How to find the best audiobook narrator for your project

Pick the perfect audiobook narrator, whether human or AI-generated

Summary

  • An overview of audiobook narration 
  • The search for the perfect audiobook narrator
  • AI audiobook narration: A newer, cheaper alternative
  • Examples of AI-narrated audiobooks
  • How to use ElevenLabs Voice Library for audiobook narration
  • Why AI makes the best audiobook voices
  • Does AI voice generation create any ethical issues?
  • Final Thoughts
  • FAQs

Whether you're an author or producer, finding the perfect audiobook voice for your project is essential. In this guide, we show how you can find a distinctive voice to captivate audiobook listeners. Learn the secret to having more choice, a quicker turnaround, and better-matched narrators than ever before. 

The search for the perfect audiobook narrator

Finding the best audiobook narrator for your project requires careful consideration. Fantastic narrators like Stephen Fry (who narrated the Harry Potter series) are a rare commodity, while only a few authors can effectively narrate their own books like Neil Gaiman.

Start by defining the tone, narration style, and character nuances of your story to guide your search. Are you looking for a soothing voice for a bedtime story, or a dynamic narrator for an action-packed thriller? 

Then, explore platforms like ACX, Voices.com, or professional agencies to discover narrators whose voices align with your vision. Listen to samples, request auditions, and consider factors such as vocal range, pacing, accent proficiency, a clear voice, and distinct narration skills. 

Finding the best audiobook voices for your project often takes a lot of time and effort—but it doesn’t have to. The most important thing is to find someone with a great voice that you enjoy listening to. If you're going to spend several hours listening to them narrating, they better be good.

The best audiobook narrators (2024)

Choosing the right voice to narrate an audiobook is crucial to the success of any auditory literature. A great narrator brings the text to life, creating an immersive experience for listeners.

Here are some of today's top audiobook narrators, known for their exceptional vocal delivery and captivating storytelling abilities:

  • Jim Dale:
  • Simon Vance
  • Alexander McCall Smith
  • Scott Brick
  • Kobna Holdbrook-Smith
  • Ray Porter
  • Frank Muller
  • George Guidall
  • Juliet Stevenson
  • Dion Graham
  • Simon Prebble
  • Wil Wheaton

AI audiobook narration: A newer, cheaper alternative

The traditional process of finding a human voice actor is incredibly time-consuming, while hiring them is also very expensive. Thankfully, there's an easy alternative: using AI.

AI audiobook narrators offer unique advantages and challenges. AI narrators, powered by text-to-speech technology, provide a cost-effective and efficient solution for producing the best audiobooks at scale. 

Users can find a breadth of audiobook narrators in a voice library. For example, ElevenLabs’ Voice Library contains a wide range of AI-generated voices to use for your audiobook.

Alternatively, voice actors can use ElevenLabs' Voice Cloning API to turn speech samples into a synthetic copy of their voices for others to use when creating audiobooks. Don't worry—thanks to ElevenLabs's Payouts feature, they'll be paid any time someone uses their voice.

Introduction to Professional Voice Cloning

The world of podcasts has seen an evolution in content creation tools, and at the forefront of this evolution is voice cloning technology. Professional Voice Cloning (PVC), developed by ElevenLabs, is the process of creating a perfect digital replica of a person's voice. This innovation, when combined with advanced speech synthesis and text to speech technology, offers groundbreaking opportunities for podcasters.

The Process: How to Clone Your Voice

For those interested in accessing PVC, at ElevenLabs the process is streamlined for precision.

  1. Go to VoiceLab
  2. Add a new voice
  3. Choose Professional Voice Cloning
  4. Upload voice samples

The last step is important to get right. Professional Voice Cloning is distinct from our Instant Voice Cloning feature, as it focuses on training a unique model on an extensive dataset of voice samples.

To achieve the best results, there are crucial things to keep in mind:

  1. Quality of Audio: The training data must have clear audio files from a single speaker devoid of background disturbances or effects.
  2. Uniformity: For consistent output, ensure uniformity in recording conditions, reverb, and microphone distance across sessions.
  3. Consistent Speaking Style: Your voice delivery style should be consistent across all samples. For instance, if producing an audiobook, then the training data should consist of audiobook-style reading.

Listen to a perfect example of Professional Voice Cloning in action:

While AI narrators excel in consistency and speed, they can sometimes lack the nuanced expression and emotional depth of human narrators, which can impact the listener's immersion and connection to the story.  This means it’s essential to select an AI tool with the capacity to generate truly life-like voices.

Look for features like ElevenLabs’ fine-tuning tools, which allow you to add natural intonation and pauses to narration. 

Examples of AI-narrated audiobooks

Thanks to tools like ElevenLabs, you can narrate audiobooks using lifelike AI voices for a fraction of the cost. Check out the examples below to hear what this sounds like in action.

How to use ElevenLabs Voice Library for audiobook narration

  1. Log in to access Voice Library and click ‘Explore’ to get started.
  1. Filter your search by gender, age, accent, and use case. 
  2. Listen to brief samples of each voice and select your narrator(s)
  3. Enter your book text in the Text-To-Speech model
  1. Sit back and relax while ElevenLabs creates your audiobook narration

Ready to test out ElevenLabs AI voice acting? Sign up for free today.

Why use AI to narrate your audiobook?

Using AI to narrate your audiobook projects gives you access to a wide range of benefits.

Voice diversity

Using an AI library is like having instant access to hundreds of professional narrators from across the globe. ElevenLabs’ library can turn text into audio across 29 languages and 120 voices. This breadth of voices can cater to any audiobook’s needs at a very low production cost.

A rapid turnaround

AI voices accelerate production timelines. Rather than a lengthy process of auditioning and recording with professional narrators, ElevenLabs can generate an entire audiobook narration in just a few clicks.

It’s also easier to maintain narration consistency and voice quality with AI voices. This shaves even more time off the production process—there’s no need to go back and re-record or perform extensive edits down the line. 

Lower costs

Using AI-generated voices like ElevenLabs can be a far cheaper option than hiring audiobook narrators. However, it's worth noting that if you want to use a clone of a human actor's voice then that will cost more than AI voices—though it's still cheaper than hiring a narrator to come into a studio and record your audiobook in person.

Complete control

ElevenLabs AI voices can be adapted to any genre—from science fiction to educational material. Voices can be customized to reflect each character’s specific traits, or a narrator can be personalized to suit a unique authorial voice—for example, in a historical fiction story.

With an AI voice actor, audiobook producers can make sure narrative flow, emphasis, and pacing stay perfectly in line with their creative vision. 

Localization

Most audiobook projects don’t typically have the budget for worldwide reach. Using an AI speech synthesis model, like ElevenLabs Multilingual v2, can instantly convert text into speech in 28 languages (as well as a range of accents). This offers global scalability to a wide range of projects. 

Does AI voice generation create any ethical issues?

Using AI voice cloning does have the potential to short-change voice actors whose voices are replicated unethically. Make sure the software you choose is rewarding individuals fairly when their voice clone is used.

An example of this is ElevenLabs Payouts, where each user who uploads their voice-clone to the Voice Library earns cash rewards every time their voice is used.

Final thoughts

Choosing the right audiobook narrator is crucial for bringing your project to life, with options ranging from human narrators to AI voices. When searching for the best audiobook narrator, consider factors such as tone, style, and character nuances

However, if you're looking for efficiency and flexibility with low costs, consider options like ElevenLabs. ElevenLabs' AI library provides a wide range of voices and quick turnaround times. What's more, its AI narration tools allow for precise control over voice customization and localization, helping you create a narration that sounds just right.

Ready to take your audiobook narration to the next level? Sign up for ElevenLabs today.

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