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Audiobook Narration: Should I Hire a Professional or Do it Myself?

As both writer and narrator, you also fortify your authorial brand, making the work truly your own from all angles.

Audiobooks have been around for nearly a century now, but they’ve never been more popular. According to IBISWorld, the size of the audiobook market has been steadily rising over the past decade, reaching a new height in 2022 at $1.2 billion. Today, approximately 28% of all digital listening consists of spoken-word audio (NPR and Edison Research). Simply put, if you want your latest book to reach the widest audience, you must invest in an audio version. But should you attempt to narrate your own material or seek professional audiobook narration services instead?

In this article we’ll break down the pros and cons of both the DIY and professional approach to audiobook narration.


Self Narration: Pros and Cons

Your first instinct might be to narrate your own work – this approach may work for some but not for others.

The Benefits of Self-Narration

1. Increased Control

You wrote the words, so why not speak them, too? Narrating your own work gives you complete control over pacing, tone, and inflection, reflecting your intentions perfectly.

2. Your Voice, Your Brand

Branching off the previous point, self-narration also offers a personalized touch, providing the listener with a more intimate and direct experience. As both writer and narrator, you also fortify your authorial brand, making the work truly your own from all angles.

3. Cut Costs

Narrating your own work also cuts out the middleman, saving you money.

Self-Narration Setbacks

1. Time Intensive

People read at different speeds, but reading aloud almost always takes longer than navigating the page with your eyes. And if your book’s page count exceeds the double-digits, you’re in for countless hours of work. As a general rule, it takes about two hours to narrate a finished hour of audio (i.e., what the listener will hear when it’s all done).

2. Narration is Easier Said than Done

The time concerns mentioned above are only exacerbated if you lack experience. Narration is a skill. Professionals spend years honing their voice to deliver impeccable pronunciation and diverse tonalities without becoming fatigued after hours of work. You might be surprised at just how challenging self-narration can be if you’ve never tried it before. With proper coaching, however, just about anyone can learn the ropes.

3. Equipment and Setting Matter

You want your audiobook to reflect your writing in the best possible light. If you don’t have access to a high-quality microphone, audio editing software, and/or a properly treated recording space, your audio will likely be unbalanced and feature various unwanted sounds. In addition to dampening your reputation, this lack of quality can also prevent your book from publication on today’s leading audiobook platforms, such as Audible, Amazon, and Apple stores.

Professional Narration: Pros and Cons

Hiring a professional can take you far so long as you’re willing to spend the money and cede some control – this may or may not be worth it to you.

Why Hire a Professional?

1. Give Your Project a Professional Touch

As we already covered, voiceover professionals have mastered their craft, providing your written words with the precise diction they deserve.

2. Faster Turnaround

Professional narrators do this for a living, so they’ll have plenty of time to dedicate to your project once hired. Plus, their skills and experience will help further expedite things.

3. Sound Quality You Can Count On

Nailing the narration is one thing – achieving the right loudness, equalization, bit rate, and formatting is equally as important. Professionals have access to state-of-the-art equipment and recording spaces, ensuring that your audiobook meets all relevant standards (i.e., Amazon’s Audiobooks Creation Exchange (ACX) submission requirements).

Professional Pitfalls

1. Prepare to Pay

Outsourcing audiobook narration services will cost you, though the precise cost will depend on the length of your book, the narrator’s experience, and more. Hourly rates can range from $28/hr to $480/hr (some pricing models are based on word counts, too).

2. Less Control

You have to put your trust in the narrator you hire. Some authors won’t be thrilled with a particular narrator’s style. You may be able to deliver feedback, but you won’t be able to control everything.

3. Losing Your Voice

Providing your audiobook with professional narration can bring your work to the next level, but it will also create a degree of separation between you and your writing – even if this doesn’t matter to you, some listeners prefer to hear the words in the author’s own voice, regardless of skill or experience.

The Verdict

Narrating your own audiobook isn’t inherently better or worse than hiring a professional. Your decision ultimately comes down to your goals, needs, schedule, and budget. If you decide to self-narrate, understand the amount of time and effort that goes into such a project. And if you would rather dish out for professional services, make sure you’re willing to let someone else speak through you.

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