Be Good, Be Ready, Be Lucky

ACX author Joshua Gayou snagged all-star Audible Approved Producer R.C. Bray to narrate his debut novel, Commune: Book One, after he approached R.C. during a Reddit AMA (Ask Me Anything). But before that fateful question, Joshua set himself up for a ‘yes’, putting the right pieces in place to catch lightning in a bottle. Joshua joins us today to share the work that enabled his audiobook achievement.

ACX author Joshua Gayou

Working with Audie Award-winning voice artist R.C. Bray has resulted in the audio version of Commune: Book One outselling both the eBook and print formats of the title, sending it to the #1 position on Audible’s post-apocalyptic genre charts for several weeks. Not too shabby for a debut novel by a completely unheard-of author, no?

I have written at length on why I believe audiobooks are the new place to be in today’s market, but for this article, I wanted to offer some insight into how I managed to have a book produced and performed by R.C. Bray, given my relative obscurity. Sadly, there is no fast and easy answer to this. There is a lot of groundwork to have in place before you ever approach the narrator of your choice. Here’s what I recommend.

1. Be Good

The importance of this concept cannot be overstated. I truly believe R.C. Bray would not have signed on to produce my audiobook if he had not been wowed by my writing. Generally, the steps necessary to become a good writer will vary from person to person, but all involve a great deal of practice.

  • Read/listen to lots of books to learn what works well and what doesn’t with regard to telling a story using the written/narrated word.
  • Do a lot of writing and share your work with people you trust. Most importantly, ask for blunt criticism.
  • Write with a view toward the audiobook production process. Concern yourself with narrative flow, delivery, and dialogue structure.

2. Find a Way to Distinguish Yourself from the Herd

I know I just told you to be good, but I’m going to reveal the hard truth: good writers are a dime a dozen. You’ve also got to be refreshing. One way I’ve done this for myself has been to consume a great deal of similar media from other creators with a hyper-critical eye. You know that jerk that’s always picking apart movies and TV shows to a surgical degree to discover what’s wrong with them? Yep, that’s me. I’m looking for things that I don’t like, and if the opportunity presents itself, I actively work to avoid those tropes and clichés in my own work.

If you focus on finding some way to make the story an uncommon reader experience, and more importantly, if the result of that focus is exciting to you as the writer, you’re most likely on the right track.

3. Make Sure Your Work Fits the Narrator

The better narrators tend to be very protective of their brand, as they should be. A performer of any type wants a project that will favorably show his or her talents. Be sure to research your dream narrator’s body of work and learn what projects he or she typically likes to pursue. If you’ve written a gritty procedural crime drama and the performer you’re looking at spends most of their time in the fantasy and cyberpunk genres, you may not have the best chance of getting that person on board with your project.

Both R.C. Bray and I enjoy a good apocalypse story; I know this because I’m a fan of his. To set yourself up for success, do your research on both the type of project you’re looking to publish as well as the people you’ll want to work with along the way.

4. Get a Narrator on Board

Up until this point, everything has been under your control. Now you have to convince someone else that your story is worth investing in. No one is going to just dive in to help you make your book, unless they think there’s a payday on the other side of their efforts. Narrators do this for a living, after all.

Audible Approved Producer R.C. Bray

I started by connecting with my favorite narrator via social media. I was a fan of R.C. Bray’s for a few years before I ever signed him for my books. I followed him on Facebook, I interacted with him, and made it a point to let him know that I appreciated and supported his work. This was not for the purpose of schmoozing him to do my books; I hadn’t even written any at the time. But we built a rapport such that, when he hosted a Reddit AMA (and I actually had written a book by this time), I felt comfortable asking him about the steps necessary for a newbie to break into the audiobook business, which he graciously answered in a private email. Unbeknownst to me, he also went and downloaded a copy of my book, and after reading the first chapter, decided that he wanted to produce it.

It was a lucky break, absolutely, but a lucky break that would have never happened had I not done the work outlined above and made it a point to reach out and connect. Work on your craft, study the industry, find ways to connect with those narrators you most enjoy, and interact on a human level. This is the best advice I can offer to help you open up your own doors. Good luck!

Joshua Gayou is the author of the best selling novel Commune: Book One, the first entry in the Commune Series Tetraology. He lives in Southern California with his wife Jennifer and son Anthony. When he isn’t writing, he divides his time between being a senior engineer in the avionics industry, accomplishing tasks around the house as assigned by his wife (The Boss), and goofing off with his kid. Find him on Facebook, Twitter, and his blog

This Week in Links: February 12 – 16

For Producers:

The Difference Between ‘Urgent’ & ‘Important’ Makes A Difference In Your VO Career – via Voice-Over Xtra – Casting director Hugh Klitzke offers a lesson in emotional recognition and how it can help your VO business.

You Can Pick Your Nose, But You Can’t Pick Their Brain – via Dave Courvoisier – Get a lesson on the etiquette of  seeking free advice from a VO mentor and the topics that are and aren’t recommended for discussion.

Do You Really Need a Bio? – via Natasha Marchewka – As a freelance professional, you’re constantly on the hunt for that next gig, which makes a compelling, up-to-date bio a must-have.

Voice-Over Is a Fun Business. Listen to These Hilarious Clips – via Edge Studio – Give yourself a breather with these entertaining outtakes.

For Rights Holders:

Use Quirky Holidays in March for Book Marketing – via BuildBookBuzz – Learn about some truly wild holidays coming up and how to leverage them for your audiobook marketing.

Writing Tip: Make It Clear Who Is Talking…but Not Too Clear – via CreateSpace – Bestselling author Maria Murnane has great advice on writing vocal tags that’s especially helpful when writing with your audio edition in mind.

Writing A Book Marketing Plan: 7 Ways That Will Guarantee Success – via BookBuzzr – Spelling out your book marketing goals at the start can give you a reliable map to follow to achieve success.

ACX U Presents: The Elements of a Well-Reviewed Audiobook – via ACX – Listener reviews are a critical part of the sales ecosystem for your audiobook, with many listeners basing their purchasing decision on critical commentary. In this video, the editors of Audiofile and Audio Book Reviewer reveal how they choose which audiobooks make their listen lists.

This Week in Links: February 5 – 9

For Rights Holders:

Five Marketing Tools for Authors Who Hate Marketing – via Writer Unboxed – “If you’re a writer and you’re on social media, have a website, blog, or even just talk about your work with friends, you’re already marketing. So here are five inexpensive and relatively easy-to-use tools to help optimize the marketing you’re already doing.”

How to Collaborate Effectively with Other Indie Authors In Your Genre – via ALLi – Find out what happened when one author decided to stop competing with his fellow writers and start building a shared fan base.

Book Marketing (and Publicity) is not About Book Sales – via Author Marketing Experts – Learn why “exposure,” while harder to measure than unit sales, can be just as important an area of focus as the number of (audio)books you sell.

15 Ways to Strengthen Writer Courage – via Live Write Thrive – Do you suffer from Imposter Syndrome? Are there steps you’d like to take in your career, if only they didn’t seem so daunting? Read on to find ways to overcome your fears and access your inner strength.

For Producers:

Who Are Finalists For The Coveted 2018 Audio Publishers Association Audie Awards? – via Voice-Over Xtra – Audible has racked up 28 nominations, including 6 titles published by ACX Producers and Rights Holders! Check out the full list of nominees.

3 Things to Consider Before You Build Your Voice Over Studio – via Marc Scott – Follow along as the VO pro and coach shares lessons (and photos) from his own home studio construction process.

The Superbowl’s 3 Big Lessons for Voice Actors – via Dave Courvoisier – “It’s not often I find inspiration in professional sports…but there is much to be noted in the successful portrayal of the truly deserving individual who masters spectacle, excellence, and legacy.”

ACX U Presents: Beyond the Booth: Monetizing Your Voice – via ACX – Find out how to make sure the time you spend off-mic is just as lucrative as the time you spend on it.

 

This Week in Links: January 29 – February 2

For Producers:

3 Reasons Why You Need a VO Accountability Partner – via Dave Courvoisier – Learn the benefits of an honest relationship with a trusted colleague and how to select the right person for you.

Three Characteristics Of Successful Voice Actors: What Keeps Them On Top? – via Voice-Over Xtra – “I think we all know well-educated people with great skills and a nice set-up who can barely make ends meet. So, there must be other factors at play that determine the difference between success and failure.”

The Voice Actor’s Law of Diminishing Returns – via Backstage – “I was willing to buy into the lie rather than face the truth that the marathon path to success in VO requires persistence, savvy, patience, hard work, facing your demons, and overcoming your fears.”

Is Your Portfolio Demonstrating the Best You? – via Natasha Marchewka – Are you highlighting the full breadth of your abilities on your ACX profile, your website, and elsewhere? Natasha’s got tips to make the most out of your promotional real estate.

For Rights Holders:

Why Focused Goals Can Help You Sell More Books – via a marketing expert – “If you have no direction other than “book sales” you’ll often make bad decisions, spend money you shouldn’t have, and end up nowhere near the final, end goal of selling more books.”

Submit Your Book to Holiday Gift Guides – via The Book Designer – Getting your audiobook listed in a book guide can be a great way to expose your work to tons of potential listeners. Note that you needn’t wait for the year-end holidays to take action on this tip.

What Your Brand Needs – via CreateSpace – What’s the one simple trick that will make your author brand more interesting to your fans? CreateSpace’s Richard Ridley offers his answer.

How to Get Kicked Out of a Facebook Group – via Build Book Buzz Facebook groups are a hotbed of fan activity and a great place to connect with listeners. Make sure you conduct yourself appropriately by checking out this list of “don’ts.”

This Week in Links: January 22 – 26

For Rights Holders:

‘Failed’ Songwriter Goes Up Against Bruce Springsteen for a Grammy – via Variety – Have you heard? ACX’s first Grammy nomination is for Shelly Peiken’s Confessions of a Serial Songwriter. Learn about Shelly and her road to the nomination here.

Free Book Trailer Templates – via Adazing – Trailers work, especially for audiobooks! So, team up with your narrator, and use this guide to create one with software you probably already have on your computer.

How to Jumpstart Book Reviews for Self-Published Books – via The Book Designer – These easy-to-follow tactics can help you get audiobook reviews too, of course.

Indie Author PSA: Do NOT Do These Things in 2018 – via Author Marketing Experts – When setting goals for success, it can be helpful to remember actions you’ll work to avoid.

For Producers:

From Couch to Mic: How To Market Your Voice-Over Skills – via suchavoice – “What does ‘market myself more’ or ‘get more gigs’ look like to you? What do you do every day to make that happen?”

5 Tips for Working From Home – via Marc Scott – Let Marc show you the way towards achieving a healthy work/life balance when your home is your office.

Surviving the Gig Economy – via Paul Strikwerda – “Today I’d like to share a number of attributes I believe to be the trademark of any successful solopreneur. If you want to make it on your own, you have to be…”

4 Ways to Avoid Shooting Your VO in the Foot – via Dave Courvoisier – “We make enough mistakes on our own through impatience, inattention, sloppiness, or just plain ole pig-headedness.  Why add to your troubles with stupidity?”

This Week in Links: January 7 – 12

For Producers:

When You Don’t Know What To Do – via Natasha Marchewka – Now is a great time to jump on board with Natasha’s 2018 series teaching you to “pull your business together, get on track, and keep your ducks in a row.”

Stop Talking for a Better Voice – via Dr. Ann Utterback – This counterintuitive advice makes sense once you read when you’re recommended to abstain from speaking.

Voiceovers And The New Tax Code – vi Tom Dheere – If you have questions about how the new tax code will affect your VO business, Tom’s got you covered. Part two can be read here.

Talk British To Me!’ … A Desirable Talent  For Voice Actors – Here’s What To Practice – via Voice-Over Xtra – Add another accent to your repertoire with this advice from VO  Sarah Mitchell.

For Rights Holders:

How to Build Your Brand in 2018 – via CreateSpace – Author Richard Ridey has three quick tips to improve your promotions in 2018.

Jump-Start Your Writing: 3 Myths That Hinder Creativity—and How to Conquer Them – via Writer’s Digest – If you’re battling writer’s block, it may be time to unlearn some of the less helpful pieces of wisdom you’ve come to believe.

10 Critical Author Marketing Lessons We Can Learn from Apple – via where writers win – From keeping it simple to developing an aura of mystery, this fun infographic has a number of helpful ideas.

Masterful Narrative Scenes in Novel – via C.S.Lakin – The more compelling the book, the more appealing it will be to narrator and listeners alike.

This Year in Links: 2017

All year long, we’ve been sharing audiobook production, publishing, and marketing links from around the web. Today, we’ve gathered your favorites from the past year, along with a look at the creators who published them. Read on for some great advice, and you just might find your new favorite site to bookmark.

For Producers:

Karen Commins is an Audible Approved ACX Producer, and has been a professional voiceover talent since 1999. She’s produced and recorded over 50 titles in her custom-built home studio, in addition to writing articles on audiobook production and publishing on her blog.

Dave Courvoisier is a voice actor, blogger and Emmy-winning TV news anchor. His blog features a variety of topics for VO’s, and his experience in the industry makes them worth your attention.

Paul Strikwerda is a Dutch-English voiceover pro, coach, and writer. His lengthy posts are often philosophical in nature, and tackle VO theory more than specific technical advice.

Dr. Ann Utterback is a voice specialist with more than 40 years experience working with broadcasters, voice over artists and podcasters around the world. Her blog is a great place to learn how to take care of your instrument.

For Rights Holders:

ALLi is the Alliance of Independent Authors, a non-profit professional association for authors who self-publish. Their blog focuses on teaching publishing and marketing skills to authors who don’t have the backing of a major publisher.

The Book Designer is Joel Friedlander, a man with a 40-year history in printing, graphic design, typography, book design, and advertising. His blog focuses on “researching new ways for you to get your books into print, to make them more apt to sell, and be a source of pride to both author and publisher.”

BookMarketingBuzzBlog is written by Brian Feinblum, a veteran of two decades in the industry of book publishing publicity and marketing. On his blog, you’ll discover savvy but entertaining insights on book marketing, public relations, branding, and advertising.

Our partners in publishing, CreateSpace  is the one stop shop for your print on demand needs. Their blog features bite-sized pieces of publishing and marketing wisdom, with a bit of beginner’s slant.

A Critical Ear: The ACX Reference Sample Pack

Hi! This is Brendan from the ACX QA Team. I’m here today to introduce our Reference Sample Pack, a new tool we’ve developed to illustrate how your audiobook should—and should not—sound during the various stages of production.

This tool will help you spot problems in your audio and give you an idea of the audio quality your listeners will be expecting from productions on Audible. We’ve also included files that can be used to calibrate your Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) for recording. Mastering level specifications, especially RMS, can be difficult to understand via text alone. What better way to learn what kind of audio “passes” ACX QA than to have passable files at hand for you to refer to and test on your own setup?

Getting Started

To use the Reference Sample Pack, download the zip file onto your computer. Unzip this folder and you will find nine WAV files that can be loaded into your DAW of choice. We processed, and in some cases distorted, the same raw file for each example, then divided the samples into two categories: files that can be used as good production targets, and files containing issues you should try to avoid.

What’s Inside

Start with our PDF guide, which contains exact details on what you should listen for while playing.

 

The “Good Production” Files

File 1: A Raw, Unedited File (good-production_01_raw-recording.wav)

This file has a few issues that need to be resolved before it can pass QA, the mouse clicks and excessive spacing at the start of the file for example, but nothing you hear can’t be resolved during the editing and mastering stages.

File 2: An Edited File (good-production_02_edited-recording.wav)

This next file contains the same performance, edited properly.

 

Notice the edits made between “Step 1” and “Step 2.” We trimmed the spacing (circled in purple) at the top of the file to half a second, and removed the mouse clicks and deep intake breaths (circled in yellow), replacing them with clean room tone.

Learning proper editing techniques can take some time, but I’ve found that the Alex the Audio Scientist blog post on editing and spacing is a helpful starting point. I even use the same QC sheet referenced in Alex’s post when I work on my own projects.

File 3: An Edited Master, Pre-Encoding (good-production_03_edited-mastered-recording.wav)

Ever wonder what a file that meets our Audio Submission Requirements, with peaks around -3dB and RMS levels between -18 and -23dB RMS, would look like in your DAW? This is it! Observe how consistent the peaks in this file are, then check where this file peaks on your meters. If your file is too dynamic or sounds a little muddy, you may need to utilize mastering tools like those detailed in Alex the Audio Scientist’s Mastering Audiobooks blog post

The “Avoid” Files

The “Avoid” files contain common problems you should steer clear of during production. Included here are:

  • A file that has been recorded at levels that are too low,
  • A file that’s been heavily gated,
  • A recording processed with heavy noise reduction, and
  • Files with Peak or RMS levels that do not meet our requirements.

You should not use these files to calibrate your system for recording. Rather, train your ears to notice these sounds as you work on your own files, and use these examples to understand the most common issues you may run into during production.

Try It Yourself

The sample pack also includes the script used during the recording of the samples. If you are testing out your levels before you begin a new project and want to compare your recordings to the “target” files in this pack, we recommend you use this script, which can be found on the last page of the file “ACX—Sample Guide.pdf.” Record your read of the script and compare your noise floor and peak level to the “Step 2” file. The closer you can get to matching the samples, the more confident you can be that you will pass QA inspection later on in the process.

Final Thoughts

It can be easy to get caught up in post-production, using too many plugins or tools when trying to meet specifications, or trying to fix poorly recorded audio that is beyond repair. At ACX, we believe the best time to address audio issues is before they make their way onto your recording. Training your ears to know when problems are occurring will be far more beneficial than having the latest noise removal or EQ plugins will ever be. The better you get at listening to yourself, the better your productions will sound to others.

Did you find the QA Team’s Reference Sample Pack helpful? Tell us in the comments below.

This Week in Links: December 4 – 8

For Rights Holders:

Increase Engagement in Your Marketing with Visuals – via The Book Designer – “You know the saying that a picture is worth 1,000 words? It may be true but what’s proven is that a photo is better than text when it comes to social media engagement.”

How Ordinary Authors Can Promote a Book Like a Great Author – via BookMarketingBuzzBlog – The difference between an “ordinary” author and a “great” author is often a simple change in your perspective. Find out how to elevate your attitude to get to great.

10 Critical Author Marketing Lessons We Can Learn from Apple – via where writers win – This handy infographic should give you some ideas for ways to successfully market your audiobook.

20 Best Songs for Writers and About Writing: The Ultimate Writing Mixtape – via Writers Digest – Set the tone in your writer’s room with this snappy mix of literary-focused tunes.

For Producers:

Marketing Seasons & Rhythms: When Are Best Times For The Voice Over Biz? – via Voice-Over Xtra – “All effective marketers in every business field know the calendar year and what they should do (OR NOT DO) for maximum effect each month.”

The Turning Point – via Paul Strikwerda – Are you working towards you own success, or just hoping good things will happen to you?

Don’t Let a Cold Wreck Your Holiday or Your Voice – via Dr. Ann Utterback – Crowds and confined spaces are breeding grounds for cold-causing germs. Learn how to combat them this holiday season, and spare yourself the literal headache of missed workdays.

Audiobook Advice from Hall of Fame Narrators – via ACX – Learn from your peers as they share their reflections on a successful career in audiobook narration.

Audiobook Advice from Hall of Fame Narrators—Part Four

On Sunday, as part of their 20th anniversary celebration, Audible announced the inaugural inductees of the Narrator Hall of Fame. This week, four ACX Producers receiving this honor share their reflections and their advice to future inductees. For our final installment, Simon Vance offers his thoughts.

I honestly never suspected I’d make it into any kind of Hall of Fame. That I have been inducted into Audible’s Narrator Hall of Fame is beyond my wildest dreams, and I am so honored.

Hall of Famer Simon Vance

I was asked here if I had any advice for narrators just starting out. Well, I’ve been recording audiobooks for a long, long time. So long that I wouldn’t have the first clue how to get into this business if I wasn’t in it already! But I do know people who are the kinds of teachers I would go to and who can give excellent advice. They’re the people who have a good track record of experience themselves. Johnny Heller and Paul Alan Ruben are based in New York, and Scott Brick and are two narrators I trust on the west coast. Almost all these narrators (Paul Alan Ruben is a Grammy-winning director) will coach via Skype if you’re not in their city.

Once you’re underway, then I would advise you to keep Neil Gaiman’s three rules for success in your work life in mind:

  1. Be very good at what you do.
  2. Be pleasant to work with.
  3. Always deliver what you promise on time.

And bear in mind, he says (and I think it’s true) that you can survive on two out of the three. So, you may not be the best, but if you’re good to work with and you deliver on time, you’ll probably always find work.

Audiobook narration is not for the faint of heart. Sometimes it can be a grueling marathon. It’s certainly not a sprint. But the rewards (maybe not always the financial, but certainly the spiritual rewards) can be amazing. If you’re lucky and you’re talented you might find both. This is a wonderful community to be a part of.

Congratulations to all the inductees, especially those who joined us this week! Read the full series here.