Audiobook Narration Insights from An Expert

A Q&A with Ideal Audiobooks Publisher and Award-winning Narrator Amy Rubinate

The Mother-Daughter Book Club Audiobook Cover
Some audiobooks naturally lend themselves to multiple narrators. Ideal Audiobooks

A need in the audiobook market is what inspired narrator Amy Rubinate to found Ideal Audiobooks. In this part of her Q&A, she shares audiobook narration insights for authors and listeners who want a behind-the-scenes peek.

Valerie: Amy, what kind of background should an audiobook narrator have? What skills does a professional like yourself bring to an author's story?
Amy: Audiobook narrators come from a wide range of performing backgrounds, such as stage acting, on-camera, voiceover, and singing.

Narrating an audiobook is a way of taking a book off the page and giving it three dimensions; it gives the story – quite literally - a new voice in the world.Each discipline lends its own gifts to ​narration.

Valerie: You were the voice of the Leapfrog toy talking Tad and are an award-winning book narrator, with an acting background and a degree in Oral Interpretation of Literature. Can you speak to how those disciplines serve your audiobook narrations?

The focus of my Speech Communication major was interpreting literature as spoken word to an audience, and my training and experience directly supported my audiobook narration. 

I was taught to work within the framework of the story arc of the book and the arc of each chapter or scene, portraying the characters through voice and delivery, and representing the tone and style in a way that honors the author’s intentions. 

My background in character animation voice work has also served me well.

Through that work I developed a wide range of characters, and I had to adjust to the style of each project. For some jobs I did subtle, authentic characters; for others I used broad character voices.

Audiobooks generally require realistic characterizations, so the listener isn’t pulled out of the story by a caricature.

Since I learned to adapt to the needs of each job, it was easy to apply a nuanced approach to my audiobook characters.

Valerie: You mentioned earlier that multiple narrators are a trend in audiobooks. As an audiobook producer, would you tell give examples of when and how multiple narrators might work for specific books?

Amy: Sure. One of our audiobook series for children, The Mother-Daughter Book Club, by Heather Vogel Frederick, is a good fit for this style. The story is told in the first person point of view with chapters alternating between the perspectives of the four main characters. We have four popular children’s narrators playing the girls, which gives the book a sense of authenticity, as if four young friends really are sharing their experience with listeners.

I’ll Be Seeing You, by Suzanne Hayes and Loretta Nyhan, is another good example. It's a historical fiction audiobook, written in the form of letters between two women living in different towns whose husbands have gone off to fight in World War Two. The differences in the characters are highlighted by the distinctly different styles of narrators Kate Rudd and Tavia Gilbert.

Read more audiobook market insights and advice from Amy and, for a more general look at the industry, check out Audiobooks 101.

Amy Rubinate is an award-winning narrator who has narrated over 200 audiobooks, and the founder of Ideal Audiobooks, an independent audiobook publishing company. Amy began her career as a cabaret singer, stage and voiceover actor. She was a scriptwriter, puppeteer and associate producer for children’s television, voiced hundreds of interactive toys and video games, and cast interactive projects. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband, Dan Rubinate, and dog, Buddy.

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