I saw a post on another blog a few minutes ago that compelled me to respond. Someone else had commented that they were wary of authors reading their own books for the audio version because reading aloud is hard to do properly. The podiobooks blog author asserted that reading aloud for audiobooks could not be difficult since that person’s mother read to him/her when s/he was a child. Before I answered, I guess I should have noticed that the post was filed under Rants. Anyway, I’m including my comments about the difficulty imposed by audiobook narration here on my blog for your comments and discussion.
I know how to write words. I can use a pen and paper to form words, or I can type very fast on my computer in a word processing program. I constantly use this ability to write in order to produce a variety of things: proposals for voice-over projects, blog posts, letters to friends and family, etc.
Yet I would say that writing a novel is hard. (There’s that word again.) Writing a novel that becomes a published work of material seems even more difficult. How many people say they would like to write a novel, and how many people actually DO it? To become a published novelist such as Mr. Gaiman, one must have tremendous energy and focus. One must be able to take an ordinary skill that most people possess, like the ability to write words, and be able to string those words together in a fashion that would interest other people enough to want to pay to read them. I haven’t been able to do it. Writing a novel therefore seems like hard work to me.
I can understand the original poster’s view about being wary of audiobooks performed by the author. Audiobook narration is a performance, that, like the printed book, will last forever. It’s not like a child’s mother reading a bedtime story where the main goal is to lull the listener to sleep. Neither the child nor the mother care about the quality of the reading.
Audiobook listeners, on the other hand, DO care about the quality of the narration. Audiobooks are an intimate medium. The reason people enjoy reading so much is because their imagination is running the movie of the words in their head. A good audiobook narrator can make the audio version of a book seem like a movie, where someone who is not as adept at this type of performance can ruin the experience for the listener.
A good narrator will make the performance transparent and SEEM like the easiest thing on earth….just like talking. However, good narrators usually have completed professional training in voice-over and also have thoroughly prepared the material they are reading by researching pronunciations and determining characterizations before they ever walked into the recording studio.