Not everyone listens to audio books, so not everyone realizes how important it is to have a good voice actor or actress to do the recording. I will be the first to admit that I am pretty picky when it comes to voice acting in general (don’t get me started on bad dubbing); however, audio books don’t have animation to make the audience forgive the voice acting. They don’t have cool props, fancy effects, or a big cast of actors. All the audience gets is one reader’s voice (maybe a little background music when chapters switch). That’s why the audio book reader is at least as important as the story – maybe more so.
If you thought hooking a reader with the first paragraph was hard, think about how hard it is when someone else is reading that first paragraph to them. I have seen audio books rejected that quickly – and that is the unadorned truth. Many people I know only listen to audio books when driving. Before a long drive, they’ll get 5-10 audio books out of the library that they haven’t heard. Some of those books don’t last more than a few sentences before they’re rejected and tossed into the back seat. Because there is little worse than sitting locked in a vehicle with bad acting.
Have you ever heard someone butcher a great story by telling it so badly that no one laughed? (If you’ve seen Firefly, Simon telling a story comes to mind.) Delivery, timing, inflection, character diversity, and believability – voice acting is more than reading words out loud.
It’s one of those things that looks easy until you try it, and unfortunately, listening to mediocre voice acting is like being stuck in a movie theatre watching a film that used all its good moments in the trailer. That’s why I would be very cautious about doing the voice work for your own audio books. For the love of Pete, at least do a chapter sample first and get a couple unbiased opinions. The last thing you want to do is ruin someone’s impression of your story (a story you worked really hard on) just to save some money on voice acting.
Believe me, a good voice actor or actress is worth the price. A good voice actress can make a mediocre book enjoyable. A bad voice actress can make a great book torturous. I know people who browse audio books by the reader rather than the authors: they’re more likely to try a new book if it’s by a reader they’ve heard and liked. If you can’t find one that good, at least make sure that the voice acting isn’t so bad it’ll chase readers away – even if that means you don’t read it yourself.