We are not currently accepting unsolicited narrator auditions.
Hello narrators! This page is just for you. It’s your first port of all for all the technical and stylistic questions you may have about narrating for Cast of Wonders.
If there are other questions you’d like answered or content you’d like to see available here, please let us know – and thank you!
How Do I Submit My Recording?
All final narrations should be sent via our new Submittable Narrators portal. We no longer use Hightail to accept final recordings.
What Equipment Do I Need to Narrate?
Most audiobook or short story narrators use a microphone and editing software. But they’re not required. Modern phones have voice memo apps or other basic recording software of high enough quality for short works.
We’re big fans of Blue microphones, especially the Yeti and other USB models which don’t require mixers. For software, there are many excellent free or cheap programs out there including Audacity and Garage Band, both for PC and Mac platforms.
Recording in a quiet space makes a big difference to your final recording, as does picking a location without lots of empty space or hard walls which will bounce the sound and cause echoes. Standing in front of an open closet or airing cupboard works well, as do small rooms or even reading into a box or laundry basket lined in pillows. When recording at a desk or table, you can drape a blanket over yourself and the microphone. Even a (parked!) car can be a solid choice. If in doubt, try recording a short segment and listen back to the recording, then adjust as necessary.
Finally, to help with plosives and other spikes in noise, try using a pop shield over the microphone, and place the mic roughly a handspan away from you when recording.
What Technical Specifications Should I Use?
Please send us an uncompressed mono WAV file. We’ll also accept AIFF format files, FLAC, or Apple Lossless (m4a). If absolutely necessary you may use the MP3 format, however please do not encode at anything less than 192 kbps.
A sample rate of 44.1 kHz is best because that’s the level we use to publish. We need a minimum of 22 kHz.
We prefer mono (not stereo) recordings, because for WAV and AIFF files they wind up being half the size.
Unless you’ve been asked, please don’t add any special effects (like reverb) or sound effects (like a phone ringing) to your narration.
Should I Edit The File Myself?
Please edit your recording yourself. You have a much better idea of where your mistakes or flubs are than we do. And don’t feel bad – everyone makes them, from professionals all the way down to us enthusiastic amateurs.
Narration editing, as a rule of thumb, takes about three times as long as the final recording itself. For example, a 20 minute finished story will take an average narrator about an hour to record and edit.
How you handle mistakes is up to you. Everyone makes them; even veterans sometimes flub a pronunciation or get the emphasis on a sentence wrong half way through. One way to handle them is just to keep recording and maybe mark the error with a sharp noise you can easily find later while editing.
Then, start that sentence or paragraph over. That part’s important – start the whole sentence over, not just the phrase or portion you got wrong. That ensures you have enough space on either side of the sentence to properly and completely remove the error without leaving any fragments behind.
If editing your file is going to be a problem because of a tight deadline, please get in touch and we’ll find a solution. It may involve needing to push the story further down our production schedule to allow proper editing time, so the more notice we have the better.
How Should My Recording Start?
Before you start the story, it’s a good idea to just briefly give your name and the name of the story. Then leave about 10 seconds of dead air. This is called “room tone”, and it helps us set the levels for the story to take into account any background noise that may be in your recording.
When you’re ready to start, begin with the title of the story, the name of the author, “narrated by” and your name.
First, read through the entire story, maybe even aloud. This will help you find which words you have a tendency to stumble over, and give you practice with some of the less common sounding words and names that might appear in a fantasy story.
There may be some words you don’t know how to pronounce. Make a note of those, and maybe mark up the story so that they stick out in advance. You can look up the pronunciations, or ask us. It’s not uncommon for a made-up work or name to feature in a story, and we’re happy to check with the author for clarification. Taking the time to read the story aloud before recording will save you time in the end because it will make for less mistakes along the way.
It’s also a good time for you to make sure it’s a story you like. Please, whatever you do, don’t make yourself read a story you don’t like! It will come across in your recording. We won’t be at all offended if you let us know you’ve changed your mind. We will respect your candor and professionalism, and it will reflect very well on you as a narrator. We may also ask for your feedback as to why you didn’t connect with the story, to help pair you with pieces better in the future.
- Warming Up
Some tricks to get yourself warmed up for narration include taking a few minutes to relax your neck and shoulders; making a series of silly faces in order to warm up your face, lips and tongue; and reciting some tongue twisters. Make sure you have a glass of water at hand, and don’t hesitate to take a drink between scenes. Acidic or sour drinks, like with lemon or lime juice, can help reduce ‘mouth sounds’.
Cast of Wonders prefers a clean, ‘audio book’ style of reading, but with some energy and personality. Our stories are geared towards a younger audience, so a bit of exaggerated emotion is perfectly acceptable and often called for by the subject matter.
Most of all, be yourself. Don’t become so focused on getting the recording perfect that the reading comes out dry. We would rather have an imperfect reading with some energy than a polished and lifeless one. Get into the story and the characters, and trust your instincts.
All that being said, try to speak as clearly as you can. Pay particular attention to the consonants at the beginning and endings of words that tend to blur.
The most important (and difficult) skill for a narrator to master is pacing. Our brains read and understand written text up to four times faster than spoken words. Read too fast, and the listener can’t keep up with you. While reading the story is should FEEL slow to you. We use 150 words per minute as the rate of reading when we estimate a story’s recorded length.
Whenever you see a break in the text, like this:
Leave a silent pause of about three seconds. It’s also appropriate to take a slightly longer pause at the end of a paragraph than you would at the end of a sentence.
Feel free to add small clarifications to the text to make sure listeners can follow the story. Our contract with the author gives us leeway to make these small modifications to ensure the audio version of the story can be easily understood. The most common modification you may make is an attribution, like “he said” or “Susan said”, to help a listener understand where the quotation marks in the dialog begin and end.
You can also skip or remove these, if you’re confident you’re demarking the different characters clearly enough with your delivery. Such phrases are transparent to a reader, but can overwhelm a listener if they’re used too frequently.
How Should My Recording Finish?
Leave about 5 second of final dead air. There’s no need to say ‘End’ or ‘The End’.
Finally, we’re collecting station tags from our authors and narrators to run in future episodes. If you’d like to record one for us, please read the following text:
Hello, this is [your name] [optional: tell us about yourself in under 10 words — ’Author of X’, ‘Host of Y’, etc.] and you’re listening to Cast of Wonders, an Escape Artists podcast.
You could, if you choose, also submit a “generic” station tag for any of the other Escape Artists podcasts to use. Here is text you can record for that:
Hello, this is [your name] [optional: tell us about yourself in under 10 words — ’Author of X’, ‘Host of Y’, etc.] and you’re listening to an Escape Artists podcast.
The Submittable narration portal allows up to three files to be uploaded, so your narration, a Cast of Wonders station tag and a generic Escape Artists station tag would be welcomed uses of those uploads.
Done! What’s Next?
Before you’ve submitted your recording, please make sure your biography is up to date for the story’s introduction. This is your chance to promote yourself for all your hard work! You will be asked for your bio and a photo (optional) when you submit your completed narration to our Submittable Narrators portal. This bio will be read on the show and published on the website, and is a great opportunity to tell the world who you are.
Despite all your care and diligence, it’s possible we may ask you to do a retake of certain passages or sentences. We try to avoid this at all costs, as you’ll catch any significant errors in your editing process. If we ask for this, you’ll have more precise details in our request.
If you have any other questions, get in touch!