Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!
I hope that you all have some amazing and wonderful things to be thankful for this year! Eat lots of turkey and enjoy your time with friends and family. Once you're stuffed, check out "A Trip to the Hardware Store" - sit, listen, and have a good laugh with everyone. BONUS: It's family-friendly.
Continued from last week...
Finally, it’s time to audition. The first thing you should do is sort the possible titles by Gender, Project Rate, and Genre (You need to know your voice type so that you can choose the genre in which you are most likely to have success). Next you’ll want to choose between Fiction and Non-Fiction (depending on your genre, this choice may already be made for you). If you can do lots of character voices and/or have a lot of variation in your vocal tone, speed, and inflection, you will likely be great at narrating Fiction. If you have a narrow vocal range, you aren’t able to easily adjust your speed and/or inflection, or you just prefer to read entirely in your own voice then Non-Fiction is probably best for you. Next you’ll want to narrow the results further by choosing Language, Accent, Voice Age, and Vocal Style. I can’t stress enough that you really need to know what qualities your voice possesses to get this right. If you aren’t sure, ask around. As far as language and accent go, if you are bi-lingual or you can do multiple accents, then you may want to do multiple searches for each attribute. Last but not least, you may or may not want to sort by Project Length. If this is your first time narrating a book, choosing shorter books under royalty share deals is a great way to go and will be far less daunting once you book the job. Practicing ahead of time will help you to estimate your time requirements. You may realize that you have the stamina it takes to produce a full-length book. Choose whichever is best for you. One of the pictures below is an example of a very detailed search that I did. (To maintain security and privacy, I will be showing you screenshots that are publicly available. They will not contain all the information that I’m describing to you. Once you get your first audiobook booking, you will see better what I’m talking about.)
Now you can click on titles and see the details about each potential book. I have chosen the first result to walk you through with pictures. This page will have tabs for navigating and tell you details about the book. The first tab is the “About This Title” tab (see below). It will give you a summary of the book, details about the type of narrator needed, and publication information as well as Amazon rank and number of reviews. Pay attention to these details, they will tell you how successful the book has been in print or ebook format and will give you clues as to how successful it may be as an audiobook.
The second tab is the “Audition” tab (see below). This tab will often include notes from the author or right’s holder about how you should audition and a portion of the book to download to be used for auditioning. It is also where you will upload your audition when it’s complete along with a message box, so you can communicate with the author about your audition and any necessary information such as your availability and time frame.
The third tab is the “Produce Audiobook” tab (see below). This tab will change to allow the upload of files once you have booked the job. It is where the author can upload their manuscript to send to you or confirm that they have sent it to you through other means. This is also where you will upload the First 15 Minutes of the book as well as all of the finished files and where the author will approve or disapprove them. Also included here is the copyright information that you will need to record – it will be added to the beginning and the end of the book.
The fourth and final tab is the “Audiobook Sales” tab (see below). This tab will change to show you sales data for your book once it goes live on Audible. Here you can monitor the total number of sales and the types of sales made.
Right now your focus will be on the “About This Title” page and the “Audition” page. Once you have selected your book, go to the audition page and download the provided “script.” Now you need to record the script and submit it on this page. You can submit raw (unedited & unmastered) files, but unlike submissions for other voiceover work, I recommend that you edit & master your audiobook auditions for ACX. The reason for this is that you are likely to be working with an author who will not understand the post-production process, so you need to submit your best “market ready” work to be competitive. It is not just your voice they will hear – you don’t want them to hear distracting breaths and mouth noises and assume that the finished book will also contain these distractions. You will likely audition for many titles before getting your first book.
Sign a Contract
The day has arrived! An author has contacted you and has chosen you to do their book. They will now make you an “Offer” through ACX to produce their book. The offer will contain the terms of the agreement or contract such as payment terms and due dates for both the first 15 minutes and the final completion of the book. If the terms are not satisfactory to you, feel free to communicate with the author until you come to an agreement that satisfies you both – they can then amend the offer or send you a new one with the agreed upon terms. All you have to do is accept this offer and you are now both bound by the ACX contract. Once you accept the agreement, your author will need to send you the manuscript. When you get it, you are ready to begin. Time to create your audiobook.
Read the book
The very first thing you should do is read the book. Read it in as close to one sitting as possible and with no expectations. You should read through the entire book from start to finish as a spectator. Read it as though it were any other book that you’d read. (Hopefully you like it – if you were careful when selecting books to audition for, it will likely be a book you enjoy. Keep this in mind when choosing your book because the more you like a book, the better you’ll do at narrating it.)
Read the book
Now read the book again. This time you want to really pay attention to what you read, really try to absorb the book and take in as many details as you can. You should also pay particular attention to the tone and the personalities of any characters in the book. Try to imagine yourself in the world of the book. This second read should still be enjoyable, but it will also start to give you an idea of the direction that your narration should take.
Underline Words That You Don’t Understand or Know How to Pronounce
Now you need to skim back through the entire book and underline words and phrases and/or make notes about anything that is unclear, any words that you don’t know the meaning of and any words that you are unsure of pronunciation wise.
Look Up the Words You’ve Underlined and Make Notes About Them in the Margins
After you’ve identified any potential problem words in the book, you should go and look-up all of these words in the dictionary. Use auditory dictionaries whenever possible for pronunciation concerns. (howjsay is a great one.) Make notes on these words in the margins so that when you begin narrating you will have everything you need in front of you. You want to make the most of your recording sessions, so get all of this done and out of the way to avoid having to stop your narration to look up words. If you have done all of this and you still have questions, contact your author. They should be able to clarify anything that you haven’t found answers to in your own research, such as how to pronounce any unusual character names or the meaning of unfamiliar colloquialisms.
Highlight the Characters
It’s time for you to grab those throngs of highlighters you bought. (This is mostly for fiction books – if you’re recording a non-fiction book, you should be reading in only one voice and will not need to differentiate between characters.) You should have a different color for every single character. You may even need to employ different means of highlighting if you have more characters than colors – i.e. using a filled in red highlight for one character and drawing a box around the words with red for another character. However you decide to do it, you should be able to clearly tell each character apart by their highlight. When doing this, take the time to also create a spreadsheet for yourself with each character’s name and then highlight the name on your spreadsheet in the same way it will be highlighted in the manuscript. That way you have an easy key to refer back to at any point. Preparing in this way is an invaluable time-saver and it helps you to easily keep everyone straight and make sure that you’re always doing the right voice. (Extra tip – when doing both male and female voices, use traditionally feminine colors for the ladies and vice-versa for the men to maintain further organization.)
Read the Book
No, I’m not kidding. Read the book again. Now that you’ve gotten all of your characters highlighted, you will be able to pay closer attention to each character as an individual. This time through, you are really getting to know the characters on a deeper level and you are going to pick up little details and nuances that you may have missed the first couple of times you read the book. These things are important, they are what will truly breathe life into your characters. The more familiar you are with the book and the characters, the easier things will be once you get in the booth. And trust me when I tell you that you can never be over-prepared. While I recommend that you read the whole book a minimum of three times, don’t hesitate to read through it more than that if you feel you need to.
Develop the Characters – Attitudes, Accents, Speech Patterns, Vocal Tone, etc.
Now take out the spreadsheet that you created when you did all of your highlighting. You’re going to add a few more columns to it. In one column write down all of the words that describe that character’s personality. In another column write down all of the physical attributes included in the book for that character. In a third column write down what accent the character has if any. And in the last column write down any speech patterns or tones you may want to use for them. Another way to help you create your characters is to visualize them. You may be able to do this by simply creating the characters in your head – really see them and know what they look like. Another way you can do this is by going to Google Images, typing in words to describe the characters, and looking for pictures that you think represent those characters. You can then create a file with all the characters’ pictures and their names that you can refer to at any point in the book creation process.
Suss Out Your Character's Voices
Before you start recording the book itself, you should sit down in the booth and figure out a different voice for each character. You should do this now, so you can be sure that you are differentiating enough between each character. You should also make sure that any characters that are related to one another have a distinct but similar sound. While you are figuring out the characters, you should be doing so by using their words from the book. You should also record each voice to a separate track and label it with the character’s name. That way once you start the book, much like your spreadsheet, you will have a reference anytime you need to check to make sure you’re doing the right voice for a character. If you end up recording the same character on different days, it's great to be able to refer back to these files to make sure that the character’s voice is consistent.
Next Week: Audiobook Recipe - Serves 1 (Part III)
As I was writing this post, it became quickly apparent that this would be an information packed post. To make it more manageable, I’m splitting it into three posts. There are some areas that may require further explanation, so I’ve done my best to include links where appropriate to help you.
In my last post I told you about how I got started in audiobooks and voiceover. There are lots of people out there who want to do audiobooks, but are daunted by the process. Believe me, it IS a process and it takes some time to grasp, but it’s not impossible. As with all voiceover work, the very first thing you need to do is get some training. Just because you are an actor and just because you can read doesn’t mean that you can jump right into audiobooks. You don’t want to wind up booking your first job and have no idea what you’re doing. That said, that’s kind of how I got started, but I did have quite a bit of vocal training first. Please do yourself, your potential author, and the audiobook community a favor and take some voiceover classes before you attempt an audiobook. Ok, now let’s assume you’ve gotten training. I’m going to walk you through the process from start to finish.
Specifically I want to teach you this process by using the ACX website. We all need to start somewhere and ACX provides the perfect platform to do so. ACX makes the process of creating an audiobook accessible, which means that it’s equally great for people starting out and those continuing a career as an audiobook narrator. It gives noobs the opportunity they need to get their feet wet so that they can start building a resume, a following, and make strides towards taking their career to the next level. And where else in your acting career would you ever be given the chance to compete in one of the main marketplaces on your first try. There is no way that your first film is going to make it to the Big Screen or that the first play you will get cast in will be performing on Broadway. Your first audiobook however, will be sold on Audible. It’s a rare and wonderful opportunity and who knows how long it will remain open to everyone. If you’re thinking about getting into audiobooks, do it now. That said, this is also why training should be your number one priority. You only get one chance to make a first impression – so make it a good one! Once that first book is out there, you can’t take it back. It doesn’t have to be a bestseller, but the narration does need to be good enough that people will want to hear you narrate again. Without further ado – here’s how to narrate an audiobook on ACX.
This recipe assumes that you have already gathered the necessary ingredients ahead of time.
1 Trained Voice
1 Strong Imagination
1 Recording Studio – Sound proof area, Microphone with Pop Filter (USB mics have greatly improved and are great for starting out), Computer, DAW (you can use the same DAW for editing & mastering or choose different ones for each task), Copy Stand or Tablet, Good Lighting, Mixer (optional)
1 or more VO Demos – preferably a Narration Demo, but a general Broadcast (or Commercial) Demo will suffice
10 or more Highlighters
1 Complete ACX Profile (View Mine Here)
Sign a Contract
Read the Book
Read the Book
Underline words that you don’t understand or know how to pronounce
Look up the words you’ve underlined & make notes about them in the margins
Highlight the Characters
Read the Book
Develop the Characters – Attitudes, Accents, Speech Patterns, Vocal Tone, etc.
Suss out your character's voices
Record the First 15 Minutes
Edit & Master the First 15 Minutes
Upload the First 15 Minutes for Author Approval
Record, Edit, and Master the rest of the book
Upload the Finished Files for Author Approval
ACX Quality Control
This little Audiobook Goes to Market
Prep is important. The more time you spend on your preparation, the less time you’ll spend cooking your book.
Before you start recording, be sure to check all of your audio levels and settings to make sure they are appropriate for the work you are doing and your voice.
Don’t expect immediate cash flow, well-seasoned experience will result.
Marketing is the key to success. (You will need to market your book as much as you can. ACX will help you do this by issuing you free codes that you can send out to friends and reviewers – they will get to download your book for free and will hopefully write you a great review. Also keep this in mind when choosing an author to work with, because they should be willing to do as much marketing for the book as humanly possible.)
*Before You Can Begin Your Audiobook
In order to hit the ground running there are a few things you should do before signing up for ACX.
First you should read every single page of the ACX website so that you fully understand the process, the contracts, and any other details. There is a TON to read, but later you’ll realize it was time well spent. If you have any questions call ACX. Their customer service is excellent and they will get you the answers you need. The one place that ACX customer service is lacking is in the technical support department with regards to recording, editing, and mastering – if you need help with these things, you’re better off asking a professional or experienced friend. ACX can explain to you all the technical specs that you need to meet, but they cannot help you with how to get there.
Next you should choose a few short books or pamphlets that you own and practice the entire audiobook creation process from start to finish several times. If you read my last blog, then you know that I booked my first job without even auditioning and that I had to teach myself everything about this process on the fly. Now, I wouldn’t change a thing because it’s all worked out well for me, but if I knew then what I know now, I would have practiced creating an audiobook before creating an ACX profile.
Now, you can set up your ACX profile, just follow the step by step directions on the site. Be sure to enter your tax information so that you can receive any payments and/or royalties. And also upload your demo and tag it appropriately. If this is your first book, under the “How would you like to be paid?” category, you should choose Royalty Share and/or Unspecified Hourly Rate. This will give you the best shot at getting an author to take a chance on you. It’s been quite some time since I set up my profile, but I know there may be other areas where you need some guidance. Feel free to comment with any questions or shoot me an email.
As I finished writing this post, I just received an offer to produce my next audiobook. So it’s back to work for me!
Next Week: Audiobook Recipe - Serves 1 (Part II)
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