The audiobook industry is booming. Audible.com, the largest audiobook retailer on the Internet, owned by what could arguably be the largest retailer in the world, Amazon.com, has over 150,000+ books available for sale—with their list growing every day. As the demand for audiobooks increases, so does the need for talented narrators.
Think you have what it takes to narrate an audiobook—maybe even your own book? Let’s hear what actress and professional voiceover artist Lauren Baldwin has to say. (By the way, Lauren just recently wrapped up the audio production of my novel, WHEELS!)
Hi Lauren. First, I want to thank you for doing such an awesome job narrating WHEELS. I’ve acted in several plays and honestly thought I might one day narrate WHEELS myself. However, as an avid audiobook listener, I can attest that when it comes to audiobooks, the quality of the narration will make or break a book every bit as much as the writing. While I do have some voice training, in the end, I decided that managing 16 difference characters throughout an entire novel was, well—WAY beyond my reach! With that in mind, can you tell my readers in what way narrating a book is different (more or less difficult) from acting in a movie or a play?
Well, unless you’re Eddie Murphy, it’s rare that you get to play all the characters in a story. That alone is a thrilling experience! It can be difficult on a technical level, remembering which characters had which accent, tone etc., as well as making sure that they are distinctive enough that when it comes down to a solid conversation between characters with little narrative, the audience still knows who is saying what. As with acting in a play or movie, a lot of research and development goes into each character. I think the main difference though is the creative freedom that comes with narrating an audiobook that you don’t get on stage or screen. Had this been a movie, I wouldn’t get to play the roles of Principal Provost or James Wu, but hidden behind a microphone I get to play everyone!
When recording for a company like Amazon’s ACX, what technical skills (i.e. recording equipment or programs) do you need?
I have a professional microphone and stand, a Kindle to read the book on, and a free recording and editing software program called Audacity. With these key pieces in place, it really comes down to the production skills I have after that. Recording is fairly straightforward, but the editing takes the most time. The producer has to be careful to get the timing correct throughout and must also eliminate breaths and other unwanted noises without clipping words short or making them sound unnatural.
The audition script I created for WHEELS included three different scenes. One featured the main character because that “voice” was the most important to me. Another featured several characters because I wanted to see how well the auditioning artist could switch between multiple characters. Finally, one featured a diary entry, because it specifically required a British accent. I think it was smart of me to include the three different scenes in my audition script. (Imagine me patting myself on the back here.) What other skills and/or talents would you recommend someone look for when auditioning voiceover talent?
Yes, it was a fantastic idea to include all of those characters. It’s always a shock when an author gives you an audition piece, then makes you an offer, then you read the book and find there are several difficult accents required throughout! Especially if you can’t do them! So, I would advise authors to always include sections with difficult accents or voices. Or at least make a note somewhere in the description that they are in there. I think the main thing to look for is that central voice, the heart of the book. As you said, capturing McKenzie was key to this book’s narrative as she is the protagonist.
Now that WHEELS is wrapped up and ready to go (i.e. ACX says it’s heading to retail, which means it will available for sale on iTunes, Amazon and Audible.com soon!) what’s on your plate? More audiobooks? More plays? A movie starring Lauren Baldwin and Colin Firth? (No romance, please, he’s too old for you!) In short, what’s next for Lauren Baldwin?
Yes, I’m excited to start promoting Wheels! It’s an incredible story and I’m tremendously proud to be a part of it. Other than frequent trips back to England to see Colin (Sorry, there’s no age limit when it comes to Mr. Darcy!), I will be mostly working on a new feature film; a thriller from director/producer Mark Pirro called Rage of Innocence. When that wraps up, I will be heading into the pilot season and hopefully pick up a few more TV roles. I would love to do another audiobook before then and I’m currently auditioning for a several on ACX.
(I love this commercial starring Lauren!)
One final question (this one’s for me!): What was your favorite scene, character or moment to narrate in WHEELS? Where there any scenes or characters that you believe stretched your skill as a narrator?
Oh my goodness, Professor Revolvos for sure! I loved performing his voice; I imagined it to be a little like Alan Rickman. I also had a lot of fun with the minor characters such as Ms. Chantos, Grandma Mir, and Rooney. The Tsendi were a challenge, as I wanted them to sound completely different to the soft-spoken Circanthians. The gruffness I gave them was a new experience for me as a narrator. My favorite scenes were any that involved Revolvos and Provost bickering. They were so well written and a joy to perform.
I did find the final scenes difficult to narrate. The emotions came easy to me in the characters of McKenzie and James but going from the heavily emotional speech back to neutral narration was a challenge. I wanted to just sob my way through the entire ending! (In a good way!!)