AUDIOBOOK NARRATORS, Male or Female? Treating Writing Like A Business




I'm treating writing like a business again but this time need a little help.  So I'm hoping you will give me your opinion about the use of male or female narrators for audiobooks.

Over the past few weeks, I've listened to hundreds of narration samples for my indie-published romances.  I can usually tell right away whether or not someone is suited for the tone of my books.  So far I have chosen a female narrator for NATHAN'S VOW and a male narrator for TOYS AND BABY WISHES.  I've heard the first 15 minutes of TOYS besides two auditions, and I think this actor/narrator is perfect for the book.

So here is my dilemma and I need feedback from readers who listen to audiobooks.  I listen to tons of audiobooks to give my eyes a rest or when I have insomnia. I know who I like and who I don't. A narrator can make or break a story.  Many of my favorite authors use the same narrators for all their books.  But that's another discussion.  I'm guessing each of these books will take about a month to produce and I don't want to wait for the same narrator to do them all, though I hope I can use the ones I like best for multiple books.

Do you listen to audiobooks?  If you are listening to a romance which can have male and female points of view, do you like a women's voice or a man's?  Or is that unique to each story?  Does it matter whose point of view the novel begins in?

I'm thinking about looking for a narrator for ALWAYS HER COWBOY next.  I've heard a couple of male voices I really like.  But the book opens in my heroine's point of view but has the hero's also.  Would it be a marketing mistake to have a male narrator perform it?  How do you feel about listening to the heroine's point of view in a male voice?

I'd appreciate feedback from both readers and other writers on this one!

©2012 Karen Rose Smith

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13 comments:

Lyric James on December 4, 2012 at 10:18 PM said...

I do listen to audio books. A lot. And to tell you the truth, my favorites use a female voice. I've listened to a series where it was 2 narrators - one male one female. BUT I don't listen to romance on audio. I listen to mostly mystery or suspence and YA./MG. Most romance is from the heroines point of view even though you get the heroes voice too. If you find a female who can really put a distinction between the hero/heroine voice...I say use female.

KRS on December 5, 2012 at 6:49 AM said...

That's what my business sense is telling me is safe--to have a female voice do them. But...there's something about the setting of Wyoming and the nature of ALWAYS HER COWBOY that makes my heart want to go in the other direction. It's more difficult than I imagined to find the right narrator and when I find a voice I like, I want to cheer. :)

Laura A. H. Elliott on December 5, 2012 at 11:41 AM said...

I've had 13 on Halloween & Shadow Slayer (books 1 & 2 of the Shadow Series) made into audiobooks. (Shadow Slayer is going live on audible any day now). I used a female narrator that does different "voices" for the male characters. I used the same narrator for both books and was happy she was available to be the voice of the series. I think when done well, a female voice can narrate male characters well. But sometimes it sounds a little lame. I thought in the audiobook "Bared to you" that the narrators's male voice was a little comical. Maybe what you can do is include a bit of the male/female text in the audition and see what you think of the particular narrators ability to portray the male/females characters. Good luck! And stay in touch. I'd love to help you promote your audiobook.

Amber Peart on December 5, 2012 at 3:23 PM said...

Audiobooks for insomnia, aren't they the best? I'm not so fussed by the gender, more by the reader's accent and how well they do the voices. Some readers really overdo it, and some change just enough so you know who's speaking. Maybe it's because I'm Australian, but it really grates my hear to have an American reading historical English books. I just listened to Simon Vance reading Delle Jacobs' Faerie and he did such a good job.

KRS on December 5, 2012 at 4:25 PM said...

Laura--I thought about using the same narrator on a whole series, but it would take forever to get the series out there since it's already done. I'm pleased with the male narrator who does different voices for each character. I'm waiting to see how my female narrator does. I'm concerned about the "review" portion of Audible, the same as with Amazon. Listeners can rate the presenters and that could really affect sales. But I think I'm going to just have to go with my gut. Can you email me at karen@karenrosesmith.com? I'd love to get a group of audiobook authors together to help promote each other.

KRS on December 5, 2012 at 4:33 PM said...

Amber--Yep, that accent matters as well as how well the narrator distinguishes the voices. I'm trying to make the best decision for each book but what I like, someone else might not. So it goes!

Jesi Lea Ryan on December 5, 2012 at 6:47 PM said...

I listen to several audio books a week. I like the narrator to sound like the voice of the narrator. If the point of view is rotating (i.e. his chapter/her chapter) then I like two separate narrators. It helps me to stay in the story. If the books are a series, I like the same narrator for each book. Just my 2¢.

KRS on December 5, 2012 at 7:42 PM said...

Jesi Lea--Hi! Thanks for sharing your thoughts. It's more expensive to hire two narrators for a book, so my guess is that's why most books just have one. I was thinking about using the same narrator for each series, but then I wondered if a reader doesn't take to a narrator, if that's a good idea. So many aspects of this to think about. Thanks again for your opinion. I appreciate the feedback.

Angela Adams on December 7, 2012 at 5:17 PM said...

My initial thought was to have both -- male and female because often times in a novel, the POV changes. Then, I looked at the comments, and read your comment about the expense of having two narrators. So, perhaps the question is "whose story is it?" If it's the heroine's story, then that might be your answer.

Aaron on December 7, 2012 at 5:18 PM said...

KRS,

I'd go for a female narrator, for several reasons. One is that I'm not sure there's a dichotomy between business sense and the right thing to do creatively - if the market 'supports' female narrators better, then that's probably because, other things equal, they can do a 'better' job, (however subjectively defined) than male narrators, other things equal.

My second reason is that, in my own, subjective, experience, women narrators do a better job of 'voicing' male characters than the other way around. Maybe this is something to do with physiology rather than skill, I don't know and I certainly don't mean to be judgemental. And there are of course exceptions - Kerry Shale could voice anyone, anywhere, and make he/she/it unique and fresh. But for a book where the gender split of the lines of dialogue are 50/50, I'd go for a female narrator. Clearly, if we're in Lee Child territory, it's a no-brainer, but given your genre, I'd definitely go for a female.

Incidentally, aside from cost grounds, I'd not go for two actors anyway. To me, you either go for a single narrator, or a full-cast 'audio drama' - having a narrator who doubles as the voice of one of the 2 major characters, with someone of the other gender doing the other major character, has rarely worked for me as a listener.

I hope this is helpful - your site was one of the gems that I got pointed towards by Morgen Bailey's blog.

KRS on December 7, 2012 at 7:32 PM said...

Angela--I think your right about asking whose story it is. Usually it weighs more on the side of my heroines, but ALWAYS HER COWBOY can go either way. I think that's why I'm considering a male narrator. Thanks for sharing your ideas with me.

KRS on December 7, 2012 at 7:37 PM said...

Aaron--Thanks so much for your kind words and for your insights. I do think readers in the romance genre are conditioned to expect women narrators. I think about Nicholas Sparks' books, however, which are usually narrated by men who do a terrific job. I listened to about 50 more samples since I wrote this blog and finding talented narrators who fit the story is becoming increasingly difficult. I'm considering an audition this weekend by a male narrator because something in my gut tells me to go this way for this book. Maybe it has to do with taking a risk and trying something different to stand out. We'll see. In the end, I'll post how it all turns out. Thanks again for your comments. I appreciate them.

Dallas on April 11, 2015 at 5:55 PM said...

For me, I do not have a preference as to a male or female narrator...I think it is specific to the content of the story. I will say though that a narrator can make or break a book. I have experienced an audiobook that I simply could not finish, but later picked up the ebook version and totally loved it. There are some narrators that I will read absolutely everything they narrate even if it is not my usual genre...merely because they make everything they read sound great. Sebastian York is one of those narrators!