What Makes a Good Audiobook Narrator?

“Reading was my escape and my comfort, my consolation, my stimulant of choice: reading for the pure pleasure of it, for the beautiful stillness that surrounds you when you hear an author’s words reverberating in your head.”

― Paul Auster, The Brooklyn Follies

This have been said to describe the pleasure of reading a book, but the same feelings should be had when listening to an audiobook.  It is the “author’s words reverberating”… it is the pleasure of being told a story and be pulled in to the author’s world. This requires not just the skills of a good voice actor, but also the skills of a true storyteller.

Narration is the foundation of a good audiobook.  A bestselling book may not do so well with a poorly produced audio with a lackluster narration. On the other hand, a less successful book in print may find a gifted narrator who can raise the quality and reinvents the work, and become a hit in the audiobook category.

A truly effective narrator maintains a perfect balance between the artistic portrayal of the content and faultless technical values and endurance.


What makes a good audiobook narrator? Below are some attributes of an effective narrator:

Authentic – a narrator should sound authentic to the time period or setting of the work, as well as the genders, age, the moods of the characters.

Consistent – a narrator should consistently maintain and differentiate character voices, accents, dialects throughout the piece.

Articulate and Intuitive– an effective narrator should be able to use well-placed inflections and tones, conveying the work through engaging expression, emotion, and energy.

Engaging – a narrator should be able to engage the listener, hold their attention, and breathe life into the story through inventive interpretation of the content.


Jim Dale, best known as the voice of Harry Potter in all seven of the book series and for the record breaking 134 different character voices in one book, best puts it:

“The dynamic range (the ratio of soft and loud sound), pitch and timing all contributing to the variable colour of the voice to effectively convey the character’s emotion, whether it be a frown, smile or shrug into the listeners mind. An experienced and talented recorded book narrator will be capable of accomplishing these tasks as a matter of course.”

“The basic skills for the professional narrator combine the natural sensitivity, nuances and shading to the meanings of words. It requires the correct pronunciation for both native and foreign words applied accurately and naturally, all delivered without breaking the rhythm of the narration.”

In addition, an effective narrator has a true understanding of what the story, context, situation or scene to be able to guide the listener into making sense of things.  And the mark of an excellent narrator is being able to remove the wall of performance and draw the listener into the world of imaginings.



Emma Jamieson

Emma is a voice over and marketing fanatic. A skilled writer and commentator covering the online voice over industry. Previously worked in marketing agencies and now as a voice talent assistant. When she's not talking to the top voice talent and agents, she's putting her thoughts down digitally and disseminating the information globally.