Audio narration tips by Kylie Stewart

Kylie Stewart is the author of Set in Stone, the first book in the Legend series, a contemporary romance story based on the legends of King Arthur and published by TCK Publishing. She is also an audiobook narrator and has produced more than 50 audiobooks.

Kylie got a master’s degree in equine industry and worked with race horses for a short time fresh out of college. It didn’t take very long for her to realize that wasn’t what she wanted to do with her life.

That’s when she decided to move from Kentucky to Tennessee and give writing a try.

Kylie has always loved to read, write, and read stories out loud. Her nickname growing up was Belle, because like Belle from Beauty and the Beast, she always had a book in her hands.

The legend of King Arthur has always fascinated her. So when Kylie decided to write a book, Set in Stone was her natural first choice.

Kylie got started in audiobook narration when one of her mentors Eric Stewart recommended that she look into it because she liked reading so much. She had always preferred reading paperbacks, so she had no idea there was a high demand for audiobooks and that she could make a living from reading!

After working on her commercial CD with Eric Stewart, she investigated Audiobook Creation Exchange (ACX), an audiobook production site with a lot of resources for audio creators, authors, and others. Within two weeks of signing up for ACX, she had been accepted to work on seven audiobooks.

Recently, Kylie had her first $10,000 month from narrating audiobooks. She dual-narrates a number of audiobooks with her husband Eric Rolon. They are currently working on creating a production company for dual narration.

Changes in the Audiobook Industry

In the past, narrators usually read audiobooks in a staccato fashion, reading to the listener rather than allowing the listener to experience the story through their performance, more like an actor.

Kylie has seen major success because she reads audiobooks smoothly and really tries to evoke the emotion she sees on the page.

By enabling more people to become involved in the industry, ACX has opened up the world of audiobooks and allowed audiobook consumers to have many more choices of narrator than they did in the past.

How to Get Started as an Audiobook Narrator

If you want to get into audiobook narrating, you have to love to read. This may seem obvious, but if you don’t love reading, it’s going to show up in your performances, and you’re going to burn out on the profession pretty fast.

Beyond that, there are some technical considerations to think about.

Get the Right Equipment

If you want to get started narrating audiobooks, it’s important that you buy a good microphone.

Kylie recommends either the Blue Yeti or Blue Yeti Pro.

Kylie Stewart quote

Listen to Audiobooks

One of the best things you can do as you start your narrating career is to listen to a lot of audiobooks.

Listen to a wide variety of people: listen to the top-selling narrators and to the poorly reviewed narrators. Figure out the style of narration that works best for you.

The cool thing about the world of narration right now is there’s room for every type of voice that you can imagine.

Remember to Slow Down

If you’re a fast talker, you’re going to have to learn to slow down when you narrate audiobooks. This is important for two reasons:

  1. The audience listening to your audiobook probably can’t see the words on the page. They’re only experiencing the story through your voice, so you have to read slowly enough so that they can visualize the story in their mind as you’re reading.
  2. If you’re getting paid per finished hour, the slower you read, the more money you make. This isn’t to say that you should read so slowly that it’s uncomfortable to listen to. But the best audiobook narration speed is somewhat slower than spoken conversation.

Buy an audiobook and the Kindle version of the book and read along. Notice the pace at which the narrator reads the words on your screen.

Choose the Right Location

When you narrate audiobooks, it’s important to read in an acoustically clear environment. Most places in your house (or anywhere else you go) have ambient sounds that our brains naturally filter out—but microphones pick up everything.

You want as much dead air around you as possible when narrating audiobooks. Dead air is simply air that isn’t carrying any ambient sound.

To help dampen sound while recording, Kylie built a “portabooth” with her husband using a plastic tub from Wal-Mart and mattress foam.

Read on a Tablet

Kylie has found it’s easier to read on a tablet. You just download the book and read aloud naturally, remembering to slow down for your audience.

Three Ways to Get Paid as an Audiobook Narrator

There are three ways to get paid for your audio performance through ACX.

  1. Royalty split: This is where you split the royalties 50/50 with the author. That means every time the audiobook gets sold, you get half of the royalties.
  2. Flat rate per finished hour: In this model, the narrator gets paid based on how long their narration is. So if you are the only narrator on the book, you get paid based on the length of the book, because you narrated the whole thing. If you’re part of a dual narration team or a cast, you get paid based on the proportion of the book you narrated.
  3. Royalty split plus per finished hour: Here, the narrator gets paid a flat fee per finished hour for producing the book, and also gets a percentage of royalties every time the book is sold.

ACX has several tiers of payment for narrators. The rate per finished hour ranges widely from $50 per hour to whatever the market will bear.

When you’re first starting out, it’s okay to offer your services for less money, or just a royalty split. This allows you to get experience, and as you gain experience, you will get better at narrating and start finding more and better opportunities.

As you gain experience, don’t be afraid to raise your rates. It’s also important to understand that if you’re acting as your own audio engineer, a book can take two to four times as long to produce as the actual length of the finished audiobook. So keep that in mind when you determine your per finished hour rate!

SAG Rates and Audiobooks

If you are a member of the Screen Actors Guild, you can command higher per finished hour rates.

Hot Audiobook Markets of 2017


Unsurprisingly, the biggest selling genre is also hot for audiobooks.

By far the largest customer base for romance is women of any age. Women enjoy falling in love, especially if they can do it with a man out of their fantasies. This is why there are so many billionaire series, as well as so many alpha male series.

Both men and women are being cast as narrators for romance and erotica books.

Science Fiction and Fantasy

These books are selling well because fans enjoy listening to them as they commute to and from work. Science fiction and fantasy books can also be very dense. The audiobook versions are often easier to digest.

Audiobook Listening Habits

People often listen to audiobooks while they’re doing something else, whether at work, while commuting, or when doing chores around the house. This allows people to consume the fiction they crave while they’re doing something productive with their day.

Audiobook Marketing

Audiobooks for Authors

Audiobook marketing isn’t that much different from marketing traditional books. You’re still trying to attract fans who want to buy your content and promote it through word of mouth.

The best way to do this is actually to promote the traditional book and tell your audience that an audiobook is coming out. You’ll also want to release samples of your audiobook if you can, so your audience can hear what their favorite characters are going to sound like.

As an author, Kylie says that one of the best marketing practices is to coordinate your releases so that the print book/ebook comes out at about the same time as the audiobook. As of now, ACX runs about a week behind the Kindle release. If you can coordinate your release dates so that the audiobook is available a week after the regular book becomes available on Amazon, you will get significantly more sales for the audiobook because fans are excited and there is more buzz surrounding the audiobook.

The traditional online marketing channels for books work for audiobooks too. Kylie says that Facebook ads and Amazon ads work really well because you’re able to specifically target an audience who will be interested in your audiobook.

Marketing for Narrators

On the narrator side, you want to have your own website. Post when new audiobooks that you’ve narrated are going to become available. People often search for their favorite narrator just like they search for their favorite author.

As a narrator, having your own website makes you look more professional and allows the people you’re auditioning for to review your catalog of work.

For books where you are paid through a royalty split, narrators are typically given a certain number of free audiobook codes that they can give to fans to help build buzz.

If you’re getting paid per finished hour, you don’t often get free audiobook codes, but you can still produce audiobook trailers and create audiobook snippets to help entice customers.

How to Hire a Good Audiobook Narrator

  1. Listen to narrators narrating audiobooks in your genre.
  2. When you find a narrator you like, contact the author of that book and ask them about the narrator’s work ethic. You want to make sure the narrator can produce an audiobook on time and make any changes needed.
  3. After you’ve done your due diligence, approach the narrator and ask them how much they’d charge to narrate your book.
  4. It may make sense to pay a premium for someone with a track record of getting the audiobook done quickly, especially if you’re a best-selling author. Your print book sales will drive your audiobook sales. The sooner your audiobook is available to your fans, the more books you will sell.

Realize that more established narrators are going to cost more money. The narrators newer to the landscape will be cheaper because they have to build up their portfolios.

Producing an audiobook is not going to be cheap, but it is worth it. The audiobook industry is growing and audiobooks provide an additional income stream with very little extra work on the part of the author.

About the Legend Series

The Legend series is a modern spin on the classic tale of King Arthur. It asks the question: What if King Arthur never died, but instead was cursed?

The series centers on the character of Alexandra York, an artist who is commissioned to create a statue of the Duke of Avalon (really, King Arthur.) There’s a great deal of chemistry between Alexandra York and the Duke.

Kylie has incorporated all of the key characters from the King Arthur myth into the story. She’s also taken a very unique spin on the legend, bringing it into the modern era and weaving together magic and technology.

Even though Legend is a contemporary romance series, the reader will still get a Regency feel—it’s the best of all worlds!

Connect with Kylie — connect with Kylie on Facebook — connect with Kylie on Twitter — connect with Kylie on her website

ACX Narration — Kylie’s narrator page on ACX

Links and Resources Mentioned in This Interview

Set in Stone: A Contemporary Adventure Romance Novel (Legend Book 1) — Kylie’s first fiction novel.

Blue Yeti USB Microphone — a good starter microphone if you want to get into narrating audiobooks

Blue Yeti Pro USB microphone — a more expensive option for those who want to get started in audiobook narration

Audacity — a free open-source program for recording and editing audio files