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Through another year of ups and downs in the publishing industry, one thing has remained constant: the booming audiobook market. With audiobooks playing such a major role in today’s publishing world — not to mention all the marketing perks they furnish for authors — it’s no wonder that so many people have been thinking of creating their own.

For some writers, the first step to creating an audiobook might seem like a no-brainer: buy a microphone and start recording. But while it’s certainly possible to DIY the thing, this route is not as straightforward as it may appear. From technical issues to vocal hiccups (literally and metaphorically), there are a surprising number of variables that may prove challenging.

Luckily, you can recruit expert help! Going pro can deliver some truly amazing benefits — not least of which is avoiding the headaches of solo production. Here are four essential reasons to consider hiring a professional narrator to bring your audiobook to life.

1. You get a professional-sounding product

It sounds obvious, but it’s worth clarifying: you can only expect a professional-sounding audiobook if you actually work with professionals. And while you might think the difference is negligible, listeners will pick up on even the faintest crackling sounds or background noises — after all, nothing wrenches you from a story quite like something “out of place.” Novice narrators ruffle their pages, muffle their mics, and do all sorts of things they don’t even realize contribute to unprofessional-sounding audio.

An industry narrator will return crisp, clear audio without fail. From warming up their voice to staying the correct distance away from the mic, a professional narrator will make sure every step of the recording process goes smoothly — even and especially the parts you wouldn’t think of on your own, like wearing the right kind of clothes (soft, comfortable, won’t make noise).

They’ll also have an eye (or rather, an ear) for detail when it comes to continuity. Pro narrators train their vocal cords to have the superhuman stamina required to produce a consistent sound, rather than fading into a hoarse croak by the end of chapter one. Between their legitimate vocal talents and their meticulous approach to the recording process, you’ll get smooth-sounding tracks that will barely need any additional production.

2. Professionals have strong narration skills

While we all know how to read aloud, that doesn’t necessarily mean we know how to narrate — for example, we don’t all have the comedic or dramatic timing that keeps listeners engaged (I know I don’t!). A professional narrator, on the other hand, has the acting chops to bring your story to life without allowing it to veer to the side of corny community theatre.

As well as performance skills, many narrators have a host of other tricks up their sleeve, like practiced accents or other languages at their disposal. Of course, accents can be challenging even for professional actors, and they’re extremely distracting when done badly — thanks to Keanu Reeves’ botched English accent, I still couldn’t tell you the plot of Dracula — so amateur efforts are best avoided. But a skilled narrator’s authentic accent will elevate your audiobook’s legitimacy and truly immerse listeners in your story.

You may also be looking for a narrator of a particular age or gender to nail your protagonist’s voice, or perhaps someone of a certain racial or ethnic background. Basically, if you’re in need of specific skills or qualities for your story, it’s always smart to delegate to a professional.

3. Pros also know the technical stuff

Are you aware of the frequency range your audiobook needs to fall within to be distributed through the main commercial platforms? How about the standard format and file size? Volume limits? There are lots of rules and regulations to follow when creating an audiobook, and these can overwhelm even the most tech-savvy of authors.

In addition to having their own recording equipment that they actually know how to use, professional industry narrators will be more familiar with these requirements and will carefully adhere to them. True, just as you should find an editor to adjust your book before publishing it, you should also hire a separate production expert to hone your audiobook file and ensure it fits industry standards — but it’ll be easier (and cost much less) if the original file is clean.

4. You have more room to be critical

The last great thing about working with a professional narrator is that it allows you to be more objective than with your own narration… and you’ll feel more comfortable giving constructive criticism than you would with, say, a friend who agreed to narrate your audiobook for free.

With a pro narrator, you can check in periodically, asking for samples along the way to
make sure you’re happy with how things are sounding so far.

If you’re not, feel free to pass on any feedback you might have; a professional narrator might still have their reasons for doing things differently, but overall they should be able to take direction, well, professionally. If you want someone with the skills and experience to get the job done, who will also communicate clearly and politely with you about feedback, a professional narrator is really the only answer.

Ultimately, any costs you’ll incur by hiring a pro are a worthwhile investment in the quality of your end product. If you want your indie audiobook to compete with audiobooks being released by mainstream publishers, it needs to be of a similar standard — and that’s why a professional narrator will not just be a useful partner in this process, but an indispensable one.

Savannah Cordova is a writer with Reedsy, a marketplace that connects self-publishing authors with the world’s best editors, designers, and marketers. In her spare time, Savannah enjoys reading contemporary fiction, writing short stories, and of course listening to audiobooks

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