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4 Tips for Recording Foreign-Language Audiobook Voice-Over

With the advent of online portals like Audible, Google Audiobooks, Scribd and Kobo, audiobooks have become a regular part of many people’s day. And of course, they’re now a significant segment of the voice-over and multimedia localization industries. That means that producers and language services providers must know how to record audiobooks.

This post lists 4 tips for high-quality and cost-effective foreign-language audiobook voice-over production.

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Audiobooks are big in the voice-over industry

Just how big are audiobooks? According to the Pew Research Center, 18% of adults in the US have listened to an audiobook in the past year. Per the latest Consumer Sales Survey from the Audio Publishers Association, that made for a total of $2.5 billion in sales in 2017, a growth of 23% from the previous period. And of course, audiobook publishers are now offering a growing number of multilingual options, including in German, French, Spanish, Chinese and Japanese.

So what do you need to know to record audiobook narration voice-over projects? Let’s jump right in.

1. Format your book into a voice-over recording script.

It’s critical to remember that your book will be read out loud in a professional voice-over studio to create your audiobook. That means two things. First, that your book must be converted into a text flow that allows for reading without interruptions – including, for example, page turns, which get picked up by a microphone and interrupt the recording. Provide your studio a digital copy of the book, with editable text that can be formatted for ideal font size and spacing. Second, make sure your content is actually readable. This means deleting your table of contents or chapter list, as well as any other content in the book that you may not want read, like reviews, catalog information, and other miscellanea. On non-fiction books, this can require much more work, since you may have to re-write footnotes, delete your index, and write out graphics with call-outs or tables.


Not only will you cut down on recording times, but you’ll also get a better performance from your talent since they’ll be able to establish a good rhythm. It’ll also help ensure a thorough quality assurance since this format makes clear to talent, director and QA reviewer what the exact audiobook content should be. In short, you’ll get a more streamlined post-production and a better final product.

2. Pronunciation Guidelines are critical for consistency.

This is true for source English voice-over recordings as well, of course. Non-fiction books often contain tricky terminology, as well as person, place and brand names. Fiction books don’t usually have the same terminology requirements, but it’s critical to get the character and setting names right – this can be particularly difficult in fantasy books, for example, which often feature made-up names.

Translated audiobooks add a layer of difficulty. Your German voice-over talent, for example, may not know how to pronounce relatively well-known English-language names or proper nouns. It’s critical to provide thorough pronunciation guidelines for all audiobook sessions to avoid pick-ups and release delays. If you’ve already recorded the English-language audiobook, clipping out reference audio will also help ensure accurate and consistent pronunciations in the foreign-language versions.

3. Content and delivery requirements affect voice-over talent selections.

Audiobooks require foreign-language voice-over talents who are able to record long-form content while maintaining an even tone. That alone restricts the talent options available. On top of that, remember that your book itself may limit your options – for example, if your novel has a first-person narrator who’s a woman, you’ll want a female audiobook narrator. And finally, if your content is difficult or includes technical terminology or foreign-language words, you may want a narrator familiar with the subject matter. Take into account your book’s requirements when providing talent casting specifications to your studio.

4. Customized talent & actor casting auditions beneficial to audiobook projects.

Despite these restrictions, it’s imperative to get the right voice-over talent casting for your audiobook. You need someone with the right tone and performance range for your novels and short stories. And talent selection may be even more important on non-fiction books since you’ll need someone who can deliver your content credibly, in a natural tone, but also who has a voice that will engage your listeners. The best way to do this? Customized auditions. While they add a little to the budget and timeline up-front, they’re the best way to make sure you pick the right talent. Start with pre-recorded talent samples, narrowing those down to audition picks, to make your casting process as cost-effective as possible.

For more information on custom auditions, see our previous post, 5 Tips for Recording Custom Voice-Over & Dubbing Casting Auditions.

Allow a full workflow to get a high-quality multimedia localization production

Finally, make sure to allow enough room in your timeline for a full production process. Ensure great casting by providing full specs and recording custom auditions. Include time for questions and answers during production – these may even have to go back to the author. And allow for a production timeline that includes proper voice recovery periods, a thorough QA and even potential pick-ups. As on all multimedia localization and voice-over projects, a thorough setup and a full workflow are the key to a high-quality product. On audiobooks, this can also affect your audience engagement and your sales ranking.

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Topics: Voice-over & Audio Translation & Localization

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