the days of the sessions, that it was really a difficult decision to pick just one!

  2. Thanks for posting this Stephanie. I love studying with Pat’s Audiobook CD set. I’m printing off your blog to have a good read later and refresh myself.
    Plan on making it to “Voice” the next time round!

  3. I’d just like to thank Stephanie for sharing this terrific information with us! And major kudos to the panelists; Scott, Pat & Hillary. Insightful and VERY useful info!

  4. They DID rock it. Pat and Scott and Hillary’s presentation was thick with useful, unique PRO information. Like a piano lesson from Gershwin, a cooking class from Julia, free throw tips from Michael Jordan. (ok, actually, I’d appreciate a cooking class from Hillary, too.) But YES – it was a brilliant and special opportunity. They were enormously generous to give so much and I appreciated that they stayed extra long to answer every last person’s question.

  5. Good stuff here. Let me add that an audio narrator (long form audio) is not the narrator talking. It is the AUTHOR talking. Just as in films, the background music score enhances but should not dominate. In fact, the background music is often ‘forgotten’ by the viewer/listener to a film or tv show or video, yet it adds so much and enhances, as it should. Think of this when you narrate an author’s spoken words, fiction or non-fiction. I will be presenting another audio book seminar this coming fall. Details to be announced. It will be my annual audio book weekend bonanza with many guest teachers in Dallas. Watch for dates on my site.

  6. Very interesting! A couple of questions:
    1. What does Pat Fraley mean by “Partner with syntax”?
    2. “If you let your voice take on the emotion you rob the listener of their experience.”
    Sometimes one is directed to have an attitude about what is happening, so wouldn’t the narrator be taking on an emotion in that instance?
    Thanks for all the insights, one and all!

  7. Arggh. Debbie. JUST saw your comment and questions.
    1. By syntax, I mean the written words and their order in sentences and phrases. The narrator is a partner with the written word. When the words are clear and evocative, then the job is easier. We can almost “report” the words. When the written words are poor, and challenging to understand with structures like parenthetical and elliptical phrases, the narrator has to work harder to make the information more clear.
    2. In some circumstances, especially when the narrator is not doing a character in the book, but using “storyteller skills” to create a mood, he or she must be careful not to parallel the emotion or mood they are trying to evoke from the listener. An obvious example is when the narrator’s goal is to scare the listener. They would not present the scene sounding scared. If a scene is evocative or provocative, it’s a good idea to avoid the feelings that the listener should be feeling. If, for example, there is a child’s death in the text. The narrator doesn’t want to convey the scene being sad. That’s the listener’s job. That’s what I mean by robbing the listener.


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