Guest Post | How to Pick a Narrator for Your Book

Greetings! I’m so grateful that Aimal invited me here today on Bookshelves and Paperbacks. My name is Keira Gillett and my first book, Zaria Fierce and the Secret of Gloomwood Forest, the beginning of a new MGYA (Middle Grade/Young Adult) Trilogy, released in March 2015. Watch the book trailer to learn more about Zaria and her adventures to Gloomwood:

I don’t know about you, but I love audio books and the narrators that bring my favorite books to life. I’m here today to tell you what it was that I listened for when I auditioned narrators for my book. It all starts with research to know what it is you want in a narrator. Because I have listened to many narrators and books across several genres, I already had a good idea of what to listen for in the auditions I set up on ACX (Audible/Amazon company).

The first and most important thing to me was storytelling. This performance aspect weighed the most with me when I went over the auditions. I wanted to find someone who could act a scene and deliver emotions and pacing fluidly. As I listened to various narrators I asked myself, could the narrator read the audition script and build the scene? How was the delivery of tension, pacing, and suspense? How did the kids’ voices sound? How were the kids’ accents? Did the narrator match the notes I’d given? How did the narrator’s own voice sound by comparison when reading narration vs dialogue? Did the narrator pant, laugh, squeak, etc. as noise cues were given in the text for dialogue? Did they change the tone of the character speaking to match the emotions depicted?

It was also important to find an actor comfortable with male and female voices. This became one of the major deciding factors because while the main character is a young girl, all her friends are boys. As I listened, it was clear that some narrators had excellent female voices and others had excellent male voices. There was quite a range depicted and ultimately I went with a narrator who could make her voice sound young, feminine, and then older, masculine, and come across as natural and not forced.

Then I listened for reading comprehension and diction. In addition to a great actor, I needed to know the narrator read well too. I have a broad range of words within my story and I wanted to ensure the narrator wouldn’t be fazed by them. Did the narrator pick up on contextual clues to know how a word should be pronounced? I included a very tricky word in the audition script. It was a homonym which had two pronunciations depending on the situation without changing the spelling. It tripped up nearly half of the narrators auditioning, and while this wasn’t necessarily the main determination factor, the narrator I chose had indeed nailed the pronunciation of the homonym in the audition.

And last, but not least, I also looked for and listened for enthusiasm. Did the narrator write me through the site’s dashboard to say he or she enjoyed the piece or was excited to audition for it? Did the narrator’s audition sound like he or she was into the book? Did a narrator write to me wanting to try something different for the delivery and was willing to talk to me about it? I wanted to work with someone who would be as passionate about my story as I was and wouldn’t simply see it as another job, another paycheck. I wanted someone I could collaborate with and turn the book into something new and exciting.

I bet you’re thinking that’s a lot of factors to track! It was. I had my early favorites, but I wanted to approach the decision from more than just my gut instinct. So, I took the most important factors and made a rubric for them on a spreadsheet. I created a rating scale and went over each audition several times to hear for each item. I found marking “yes” or “no” didn’t help me visually so I changed both to numbers. This gave me a clear picture of where each narrator’s strengths were.

I found what I was looking and listening for in a narrator with Michele Carpenter. She’s incredibly talented and having heard her audition, samples, and my book, I know I made the right choice. I think you will agree when you listen to her read. So go ahead grab the audio book of Zaria Fierce and the Secret of Gloomwood Forest and slip into a world full of fantasy, enchantment, and magic. And if you’re not sure, listen to this five minute preview:


Isn’t Michele’s Zaria and Olaf fabulous?

Zaria Fierce and the Secret of Gloomwood Forest

Book Blurb

“Come here Princess, and let me eat you.”

On her birthday, Zaria Fierce finds her usual path to school blocked by an ugly river-troll. At first she’s surprised and curious, but then Olaf threatens to eat her, which is an act Zaria could not in good conscience consent to, so Zaria counteroffers. A deal is struck and she goes to school, but Zaria is about to learn the hard way that one does not trick a river-troll and expect to win.


Are you in the mood for an old fashioned magical jaunt? Zaria Fierce and the Secret of Gloomwood Forest by Keira Gillett is a classic “perilous adventure” book for middle grade readers. 4 Stars – Jennifer Bardsley, The YA Gal

I really enjoyed Zaria’s story. It reminded me a lot of Percy Jackson series… Middle school children will absolutely like this one! 4 Stars – Anjie Basi, Love Thy Shelf

This book will have young listeners hooked right from the start. In fact, if parents are planning a driving holiday this summer, I highly recommend purchasing this audiobook. It will definitely keep the kids entertained while traveling. Michele Carpenter’s narration is terrific. 5 Stars – Amie Gaudet, Amie’s Book Reviews

Having read many Norwegian tales to my own children, I was delighted to pass this one along to the grandkids! The audio performer did a magnificent job of interpreting differences between beings. 5 Stars – Jan, an Audible review


Geirr stooped to pick up some decent-sized sticks, and Zaria bent to grab a few too. They talked amicably and walked, stretching their legs, until they were too burdened by their loads to keep going.

“My arms are going to collapse,” Zaria huffed. Her breath fogged around her face, covering and then revealing a well-pinked nose and cheeks. “Let’s head back to camp.”

“Sounds good to me,” Geirr said and turned around to do just that. Zaria followed and collided into him, dropping her load of kindling all over the ground.

“Hey!” she exclaimed, as she went to gather them. “Why did you stop?”

“I don’t think we’re going to find camp,” Geirr said, worrying his lip. He juggled his armful of wood and pointed haphazardly forward. “It’s like pea soup.”

Zaria looked up from playing fifty-two pickup and saw what worried Geirr. In front of them was a wall of fog, thick, viscous, and impossible to see through. She gulped and carefully set down the pile she’d been working to gather again. Was it her imagination or did the fog seem to be breathing? It crept closer in stages. Not fast enough that she saw it while looking directly at it, but if she looked away and back, it most definitely moved.

“Uh, Geirr,” Zaria said, slowly gaining her feet. “I think we should move and fast.”

Geirr looked at her puzzled. “I don’t think fast is an option here. Now if you pick up your stack and stick near me maybe we can Marco Polo our way back to the others.”

“Geirr,” Zaria hissed, her voice ratcheting higher. “The fog is moving.” He didn’t look impressed. The breathing sounds from within the fog grew louder, distressing Zaria. “No seriously, it’s moving like it’s alive.”

Geirr looked back again and stared hard, trying to penetrate the fog with his gaze alone. Zaria started to ease away, firewood forgotten.

“Come on, Geirr, we have to move. Can’t you hear the breathing?”

“That isn’t you?” he asked, alarmed.

“No!” Zaria shouted. “Run!”

Available in E-book | Print | Audio Book formats.

See if you’re eligible to get a free copy of the audio book here.

Keira Gillett author picture

Author Bio:

Keira Gillett is a technical publications librarian, book blogger, world traveler, artist, and now author. She graduated from the University of Florida with a Bachelor of Arts in Drawing and Painting. From an early age her mother instilled a love of the written word, as such she has always been a big reader. Her first book, Zaria Fierce and the Secret of Gloomwood Forest, is about a young girl who must complete a quest to save her friend from a nasty river-troll.


Social Media: Twitter (keiragillett), Facebook (zariafiercetrilogy), Pinterest (keiragillett)

Michele Carpenter

Narrator Bio:

Michele Carpenter is an artist at heart, with a passion for acting. She and her husband (also a voice actor) often work on projects together and help one another through the journey. Together, they have three kids. Michele’s children love to hear her read stories and beg her to edit her narrations in the same room with them so they can listen too. It’s partially for this reason that Michele has come to feel a personal responsibility to only record books that aren’t inappropriate for children or young adults–at their respective age levels and according to the maturity levels of the books they’re able to read. “We never know how long we have on this earth and I’d rather leave behind a legacy of books that I’m not ashamed to have my friends, family and even future grandchildren, listen to forever.”


Social Media: Twitter (michelecvoice), Facebook (michelecarpentervoice), YouTube (micheleyoutube)


  1. Hi Aimal! Thanks so much for hosting me today. Picking a narrator is a tough job but an author has to do it. 😀 I hope these tips help other authors and are interesting for readers. If anyone has any questions I’ll be around.


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