This Week in Links: September 15 – 19

For Rights Holders:

Edit My Paragraph!- via LitReactor – Learn about editing in a micro sense with part four of this informative series.

27 Writers on Whether or Not to Get Your MFA – via Flavorwire – A crowd of writers attempt to answer the eternal question: is an MFA worth the time and money?

The Twitter Secret – via badredhead media – Guest Dana Leipold explains why she uses “that Twitter thing.”

For Producers:

Are You A Voice Over Chameleon? – via Gary Terzza’s Voice-Over Blog UK – “Are you trying to be all things to all people? Then, you could be scuppering your chances of getting voice over work.”

[VIDEO] Whittam’s World: Episode 44, Low-end vs. High-end Preamps – via Edge Studio – Edge’s resident studio expert takes a look at various preamp options in this video.

The Signature Voice – via Bobbin’s Voice Over Sampler – Bobbin challenges actors to define their “signature voice.

 

How Julianne MacLean Got Her Audio Rights Back

Rights holder Julianne MacLean kicked off September with a $5,000 payment from ACX. How did she manage that, having sold a number of books (audio rights included) to a major publisher in the early aughts? Read on to find out!

Sometimes, All You Have to Do Is Ask.

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ACX Author Julianne MacLean

I wish I could tell the tale of an epic battle where I triumphed magnificently, but getting my audio rights back from my publisher was actually quite simple. All I had to do was request that they return them to me. Thirty days later, they did.

Of course, it’s not always that easy. It depends on what your contract says. So if you are a traditionally published author with books that are still controlled by your publisher, at least go and read your contract. You may be able to get this one important subsidiary right reverted.

Why should this be important to you? Because audiobooks, as a means of entertainment, are growing more popular by the minute, thanks to new digital technology and the fact that almost everyone has a gadget and earbuds in their purse or pocket these days. It’s a perfect breeding ground for sales to listeners who love books. And it’s yet another way to reach new readers, and yet another income stream for the author, above and beyond her usual print and ebook royalties.

In my case, I had sold nine books to Avon/Harper Collins between the years 2002 and 2007.  In each of those contracts, this is what the audio book reversion clause looked like, and it was boilerplate at the time:

“6(d) If the Publisher does not either exercise or license audio recording rights to any Work within 60 days from the date of the Publisher’s initial publication of such Work, the Author may request in writing that the Publisher revert to the Author such rights, and the Publisher shall revert such rights to such Work within 30 days of such request.”

Color of HeavenI’m sure this language is no longer standard, however, because audiobooks are now in a stage of tremendous growth in the marketplace. Moving forward, publishers will no doubt want to hang onto those rights. So this is something to consider when negotiating a new deal with your publisher.

First of all, try and keep your audiobook rights if you can. If that is not possible, do your best to arrive at terms that provide a decent reversion clause.

So what can you do if you get your audio rights back?

You basically have three choices: sell those rights to an audiobook publisher for an advance; publish your own editions independently; or do nothing.

Personally, I chose to publish the audio editions independently through ACX. Within a week of receiving the reversion letter from my publisher, I had contracted Rosalyn Landor to narrate and had pushed the entire Pembroke Palace series into production.

Wildest FantasiesI am finally capitalizing on a format I had not been able to break into while I was at Avon – and yes, it’s lucrative. The first few months may have been slow to get rolling with only one title in my catalogue, but as I added new books and listeners began to find me – and I started pushing harder to promote my audio titles – my monthly earnings began to increase substantially. Two days ago, I received a check from Audible for $5,113. That was for one month’s royalties and bounty payments. So as of this month, I have earned back my investment in the production of all ten titles, and all future revenues will be pure profit. Thank you, ACX.

And I am very glad I checked the reversion clauses on my old contracts. You just never know what you’ll be able to claim as your own.

Portions of this blog post originally appeared at JulianneMaclean.com You can download the Pembroke Palace series from Audible here.

This Week in Links: September 1 – 5

For Producers:

So You Want To Be A Voice Actor? – via Voice Over Herald – Thinking of jumping into audiobook narration? VOH has five points to ponder to decide if the industry is right for you.

Configure Reaper for Voiceover and Audiobooks – via Steven Jay Cohen – A great primer on how to set up this popular recording software for audiobook production.

Learn Voicing Tips From Robin Williams – via Online Voice Coaching – Looking back at the career of the celebrated actor can provide lessons on improving your own voice over abilities.

With a Little help From My Friends – via steveoneillvoice – Learn how monthly Google Hangouts enrich the VO journeys of six voice-over artists.

For Rights Holders:

What Happens When your AudioBook Ends Up Sounding a lot Different than Expected – via R.C. O’Leary.com – Hint: it’s usually not a bad thing.

An Author Website Checklist – via Digital Book World – Whether self published or traditional, new or experienced, there are certain elements every author should have on their website.

10 Ways for ADD Authors to Be OOH! SQUIRREL!!!! …Productive – via Kristen Lamb’s Blog – Kristen’s got advice on how to stay focused in the ever-distracting modern world.

Easy Tips to Help You Save Money on That Necessary Edit- via Live Write Thrive – LWT has a nice breakdown of what a good editor offers, how much it will cost, and ways to get the most out of your money when hiring a professional editor.

 

This Week in Links: August 18 – 22

For Producers:

What Sustains You? – via Anthony Meindl’s Actor Workshop – “What re-inspires you when you start to question whether or not it’s worth it, or you’d be better off moving back to Montana or you feel as if you’re spinning your wheels?”

Commitment-of-the-Self: How Elizabeth Ashley Greets the Subtext and Why Narrators Benefit From Engaging This Essential Storytelling Process – via Audio Book Narrators – Grammy-winning producer Paul Alen Ruben gets deep into the emotional commitment a great voice actor must have to the script.

Follow Your Passion? Not So Fast – via vo2gogo – Do you have the right balance between following your passion and making smart career choices?

15 Networking Tips for the Thriving Voice Actor – via Backstage – Rudy and Joan of “That’s Voiceover” offer up their tips for finding new relationships and opportunities in the voiceover industry.

For Rights Holders:

Professional Authors Need H.E.A.R.T.—What It Takes to Make It In The Digital Age of Publishing – via Kristen Lamb’s Blog – Find out what “heart” stands for, and what it means to the modern author.

10 Stunning Writing Studios  – via FLAVORWIRE – Do you have a special place to write? Here’s a look at ten really special writing spaces.

Writing: How to Write About Distant Places – via ALLi – Learn how to sound authentic when describing a far away locale.

Are You Progressively Tense? – via Live Write Thrive –  “It’s important for fiction writers to understand what progressive tense is. Why? Because it’s used too often and can weaken your writing.”

We’ll leave you today with a note about Bob Deyan, who passed this week after a courageous battle with ALS. Bob was loved and respected throughout the audiobook industry, and Deyan Audio has been a trusted Audible Studios and ACX partner for many years. Our hearts go out to Bob’s family and close friends. If you’d like to donate to help end ALS in Bob’s name, please visit www.ALSBob.com.

 

Home Studio Setup with Andrew the Audio Scientist: Part 2

WelAndrew_250x320come back to the second half of my two-part home studio setup series. Last week I covered where to place your home studio, how to properly soundproof it, and the basic equipment you’ll use in it. Today, I’d like to share real-world examples from three Audible Approved Producers. Let’s look at (and listen to) the great results a home studio can produce.

Visible Sound Audiobooks

Visible Sound

 The controlling and deadening of acoustic reflections in her bedroom and specifically around the microphone is one of the main contributing factors to the professional audio quality of her recordings – Ben Glawe of Visible Sound Audiobooks.

This home studio photo comes to us from Visible Sound Audiobooks, an Audible-Approved Producer whose operations primarily take place in a Brooklyn bedroom. How does this team achieve their professional sound quality in the midst of the country’s busiest city? House-narrator Christine Papania explains:

The biggest noise problem with my bedroom was my window, which overlooks a a noisy street in Brooklyn as well as a park. I bought special blackout curtains which block out light and sound from windows, which lowered the outside noise to acceptable levels. My laptop fan was also leaking noise into the microphone, but the addition of a silent laptop cooling pad fixed the problem.

Now we’ll hear a recording from Visible Sound’s space. You might be surprised how good it sounds!

 

kate udall

Udall

 

Kate Udall got her start as a narrator at Audible Studios. After working on her production chops and securing some great ACX titles, she earned herself the Audible-Approved Producer distinction. Kate’s studio is a great representation of an effective DIY home recording setup.

According to Kate

We call it Fuzzy Jail around here. It is made of blankets, the size of a cell and I am often inside in locked-down solitary confinement.

Kate uses thick packing blankets to isolate her recording studio from the rest of the room’s noises, which also provides the added benefit of reducing sound reflections that may otherwise occur on the side wall to the left. Her microphone is situated in front of an Auralex Mudguard, a great tool that can further reduce sonic clutter that occurs in home recording environments. She is also wise to set up an external monitor and other necessary components so that her laptop, which sits outside of the recording environment, does not introduce more artifacts and noises into the recorded signal.

Lets listen to a recording from Kate’s Studio:

Stephen Bel Davies

Bel Davies

Our final example shows the upper limits are of home audiobook production. Yes, you are looking at a home studio! This photo comes to us from veteran narrator Stephen Bel Davies.

Located in his Manhattan bedroom, this Studiobricks* installation is the top-of-the-line option for home recording due to its incredible noise-blocking capabilities and reflection controlled environment. Acoustic treatments on all walls, as well as the ceiling, guarantees a deadened recording space with extremely dampened artifacts and reflections. While Stephen is able to achieve a stunning -60dB of sound reduction with this setup, it doesn’t come cheap. These installations will set you back about at least $4,000 before factoring in installation costs. Still – one can dream!

Here is a bit of audio produced in Stephen’s studio.

 

FINAL NOTES

While Whisper Rooms are an ideal recording environment for any audiobook narrator, they are not necessary to produce a great recording. The most important consideration during an ACX production is consistency – both in practice and in aesthetic. For this reason, after you’ve installed your home studio, I strongly encourage you to read up on my four-part series, How to Succeed at Audiobook Production, which goes over methodologies to ensure success with your new audio production system.

How do you achieve a professional recording? Leave your feedback in the comments below.

(This section originally misidentified Mr. Bel Davies home studio as a WhisperRoom.)

This Week in Links: August 11 – 15

Did you know that the submission period for the 2015 Audies is open? Sponsored by the APA, the Audies recognize distinction in audiobooks and spoken-word entertainment. As a publisher or producer of an audiobook, you can enter your ACX title for consideration as a nominee, and yes, rights holders, by “publishers,” we mean you!

Titles released between November 1, 2013 and July 31, 2014 are eligible during the current submission period. Submission runs $175 per title ($100 for APA members), and must be completed by August 22. Complete submission info can be found here (PDF). Submit your ACX production today, and you might find yourself the winner of a shiny new Audie!

Now, on to your weekly links roundup.

For Rights Holders:

J. R. R. Tolkien’s 10 Tips For Writers (Infographic) – via Galleycat – Take a look at the Lord of the Rings author’s advice for wordsmiths.

The Joy of Writing Longhand – via Lit Reactor – Writing longhand: antiquated idea or inspiring throwback?

10 Essential Tips for Dating A Writer – via Buzzfeed Books -Check out this fun look at what it takes to date a writer. Do you resemble these remarks?

For Producers:

This Much I Know…10 Things I Learned From Getting Into Voiceovervia steveoneillvoice –  Steve O’Neill helps you learn from his time in the VO business.

Game Of Tones: How To Play Your Voice For Maximum Impact – via Gary Terzza’s Voice-Over Blog UK – Gary’s got the “moves that will sharpen your voiceover skills.”

What Growing Grass Taught Me About Voice Over – via Marc Scott Voice 0ver – Find out why the voiceover business is all about patience, perseverance, and endurance.

Home Studio Setup with Andrew the Audio Scientist

Welcome to the latest musings from Andrew the Audio Scientist. Today, I’ll be addressing the most essential component of a successful ACX audiobook production: constructing a home recording studio. You may be surprised to find how clean and clear your narration can sound after implementing just a few of the techniques and products below into your own studio setup. Let’s take a look at the two main aspects of a solid studio arrangement.

Andrew_250x320The Room

The most important consideration when building your home studio is its location. The ideal recording space dimensions are rectangular (NOT square), with low ceilings and 90º corners. Closets and other enclosed spaces make perfectly great recording spaces after implementing a few basic room treatments.

Reflection absorption materials, such as the ones detailed on the ACX Beginners Amazon Wish List can make all the difference. The primary reflection points that should be addressed are any surfaces behind the microphone and on the side walls, at a distance exactly half-way between your sitting position and the microphone stand. If you want to go the DIY route, the same effect can be achieved by hanging your old winter coats on the walls, or even throwing up moving blankets where clothing is not an option. The idea is to use fabrics that are thick and provide ample absorption so that once sound hits the material, it stops dead in its tracks.

Isolation is an important consideration for your room, too. An important step in the audiobook production process is the pasting of clean room tone on top of edits and other extraneous noises. Doing so can be greatly inhibited, though, by a non-ideal recording space. You may find the room tone to be too noisy to affect any real sonic improvements. To combat this and other noise problems, make sure to isolate outside noises from your recording space by hanging blackout curtains at all windows, and insulating your room’s open cracks and crevices. However, note that there are some rooms where even the most expensive room treatments are unlikely to make a big impact.

ACX Recommends:

  1. Avoid installing your studio in large rooms such as kitchens and sun rooms. These will cause undesirable echo and reverberation, and result in a muddy sound.
  2. Small rooms with reflective surfaces like bathrooms should also be avoided, because the porcelain and mirrors will send your voice flying across the room without remorse.
  3. Last but not least, recording outdoors is a big no-no. While the sounds of nature can be pleasant, squawking birds and passing cars are not sounds that belong in audiobook productions.

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THE MICROPHONE

This is pretty obvious – if you want to record your voice at home, you’ll need a microphone. Not so obvious, however, is the kind of microphone you need to purchase. At ACX, we recommend a large-diaphragm cardioid condenser microphone. These microphones are typically more accurate and clean than other types of vocal microphones, but are also more sensitive to recording mistakes. You’ll need to adhere to some setup best practices to get the most out of your purchase:

  1. Placement – A microphone is best set up at a point no further than 40% away from the front wall. Ideally, the microphone would be placed half-way between the side walls.
  2. Height – Microphones placed at or below mouth-level tend to pick up more “body” of a voice, while placement above the mouth (closer to the nasal cavity) capture a more “bright” and airy sound. However, this is a very personal aspect to studio configuration that is best left to experimentation.

    andrew's blog ratio

    Diagram of a ideal mic placement within a home studio

  3. Distance – It is never necessary to stand the microphone further than 6-10 inches from your mouth. This should help you avoid plosives, but we strongly recommend purchasing a pop filter for your microphone if it does not already come with one. (For you DIYers, you can also construct your own pop filter out of – no joke – some pantyhose and flex tubing, as demonstrated in this Lifehacker article)
  4. Interface – All cardioid condenser microphones require an audio interface that can provide phantom power to the microphone. If phantom power is not provided to the microphone, then it will not work.

ACX Recommends:

One of our favorite starter microphones of this type is the Rode NT1-A, which can be found on the ACX Beginners Amazon Wish List. The NT1-A kit available on Amazon comes with a pop filter and all of the mounting hardware needed to get started. This, in conjunction with the Blue Icicle XLR-to-USB microphone interface and a solid microphone stand, provides an excellent starter ACX production system.

Following these basic rules for home studio setup will allow you to transform the appropriate area of your living space into a great sounding vocal booth. Join us tomorrow to see and hear examples of some real-life Audible Approved Producers home studios.