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March 2, 2018
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March 5, 2018

Should I read my own audiobook?

You’ve decided to take the plunge and turn your book into an audiobook.  Good for you! The question now is, should you read the book yourself?

As an audiobook professional and casting director for almost 15 years, I get this question often from authors: “Should I read my own book?” It’s a difficult one to answer. For some genres, it can really make sense for the author to read.  Other times, not so much. Here are some rules of thumb.

When to consider reading your own book

Memoirs

You should consider reading your own book when the content is personal in nature.  Personal stories can translate well into audio when the author reads. If it’s your story, then who better to read it than you!  

One caveat here. Just because the content is personal doesn’t mean it always better to be read by the author.  Many times, it’s just better to hire a professional. Some authors — those who are hyper critical, perfectionistic, severally ADD, unemotional and underwhelming or who struggle to read a few sentences without a mistake — don’t end up being the best audiobook readers.

I find many author-read books stiff, even impersonal, despite it being  their own story. The delivery can be lifeless and joyless. Many authors seem to get caught up in how they sound reading out loud, how many mistakes they are making and how clearly they are enunciating the words they are reading.  Hogwash! Just read your book. Nobody is expecting a professional! Admittedly, reading an entire book out loud is not an easy task and it can be extremely frustrating and humbling. That frustration can really come through in the narration, which makes for a less enjoyable experience for both author and listener alike.   

Authors with a passion to do it

You should read your own book if you are passionate about doing it. That passion will come through in the reading and lead to a great audiobook.  If you feel you are the right person to read, then do it. There will be challenges, of course, if you’re not a professional reader, but it’s nothing that you can’t overcome if you’re motivated to do it.  You’ve just written a book, remember? That was the hardest thing you’ll ever do. This, however, might just be the second hardest thing you do…

One caution if you’ve never read before is to work with an experienced audiobook director who can help you make something you can be proud of.  Contact us at Verity if you’d like help creating an amazing audiobook read by you.

Authors who have a loyal audience

Authors that have a lot of people following them who speak on a regular basis to their tribe on  podcasts, YouTube or learning videos should probably read. Their audience will expect to hear their voice .  Otherwise, said authors may hear complaints from fans when a professional narrator is hired to read their book instead of the author.    

Nonfiction books

Nonfiction books are good candidates for author reads.  This is especially true for books that have difficult terminology, industry-specific jargon, regional terminology and pronunciations or highly technical language that will be difficult to for a narrator to research online.  Technical books benefit from another read since the author knows the material cold. The narrator, who is an actor, just coming to learn about the subject, certainly will not have a similar background.

It’s also advantageous to have an author read books that contain a lot of personal information and stories by someone who has accomplished the things they are reading.  Self-help content can benefit from an author read since we all enjoy getting information from experts who have actually done the incredible things they are writing about, don’t we?

Authors with extensive speaking experience

Authors who double as professional speakers are usually great readers.  (This is obvious, but hey, I’m trying to provide a comprehensive article on the topic, right?). Professors, actors, pastors, motivational speakers (and anyone who has spent years reading out loud to their children) are good candidates.  ‘Nuff said.

What you need to know about reading your own book

Author reads are challenging.  They really are. As a director, I’ve sat through more than my share of author ready with both of us thinking,”who decided this would be a good idea!”  Professional narrators spend years working on vocal defects, learning perfect articulation and diction and getting their reading voice down. In many cases, they’ve had years of training and spent thousands on professional coaching.  They’ve put in the time to loan their craft. Authors, on the other hand, have spent that same time learning to write.  They typically aren’t professional speakers and don’t have professionally trained voices.  They aren’t used to reading 5, 6 and 7+ hours at a time, which, by the way, requires enormous concentration.  Authors can’t step into the studio expecting to sound like a pro. And in truth, it’s not necessary. As long as you don’t annoy your listeners to death, many will appreciate that you have taken the time to read your book.

How to figure out if you’re a good reader

Record yourself reading

A surefire way to figure out if you should ready your books is to, well, read your book.  Read it aloud. Read for 2-3 hours. How relaxed are you? How many mistakes are you making?  Are you comfortable? Are you having fun? (If not, think twice.)

The pros make 6-10+ mistakes per pages.  You can get away with twice that and still make a good product.  If you’re flubbing every paragraph, I’d consider hiring a pro.

Have a mentor listen to you read and give you feedback

Ideally, this would be someone with some background in vocal coaching, audiobook direction, a professional speaker or someone who just gets it.  You know those people. Make sure it’s not your brother-in-law, significant other or other super-close-to-you person. Ask someone who doesn’t know you that well or someone who doesn’t feel obligated to give you positive feedback.  None of us want to crush the dreams of someone we love. Remember that.

Hire an audiobook production company to give you feedback

Let’s talk.  Read to me for 5 minutes, and I’ll give you some honest feedback.  Why not? Email me to schedule a call.

I’ll cut to the chase, you should not read your own audiobook if…

  • You are not a strong reader.
  • You are a serious perfectionist.
  • Your book is fiction with lots of great dialogue.
  • You can’t pronounce many of the words you’ve written.
  • Your book is fiction set in other places, especially in international settings.
  • You really don’t want to read.
  • Your book is dense and full of information with few personal stories.
  • You can’t block out the time to do it.  Go here for a simple formula we’ve documented to figure how long it will take you to read your book.
  • You fall asleep every time you sit in a chair for more than an hour (I had that issue with an author!).