An Audiobook Narrator's Story: Randye Kaye

Last month, after I wrote about audiobook narrators, I was delighted to hear from one of the narrators I mentioned in the article, Randye Kaye. Because I had huge curiosity about how the audiobook process works, I asked Randye if she’d be willing to participate in a Q&A. I’m thrilled that she agreed. If you, too, have wondered about the world of audiobook narration, I think you’ll really enjoy Randye’s responses:

RandyeKaye.jpg Q: How do audiobook publishers choose narrators? Or perhaps from your perspective, a better question is, what do you do to get hired for audiobook gigs?

A: All voice talents need a demo of their work, and an audiobook demo is considered a “speciality” demo, as the cuts are usually longer than traditional narration or commercial demos. I have audiobook samples on my Website, on the demo page, and can send the link to any interested publishing houses, agents, and/or casting directors. For the big jobs (such as a new novel by an established best-selling author), there are agent submissions for audiobook work; for the many other jobs (reading textbooks, for instance), many talents market themselves to production houses. Usually, you audition for a specific job, to see if your delivery is a good match for the book.

Q: How do you prepare? How much, if any practicing do you do before you are recorded? Do you read the book first? Do you practice reading aloud? Do you work on accents and various character voices? Any other kinds of prep?

A: For fiction: absolutley. Read the entire book first (some read it twice) so you know where the story goes. List your characters, etc. Think about how you will “play” each one. For nonfiction, the “acting” is less obvious, but there still are acting choices to make: tone, tempo, intention. One of the best audiobook narrators, George Guidall [Editor’s note: Guidall was the subject of the NPR story that inspired my post about audiobook narrators], talks beautifully about the acting process in audiobooks on his Website. As for practicing out loud, cold reading skills are essential for all voiceover talents, in any genre. It’s part of our lives to stay prepared with focused practice.

Q: What is the recording process like? I envision many takes, because it’s hard to imagine the narration going totally smoothly without the narrator, say, coughing, sneezing, stumbling on words, etc.

A: Generally it takes about two hours of recording to produce a “finished hour” of audio. Any more, and you’re not really ready for this business. The editor then takes more hours to do the post-recording work. As for the voice talents, sometimes we’re “in the zone,” and can get through several pages without stops, totally focused and in character; other times we may stumble several times on a page. Breaks are necessry; the work is surprisingly tiring!

Q: How long does a typical audiobook take to record?

A: About double the number of finished hours.

Q: How did you get into audiobook narration? What aspects of your training and experience have been helpful with audiobooks?

A: I have years of experience in other voice-over genres, from commercials to medical narrations, to animation. I am also a trained stage and improv actress. All of this helps! As I said, even the non-fiction reads require acting; for fiction, though, the ability to create believable characters within your own sound is vital.

Q: According to your Web site, you’ve narrated three books. Do you have a favorite?


A: I entered the full-length audiobook field fairly recently, so have many more credits in the children’s genre and in narration/commercials. I’d have to say Walter the Farting Dog was the most usually-titled book I narrated! I hope my new favorite will be my forthcoming narration for the Ben Behind His Voices: One Family’s Journey from the Chaos of Schizophrenia to Hope, (to be published in 2011 by Rowman and Littlefield, audiobook producer to be announced soon; pictured below right) — I am also the author of the memoir, so it will be particilarly exciting for me to narrate it.


Q: How much do you enjoy audiobook narration compared to your other voiceover work and acting? What are the pros and cons?

A: All of it connects, really … many skills are the same. I love the total immersion into a full-length book; I love to imagine someone listening in their car, being either entertained or informed with the help of my skills. “Bringing words to life” is my favorite thing to do, either on stage, on the page, or at the microphone — so much so, that the phrase is on my business card. The variety inherent in this work delights me, as I’m easily distracted!

Incidentally, I had mused in my post about audiobook narrators about whether I would be able to accept a different narrator for a more recent release by Susan Isaacs, one of my favorite authors; Randye to me really embodied Isaacs’ voice. It made sense for a different narrator to read Isaac’s latest, As Husbands Go, because the protagonist was a different character from the heroine of Past Perfect, which Randye narrated. While I still like Randye’s narration a little more, the narrator of As Husbands Go did a good job. While I avoid abridged audiobooks, I’m tempted to obtain the audio version of the Isaacs book I’m currently reading (in hard copy!), Long Time No See, because Isaacs herself narrates it.

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Kathy Hansen, PhD, is a leading proponent of deploying storytelling for career advancement. She is an author and instructor, in addition to being a career guru. More...


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