Audiobook Narrator with a Stuttering Voice? – Doubt & Fear [Part I]

No comments
This is the first article in a series of posts chronicling my journey through audiobook production, from conception to publication on Amazon Audible. In this initial article, I share my inner conflict over whether I am physically capable of narrating my full memoir because of my stutter. And, if I do, how I can ensure that the herculean effort to record it will be accepted under the high-quality assurance standards that must be met for publication because I will not edit or smooth over my stuttering—it has to be heard. 

Doubt and Fear

Could I narrate an 85,000-word audiobook?

I felt this question as a pit in my stomach. The thought had been marinating ever since I wrote the first word of what would become my memoir on coming of age with stuttering. 

Doubt no longer stops me from anything but reading aloud, into a microphone, in a recording studio with an audio engineer, for probably ten to twelve hours made me question whether I was even capable of doing it. 

I never told anyone I wanted to narrate the audiobook version of my memoir until a few months ago. The first time I spoke about it was during my first Zoom call with my editor. “I think I want to narrate it myself,” I said. My editor—who is also advising me on the self-publishing process—and is as straight a shooter as they come, immediately shot down the idea. I knew the reason. I was open stuttering on the call and it was her first real exposure to such a different sounding voice. 

I don’t hold that against her. But, I’ve never been one to accept doubt from others, particularly when it is because of my stutter. 

A few months later, the time came to learn how to produce an audiobook. Since audiobooks are the most consumed format for published books—beating out ebooks, paperback, and hardcover—I had to figure it out. The important steps I have to take are:

  1. Decide whether I will narrate or hire a professional narrator.
  2. If I choose to narrate it, find a recording studio with an available audio engineer to help with production, to include recording and editing. 
  3. If I choose to hire a professional narrator, find a voice that would fit my story and an audiobook producer to edit the recording to meet the specific quality requirements. 
  4. Upload to Amazon’s Audible platform using the Audiobook Creation Exchange, or ACX. 

Practical steps aside, I was really struggling to believe in myself. Recording and then listening to my stutter-filled speech always had been one of my greatest fears, and something I just didn’t do. This wasn’t just any recording, though. It would be the story of my life, read in my natural stuttering voice, uploaded on Amazon, for anyone to listen to at any time. Is that really what I want?

Yes. I don’t have a choice. The pit is telling me it is the right choice—do what I fear. Not only that, but can you imagine an audiobook about my journey through stuttering narrated in collaboration with my stutter? My voice telling my story. As a person who stutters, hearing stuttering would more powerfully resonate with the audience for whom I wrote than a random fluent voice from someone who has no connection to its lived experience. 

So, what am I afraid of then?

Self-doubt is a powerful inhibitor to changing the stigma surrounding publicly heard stuttering. The act of narration is daunting itself, but then layer on the many parts of how stuttering impacts how I communicate. These are some of the thoughts and questions that have crossed my mind. 

  • Endurance: Narration without a stutter is hard, pushing mental and physical limits. Can I even do it? How much can I record in one sitting? Will I begin to breakdown towards the end, hurting the recording? How will my mind and body respond to the heavy work load? What if I can’t do it? 
  • Tone: Will I be comfortable enough to break out of my monotone reading voice? When I begin to struggle, can I keep myself from defaulting to this slow, monotone rate? 
  • Intonation: This is the counter to my monotone reading voice. Can I use intonation while pushing my limits of endurance and open stuttering? How can I ensure that use enough vocal variation to hold the listeners’ attention?
  • Articulation and Pronunciation: Stuttering vulnerably will lead to some verbal graffiti that I cannot avoid. It comes with the unrestrained nature of allowing my stutter to roam freely through the words. All I can do is my best. 
  • Pacing: I tend to read aloud at a slow, digestible pace, in part because of the pausing and phrasing I use to keep my stuttering flowing forward. But, can I maintain the pausing and phrasing while resisting the urge to speed through to the next stutter? When my endurance breaks down, my stuttering goes backwards or stalls. Will it be possible to maintain pacing while not controlling it?
  • Breathing: When I do reach the far end of my open stuttering endurance, I start to lose my breath, defaulting to quick gasps or saying too much on one breath. With audiobooks, the recording will catch all of these variations in breathing, making it difficult to understand. Is this something I can reign in?
  • Storytelling: Will I be able to tell the story vice just reading it? If not, how will that impact the listeners’ enjoyment and understanding of the story?
  • Consistency: Can I sustain a consistent energy, tone, and forward moving stuttering across what will inevitably be many recording sessions? 

Written between the lines in these concerns is the ominously looming quality assurance review performed by Amazon before uploading the audiobook recording to Audible for purchase. The review is strict, judging from my research, oftentimes requiring multiple rounds of edits to rid the recording of noticeable flaws, such as background noise, heavy breathing, or disfluent speech. 

Thus, the reviewers would likely want to edit out my stuttering, or simply not accept the recording at all. 

So, I asked. I sent the below message to the ACX help desk. 

Hello –

My name is Christopher and I have a question about the quality assurance review. Before I begin recording my audiobook, I wanted to reach out and see how strict the review is for narrator’s who have speech disorders, such as stuttering, and whether ACX welcomes audio with unedited moments of stuttering left in the audio?

The recording will be professionally edited in a studio, but it is not possible to edit out all of my stuttering, nor is that what I want. The book itself is a memoir about my journey from being only being able to say one word at a time because of my stutter, to, well, being in the position to even record an audiobook. I need my listeners to hear and feel the actual stuttering. 

I would appreciate any kind of guidance or assurance you might be able to provide. 

Thank you, 


I received a response the next day, but it was only to transfer my message to the quality assurance team, which has went unanswered for the last nine days. [I will share an update on this outreach in the forthcoming articles.]

I’m trying to remember that I am not and probably never will be a professional narrator. Grace is a must here. I’m an author who has worked hard to put myself in this position to record. I have to trust that the listeners will appreciate the effort. 

In the second article, I will provide a walk-in-my shoes perspective on the training I am undertaking to prepare to begin recording in a month, such as building up my open stuttering endurance. 

Photo Credit

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s