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New World of Best Book PracticesChoosing a Narrator

Continued from page 1      propelled into the plot by it. Is there some type of speech that takes your attention from the story? Does the narrator have an accent? Does that add to or detract from the telling? (Example: My narrator for Always Her Cowboy is Australian. His accent is somewhat evident. However, his voice and his talent for reading the exact emotion into scenes made the accent irrelevant. He was my hero.)

Third, listen for pronunciation. My rule of thumb for this issue is if a word stops me from concentrating on the story, it will stop someone else. This can easily be handled in editing if the narrator has expertise with editing. And your narrator should.

Fourth, listen for emotion and natural dialogue.

4. Listen several times.

You can probably do all of the above on the first listen-through. But you’re not finished there. Adjust your earphones again and listen for any strange noises...any background noises. Some narrators leave natural breaths in. Others take them out. Figure out if leaving them in is distracting to you.

What I’ve discovered wearing earphones are the noises you won’t hear if you are trying to analyze a voice from your desktop computer. Automatically the hum of your computer will cover noise someone using ear buds or earphones might hear. One of the noises I’ve picked up with earphones is the hum of the recorder when it starts and when it goes off. If I can hear it, a listener with ear buds in a quiet setting will hear it. You want a nothingness vacuum in back of the voice that acts as a cushion for it. You don’t want to hear pages turning, static, or any type of hum or echo.

Listening can be an art, but you want it to be an effortless endeavor for the buyer of your audiobook. The best way to ensure their positive experience is to choose the best storyteller for your novel. But you also need to choose a narrator with a level of expertise as the producer. (Some use outside studios to edit but many edit and upload the chapters themselves.) And... after the audition, once you approve the first 15 minutes, you are tied in to that narrator whether you like the finished product or not. This is a seven-year commitment. Remember that if you’re tempted to make a fast decision rather than a more thoughtful one.

5. Male or female narrator?

I’ll be writing more about this in future blogs when I spotlight my narrators so my readers can learn more about them. For now, I’ll tell you that out of eight projects, all romance novels, I have chosen six male narrators. I look at my opening scene, check the book for point of view shifts, then decide whose story is being told the most—my hero’s or my heroine’s. If it’s a toss-up, I ask both to audition then make an agreement with whomever tells the story the best. So far, the men are leading! I’ve found I enjoy listening to a male narrator reading with a higher voice for my heroine more than listening to a female narrator reading a male voice I often can’t distinguish from the heroine’s. But my projects are still in flux, and I have more planned.

So if you’re considering developing your books into audiobooks, find a set of headphones and start listening carefully. We want our readers to get lost in our story. Choosing a narrator who captures the essence of our work is the best way to make that happen.

Karen Rose Smith’s 80th novel will be published in 2013. Her latest, Her Sister, is a women’s fiction indie-published e-book. In December, Staged To Death, her first mystery, will be released from Kensington books. For details, see

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