Audiobook narration can be a lucrative and exciting career choice for actors. Whether side hustle or primary focus, success in this arena requires dedication, training and a good deal of self-promotion. And in order to make the latter effective, you’re going to need some demos. 

What are demos?

Demos are short clips, often between a minute thirty and four minutes long, that showcase your audiobook narration skills. If you have narrated before, it is certainly possible to pull clips, but if you have the ability, consider re-recording (with the help of a skilled engineer and possibly a director) to make sure the sound quality and editing is consistent across demos. This also gives you the opportunity to cut the “fluff” from script segments, and showcase your best work.

How many demo clips do I need?

While there is no set answer for this, you want to be able to show a range of genres. Try not to overlap too much . If you don’t have work in your repertoire that showcases all the genres you would like, pull segments from novels you haven’t narrated. Just make sure they aren’t overly famous or already associated with an iconic narrator voice. (Stay away from the Harry Potter series, for example.)

What do I include?

Below are some examples of genres that might serve you well to feature.

  • The Money Maker. As in acting, you want to have a good handle on your “type.” If you’ve narrated before, look up your reviews online. See what genres are getting the best feedback. Even if you’re brand new to narration, you probably have some idea of your vocal type. If you’re feeling unsure, take a class to help you find your footing.
  • Young Adult. If your voice is suited to YA fiction, this is an excellent genre to feature. Fantasy, dystopian and sci-fi are popular subgenres. This would be a good chance to show off any character voices you might have in your repertoire.
  • True Crime. The market for true crime is skyrocketing. This would be a great genre to feature. Consider also related fiction categories:
    • Cozy Mystery. These “beach reads” are usually part of a series, possibly featuring quirky characters and a neat ending. The comfort food of the mystery genre.
    • Thriller. Find something suspenseful to show off. If you can pull a section that requires some heightened breathwork, a fast-paced action sequence, and a rapid build of tension, that is a great skill to showcase. 
  • Romance. There is a huge market for romance novels. If this is a good genre for you, make sure you record a section that includes both male and female characters in dialogue, as that crops up often.
  • Non-Fiction. Don’t forget about non-fiction! It pulls on a different skillset, but a good self-help book is a great thing to feature.
  • Languages Other than English. If you speak multiple languages, absolutely show that off, especially if you are fluent. If you could narrate an entire book in that language, definitely include a demo clip demonstrating that.

These are certainly not the only options, or all the “right” options. Range will vary from narrator to narrator. If you are feeling uncertain, many studios offer demo recording options, especially if you are taking their classes. If that is out of your price range and you’re flying solo, try to connect with a good engineer and director or coach to get some fresh ears on it and make sure the sound quality is up to par. Beyond that, as long as you’re ready to research, listen and learn, there is no reason to feel overwhelmed.

Happy narrating!