Tag Archives: Shelby Lewis

The Great ACX California Adventure

We’ve just returned from Tinseltown, meeting producers and actors at That’s Voiceover, the one-day voiceover acting career expo, at the beautiful Director’s Guild of America in Hollywood. Over the course of a whirlwind day, guests attended panels on how to work the mic, presenting from the red carpet, and making a living with audiobooks, hosted by ACX.

Audible VP and head of ACX Jason Ojalvo moderated narrators Scott Brick and Shelby Lewis as they gave their best tips for breaking into the audiobook business and succeeding. If you couldn’t attend, here are a few of our favorite insights.

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Photo credit: Jeff Fasano

Breaking into the Industry

Shelby’s and Scott’s paths to success in the audiobook industry were very different. For Scott, “it [was] all about getting the audition.” The right contact lead to the right book that helped him get his next gig, but he added, “14 years later, it’s so much easier. You make a demo, you put it on ACX, and you can get a job the same day.”

“Once you get your foot in the door, you tend to stay in the room,” agreed Jason.

Shelby was discovered by Audible in 2011 by submitting her wild and crazy audition for Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland during that year’s That’s Voiceover audition contest. Her first audition led to more projects through both traditional audiobook publishers and ACX. “It’s truly a 9-to-5 job whether you’re in a closet or a studio,” she said.

On Acting Versus Storytelling

Scott and Shelby also discussed two approaches to their narration technique. For Shelby, she likened it to choosing between performing sitcoms and Shakespeare. “It’s not that one’s better than the other. They’re just different.”

Scott added: “It’s all storytelling. Doing an audiobook is like shaking hands. Two people do the work. What I’m doing when narrating the book is asking the listener to take me by the hand and work with me. If you’re authentic, that’s what matters.” When asked if he ever performs character voices, he recommended bowing to the context and genre, and if it’s called for, meeting the challenge enthusiastically.

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Photo credit: Jeff Fasano

Preparation and Recording Advice

In the booth, Shelby shared a tip she’d been taught by Scott on good hydration: “Take a sip of water after each page, even if you’re not thirsty,” reminding that dehydration can take hours to overcome.

Scott also recommended using printed manuscript pages in the booth to perform because that helps keep track of how far he’s read and reminds him to take breaks. On an iPad, he can scroll for long periods before realizing how much time has gone by. He also recommended no more than two pages on your mic stand to prevent your voice from straying too far from the mic as you read the first and third pages.

Jason’s advice on preparation was to read the text before beginning your record: “You don’t want to find out on the last page that your English detective was actually Scottish.”

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Photo Credit: Hannah Wall

We truly enjoyed meeting so many of you at That’s Voiceover and hearing your success stories! We’ll leave you with one last photo: no trip to California would be complete without a requisite stop at world-famous In-N-Out Burger.

What’s your best tip for those just breaking into audiobooks? Tell us in the comments!

Shelby Lewis and ACX – an update

You may remember Shelby Lewis as the winner of the ACX narration contest at That’s Voiceover last fall. Shelby has since been spreading the gospel of ACX to every audiobook-intrigued voiceover talent she can find — including the highly-talented Ray Chase who is now on his 16th title, 7 of which are on Audible.com. Here’s an update from Shelby herself:

Since my last guest blog entry, two exciting events have further confirmed ACX as a viable, profitable option for my voiceover career. Having taken royalty share opportunities, more for the experience and the credits than the potential earnings, I’ve been incredibly pleasantly surprised to have actually received various royalty checks! So I’m happy to testify to new narrators… “The checks actually come, their amounts are nothing to scoff at, and I will absolutely be doing more and more royalty shares in the future. Especially the stipend offers — that’s the best of BOTH worlds! Get paid now AND later!”

And while I love browsing through available titles on ACX and auditioning for those that interest me, I have also been happily surprised by rights holders who have sought me out on ACX. Due to the number of samples on my ACX profile and my vigilance in keeping it polished and up to date, audiobook publishers that use ACX have been contacting me to audition so I don’t always have to seek out titles to audition for. So keep up your profile; it really does make a difference. And excitingly, through my ACX profits, I’ve been able to upgrade my studio equipment to provide an even higher-quality product to present and future clients.

I met a woman at a wedding the other day who was just about to self-publish. The first thing I said to her was, ‘Have you thought about making it into an audiobook? There’s this amazing website…’ — and I couldn’t have been prouder to recommend it. Thank you ACX, for launching my audiobook career and for keeping me coming back so enthusiastically.

Has ACX empowered you?

Greetings ACX fans! We’ve been busier than ever getting more audiobooks made, but we’re never too busy to share some great ACX success stories. We’ve been amazed by the feedback we continue to receive from both sides of the creative coin–authors who are thrilled to have their work available in audio at long last, and narrators and producers whose careers have been enriched by the opportunities they’ve found through the marketplace, if not entirely jumpstarted by ACX. Allow us to recap below.

Authors continue to reach out to us about their books’ new life in audio via ACX. Most gratifyingly, we’ve heard from several authors who see ACX as a way they can actively participate in the production and promotion of their work in a manner they couldn’t do with their professionally published print versions. Among those who have shared their experiences using ACX include Marta Acosta, who’s written about how ACX is helping her fulfill her dream of having her novels everywhere. Marta is a great example of an author who is successfully influencing how her audiobooks are made and how they are marketed in a way that she couldn’t with the print versions. Other authors have been just as generous with praise for ACX–and insightful advice for other authors using the service. Richard Shapiro encourages fellow authors to comparison shop when casting producers, and likens ACX to finding love on match.com! And in case you missed it, Bob Mayer offers up 10 ways to learn from the mistakes he made starting out on ACX.

Many of the audiobook professionals on ACX have been just as vocal about their experiences. Last fall, Johnny Heller provided a detailed rundown of our service, and this spring Arielle DeLisle shared an updated viewpoint (she also called out another exciting new program every ACX author should take advantage of, Audible Author Services). On our own blog, Shelby Lewis wrote about how ACX launched her audiobook career. Actress Toni Orans shared an account of helping bring Roy Hoffman’s novel Chicken Dreaming Corn alive via ACX. David H. Lawrence has even taken his knowledge offline, teaching a “Mastering ACX” class in Burbank, CA.

We continue to find that engaged ACX users help spread the word about ACX and teach others about it, which is wonderful. Thank you all for keeping our vision alive!

Guest post: How ACX can launch your audiobook career

Devoted ACX fans may remember our ACX audiobook narration contest last fall, which we ran in conjunction with our appearance at That’s Voiceover. Shelby Lewis, chosen as best female performance, won the chance to narrate Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass, and since this auspicious debut Shelby’s been very busy launching an audiobook career at breathtaking speed. Even so, we asked her to take five minutes to share with the ACX audience what she’s been up to over the past few months. Enjoy, and we hope you’ll find Shelby’s account of her experience using ACX both edifying and inspiring.

How ACX Can Launch Your Audiobook Career

by Shelby Lewis

Can ACX launch a career in audiobook narration? Well, between my diligent practice, demo submissions, and diverse ACX auditions, it has certainly launched mine! And I will be forever grateful.

For people who love “going to work” every day, are intrigued by cultivating a nuanced performance over a large scale, and who frankly love storytelling, audiobooks are absolutely a breath of fresh-voiceover-air. It’s not for everybody — especially if you’re comparing payment of commercials vs. audiobooks – but since I’m coming from a theatrical background ranging from musical theatre to Shakespeare, I enjoy the multi-character exploration and the lengthy, often complex text.

“Hitting it big” in commercials is a bit of a lottery, but — for better or worse — there’s really no way to accidentally succeed in audiobooks. It’s a lot of hard work that requires patience, stamina, meticulous preparation, and an equally balanced performance of inviting subtlety and engaging energy. After narrating just one title, you’ll know veeeery quickly if you enjoy this aspect of voiceover enough to pursue it. People ask me all the time: “Gosh, it takes so much time and WORK… Do you make a lot of money?” And my answer is always: “Well, you don’t until you do.” Since winning the ACX audiobook narration contest last fall, I have personally fallen in love with this work enough that the initial money (or lack thereof) doesn’t sway me in the slightest — which is why I have accepted multiple Royalty Share projects on ACX, especially if they’re in a genre in which I’d like to build up credits.

ACX gave me my humble audiobook beginnings, and it simultaneously gave me renowned audiobook narrator and teacher Scott Brick. I first saw him as a panelist on the ACX Audiobook Narration Panel at the That’s Voiceover! Conference last fall, then met him after he announced MY NAME as the winner of ACX‘s Audiobook Contest! I shook his hand, sent him a thank you, solicited some advice, was invited to watch him work in his studio, and trained with him personally in preparation for my newly won title: Lewis Carroll’s classic “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” for Audible.com and iTunes through ACX.

If you’re interested in breaking into audiobooks, PLEASE do yourself a favor and visit:

http://scottbrickpresents.com/learn/

Scott has now mentored me into my next step up in the world of audiobooks! I am proud to say that I’m currently completing my 5th title — the group of which ranges from a nonfiction murder investigation set in Texas to a haunting Young Adult fantasy novella complete with mermaids — and a 6th title I booked TODAY for Brilliance Audio!

One thing to watch out for which I’ve noticed on new narrators’ profiles: Don’t use only your *auditions* as your samples. The key currency in audiobooks is experience. Producing projects on ACX helps you build this currency, but if you only use your audition as a sample, and that rights holder checks your profile to see if they want to book you, and then she sees that the only narration you’ve done so far is a 3-min clip of her text — well, it’s extremely obvious that you’ve never actually narrated an audiobook before and it can mean a rights holder will be more likely to go with someone more experienced. After doing a few titles on ACX, you will be able to confidently say that you are an audiobook narrator. Until then, you fake it a bit to get those few titles under your belt by reading samples of books that you LOVE and show off your range. (That said, you should definitely use the script provided to audition for a specific book–a rights holder will want to hear how your voice sounds performing his or her words.)

My dream is to become a trusted, valued, and eventually sought-after narrator, but I also accept the long road to becoming worthy of steady bookings. In audiobooks especially, you must “pay your dues,” remain consistent and reliable, and learn what your voice gives the text that’s different from anyone else’s. You are representing everyone: the author’s voice, the characters’ voices, and your own voice. To me, that is thrilling. And, needless to say, I feel very blessed.

Truly, I could not recommend ACX highly enough. It gets your foot in the door, and then challenges you to keep the door open by yourself. And I’m already seeing that, once the door is opened, the tried-and-true audiobook narrators are more than satisfied, both creatively and financially. What more could one ask for?

That’s Voiceover Wrapup…and Narration Contest Winners

We recently traveled to Los Angeles for That’s Voiceover, where ACX leader Jason Ojalvo presented a panel about opportunities in audiobook narration, and explained ACX to the several hundred people who attended.  Thanks to everyone in the audience for making it such a success, and thanks to actors Scott Brick and Jenna Lamia, who took part in the panel! We hope we illustrated the profound degree to which audiobook narration has become a viable and lucrative form of acting, and we’re hopeful we’ll have drawn a number of new audiobook performers to the craft as a result of the conference.

Our panel offered advice on how to break into audiobook narration, and described what abilities are required for the job. (Many professional narrators are people with serious acting chops who often have a theater background.) A great number of print and audio publishers have been producing audiobooks for some time and providing many narrators with work, but ACX can further benefit narrators and producers by surfacing more books to record and by offering direct connections to book rights holders. We also shared tips on how narrators, whether on ACX or working directly with publishers and producers, can prepare auditions that showcase their strengths.

We were also very excited to announce our ACX audiobook narration contest winners, Alex Hyde-White and Shelby Lewis. Lewis, chosen as best female performance, won the chance to narrate Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass.

Says Lewis, “I’m a huge ACX fan — from the website to the tutorials to the empowering concept behind the entire thing. With or without winning this contest, I knew ACX would be a huge factor in jumpstarting my career in voiceover.”

Lewis, who’s been studying acting since age 14, says her secret niche has always been voices and accents. But it wasn’t until this year that she realized voiceover and narration weren’t just a “cool section of acting,” but could actually be a career. Lewis credits her voice coach, Nancy Wolfson, for showing her how simultaneously flexible and lucrative the work can be. With on-camera work, you’re usually at the mercy of others, Lewis observes, but with voiceover, you can make your own schedule. And if you already have a theater background, narrating an audiobook can be like “a one-person show.”

Lewis will begin work on Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland in two weeks. In the meantime, she’s setting up her ACX narrator profile and hopes to get another ACX gig wrapped up in the interim, using a  home studio she set up with the help of ACX video tutorials. “With ACX, you don’t have to sit around,” she says. Good luck, Shelby!