Should Your Audiobook Have Two Narrators?

Only 13% of audiobooks have more than one narrator. If you're considering using two narrators for your audiobook, here's what you should know.

Should Your Audiobook Have Two Narrators?

Here's what you need to know about recording your audiobook with two narrators (a dual narration audiobook).

You may be surprised to learn that it's rare for an audiobook to be performed by more than one narrator, even when there are two or more prominent and distinct characters in the book. Today, only 13% of all audiobooks have more than one narrator.

This means that dual-narrated audiobooks have a uniqueness factor that can really make them stand out against other audiobooks. It also means that audiobook listeners have been conditioned to expect a single narrator most of the time, and they may actually prefer that out of familiarity.

If you're considering using two narrators for your next audiobook production, here's what you should know.

Many talented audiobook narrators are capable of delivering a performance that articulates multiple characters, influencing listeners to become more invested in the story. Listeners quickly draw characteristic assumptions after being introduced to a few subtle impressions of a character’s tone, accent, and the overall sound of the narrator’s voice. There's a lot communicated in the nuance of a performance.

This same level of immersive listening can easily be accomplished by structuring a dual-narration production. Dual-narrated audiobooks distinctly give your audience a more accurate presentation of who your characters are and can rapidly accelerate one’s character interest and intrigue in your audiobook.

Types of dual-narrated productions

Traditional speaking, multi-narrated audiobooks will consist of two narrators. There are two structures commonly used in these types of productions.

Primary & Secondary

Typically, one narrator is labeled the primary narrator, and they perform the majority of the narration. The secondary narrator performs the dialogue and internal monologues of a key character. This structure is designed to give the listener the familiarity of an audiobook narrated by a single narrator, with the pleasant spark of a different voice sprinkled through the audiobook.

Dual Perspective

Dual Perspective productions are split evenly between two narrators. Usually, a narrator will read one or multiple chapters from the perception of one character, alternating chapters with a second narrator performing the perception of a different character.

When to Use Dual Narration

Is it always a good idea to use two narrators when your book has multiple characters? Not necessarily. Sometimes, even when perfectly produced, a second narrator brings unwanted distraction to your audiobook—jarring your listener out of the flow.

Here are a few questions to ask yourself when considering a dual-narration production:

  • Will the narrators complement each other? Will their performances clash or cause confusion as it pertains to the manuscript? Each narrator should have defined performances that do not cause the listener to question perception.
  • If the dialogue for your second narrator isn’t present until the listener is well into the book, adding another narrator might seem distractive when they make their first appearance. It's best for the second narrator to establish themselves early in the audiobook.
  • Is the role performed by the second narrator prevalent enough to warrant a new voice? This character should play a significant role in the story. If the character is irrelevant to the progression of the story, the introduction of the second narrator will deter the focus of listeners from more relevant context.

The Production Process

Dual narration projects involve increased coordination, communication, and engineering challenges. They require casting two narrators, and properly marking up the manuscript so each narrator knows exactly what they need to perform. When there's one narrator, they just read the manuscript. When there's two, it needs to be divided like a script.

Chances are good that both narrators are recording on their own (not in the same studio), and with different equipment/microphones. When this happens, you'll need an engineer to arrange and mix the audio files to make sure the two performances feel cohesive in the finished audiobook.

To make sure this will all run smoothly, we normally include some extra pre-production tasks that help iron out any gray areas. These additional administrative and engineering steps must be taken into account when considering the budget for the production, along with the date of completion. Plainly speaking, dual-narration productions are more expensive, and take longer.