Avoid these Critical Voiceover Mistakes

Top 5 Voiceover Mistakes Audiobook Narrators Make

The audiobook industry is booming and shows no signs of slowing down. Are you ready to get in front of this lucrative, fast-moving trend?

Your voice can set you free from financial woes and the daily 9-5 grind, if you avoid some common voiceover mistakes.

This article will help you steer clear of these troublesome voiceover blunders:

  1. Distracting background noises
  2. Boring audition introductions
  3. Poorly named MP3 files
  4. Echoes and unclear audio
  5. And being passive about your career and success

If you want to work as a voiceover artist and make a living by reading out loud, then make sure you’re not sabotaging your success.

Mistake #1 Distracting Background Noise

audiobook narration training

What’s the fastest way to lose your listener?

Well, it’s also the fastest way to lose an author, and fail your audition.

The number one voiceover mistake that leads to surefire rejection is distracting background noise.

It might seem self-evident that, if you’re recording audio professionally, it should be quality – which means no background noise.

When you submit auditions and samples, these reflect the quality of the work you’ll produce when you get the job.

You might be surprised how often audio file auditions have refrigerators running in the background and random inner-city rooster calls piercing the silence between words.

Background noise distracts your listener and turns off the author who may like your voice but will not hire you because Amazon will reject audio files with mistakes.

Some simple best practices of eliminating background noise will put you ahead of the curve.

To make sure your work comes out clean, pick the right room to record in. If you don’t have access to a professional studio, find a room that is insulated from outside noises and where you can turn off any appliances and electronics that might be running.

Also, your microphone picks up the dynamics between your voice and the acoustics of the room. So, test record the room you’re going to work in and listen back to your samples.

Typically, you want a room that is not too large, and one that has “soft” furnishings such as sofas, pillows, and mattresses. Think master bedroom, not bathroom.

We’ll get back to the effects of bathroom recording in a minute, but overall, pay close attention to ambient noise and your recording room’s acoustics.

Also, if you notice sirens screaming down the block, and they’re coming your way, just stop recording and wait. Let them pass and get back to work once it’s quiet again. You can edit out certain background noises, but sometimes you’re better off to wait until the sounds you can’t control pass, instead of trying to fix them in the editing process.

But even if your sound is as clean as a whistle, you’re going to be out of luck if your audition is boring.

Mistake #2 Long And Boring Audition Intros

audiobook narration for beginners

Most authors don’t even make it to the meat and potatoes of an audition. Look at it through their eyes. What do they want to hear when they listen to your intro?

There’s a tendency we have as humans to prattle on about ourselves.

But the author who wants to hire you does not want to hear a long, boring introduction about you, where you’re from, and why you’re so great.

There is a time and place for tooting your own horn; this is not the time. When you submit an audition or upload a sample, get right to it.

Show your prospects your greatness by demonstrating it straight out of the gate.

The question running through their mind is, “Can this person deliver the goods?”

They want to know if you have the right sound, feel, and quality they’re looking for. Show them you can deliver by getting to the content as quick as you can and demonstrate your value to them.

Carefully follow any instructions they give you beforehand about how you should start. A good rule of thumb is to give your name, allow a brief pause, and then begin the script.

Starting with your name allows the decision maker on the other end of the recording to remember who you are and gives them a sample of your sound before they listen to the whole script.

Being remembered is important.

Mistake #3 Poorly Named Files

voice over training

Imagine being an author. You’ve labored over your latest work. You know you have to have an audiobook version, and you want the best possible voice to represent the mood, emotion, and importance of your words.

You head on over to ACX to find the perfect voice. You’re flooded with notifications from various actors. You excitedly sift through file after file of auditions and samples.

About five files ago you heard it. The perfect voice that you know is the one. The tone, pacing, and pitch were spot on. The dynamics and volume moved you emotionally.

You look back through the files named Audition MP3… Voiceover MP3… Audiobook MP3… [Title of Book] MP3…

You can’t find it. Who was it? What was their name? Where did they go?

Those file names tell you nothing about the person. They all look the same and leave you guessing about the voice behind them.

Poorly named files lose you jobs.

You want to stand out by the quality of the audition, and you want to make it easy to be found when sifting through lists of files.

Don’t get lost in the shuffle of generic file names. Name your files clearly so you can be found.

Mistake #4 Echoes and Unclear Audio

voice over training for beginners

It’s almost embarrassing to bring up. But it needs to be said.

You must deliver clear audio for your auditions and work samples.

You might be recording in your makeshift home studio, but we are talking about professional audio recording. Yes, you can get paid to read books out loud. But the audio needs to be clear – no echoes lingering in the background.

If an author must strain to hear your sample, it’s a poor reflection on your professionalism.

If you’re picking up echoes in your recording, try working in a different room. Remember the “soft” room rule and staying away from recording in the bathroom? Here’s why.

“Hard” rooms with reflective surfaces like you find in bathrooms and kitchens often leave echoes in a recording. The sound bounces off the tile and linoleum and comes through in the final product. So, stick to the bedroom or the big walk-in closet.

Also, experiment with your microphone and equipment. Find the sweet spot distance between your mouth and the mic. If you’re too far away from your microphone, you’ll sound too far away in the recording. It’ll sound like you’re talking to someone from across the room.

A room that is too large can leave you sounding hollow and far away, and a room too small can make you sound like you’re in a cave.

So, experiment to find the right room, with the best acoustics, and dial in the ideal distance between you and your mic. With a little persistence, you’ll beat the background echoes and come away with a workspace that consistently gives you clear recordings.

Mistake #5 Being Passive About Your Career

audiobook jobs

You can work from home, in your home studio, in your mismatched socks and pajamas if you want, but you need to put your best foot forward and take care in how you present yourself to potential clients.

Show integrity and responsibility. Be prompt and thorough when responding to potential clients. Don’t leave them hanging and follow through with commitments and obligations.

How do potential clients see you? Surely not in your lucky orange and green striped socks you love to record in.

No, they see who you are on your profile in places like ACX. Make sure your profile is complete and presentable. This is the time to show your good taste, quality, and professional presence.

You can stand out above the crowd of amateurs with a professional-looking profile and by being prompt with your follow up and communications.

If you want consistent voiceover work, follow these simple suggestions, breathe deep and put your best voice into the world.

The Breathe Deep Bonus

audiobook narration tips

With the nitty gritty of getting the job done, let’s talk about something a little more fun. Your voice. Your talent.

We have the needs of the client covered. But how are you feeling about your sound?

When you know your voice as a powerful instrument, you’ll deliver what the author needs on a deeper artistic level. You’ll convey confidence and emotion. Your voice brings their work to life.

But you’d better breathe.

When you spend hours recording, it can be exhausting.

There’s a lot happening. Staying on track in the script. Maintaining consistent volume. Varying dynamics with pitch and tone. And if you’re recording fiction, keeping characters in the proper voice.

To keep yourself in the zone, practice proper breathing while you read and record.

Natural, deep belly breathing – diaphragmatic breathing – keeps you calm and relaxed.

Practice proper breathing while reading and recording, and you’ll stay more focused. It’ll be easier to maintain proper pacing and keep consistent volume. You’ll make less mistakes, and you’ll be able to convey more emotion with the dynamics of your voice.

Dynamics and Emotion

voice over jobs no experience

A book without emotion is flat. A voice without dynamics is monotonous. Both are boring.

Authors take great care in their copy to move the reader on an emotional level. Now it’s time for your acting skills to shine through the sounds and dynamics of your voice.

Practice changing the tone and pitch of your voice. Use those qualities of sound to match the emotions conveyed in the writing and the story.

You want to make your listeners feel. Allow yourself to express the changing emotional landscape of the content. Feel what you want your listener to feel and let it come through the dynamics of your voice.

Also, consider hiring a voice coach. It’s a worthwhile investment for your professional development.

Listen to great orators and your favorite audiobook narrators too. Pay attention to the way they use their voice to keep you engaged and emotionally involved. And never stop learning because…

The World Needs Your Voice

You are unique and have a sound only you can share with the world. And with the rise of audiobooks, the demand for quality voiceover artists creates an interesting opportunity for you.

It can be hard work, but it’s fun and rewarding.

If you want to dabble and dip your toes into voiceover work, that’s fine. You might find a few interesting projects from time to time, depending on your network.

You may or may not get paid a rate to make it worth your while.

But if you’re serious. And you want to be professional, then commit to these simple best practices we’ve covered so far:
• Eliminate background noise in your recordings
• Give brief and interesting audition introductions
• Name your files properly so you stand out
• Deliver clear audio samples with no echoes
• Be proactive and professional about your career
• Breathe fully and naturally while you read and record
• And cultivate your voice as a powerful instrument

Falling victim to common voiceover mistakes can keep you frustrated and on the sidelines of a growing industry.

But as you can see, they’re simple to avoid.

Be professional. Submit quality work. Become a student of your fine-tuned instrument. And your voice can launch you on a path of self-reliant financial well-being.

Now, before we part, I’m curious about something.

How long have you been involved with voiceover work? Are you just getting started, or do you have a few books and projects under your belt already? Leave a comment below and let me know where you’re at on this journey.

2 thoughts on “Top 5 Voiceover Mistakes Audiobook Narrators Make”

  1. First of all I would like to thank you for your article. I have been doing narrations for about 6 years now but had more and more in the last two years. It then hit me that this is something I could do for a living without a problem. Audiobooks are indeed an amazing way to earn a living and I definitely will follow your advise.
    Thank you very much!
    Jason Mateus

  2. Well, you asked:
    I have had an idea about trying voice over work in my head for several years, ever since seeing some (maybe Steven King?) movie that portrayed a man who had a home studio, back in the days when he was sending actual reel to reel tape to his client.
    Now I’ve actually quit my day job (thank you Covid19) and am looking into many of my ideas more seriously, and investigating them at the next level beyond curiousity.

    I’ve been reading paragraphs of a small book into my voice recorder on my phone as practice AND remembering to listen to them and take and retake them acting as my own critic while I get used to hearing my voice and how I can alter it.

    I’ve been getting emails from Bill Dewees – who is more straight VO rather than voice acting .. which is a bit daunting – the challenge of multiple voices/characters. Having listened to Jim Dale’s narration of all the Harry Potter books can leave me feeling more than a bit daunted / inadequate, however, I know , I know… baby steps.
    Of course there is then learning of the technical side, how to save and transfer and edit files…

    Thanks for making “Fire your Boss” free – I love audio books.. listen while I walk, drive and do dishes.

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