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4 Less Than Obvious Reasons Why Authors Hire Narrators


By Stephanie Ciccarelli

May 4, 2010

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Man smiling with pencil behind earWhy do most authors prefer to have someone else narrate their books?

Considering how many audiobooks are recorded by professional narrators versus audiobooks recorded by authors, you'll find that the vast majority of audiobooks are read by someone other than the person who penned them.

Today we'll explore 4 reasons from an author's point of view as to why hiring a professional narrator may be their preferred option.

Writers and Readers

If you're a consumer of audiobooks, you've likely noted that the name of the author rarely matches the name of the reader. From my own experience, the only books I've listened to where the author was also the narrator were business related books written by CEOs the likes of Jack Welch (former CEO of General Electric) and industry experts such as Seth Godin (Tribes).

Some additional examples of authors who narrate their own works are Neil Gaiman, Mary Pope Osborne, Robert Munsch, Michael J. Fox, and Kathie Lee Gifford.

Why Do Authors Choose to Hire Professional Narrators?

An author may choose to ask someone else to narrate their books for a number of reasons, not limited to the following:

1. Voice
2. Storytelling
3. Training
4. Perspective

To delve a bit deeper, let's look at each of these topics individually in context.

1. Being Self-conscious of or Disliking Their Own Voice

You know how it can be difficult to listen to your own voice? Some people hate recording their personal voice mail, and for good reason. Why? It's possible that they don't like what they hear or they're simply not used to the sound of their own voice. For some authors, as with some people, hearing their own voice can be an uncomfortable experience that they want to keep to a minimum.

The solution? An author finds someone whose voice is pleasing to the ear (and the author's manuscript) who can read in their place. Your voice is key to the process of translating their book from text to audio format.

2. While Good Storytellers in Print...

You may have noticed that most writers are able to express themselves more eloquently and purposefully on the written page than when they use their "voice" aloud. There are exceptions to this rule, but as someone who writes, I know this to be true for me. Don't ever ask that I give you a spoken recap of a film or tell you a joke... but do ask that I email you my synopsis!

When you write, you're able to compose your points, carve out the fat, and present your readers with your succinct and meaningful version of what matters most when telling a story. The art of writing affords writers such graces. No one has to see your first, fifth, or twenty-fifth draft unless you show it to them when you're ready and feel it's your best effort to date.

When you speak, the ability to experiment and revise a story as it is being formulated is not an option. Speaking can be harder for some writers because you feel unprepared as your best self.

You might be able to relate to this as a voice actor. Unless you are happy with a take or how a character sounds, you're going to work away at it, edit the file and finesse it to the point that you're comfortable presenting what you feel to be your best effort at that particular moment.

Reading something, even if it is something that you wrote, might be harder for a writer because it's outside of their comfort zone.

There is a different rhythm to how one writes than how one reads. Timing is everything from vocal phrasing, cadences, and deliberate artistic choices. We'll get into that in a second.

3. Many Authors Aren't Trained to Use Their Voices

As just indicated, not all authors have been trained as speakers, and to add to that thought, even fewer have professional voice acting experience. Admittedly, there is more than one author out there who has chosen to narrate their own work when they probably should have hired a professional narrator instead.

When someone who is trained interprets a story, numerous benefits, some of which are immediately evident, are translated through that read. A wonderful narrator also does justice to the written word in a beautiful, deliberate way that touches people.

This is perhaps one of the greatest reasons, and most obvious of the least obvious, as to why an author might leave narration in the hands of the professionals.

4. Give Their Story a New Voice

Some authors may want to have a narrator read their story as a discovery tool to learn more about how that narrator sees their characters and serves as a storyteller on a mission in a different format.

A fresh perspective is always interesting, and with the right narrator, the story comes to life in the way the author intended in meets the expectations of the listener.

Humanity has a rich history of paying homage to the written word. This is true in terms of painting, sculpture, music, dance, drama, and film among other creative forms of expression.

Audiobooks have given us a means to return to our roots through the spoken word. Skilled artists who have a gift for narration are instrumental in giving an authentic and unique voice to the written word.


If you think about it, the reasons listed and explored above could serve as reasons for why anyone would want a voice over recorded by a professional voice artist, period.

Can you think of any other reasons why someone might want a professional to record their script for them?

Looking forward to hearing from you!

Best wishes,


©iStockphoto.com/Elena Vdovina

Related Topics: audiobooks, authors, hired, industry, narration, narrator, reading, speaking


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