Bettye ZollerHas it been your dream to see your name on the credits of an audio book at Barnes & Noble or on
Have storytelling skills burning a hole in your pocket?
Bettye Zoller presented a fabulous lecture on the business of audio books and how you can find your voice in the 2nd largest growing sector of the entertainment business.

Bettye Zoller opened her lecture by sharing some objection handling regarding the number of voice talent out there in the market:

“There are not too many voice talents out there. Don™t let it discourage you. The only thing that is keeping you from success is you!” Bettye first fell in love with recording when she was called upon to sing jingles in Dallas, TX. One session singing jingles made her more money than she had ever seen at once and more than a month™s paycheck. Upon realizing her potential in the field of jingle singing and voice over, she changed career paths and followed her dream.

Since that fateful day in Dallas, Bettye Zoller has enjoyed 34 tremendous years in the business, ranging from voice overs, jingles, roles as creative director and audio engineer. Although you can have a specialty niche that you prefer to work in, Bettye cautioned that you can™t just do audio books or narration; you need to do anything that will make you money (commercials, telephone systems, and so on).
Early on in the presentation, a harsh reality was explained:

“Voice over people are just a piece of meat – the end of the food chain.”

You could hear a pin drop after that one, folks.
Don’t believe the statement? This is how Bettye supported it:

“Someone thinks they want to do something. Then they have to create the thing. It gets created, a client may get the final say, and then finally you get the thing planned and the last thing on the food chain is who is going to record the voice over.”

Some tips:
It isn™t how good you are, however, in the casting director™s mind, it’s often ‘does this person fit the role’?
Advice: Leave your ego at the door. Don™t get disheartened if you are not chosen for a particular job, just move on.
Now, onto audio books specifically!
Sales of audio books are the 2nd largest growing sector of the entertainment business.

According to the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA), talent are being hired more and more for audio book jobs than ever before.
An exciting aspect of the audio book craze is that print and audio are now done simultaneously instead of a book having been written and then a voice narration added to it once the publication has proven its worth on the market.
By virtue of this shift in consumer demand, you can do any kind of project in the world from poetry, non-fiction, to fiction to children™s books and everything in between.

Now, don’t pigeonhole narration into just the audio book category. If you do that, you’ll be limited in your choices and income streams!
Audio narration is also corporate work, educational work for the government, the military, schools (educational videos), medical narration, and so on.
Significant observation: With narration, you are not selling, you are telling. That™s there difference. When you record for a fiction project, you may be voice acting as well as narrating. As a narrator, it is your responsibility to become a personality and embody certain traits that your audience wants and needs to hear.
As a narrator, you want to talk like someone another person would appreciate hearing from. In order to achieve this goal, it is of the utmost importance to show personality in your voice. Be a friend who teaches.

Before you start recording, always ask producers what they want you to deliver in a more dramatic way. Pay close attention to the mood that they want you to project. Narration requires more finesse and nuances. Take all of the direction you can before you are nose to nose with a microphone – you may be reading for a seven hour project. Don™t go to a session without being prepared! Let’s look at documentary and film narration.

A little known fact is that most of the time you will be narrating videos or films before the film is even shot. The director may request that you record several varying reads at different speeds so that they have a few interpretations to pick from in order to include the narrative that best complements the finished film.

Curious to know which narrators are getting the jobs?
Browse books and find out who narrators are in shows, look them up on the Internet to hear more samples. Don™t listen to stars, try to listen to unknowns who were cast solely upon their talent. Pick out the color words in a narrative. Color words can also be described as adjectives. The color words paint the picture you want to convey in a lyrical and beautiful manner.

Bettye took some time to draw names to read a variety of narratives, including’s very own Carol Mroz! It was a treat to watch and learn from Bettye observing her in action as a teacher. There were several entertaining performances with lots of nuance and character voicing. Some of the reads really pushed people creatively and psychologically and everyone who was called upon rose to the occasion with style.

As we came to learn, narration isn’t just about storytelling, it’s also about being able to stretch out of your comfort zone with your voice. This may include character voice acting, gender roles, and voice ages. Be able to vary voice acting ages in increments of 5 years. If you are older, young yourself up.
Memorable quote from Bettye:

“Doing voice overs is never having to say you™re sorry!”

Producers would rather you just start again than apologize and begin in the middle of a sentence, hence the never having to say you’re sorry (if you feel compelled, save it for the end of your session!).

So, just how do you get through a narration for an audio book recording successfully?
• Vary the speeds and inflections used in straight narratives
• If voicing a multi-role script, be sure keep the narrator voice consistent and have distinct character voices
• Don’t leave too much space in between character lines for continuity
• Understand what you are reading and now what is going on in the script

Ask yourself: Can you do a continuum of ages, feelings, interpretations?
If you can, this is what sets you apart from the announcer… in other words, your voice acting skills.

Q&A with Bettye
Q: If you have kids, does reading the bedtimes stories at night help?
A: Yes, reading literature to children will help. If you don™t have kids or other relatives, volunteer at the library to read.

Q. What is an average Audio Book Narration Demo length?
A: They are longer than regular demos. Want cuts that are from 30 – 45 long and a variety of genres, non-fiction, kids story, medical, bodice, violent one, poetry, etc. Usually about 4 – 5 minutes long. Some are longer, however, it™s up to you. Be sure to do characters. Don™t put anything on that demo that you wouldn™t want a leading NY publisher to hear. Make sure it™s good!

Never do anything that isn™t in the script without asking.
Q: Any advantage of benefit to joining the Audio Publishing Association to break in?
A: Yes.
Q: How do you give character zest over a long period of time?
A: Vary pacing, tone of voice, put as much interest in it as you can.
Q: When recording multiple characters on digital, do people ever record many characters at home to practice before heading into a session for the real takes?
A: Yes, some people do.

Quote from Bettye: “The only stupid question is the one you don™t ask.”
If this lecture presentation or summary has helped or inspired you, please leave a comment!

Technorati Tags: Bettye Zoller, Audio Books, VOICE 2007, Narration, Voice Overs, and
Previous articleDebbie Munro on VOICE 2007
Next articleSpeaking Effective English with Bettye Zoller
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 Stephanie for your accurate and perceptive review of my Las Vegas “Audiobook Narration” workshop.
    And if anyone wants more… I’m presenting a two day audiobook character cartoon voice workshop here in Dallas April 21-22. I’ll be repeating it in June in Dallas and in Houston the end of May.
    Contact me for details.

  2. Is there a book on the voiceover techniques of recording an audiobook anywhere? What should a voice talent be mindful of, what to look out for, generally how does a voiceover talent go about reading for an audiobook?
    Are you aware of any books on this subject?


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here