Guest Post: In Praise of the Professional Audio Book Narrator

This week, it is my honor to have the incomparable Jojo Jensen write a guest article on audio book narrationJojo is a professional actress and voice talent with seventeen years of experience in the field, whose work includes everything from documentary voice overs to nationally run advertisements, but whose work does not include audio books (see why below… but its her choice).  She is also an author and has worked as a professional editor.  For these reason, Jojo has the rare ability to give both a subjective and objective review of the field.  And so it is my pleasure to present to you an article by…

JoJo Jensen

Audio books are a fantastic way to enjoy a great story even if you don’t actually have time to sit down and read it.  Whether you are listening to your favorite author while you’re driving to work or vacuuming your house, audio books are not only growing in popularity, they are growing in availability.

As with the sweeping changes in technology, creating an audio book has gotten easier, but one thing remains constant – a good book deserves a talented narrator.

An audio book narrator is a special kind of voice over talent – they are voice actors. They have been trained as actors and learned professional voice over techniques. They have spent hours practicing in and out of the studio. Most professional audio book narrators have sound proof recording studios, know the software like a second set of hands and have the ability to produce (record, edit and fix mistakes) the audio all while staying in character.  If are lucky enough to have your book read by a professional audio book narrator – they can make your book come alive.

I am a professional voice over talent, have my own studio, and record ten to twenty scripts a day.  I record every type and style of project, except audio books. I simply don’t have the focus to do books justice.  In order to understand what goes into creating an audio book for your listening pleasure, here are some details on what it really take to narrate book.

The Nuts & Bolts of Narrating an Audio Book

Highly experienced narrators record 2-4 hours for every one-hour you hear.  Here’s the kicker: they only get paid per the finished hour.

Depending on the length of the book, it can take at least two weeks, 40 hours per week to complete a book. Shorter books less, longer books a lot more.

Olympic like focus is required – five or six hours per day.

Narrators must read and research before they step foot into the studio. They need to put together a comprehensive list of pronunciations – names, places, locations, and anything else that might be mispronounced.  Audio book narrators need to have all their pronunciations in place and ready for immediate reference before they hit record. If there are two narrators to a book, then they must ensure that all of these match throughout the entire story!

Talents must create nuisances for character voices, and then be able to distinguish and remember them throughout the recording process.

For those that record themselves, they might spend hours editing fixing everything from removing mistakes or taking out mouth noise, excessive breathes, and other distracting sounds from the recording.

There are always mistakes that the narrators don’t catch. It’s impossible to find all the errors, so narrators have editors who review the audio book in its entirety.  Then the narrator must re-record these mistakes, matching the same tone, pace, volume and whatever accent or character they originally used. This can take place from a few days to weeks later.

Narrating an audio book requires focus, talent and skill. And when it’s done wrong, well…

Tom said it best some time ago, a fantastic audio book narrator can take an average book and make it into a wonderful story.  An average narrator will get the job done, can make a good book average. A crappy narrator however, can take a great story and ruin it.

There are some authors who want to narrate their own book, but it is the rare writer who can read their own work and not do it more harm than good.  Here are just a few of the mistakes non-professional audio book narrators can make.

  • Over the top acting
  • Using odd accents
  • Bad acoustics and lousy recordings
  • Adding sound effects
  • Poor speaking diction

The next time you listen to a seamlessly narrated audio book, give a silent shout out to the professional voice talents who make it sound so easy.

About Jojo Jensen

A professional voice over talent with more than seventeen years experience, JoJo Jensen has recorded every type of project from short, snappy television commercials to YouTube marketing videos, long form documentary narrations to on hold messages thanking you for your call. With a background in sales and marketing years before ever standing in front of a microphone, JoJo runs her voice over career with a sincere dedication to customer service and satisfaction! Listen to JoJo Voice Over demo samples at!


About Thomas Evans

I'm a writer of mysteries, espionage, and speculative fiction. In my previous incarnation I was an archaeologist specializing in gender and identity in Iron and Bronze Age Europe. Mostly, however, I was known for my works with the use of geomatics, multiscalular spatial analysis and landscape theory within archaeology.
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4 Responses to Guest Post: In Praise of the Professional Audio Book Narrator

  1. letterfrombritain says:

    Huge audio book fan here. It’s really interesting to hear from someone who records them! Thanks!

  2. Pingback: Links to Glenn Langohr´s Drug War & Prison Books in Print, Kindle & Audio: «

  3. Pingback: A Few Thoughts From Tessa Strickland About Barefoot Audio Books - The Barefoot Social

  4. Johne133 says:

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