As an entrepreneurship consultant who assists many authors and content creators, I am often asked about ways to monetize written works. One of the most lucrative options is converting books into audiobooks, which expands the potential audience and taps into a rapidly growing market.
In fact, the audiobook industry is projected to grow by 20% year over year to be worth over $20 billion by 2028. This explosive growth is fueling demand for professional audiobook narrators. If you love reading and have strong narration abilities, it‘s an incredibly exciting time to get paid for lending your voice to audiobook projects.
In this comprehensive guide, we‘ll explore 17 easy ways to break into a career as an audiobook narrator, supplemented by my insights as a consultant to numerous small business owners in this space.
Size and Scope of the Audiobook Industry
The rise of smartphones and voice-activated technologies like Amazon Alexa have revolutionized the audiobook market. Audiobook revenues have nearly tripled from $2.1 billion in 2012 to $5.4 billion in 2021.
With over 82 million Americans now listening to audiobooks, publishers are racing to convert print books to audio. It‘s estimated that over 50,000 titles are now produced annually in the US alone.
For authors, audiobook royalties represent an increasingly vital revenue stream. Through ACX, top earners can make between $60,000 to $100,000 per title in audio royalties. This creates major financial incentives for authors to produce audiobooks.
As more independent authors self-publish, the number of audiobook projects needing narrators has exploded. At the same time, audio fits modern lifestyles, allowing people to enjoy books while commuting, exercising or multitasking.
This perfect storm means demand has never been higher for audiobook narrators who can breathe life into stories and texts. Now let‘s explore some of the most accessible ways you can capitalize on this growth to start earning income narrating audiobooks.
1. Audiobook Creation Exchanges
Audiobook Creation Exchange (ACX) is an Amazon-owned platform that connects authors, narrators and producers to create and sell finished audiobooks. To get started, you create a profile showcasing your experience, vocal skills and narration samples.
You can then audition to work on projects listed that match your niche or style. ACX facilitates the contractual arrangements and handles distribution to Amazon, Audible and iTunes.
The major advantage with ACX is you keep earning royalties from each audiobook you narrate through the platform. Depending on your contract terms, you may earn $15 to $75+ per finished hour. ACX allows you to scale up earnings as you complete more titles.
For new narrators, ACX is an ideal way to gain experience and build your portfolio. To date, they have paid out over $200 million to narrators, with some top performers earning six-figures annually.
2. Paid Audiobook Review Services
Many audiobook publishers offer paid review programs, where they send you upcoming releases relevant to your tastes. In exchange for an honest review, you receive a small fee and get to keep the audiobook.
Services like BooksSirens, AudiobookBoom, and AudiobookJungle connect reviewers with publishers. You‘ll need to provide a sample of your work or have an active book review blog/site to qualify. It‘s a fun way for avid listeners to earn free audiobooks and small commissions.
3. Online Voiceover Job Sites
Popular online voiceover marketplaces like Voices.com, Voice123 and Bodalgo have special audiobook categories where authors and publishers post projects looking for narrators.
You create a profile to showcase your experience, skills, vocal training and samples of your work. When an audiobook job matches your profile, you can audition. Many new narrators find the audition process extremely valuable for building their portfolio.
These sites provide access to well-paying audiobook jobs from all over the world. Top narrators report earning $100 to $500+ per finished hour based on their experience level. The sites generally take a commission around 10-20% of your earnings.
4. Direct Outreach to Authors
One proactive way to find work is by directly contacting authors, especially indie authors who self-publish. I advise my consulting clients to start by identifying authors in their niche or genre and visiting their websites to find contact information.
Send a brief professional email introducing yourself as an audiobook narrator. Offer links to samples of your work. Be sure to highlight your genuine love of the author‘s books and writing style.
Many authors have never considered making audiobooks and will be intrigued by the idea. If they‘re interested, provide pricing packages and your production process. These personalized relationships can lead to ongoing work.
5. Local Recording Studios
Don‘t overlook opportunities with recording studios and production houses in your local area. Having existing relationships with local narrators gives them a trusted talent pool when audiobook clients come to them.
I mentor several narrators who earned their start by working with local studios that produce audiobooks for businesses, authors and commercial clients. They appreciate having go-to narrators they can rely upon.
Reach out to local studios with your demos and offer them a special rate to try you on a small project. Many ongoing careers have been launched from local studio referrals.
6. Audiobook Agencies and Publishers
One of the most direct paths is connecting with audiobook agencies and publishers seeking narrators. This includes major publishers like Penguin Random House, HarperCollins, Simon & Schuster and Hachette.
Brilliance Audio, Tantor Media, Dreamscape and RBMedia are leading audiobook production companies always looking for seasoned narrators. They offer steady work but the audition process is highly competitive.
For new narrators, start by submitting your profile and demos through their website portals. While difficult to land at first, these companies can provide a steady stream of assignments if you meet their expectations.
7. Online and In-Person Workshops
Enrolling in specialized audiobook narration workshops provides invaluable hands-on training and networking. The Audio Publishers Association holds regular online classes and their annual conference provides learning sessions.
If feasible, in-person intensives allow for more personalized instruction and coaching. I‘ve found these prove extremely worthwhile investments for narrators serious about excelling in the audiobook industry.
8. Freelance Websites
General online freelance platforms often have audiobook projects available, typically posted by authors. Popular sites include Fiverr, Upwork, Freelancer and Guru.
These allow you to set your rate or bid on projects listed in your budget range. I advise narrators to start low while building up reviews and portfolio samples. Some authors require you have existing audiobook credits before applying.
The benefit of freelance sites is the wide variety of project types, from business ebooks to memoirs to poetry. They‘re an accessible way to gain experience and expand your niche.
9. Podcasting and Audio Production
Many narrators get their start producing podcasts or creating videos for YouTube and other platforms. These allow you to practice audio production, vocal performance and editing skills.
Several high-earning audiobook narrators I know leveraged their podcast follower bases by offering exclusive audiobooks to their Patreon supporters.
If you love the creative aspects of audio production, podcasting can help you build a following and refine your narration abilities.
10. Voice Acting and Theater Training
Some narrators come from voice acting backgrounds on radio, TV/film or animation projects. Any experience requiring you to embody varied characters and accents is directly applicable to audiobook narration.
Local theater companies are great resources to gain live acting experience. Many hold regular readings you can participate in.DRAMATIC ability is often what distinguishes the best audiobook performers.
Think about whether some brushing up through acting classes could help sharpen your characterization abilities for narration.
11. Read Books Aloud for Practice
One simple way to prepare for narration projects is to practice reading books aloud, even if just to yourself. Pay attention to pacing, emphasis and vocal characterizations. How would you make repetitive passages or descriptions more engaging?
Every book has its own unique rhythm and flow. The more books you read aloud, the more attuned you‘ll become to small nuances that bring writing to life.
12. Partner with Self-Published Authors
The rise of independent publishing provides a huge opportunity to partner directly with authors seeking audiobook narrators. Online communities like ACX Author Success connect authors to narrators.
Reddit groups like /r/ACX and Facebook groups like Audiobook Narrators are full of authors actively looking to hire freelance narrators. The ability to directly negotiate terms gives flexibility.
For authors new to producing audiobooks, you can provide guidance on the process. This grassroots approach provides experience plus referrals.
13. Narrator Membership Organizations
Joining professional audiobook narrator organizations helps expand your industry network and training. The Audio Publishers Association, World-Voices Organization and Voice Coaches are groups to explore.
I always advise audiobook entrepreneurs to attend industry conferences and events. These provide visibility and allow you to connect directly with rights-holders and publishers.
14. University Content and Textbooks
Educational publishers and eLearning platforms often need audiobook versions of literature, textbooks and instructional materials. Reach out to local schools, colleges, universities and platforms like Audible Editions about needs.
Specialized knowledge is required for complex academic topics, giving experienced narrators an advantage. However, there are also opportunities to narrate introductory materials if your diction and reading comprehension are strong.
15. Libraries and Associations for the Blind
Libraries like the National Library Service for the Blind and Print Disabled need qualified narrators to produce audiobooks for their visually impaired patrons.
Volunteering to record books helps serve the community while sharpening your narration abilities. Paid opportunities may also open up once they become familiar with your skills.
16. Build a Home Studio
Having quality recording equipment is imperative, especially when first starting out. Invest in a professional microphone, audio interface, editing software like Audacity, sound treatment and headphones.
I recommend initially consulting audiobook production companies on the technical specifications required so you have suitable recording quality.
While an investment, a home studio setup allows you to attract clients by delivering clean, broadcast-ready recordings. Check local classifieds for discounted equipment other narrators may be selling as they upgrade their studios.
17. Create a Website to Promote Your Services
Having an online presence where authors can learn about your experience and hear samples is extremely valuable. Your website establishes credibility and gives you a platform to promote your services.
On your site, share your expertise around the audiobook creation process. Provide tips for authors and describe your approach to narration.
This showcases your professionalism and allows you to control how potential clients engage with your personal brand.
The ongoing surge in audiobook popularity has created incredible demand for narrators able to bring stories and content to vivid life. Whether you‘re narrating fiction novels, biographies, academic texts, or children‘s books, your distinctive voice and performance abilities add new dimensions.
If exploring audiobook narration as a side hustle or new career path, the opportunities to profit from your love of reading have never been riper. Use this guide to get started pursuing paid projects across numerous exciting platforms and categories.
Remember to invest the time to polish your skills and recording capabilities. Having a home studio allows you to deliver clean, professional-grade audio. Approach each book as its own unique world to inhabit as a storyteller. Share your passion for bringing authors‘ words, characters and messages to listeners worldwide.