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.
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)