What does it take to be a narrator of audio erotica, and how can you become one?
In this final part of our Audio Erotica series, we’ve drawn on interviews with professional narrators, and sought advice from narrator forums and social sites, to bring you a first-hand guide to audio narration. We’ve included the best tips, tricks, and advice on how you can make money by becoming an audio porn narrator.
We’re looking at the world of audio erotica in particular, but much of what erotica narrators do is exactly the same as what narrators of other genres do — except with more sexy parts included.
Now’s the time to cash in on their growing trend, so let’s see how you can get started.
- What Does It Take To Be a Narrator of Audio Erotica?
- How To Become an Audio Erotica Narrator
- Building Your Network To Find Narrator Jobs
What Does It Take To Be a Narrator of Audio Erotica?
We begin with a pretty obvious statement: Narrators of audio stories play a crucial role in bringing written content to life through the spoken word.
That’s what they do, right? They sit at a microphone and read a book. Easy?
No. The primary responsibilities of a narrator include:
- Reading aloud; a skill that calls for:
- Conveying the emotion of a story
- Maintaining the pace and rhythm
- Speaking dialogue
- Understanding the technicalities of the craft
Let’s take a look at each of these exploit requirements.
Comfort Reading the Text Aloud
The fundamental task of an audio story narrator is to read the written content aloud. This involves conveying the plot, characters, and dialogue through spoken words in a clear and engaging manner.
Sounds easy, but an hour of end product can take two hours to record, so, as audio narrator LonlaLady says: “I usually do an hour and then take a break. Unless the book is really challenging, then I’ll be taking breaks every 30 minutes.“
Comfort and Open-Mindedness is Key
Narrating audio erotica involves explicit and intimate content. You should be comfortable with, and open-minded about, the themes and language used in erotic material. Remember that there is more to erotica than your own interests, and you might be hired to narrate erotica from many niches; straight, gay, bi, trans, hard erotica and softcore, and all the (many) varieties of fetish.
Tip: Specialisation can limit your workload. Think wider than one niche, and you will increase your earning potential.
Pronunciation and Clarity
Listeners want to hear a clear voice with no ambiguity. The quality of the voice should be like the musical soundtrack of a film. Overdo it, and the music gets in the way; take the music away, and there’s something clearly missing.
Maintaining clarity is essential for effective communication, and narrators should articulate every word clearly so that listeners can easily understand the story.
Here’s advice directly from Lonlalady’s AMA:
If your mouth is dry and you’re “clicking” on the mic a lot, eat a green apple. The tartness sorts out any mouth noise and a lot of voice over studios will have bowls of them in reception.
There are several notable organisations offering diction advice, among them the Oxford Language Club. The OLC has a top-ten list of tips for speaking clearly which they provide to their English language students:
- Take a deep breath before you begin
- Speak more slowly
- Practice grammar (what you read may not always be in your dialect)
- Expand your vocabulary (so words don’t take you by surprise)
- Think before you speak
- Practise tongue twisters
- Repeat difficult phrases (to practice them)
- Be confident
Most of us spend very little time pondering how we speak. But for an audio narrator, it’s an essential part of the craft. You won’t get regular gigs unless you excel in this department.
Like the music behind a film, your delivery needs to be easy on the ear, and yet totally appropriate for the material. Delivery needs to be dynamic, expressive, and match the rhythm of the words. It should also be varied enough to maintain the listener’s interest, but not so varied that it sounds confusing.
Tip: No-one much likes the sound of their own voice, but listen to yourself, and play your practice recordings to others. Ask for honest feedback on the delivery. Do you have any verbal tics are jarring? Work on these.
Voice Characterization and Managing Dialogue
Narrators handle dialogue by giving each character a distinct voice. The narrator needs to transition smoothly between narration and character dialogue to create a seamless and immersive listening experience.
Voicing distinct characters when they speak or think should start with the writer, but not all new authors grasp this, so narrators have to be prepared.
As a fiction writer, I hear my characters in my head as I write their dialogue. The skill is not to overdo their pronunciation, but also to avoid all characters sounding the same. Overdoing it leads to visual confusion, just as it would lead to aural confusion if the spoken voice had a different accent for every single character.
For an (extreme) example: Here’s a piece of dialogue I just invented. Have a read, and imagine how naff this would sound if a strong accent was added to the already over-the-top dialogue.
Cheery Londoner: ’Ello, guv, how ya doing me old mucker? You ’eard about that barny dan the ’awkers an’ ’arriers club dan Bethnal Green?
Cornish man up for a visit: Bain’t be ’aving no idea what you be about askin’ me fur, me duck, I be fram Perranzabuloe.
Frenchman: Ah, mais, oui, yes. I ear about ziz trouble dans la Verte Bethnalle. Sacre bleu!
You never know, you might have to read something like that one day. I hope not.
Tip: Skilled narrators alter their tone, pitch, pace, and accents to give each character a distinct and recognizable voice. However, they don’t have to mimic every accent perfectly, just be aware of them, and if that example is anything to go by, be prepared for the author’s overuse of dialect.
Again, it’s a question of not overdoing things. The narrator is required to convey the emotion of the piece without going over the top. You need to put across the emotion through nuances that exist in the text and not add in what you think would be better.
Be prepared for a range of emotions, such as excitement, sadness, suspense, or joy, and use vocal inflections and expressions to evoke the intended emotions in the listener.
When approaching erotica, bear in mind you will also come across sexual tension, mounting excitement, pure lust, wild abandon, and heightened emotions generally.
Maintaining Pace and Rhythm
The pace of a story is one of a writer’s main tools for carrying the reader/listener along. The pace should speed up, slow down, and even pause. A book doesn’t start at the bottom of the emotional mountain and race straight to the summit. It climbs in peaks and troughs, and the narrator needs to keep pace with the graph while matching the mood of the story.
For example, slow down during suspenseful scenes and speed up during action sequences. However, there are such things as too slow and too fast.
Tip: Read the book first. Unless you are incredibly experienced, it’s not a good idea to launch into a sightreading recording. Who knows what you’re going to find on the next page? Reading the book first (and making notes) lets you get to know the characters, their voices, and the overall story, so you know when to expect the peaks and troughs of the overall pace.
One narrator told us: I have the book in pdf form and read it on my iPad. This way I can annotate it as well, and there are no page-turning sounds.
Your voice goes a long way to setting the atmosphere of a scene and the overall story. Adjusting the delivery to create a sense of tension, excitement, or calmness depends on the context, and is another thing that shouldn’t be overdone.
Depending on what atmosphere the text calls for, there are various ways in which the voice and the reading can enhance the author’s intended atmosphere, such as:
- Volume. Whispers convey secrecy, etc.
- Pause. Pauses can heighten tension.
- Physicality. No-one can see you. Huddle when the character is hiding, scowl as the character scowls; physicalising the character, particularly facially, can help realism, and realism helps atmosphere.
- Tone. You wouldn’t read Edgar Allan Poe in the same voice as you would read a romantic comedy. (I hope.)
This leads neatly onto how different genres require different narrative styles.
Adapting to the Genre
Whether it’s a mystery, romance, thriller, or fantasy, narrators adjust their delivery to suit the genre and enhance the overall listening experience. You can imagine how a voice for historical romance might differ from one used to narrate BDSM sci-fi creature erotica.
Tip: Yes, BDSM sci-fi creature erotica is a thing. Romance.io has a customisable menu where you can filter for exactly this creative combination of creature copulations.
Bonus Tip: Use sites like Romance.io to find, download, and read aloud a wide variety of niches. This will boost your overall understanding of erotica and give you a sensible use of time while waiting for the next narrating gig.
A Suitable Technical Stack
Behind all of this is the tech. An audio narrator needs to have at least a basic understanding of recording techniques and the technicalities, whether recording in a professional studio or a home studio.
You can find out more about the technical side of recording talking porn in our guide: The Tech Behind the Tease.
For the basics of a home studio, though, LonlaLady says:
I record almost everything at home in my studio, which is basically a padded cell. I Use a Stellar X2 microphone, Audient ID4 interface and Twisted Wave DAW. Super simple. To choose the microphone, I did a blind test with ten different ones ranging from $200 to $3,000 and chose the one that sounded the best with my voice. Luckily it wasn’t the $3,000 one.
How To Become an Audio Erotica Narrator
Assuming you’ve done your research and are ready to put yourself out there as a narrator of audio erotica, what happens next?
How do you get started?
Finding work as a narrator for audiobooks can be a rewarding endeavour, but getting started in anything new is not easy. Contrary to what people might think, recording an entire book is a job, not a pastime. It’s all very well to sit on your sofa and spend the day reading three hundred pages of John Grisham, but try spending the day speaking them aloud. You’ll soon realise what hard work it is.
Fun Fact: According to various sources, the average reading speed is 200 to 300 words per minute, although the more technical the material, the slower we read. If we take an average of 250 words per minute, and sit down to read a novel of 80,000 words, we’re looking at thirteen and a half hours of non-stop talking. At least.
As LonlaLady said: For beginners, one hour of finished audio can take 4 hours to record. It really is a marathon.
Master The Basics of Narration
Being a narrator is a job just like any other, and to do it well, you need to acquire certain skills.
Audible has outlined several skills a narrator needs:
- A background in acting
- Or at least the ability to act, because you are telling a story, and it’s not your own story.
- Obviously, you need to have a clear speaking voice too, and like any other muscle in the body, your voice can be trained.
- The ability to differentiate voices, accents and dialects.
- It’s not just about the ‘black stuff’, as they call the parts of a script that are not dialogue. Narrators may have to voice several different characters in any one scene.
- There’s nothing more off-putting than someone trying to imitate an accent and getting it wrong. (Exhibit A: Dick Van Dyke in ‘Mary Poppins.’)
- Exhibit B: Three hundred pages of black stuff, dialogue, characters’ voices, and all of it must be read aloud perfectly.
- A book won’t happen in one sitting, and some parts may need to be recorded over and over before they are right.
- Research skills
- I.e., checking the pronunciation of place and character names, and words that are not in your language.
Here’s a personal example of why research is vital.
I was once asked to present an award at the European Porn Awards in Berlin. What an honour, and of course, I said yes.
However, they didn’t give me my script until the start of the show, and I had no time to look up how to pronounce the names.
Not only were the nominees all from the Czech Republic and Hungary, but I was given the ‘Best Threesome Scene’ category, and there were five nominations.
That’s fifteen Czech, Hungarian, Slavic and/or Bohemian names to rattle off in front of an audience (including the people whose names I was putting through a verbal grinder), followed by the scene titles, all of which included East European place names such as Děčín, České Budějovice, and Jablonné v Podještědí.
Tip: Always do your research, and if asked to present an award in front of 300 of the adult industry’s finest, get hold of your script long before curtain up!
Develop The Three Ps
When I am mentoring or teaching newbie writers, I instil in my pupils what I call the Three Ps.
The same three Ps apply to audio narration as they do to any profession.
Have patience not only when reading but also when trying to find narration gigs. Be persistent in your search for jobs and the perfect voice for a character, and practice reading aloud regularly to improve your narration skills.
Tip: A good way to practice is to choose any book at random and read it aloud. Don’t just read the books you like, because, as a professional narrator, you won’t have the luxury of choice.
Other ways to improve your skills include:
- Work on your voice modulation, pacing, and pronunciation.
- Consider taking acting or voiceover classes to enhance your performance.
- Develop a sultry, engaging, and expressive voice that suits the genre. In erotica, your tone should convey sensuality and captivate the listener.
Tip: Developing a ‘sultry’ voice doesn’t mean you have to sound like Marilyn Munroe or Greta Garbo throughout the entire book. That would be like listening to treacle. Don’t overdo it.
Create a Demo Reel
Where a website with nifty images of yourself in a recording studio with your headphones on makes for a neat introduction to how you look, a demo reel is what gets your voice noticed.
- Record a professional-quality demo reel showcasing your narration skills.
- Include samples of different genres to demonstrate your versatility.
- Ensure that the audio is clear and free of background noise.
There are two ways to record a demo reel, as there are two ways to record a full book:
- At home in your own studio
- Advantages: Cheap and convenient.
- Disadvantages: Quality. Possible background noise.
- In a recording studio
- Advantages: Professional quality. Advanced technology. No background noise.
- Disadvantages: Costly. Time is limited by money. Language.
By language, we mean the terminology professional studio engineers employ while at work. If you are going to record in a studio, you might like to do some homework first so you can tell your buffer from your de-esser, and your clipping from your phantom power.
You don’t have to speak the entire language of tech, that’s their job, but it helps to know some of the jargon.
Tip: There’s a comprehensive glossary of recording studio terms and expressions at Mastering.com.
Bonus Tip: Recording studios rarely come with a glossary. The first time I was in a recording studio, one of the techies told me to put myself in the bin. Charming, I thought. I’d been doing rather well. When he repeated the instruction, I realised he was saying ‘bins’ and he meant for me to put the headphones on.
Set Up Your Home Studio
Okay, so to hire a professional recording studio will cost you big bucks. How big those bucks are depends on the studio, its size, level of expertise and reputation.
It might not be too expensive to hire a pro studio to make a demo reel because you may be able to do that in a couple of hours, and setting up for a solo voice is easier for the studio than setting up for the London Philharmonic.
However, to book a studio to record an entire book for a client may well put the prices beyond the author’s reach.
The alternative is to build your own home studio, and you can do it relatively cheaply, but don’t skimp because quality is all.
- Invest in a good-quality microphone, headphones, and recording software.
- Create a quiet and acoustically treated space for recording at home.
- Ensure that your recordings meet industry standards for sound quality.
Here’s a look inside an audiobook narrator’s home setup:
Tip: Although it also exists to sell products, Audient has a series of tutorials for the amateur recording artist. Among them is one which tells you how you can build a home recording studio on a budget.
Research the Market
Before you can decide where to advertise your services, you need to have a think about what kind of books you are going to narrate, and sometimes, that choice is defined by your gender.
The audio porn market is vast and wide.
There are questions to consider, such as: What happens if a male narrator is reading female dialogue? (And vice versa.) Are male voices better suited to some kinds of audiobooks than others?
Studies have found that lower voices suggest to the listener attraction and strength, whereas higher voices tend to be associated with younger and weaker characters, but books with a male main character don’t have to be read by a man, and vice versa.
However, there is still some gender bias in the audiobook world, and it is perceived that there are more male narrators than there are female, and male narrators are better for sales. That’s in the general audiobook market, including technical and non-fiction books.
It is up to the author/publisher to determine if they want a male or female narrator, and in audio erotica, some authors employ both a male and a female.
In some cases, couples work together offering join narration. In the erotica market, there is a balance of for-and-against, male-or-female, solo-or-couple narration, so your gender shouldn’t stand against you, but you can gain an advantage over others by knowing which authors and publishers are more likely to use male or female voices.
One way to test the market is to produce and send a demo reel, also known as a portfolio. Record short examples from published books, label the files according to genre or niche, and send only the recordings appropriate to the material that needs narration.
Tip: Narrate and record samples of public domain books so there are no copyright issues.
Although you’re specialising in erotica, there may be times when you need other work. It’s important to start with the narrator market generally, and then specialise. Do thorough research into what kind of narration suits what kind of book, and don’t limit yourself to only narrating erotica.
A good place to start is with a market analysis report on the audiobook market in general.
Grand View Research has produced such a report, and it examines all aspects of the market from listeners’ preferred devices (phone, tablet, etc.), insights into distribution channels, audience and genre insights and comparisons.
Building Your Network To Find Narrator Jobs
While carrying out your market research, make sure you network and get to know other narrators. Yes, they are competition, but you can learn a great deal from them, just as you can learn a great deal from submitting your demo reels to publishers, or putting examples on appropriate forums and asking for feedback.
There are various ways to expand your network of narrators and potential employers, and here are some ideas.
- Join Audiobook Narration Platforms. (See below for a list to get started)
- Create profiles on these audiobook narration platforms, and other places that connect authors and narrators. (Facebook etc.)
- Audition for available projects on these platforms.
- Attend book events, author readings, and publishing industry conferences, and physically meet other narrators and authors/publishers.
- Offer your services to independent authors or publishers (but don’t spam).
- Create a website for yourself with a professional look and playable demos from your portfolio. Add to it as you gain experience, ask for and publish testimonials, and build a newsletter.
A List of Audiobook Narration Platforms
These are some of the places you can go to research the field, get yourself known, and look for work.
Some of these platforms are hiring and advertising sites rather than social hangouts, but all are worth investigating, and some offer articles and advice for freelancers.
|Knowledge base, interviews, articles, casting directory, and all aimed at narrators.
|Not a site for finding work other than by paid membership when you have access to the casting directory.
|Audiobook specific. Authors connect with publishers. Advice and a blog.
|Find jobs to audition for. Build your reel. Royalty-share or per-hour payment.
|Audio File Magazine
|Audiobook industry magazine with articles, news, reviews and info.
|Excellent background reading. Free newsletter.
|Specifically for voice actors. Resources and articles.
|Audition directly to the website. Search for jobs.
|Specific to voice actors
|Create a profile so clients can browse. Clients contact you and you negotiate from there. The free service limits the number of invitations you might receive.
|Specific to video, translation and audio (not necessarily erotica). Apply to be on their list of over 5,000 recording artists.
|Gives client reviews, advice and ‘how to’ pages.
|Specific to voice actors. Has an industry blog.
|Find jobs and offer work. Free to join. Hot on ensuring professional standards.
|Freelancing platform; non-specific.
|A general freelancer site, not audio specific. Free to register. You’ll need a demo reel first.
|People Per Hour
|Freelancing platform; non-specific.
|Free to register your profile. Bid on audio jobs by the hour or project.
|Freelancing platform; non-specific.
|A general freelancer site, not audio specific. Free to register. You’ll need a demo reel first.
Tip: Check out the payment methods on freelancer sites. PPH, for example, takes a percentage of your payment, operates through PayPal (which also takes its share), and payments take up to two weeks to come through the PPH system.
So, now you have your home studio, your demo reel, and you have the work pouring in (hopefully!). You might need to consider representation.
We all have a view of the theatrical agent (darling, you were marvellous), the literary agent (we’ll do lunch… what was your name?), and the classic ‘dodgy’ agent of the movies (stick with me kid, I’m gunna make you a star… when I get sober).
Real agents tend to be somewhat different these days, and they exist for erotica voice artists as they do for all others who have more talent than business sense. A literary agent can help you find opportunities and negotiate contracts, but bagging one is not an easy task.
For a start, you need to look for literary agents who specialize in erotica audiobook narration, but where do you start?
Websites like Voquent and others listed above can act as your representatives once you have registered with them. They have standard contracts and practices, but you are not their only client, just one of thousands, and the deals you strike with them are for their sites only.
Sites like Backstage advertise for erotica voice artists when a job vacancy is published within the acting community, but again, they are not your agent, as such, and you are not their client. They do, though, have advice, magazines and ideas for the VO artist, and they don’t shy away from erotica.
To my mind, as an author, there’s only one place to go to start the impossible search for an agent, and that’s the Writers and Artists’ Yearbook.
This is a UK-based online and in-print service that carries lists of worldwide agents and what/who they represent, and is an excellent resource for creators. You will find articles about narration and erotica, but to find a representative who may be interested will be a case of searching for and reading agents’ profiles, applying, waiting, and possibly never hearing back.
Tip: Only submit samples and introductory letters according to each agent/publisher’s requirements and specifications or you’ll be wasting your time.
Build a Presence on Social Media
Word of mouth travels fast, and there’s no better place to leverage expertise than on social media.
Whether or not you have an agent, you are free to use platforms like X (Twitter), Instagram, and LinkedIn to showcase your work.
You can also engage with the audiobook community, authors, and publishers through the websites listed above, and through forums.
There are few forums specific to erotica narrators, but there are subsections of larger literary forums that get into the specifics, and there’s nothing to stop you from creating your own thread. Among the best are:
- Kboards. The forum for Kindle authors and interested parties.
- AbsoluteWrite. Covers discussion on all things ‘writer’, and you will need to search for specific erotica/narration threads, or start your own.
- Goodreads. A place for all books, authors and readers, with a forum that discusses audiobooks generally and romance audiobooks.
- WritingForums (WF). Similar to Goodreads in scope, and similar to other forums in that you may need to create your own thread about erotica audio narration to get yourself known.
Stay Informed About Industry Trends
You need to keep up to date with the latest trends in the audiobook industry and stay informed about new releases, what genres are in demand, and industry events you may be able to attend.
To check out the current trends in audio erotica, read our article on the Financial Rise of Audio Erotica, and you’ll understand why the market is booming.
Narrators Roadmap has an events calendar, but you need to be a paid-up member to access it, and they are likely to be USA based. However, there are also loads of videos, tutorials, articles and discussions to follow, and these will give you an idea of what kind of events to look out for.
Contracts and Coins
Remember that breaking into the audiobook narration industry may take time, and persistence is key. Continuously hone your skills, seek feedback, and stay proactive in finding opportunities.
Building a strong online presence and networking with authors and publishers can greatly enhance your chances of landing audiobook narration gigs.
However, before you leap into this new world of talking sex stories and give your voice to what might become the next Fifty Shades of Grey, you should ensure three things:
- You have a contract between yourself and the client.
- In it, you have fixed a price, negotiated a per-hour fee with a fixed rate, agreed on ongoing royalties, or a mixture.
- You understand the rules for narrators; what you can and can’t do.
Contracts can vary, but to understand what a decent contract should look like, you can read the ACX Audiobook Narration Services Agreement online for free.
This is an excellent guide and shows you what a contract looks like and what it contains. The PDF also comes with guidelines and the ACX rules for narrators, plus a list of common mistakes to avoid.
You want to know how much to charge, but as a new narrator, you have no experience of bidding for projects or setting an hourly rate. What do you do?
Forums are a good place to start. Ask for advice, and read posts on the subject; there are bound to be many. Websites to which you can apply will also tell you what the rates are, because you are working through them as though they were your agent. However, if you’re going it alone, here’s what some freelance sites advise.
Rates typically charged by audiobook narrators on Upwork are:
- Beginner: $28 per hour.
- Intermediate: $79 per hour.
- Advanced: $480 per hour.
That seems like a big leap from intermediate to advanced reader, but these are outline figures, so you are looking at between $28 and $480 per hour depending on your experience.
Dipsea narrators can earn up to $400 per hour for narration, or $200 per hour for voicing a one-off character. The narrator in question here, though, is very experienced.
A quick check of People Per Hour shows rates varying from $10.00 per hour to over $250, with one-off offers ranging from $285 for a one-hour audiobook, to $10.00 per 500 words.
One audio narrator who answered questions on a forum recently talked about her prices. LonlaLady had this to say:
“So, if it’s an 8hr book then you get paid for 8hrs. But, depending on your experience, that 8hr book could take you anything from 16 to 40hrs to narrate.
The rates go from Royalty share to $400 per finished hour (pfh) if you’re a “celeb” narrator. So, let’s say you’re on SAG-AFTRA minimum, which I think is $200 pfh, then you’ll make $1,600 on an 8hr book. If it takes you 16hrs to narrate that 8hr book, you’re making $100 per hour. But if it takes you 40hrs, you’re making $40/hr.
If you’re non-union and working through ACX, you’ll be making either Royalty Share or maybe $100 pfh, totalling $800 for an 8hr book – so $50 per hour if it takes you 16hrs, or $20 per hour if it takes you 40 hours.”
LonlaLady opened herself up to any and all questions, and if you want to check out the full page of Q&As, you can find it on Reddit here.
This is a union of particular interest to audio artists and narrators.
SAG-AFTRA (The Screen Actors Guild – American Federation of Television and Radio Artists) is a great place to go to for advice about anything to do with performance, contracts and support.
The Last Page
Hopefully, you now have a clearer understanding of what it takes to be a narrator of audio erotica, and have seen how you can become one.
It’s clearly not an easy job, but it is one that you can do from your home, and with a little outlay on equipment, some time spent researching and later, time spent advertising, there’s nothing to stop anyone with a voice becoming involved in the large and growing world of audio erotica.
Have you had any success (or failures) narrating audio erotica? Let us know your experiences and tips. We’d love to hear them!