My debut novel, A Heart Set Free, was recently narrated by Cecily White. From an author’s point of view, I found the process of making an audiobook to be fascinating.
My publisher sent me some preliminary questions asking about the pronunciation of the characters’ voices, locations, and proper names. I selected the narrator’s accent-British-Edinburgh, age-adult, and style-feminine. Cecily read sample pages, and I was delighted. I answered some questions and she proceeded to narrate the entire book. I was amazed at the minuscule and truly minor corrections needed, and they were made. Narrators receive a percentage of sales of audiobooks.
Perhaps, like me, you’re curious as to how someone decides to pursue this craft. Cecily White has generously offered to share some insights.
Cecily, please tell us a bit about your background.
I was interested in acting from a young age and went on to earn a Bachelor of Arts in Theater with an emphasis in Acting from California State University at Fullerton. Two years later, I became a Christian and thought that surely acting was a thing of the past because my values were now at odds with most of what could be found on stage and screen. To get grounded in my new faith, I attended Calvary Chapel Bible College, Murrieta Campus, and earned a Bachelor of Biblical Studies. I also met my husband there!
What motivated you to become a book narrator?
One morning about three years ago, I heard a voice actor being interviewed on a podcast. He mentioned that voiceover had changed and that most voice actors did their work in a home studio. This passing comment was like a flash of lightning for me. You can act at home by yourself?! I’ve always delighted in reading aloud to my children and we have had fun listening to audiobooks together on occasion. I never thought that it was something that I could actually do as a profession until I heard that podcast.
What was the process of entering this industry?
I looked it up online, of course! I spent the next two years learning about voice acting and the technical production that goes with it. I watched webinars and videos, read articles and forums, and took an online class. At first, I thought that I would not be able to do audiobooks because it appeared that narrators were recording entire books in just a few days. While this is true for narrators who work full-time at it, there are also opportunities for narrators who have time restrictions. In my research, I discovered ACX, Audiobook Creation Exchange, which is a forum that connects narrators with people who own the audio rights to a published book. When I felt I was ready, I made a profile, recorded some demos, and started auditioning!
How long and how many books and what genres have you narrated?
I have been narrating for just over a year and in that time have completed seven audiobooks. I started with a short non-fiction title, which made it easier to go through all the learning stages that happen with a first book. After that, I have narrated what can be categorized as Historical Christian Romance.
How do you prepare? Do you read the book or parts of it before beginning the project or do you start without any background on the characters or how the story develops?
Because I don’t want to voice any story that dishonors God, I read the entire book before accepting a contract. I also take that time to find out what accents and special pronunciations (such as medical, legal, or historical terms) are involved. Once the contract is set, I read the book again and make a note about each character’s personality and jot down any information that the author gives about his or her voice. Then I spend a recording session making a small audio file for every character who has more than one or two lines, giving each a unique voice and if possible a “tagline.” This “tagline” allows me to quickly snap into a character when I hear the line and repeat it, even if I haven’t voiced that character for a few chapters. After that, I plug away at the book, chapter by chapter.
Being a narrator requires playing many different roles, both male and female. What do you find most challenging about your work?
The most challenging part for me at this point is time. I restrict my recording hours to the early morning because of my family. Therefore, I finish a book much more slowly than a full-time narrator. My priority is to savor this time with my children because they are growing up so fast! I’ll have plenty of long, quiet days before I know it.
Do you have a particular genre you enjoy reading/narrating?
The genre I am narrating, Historical Christian Romance is a really good fit for me. I enjoy the sweet stories, the variety of settings, and learning about the past. I’m definitely open to narrating other genres, though. As for reading, I love to read just about any Christian fiction. I’m on a big suspense kick right now.
Thank you so much, Cecily, for opening the curtain so we could learn more about your craft.
BIO: Cecily White is a wife, mom of four, homeschool teacher, and audiobook narrator. As such, she has been married for 17 years, is soon to have another driver in the house (yikes!), currently teaches her two youngest at home, and looks forward to bringing more and more books to life! She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.