The Four Agreements

As an ACX Producer, you’re responsible for editing, mixing, and mastering your audio, in addition to reading and self-recording. While you may possess both the artistic talent and the technical skill required to handle all of these tasks, you might find you prefer to focus on your performance. Other factors—like a tight production schedule or lack of a home studio—may require you to seek professional assistance. ACX independent contractor agreements can help ensure both parties are clear about what’s expected when it comes to things like due dates, payment terms, and ownership of the finished product. Here are the four types of agreements that ACX offers:

Audiobook Narration Services Agreement

Helping hand shakes another in an agreementWho it’s between: A studio and a narrator, a producer and a narrator, a narrator and a fellow narrator.

Why you may need it: You’re a studio or producer hiring a narrator, or you’re a narrator subcontracting another narrator to work on your multi-cast audiobook recording.

What you get: A professionally narrated audiobook with up to four rounds of correction (aka “pickup”) sessions.

Audiobook Engineering Services Agreement:

Who it’s between: A narrator and an engineer, a narrator and a studio, or a studio and a freelance engineer.

Why you may need it: You’re a narrator without a home studio, or a studio owner working with a freelance engineer.

What you get: A professional engineer to record your (or your narrator’s) performance and provide you with the raw recorded files ready to be edited and mastered.

Audiobook Editing Services Agreement

sidebarWho it’s between: A narrator, producer, or studio, and an audiobook editor.

Why you may need it: You’re a narrator or producer on a tight schedule, or you have a number of productions to complete back to back. Perhaps you prefer to focus on performing rather than audio editing.

What you get: Professionally edited and QC’d audiobook files, ready for mixing and mastering.

Audiobook Mastering Services Agreement

Who it’s between: A narrator, producer, or studio, and a post-production engineer.

Why you may need it: You’re on a tight schedule, or you have a number of productions to complete back to back. You’ve decided to focus on performing rather than mastering your audio.

What you get: A professional mix and master of your audiobook files, delivered ready for upload to ACX according to our Audio Submission Requirements.

Armed with one or more of our independent contractor agreements, you can do your best work and rest assured that your collaborators are keeping up their end of the deal. Be sure to download and use them the next time you need to outsource an aspect of your ACX production.

Have you outsourced the editing, mastering, or post-production of your audiobooks? Tell us in the comments below.

This Week in Links: February 23 – 27

For Rights Holders:

Don’t Force an Ending – via CreateSpace – Advice on dealing with a stubborn conclusion, by way of Disney.

Writing Your Character’s Thoughts - via Linda S. Clare – Guidelines to help you correctly express the inner workings of your POV character.

How to Review Your Final Audio the Audible Studios Way – via The ACX Blog – Learn to listen critically to your audiobook production and communicate changes to your producer.

Why Every Writer Should Keep a Travel Journal – via Writer’s Digest – Find out how one writer came to value the act of writing about her surroundings.

Does Your Facebook Author Page Have a Call To Action? – via Writers and Authors – A new feature on the social platform makes it easier to compel your fans to visit your site, purchase your book, or sign up for your newsletter.

For Producers:

Branding Your Voice Over Business – via Voice Over Herald – “Every voice over artist wants to be the client’s first and only choice, and developing and managing an effective brand can play a significant role in making that happen.”

Before Voicing – WARM UP Your Voice. After Voicing – WARM DOWN. Here’s How – via Voice-Over Xtra – Proper care for your instrument will help ensure it works for you throughout your career.

Five Things Every Audiobook Beginner Should Know – via The ACX Blog – Brush up on the basics of audiobook production with UK voice over teacher Gary Terzza.

How to Deal with Rejection in the Voice Over Business – via Victoria DeAnda – “Rejection is not a reason to give up. It’s a reason to keep going.”

Five Things Every Audiobook Beginner Should Know

Gary Terzza is a UK-based voice over artist and coach who runs a popular voice over master class and has trained successful actors like recent guest blogger and Audible Approved Producer Anna Parker-Naples. Today, he joins us to offer a handful of helpful tips for audiobook newbies.

To Begin At the Beginning

Gary TerzzaMy first encounter with an audiobook was back in 1976. As a mediocre student I was going nowhere with my English literature studies, but an enterprising teacher opened my 16 year old ears to something quite remarkable – a box set of vinyl records of the play Under Milk Wood by Dylan Thomas, with the ‘first voice’ part read by the sonorous Richard Burton. Have a listen to Mr. Burton’s narration below.

Suddenly, the Welsh actor’s distinctive and assured delivery brought this sleepy fishing village vividly to life. Here was one voice (Burton) becoming the same as the storyteller’s (Thomas) so that the two were indistinguishable.

From that day onwards I realised that a truly good voice actor speaks the writer’s words with total conviction.

Today I passionately believe this is at the core of all voice overs and is especially true in audiobooks.

So what should you be mindful of when embarking on your audiobook career? Here are five things to keep in mind as you progress.

1. Audiobooks Can Be Very, Very Long

Last year I received an urgent call from one of my voice over students. Sonia (not her real name) was panicking, and quite rightly so. She had never performed a voice over before, but an author had contacted her about reading a 110,000 word novel in the style of Jane Austen. She loved Austen, but 110,000 words frightened her, because it sounded like a lot.

Time HeadShe was right – it is. In fact that is approximately 11 hours of listening time or what we call ‘completed audio’.

“How can I do 11 hours of reading and recording all in one go?” she asked nervously. I responded with the good and bad news.

The good news was she did not have to do the whole read in one go. The bad, was that 11 hours of completed audio would take her 44 to 55 hours to record, edit and review. That equates to a couple of weeks’ work including essential breaks and weekends off.

“It was a baptism by fire,” she told me later “but very enjoyable.” In fact it took her nearer 70 hours to complete because of technical issues (she was grappling with unfamiliar software and hardware), but the author loved the end result.

The lesson? Never underestimate the amount of time it will take you to produce an audiobook. Not all projects are over 100,000 words (the average audiobook is about 9 hours long), but I would allow a ratio of 4 to 5 hours of your time for every completed hour of audio. Make sure you clear your calendar before starting.

2. Don’t Read the Book – Tell the Story

At first glance this may appear contradictory. Surely reading is storytelling? Well no, not quite.

Boy LibraryIf you have ever read a story to young children (especially as a parent) you will notice that you have a highly critical audience. If the characters do not sound convincing, your young listeners will soon let you know – in fact my eldest son was particularly critical of my delivery of The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, which I have to admit I would sometimes skip through nonchalantly.

I soon realised that I had to be genuine in my delivery; I had to believe in what I was saying 100%, because my son would soon let me know if I was just “going through the motions’.

Likewise, your listeners want you to narrate the story with complete conviction. Remember too, you are talking to them and not at them.

Like Richard Burton, you should completely immerse yourself in the story so that your voice doesn’t just sound like the author’s (metaphorically), but is inseparable from the author’s.

3. Choose Your Book Carefully

GelatoWhat do you like to read in your spare time? Do you prefer crime fiction, historical tales, or romantic novels perhaps? Imagine you absolutely hated science fiction, but were forced to read Arthur C. Clarke; well that is what it’s like if you get stuck narrating an audiobook that you don’t chime with.

In some areas of voice overs it does not matter if you like (or even understand) the subject matter. A 30 second radio commercial for toilet paper does not mean you have a predilection for all things bathroom related.

But an audiobook narration is different. You will be reading thousands upon thousands of words. Remember Sonia? She lived and breathed her author’s book for weeks and she probably even dreamt about the characters!

Carefully selecting a book you will enjoy is crucial.

So how can you make sure the project you are embarking on is for you?

Check out the book on Amazon. Every title profile on ACX has a link to the print/eBook edition on Amazon, and you don’t even have to make a purchase. Just open up the preview pages and have a read through. Can you hear the voice in your head? Do the words speak to you? If so, this could be a job worth taking on.

Perhaps you don’t like (or don’t yet have the chops for) doing character voices, in which case I advise you stick to nonfiction, or avoid novels that are peppered with a diverse range of vocal personalities.

If the book reads well, chances are you will enjoy the narration.

4. Know Your Author

Once you are in the happy position of accepting an offer on ACX, it is time to form a very special relationship. This is between you and the book’s original voice – the writer.

Reading RoomOn ACX, you’ll audition using pages from the book itself. Once you’ve been selected to narrate, you’ll produce a 15 minute portion of the book and submit it for the author’s or publisher’s approval before moving forward. She will then take a listen and make some critical observations.

  • Is the pace correct? Does the tempo need to be slower or faster?
  • How is the general tone? Is the narrator in tune with the spirit of the book?
  • Are there any mispronunciations of names or fictional places?
  • If there are characters, do they sound convincing?

The rights holder may then request some adjustments based on the answers to the questions above. Once you have been given the green light, stay in touch with your new client at regular intervals as she will want to be kept up to date. If you have a bad cold or anything else that might put you behind schedule let her know straight away.

Remember, cultivating a relationship based on respect and understanding is the best way to smooth any rough water you might encounter.

5. Be  A Producer

In the early days of your audiobook career you will likely be recording from home. That means taking on the role of editor, performer and producer – three hats on one head…. yours.

Getting the sound right is essential, so spend some time creating a home studio. It doesn’t have to be grand or expensive, just practical and comfortable. There are two basic aspects to domestic recording: the hardware and the acoustic space.

Old EquipThere are lots of options in terms of microphones. Check out ACX’s previous post on mics, or visit some of the voice over community groups on social networks such as Facebook , Linkedin and Google +. They are very helpful and supportive.

In terms of software, I recommend using Audacity. It is flexible, easy to use, has lots of training videos on YouTube, and best of all, it’s free. It is ideal for audiobooks and all your other voice over work.

Achieving the required ‘deadness’ in you room is a little more tricky. ACX has also covered the key elements of home studio construction, and you can read that post here. Your aim is to remove the inherent ambiance that every room possesses and create an echo free environment. This helps your voice sound direct and intimate – as long as you are close enough to the mic.

Starting out in the world of audiobooks need not be daunting. If remember these key points, stay focused, learn as much as you can and never give up, success could be on the next page.

What’s your top tip for audiobook beginners? 

This Week in Links: February 16 – 20

For Producers:

7 Ways to Use Instagram in Your VO Business – via CourVO – Don’t assume that working with your voice means you have nothing to gain from this visual social platform.

Keeping Your Voice Young – via Online Voice Coaching – As the years go by, vocal health becomes more important than ever. Learn how to take care of an aging voice from Dr. Ann Utterback.

Your Best Narration is Just a Breath Away - via J. Christopher Dunn – J. Christopher tackles the classic conundrum: Breaths, and when to remove them.

Market Yourself and Your Books with Promo Codes for Producers – via The ACX Blog – Learn how to attract authors and listeners with free downloads of your ACX productions.

Voice Actors Who Inspired the Look of Their Characters – via Voice Over Herald – From the modern to the classic, learn about the actors that inspired their characters sound and look.

For Rights Holders:

5 Things Published Authors Know (and You Can Master) – via HuffPo Books – A great handful of tips from the co-author of The Nanny Dairies.

Different Types of Content Ideas for Authors – via Bad Red Head – Check out these 20 creative ways to promote your work on social media.

5 Tips for Choosing a Narrator – via The ACX Blog – Learn how to know which voice is best to bring your work to life.

6 Ways You Can Prepare Yourself and Your Manuscript for Success – via Live Write Thrive – Author Karen Pashley offers suggestions for avoiding some potholes on the writing highway.

When Characters Become People – via Writer’s Digest – Learn how to write sympathetic characters from author Lisa Lieberman Doctor.

This Week in Links: February 9 – 13

For Producers:

The Secret to Sustained Success – via Nethervoice – Quick fixes rarely lead to lasting change. Learn the benefit of thinking in the long term.

5 Things Every Professional Sound Engineer Should Know…For Starters – via Pro Tools Expert – Having great equipment is only half the battle! Round out your knowledge with the info in this post.

No Social Stalking – via vo2gogo – Make sure you’re using social media to your advantage, not to make yourself an annoyance.

What is Mastering? – via Izotope – A great overview of audio mastering & why it’s so important. Just substitute “audiobook” when you see the word “album.”

For Rights Holders:

Story Lessons from South Park – via Writer Unboxed – Believe it or not, you can learn a lot about storytelling from this envelope-pushing cartoon.

How to Shut Up Your Inner Editor – via Writer’s Digest – Read on to find out why its sometimes best to fight through the little voice of reason in your head.

10 Websites You Need To Create Awesome Author Stuff! – via BadRedHead Media – Be sure to bookmark this collection of “resources for free photos, infographics, awesome holiday contests, creating visuals, social media tips, and more.”

Creative Writing Prompts to Freshen Up Your Writing – via Live Write Thrive – Whether you’re mid-story or just starting page one, “a good story starter will get your creative juices flowing and help you clear your head.”

We Are Pleased to Announce…

Last month, ACX and Audible Studios teamed up to kick off 2015 with an open casting call to find the voices for two Roxanne Conrad titles: Copper Moon and Exile, Texas. We received over 1,000 auditions, and it was no easy task for Audible Studios’ producers to select just two actors.

But two great actors did stand above the rest, and we’ll wait no longer to congratulate Kelley Hazen and Jamieson K Price for winning the coveted narration contracts! Let’s meet our winners.

Kelley Hazen

Kelley is an Audible Approved Producer who works out of Los Angeles and saw audiobook narration as a natural extension of her acting career. Author Roxanne Conrad raved:

Kelley just leaped out of my headphones with this story, and absolutely everything worked for me … the pacing, her voice, the great voice work that differentiated the characters so completely. I just loved the work.

We spoke with Kelly to get to know the voice behind the upcoming Copper Moon audiobook.

ACX: What compelled you to audition for Copper Moon?

Kelley HazenKelley Hazen: I was intrigued with the Copper Moon storyline immediately; I love music and the idea of possession and spirits. After I read the material provided for the audition I wanted to know more, I wanted to know where the story would go. If it is a story I want to pursue as a reader, I know I will enjoy narrating it.

From the business side, earning/winning an ACX/Audible Studios Open Casting Call title was the next ‘goal’ in my business plan. To work directly with Audible Studios is a great opportunity and I’m really excited about it.

ACX: What inspired your winning audition?

KH: Roxanne Conrad’s smart, funny writing inspired my read. She has a definite rhythm, a cadence to her writing. I knew I needed to embody that in my read. My impression from the audition material was that the winning narrator would be the one who most accurately captured Roxanne’s very specific ‘sound’. There is humor drawn directly from the popular culture, jokes that could only be delivered one way. I practiced those to make sure I had the  correct rhythm. I marked up the script I read from quite a bit – like a piece of music. And I wasn’t afraid while I was recording to go back and re-record to get something just right.

ACX: What advice do you have for those new to voice acting or audiobook narration?

KH:The most important elements in your audio chain are your ears. Hone your listening skills. It’s important to ‘hear’ the author – not just word-to-word, but as an entity, as a total expression. What is the overall milieu they seek to create through their story as it comes to life through your sound? Listen to the quality of your voice. It should be a sound the listener will want to cozy up to for ten or more hours. Listen to the sound of your studio to make sure your recordings are exemplary and your background is silent and worth a listener’s time and money. And most of all, listen for your own authenticity and organic connection to the story.

Listen to Kelley’s winning audition below.

Jamieson K Price

Jamieson describes himself as a “Los Angeles-based actor who has worked around the country on stage, screen, and microphone.” According to Audible Studios Production Manger Kat Lambrix,

Jamieson has a great voice for storytelling, and he gave both of the characters in the audition script the perfect voices and intonations. His pace is just right, and his voice draws you in to the story, wanting to hear more.

Jamieson K Price Photo 1Jamieson joined us to share the story behind his voice acting career.

ACX: How did you get into voice acting?

Jamieson K Price: I was performing in a play right after I finished grad school, and my leading lady was dubbing anime. She brought me into the recording studio and the director felt I had promise. That progressed to working with other directors and in other studios, which led to voice-acting in video games. At the same time I was starting a family and reading aloud to my children, which was wonderful practice. The voice acting provided a flexibility that fit in well with being a parent so I have really concentrated my acting there for the last ten years or so.

ACX: So you’ve done voice over work, but not audiobooks. What made you audition for Exile, Texas?

JKP: I have been interested in doing audiobooks for several years now, but haven’t really focused on it. I love reading, and the challenge of bringing words to life aloud is much of what we do as actors. The tone, the feel of the prose in my mouth, the life I could see in the characters, that was what really compelled me to give it a try.

ACX: How did you prepare to deliver this performance?

JKP: I read the copy and let it sink in, thought about the characters, then did a couple of reads to hear how it sounded. I let it rest for a few days, but continued to turn it over in my mind. Then I came back and recorded several more reads using different intentions and characteristics for the two voices to see what sounded most true. On my final read I tried to just relax, not push anything, and let the story tell itself, kind of get out of my own way. That read sounded honest and had the ring of truth, so I submitted it.

ACX: What advice do you have for those starting out in the VO/Audiobook business?

JKP: Take acting classes! It’s essential to being able to quickly access your emotions and expressing truth. We are all such unique individuals but all too often who we are becomes inhibited as we get older. Acting classes allow you to exercise your imagination, explore all the myriad parts of your personality and awaken truths you never knew you had.

Thanks, Jamieson. Check out his winning audition below.

This Week in Links: February 2 – 6

For Rights Holders:

How to Extend A Self-Published Book’s Marketing Reach Online – via ALLi – Author Laurence O’Bryan has seven ways to integrate online marketing into storytelling.

5 Non-Writerly Apps For Writers – via LitReactor – From note taking to schedule tracking, these 5 apps will help improve aspects of your life not directly related to your writing.

How to Write Good, Realistic Dialogue – via Women Writers, Women’s Books – Advice for both sexes on how to write the way people really speak.

Cynthia Hartwig’s Top Five Marketing Jobs for New Authors – via The ACX Blog – Cynthia demystifies what some consider to be the scariest task new authors face: marketing their titles.

Know What’s Not on the Page- via CreateSpace – “When you know what’s not on the page, you know what belongs on the page.”

For Producers:

Musicality in the Spoken Word – via Lance Blair – A highly interesting look at reproducing the spontaneity of authentic speech.

Patience, Please: With Yourself, Your Clients, And The VO Industry – via Voice-Over Xtra – A little patience can go a long way to improving your VO career.

How to Succeed at Audiobook Production: Part 1 – via The ACX Blog – Start at the beginning of our 4 part video series and see how much you can learn.

5 Biggest Mistakes Voice Talent Make – via Voice Over Herald – Don’t get tripped up by these common career missteps.

One of Those Days – via Rob Marley Voiceover – Solid advice on what to do when things just aren’t going right.