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.

Audiobook Advice from Hall of Fame Narrators—Part Three

This week, four ACX Producers who are among the 20 inaugural inductees into Audible’s Narrator Hall of Fame join us to share their reflections and advice for their fellow narrators and producers. Today, Luke Daniels offers his thoughts.

Hall of Famer Luke Daniels

For almost a decade, I have been blessed to become a small part of the audiobook industry, and now I am extremely honored to be selected for Audible’s Narrator Hall of Fame. I want to share this recognition with every other narrator, producer, proofer, casting director, designer, sales rep, engineer, and listener who labors in their own significant way to bring these stories to life. It’s all of us who have made this industry what it is today, and I am lucky to count myself among your ranks. As for Audible, thank you for being the lighthouse as we discover this new world.

Choice is the lynchpin of any journey, and I’ve been asked to share some of the decisions that I believe helped get me to this point.

  1. Listen to audiobooks! Listen to other narrators. Talk to people in the industry and listen to what they have to say. Gather information like its oxygen. Learn about all sides of the business. You’re not just a talk-monkey. Well, you are, but become a better one by being aware of what’s happening in the audiobook industry.
  2. You are your product. Tend to yourself. As a performer, your body is your instrument. Sitting still with intense focus in front of a screen is not great for our physical or mental health. Do other things. Get out. Experience life. It will inform you as a performer and help make you a more well-rounded product.
  3. Market yourself. Put yourself out there. Take chances. Build a fan base through social media. Help out your peers in the industry. Lift each other up, and we all rise to the top.

Thanks for all the hours of listening and for this incredible honor. I am truly grateful.

Want even more Luke? Read his recent Storytellers post, or find him on ACX, Facebook, Twitter, and—of course—Audible.

Get more advice from hall of fame inductees here, and join us on Friday for the final installment of our series, featuring Simon Vance.

Audiobook Advice from Hall of Fame Narrators—Part Two

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 are sharing their reflections and their advice to future inductees. Today, we’re joined by Scott Brick.

Hall of Famer Scott Brick

Being told I’ve been elected to Audible’s Hall of Fame is easily the most surreal experience of my life. As a sports fan, I’ve grown up in awe of the men and women worthy to be designated Hall of Famers, but never anticipated the possibility of it happening in my life. And while I don’t feel even close to worthy, I am nevertheless grateful, hugely grateful for the honor. Like my peers, I didn’t come into this industry for accolades. We work in isolation, after all, reading alone in a room, unconnected to the listening audience.

And in some ways, I try to maintain that isolation. I think it helps me, I think it can help all of us. Don’t get me wrong, I love a nice review like anyone else, but I try not to read them, because good or bad, they’re one person’s opinion. If you’ve spent any time in Hollywood, you’ve likely heard the saying, “Oh, he believes his own press.” Staying away from listener reviews or blog sites keeps me from doing that, but also protects me from getting bogged down by negativity.

Yes, ours is a profession that relies heavily on self-promotion, so it’s a fine line to walk, but I try to navigate it as best I can. I will absolutely post the occasional rave for a project I’ve worked on, but I do so primarily to help publicize the book, as well as to honor the author and the publisher, and show my appreciation for the faith they’ve shown in me. That’s both good manners and good business. Beyond that, though, I try not to pay attention. While speaking at a conference a few years ago, a fan approached me on the street and asked how many narration awards I’ve won, and I told her truthfully, “I don’t know.” I kinda don’t want to know, you know?

When I was in my twenties I got the chance to work with a well-known actor, and in a quiet moment I asked him which of his many roles was his favorite. His response? “My next one.” That taught me a valuable lesson and has been an example I’ve tried to follow. I have never once forgotten what it felt like to walk into Dove Audio in Beverly Hills all those years ago for my very first narration job—on June 10, 1999; yes, I wrote it down! Although I had already booked the job, I nevertheless knew that my work in the studio that day was an audition: I was auditioning for my next job, and I have been ever since.

Thank you, Audible. It’s been a lovely twenty years, and I am deeply grateful.

Scott Brick can be found at ScottBrick.net, and you can listen to one of his 683 audiobook roles on Audible.

Tomorrow, ACX Storyteller Luke Daniels stops by to share his thoughts.

Audiobook Advice from Hall of Fame Narrators—Part One

On Sunday, as part of their 20th anniversary celebration, Audible announced the inaugural inductees of the Narrator Hall of Fame. The 20 members of this founding group were chosen by a panel of passionate listeners at Audible who spent many, many hours deliberating the merits of hundreds of talented performers based on the caliber of their work, the breadth of catalog, and listener feedback.

Among the honorees? Four ACX Producers! This week, they are sharing their reflections on the honor, and their advice to future inductees. Today, we kick things off with ACX University alumna Andi Arndt.

Hall of Famer Andi Arndt

When I got the call informing me that I had been voted into the inaugural “class” of the Audible Narrator Hall of Fame, I was in shock. I have only worked in audiobooks for the latter half of Audible’s 20 years. My fellow inductees have been, and continue to be, my role models, my teachers, my mentors. To be included among them is the highest honor I can imagine.

When I look back at the things that made a big difference along the way, a couple come to mind.

  1. Surround yourself with people who support you and believe in you. My dear husband Chris bought me a Dell Media Center computer for Christmas back in the 1990’s, and said he thought maybe I could use it for a home studio. That gift got me thinking about starting my own business, and along the way Chris and my daughters gave their blessing and encouragement as I traveled all over the country for workshops, conferences, and recording sessions, and as my increasing working hours complicated our family schedule. I know from talking with some of my coaching students and colleagues that not everyone has that kind of moral and financial support, and I absolutely do not take it for granted. This advice applies to people you hire as well; when I asked our family’s former tax accountant some questions about the tax implications of my then-new small business, he said “ask me that when you make over $10,000.” I felt like I’d been patted on the head and dismissed. We now have a great accountant who takes our questions seriously and helps us plan for the future with an eye toward growth.
  2. Show up for stuff. Go to workshops and keep up with your classmates and teachers. Go to industry events, big and small, a few times a year. Don’t worry about immediate results; focus on getting to know people that you will learn from and work with for years to come. You can do a lot from your home studio, via social media and email, but until you show up in person and start getting to know your clients and colleagues as people, you’ll have a hard time feeling as though you truly have access to the information and connections you need to get where you want to go.

Best wishes to you in your professional endeavors, and please join me in congratulating Audible on their two decades bringing the spoken word to ever-increasing audiences. Congratulations also to my fellow Narrator’s Hall of Fame inductees. Here’s to the future!

Andi Arndt is an Audible Approved Producer who’s voiced more than 180 titles on Audible. Find her on ACX, Facebook, and at her website.

Read reflections from Hall of Famers Scott Brick, Luke Daniels, and Simon Vance.

This Week in Links: November 6 – 10

For Rights Holders:

Book Promotion: Do This, Not That – November 2017 – via The Book Designer – This week, honesty is the best policy. Learn the right ways to drive your sales organically source authentic reviews.

18 Ways To Promote Your Book – via BookMarketingBuzzBlog – Here’s an easy assignment for you: pick a few suggestions off this list and put them into practice for your audiobook.

8 Things You MUST Do When Your First Book Is Launched – via Writer’s Digest – Just about all of these tips work when launching your audiobook too! Just remember to enjoy first.

Setting Goals – via CreateSpace – “You can’t develop a marketing strategy until you define what will make your marketing efforts a success.”

For Producers:

More Relief for Your Voice in Stressful Times – via Dr. Ann Utterback – Pair with part one of this series, and you’ll get the full scope of advice as we approach harsh weather and a potentially stressful holiday season.

Ask: ‘I’m A Voice Actor – But Why?’ Understand That To Grow Your Career – via Voice-Over Xtra – “Answering the question of “Why” will help us learn how to distinguish ourselves from everyone else. And it can lead to knowing what we can specifically do to achieve this vague notion of individualism. ”

Why You Flunked That Audition – via Dave Courvoisier – CourVO offers some insight on why you may not get the part – and it might just be in someone’s head.

ACX Storytellers: Luke Daniels – via ACX – Follow this multi-award winning voice’s path to success, and find some great advice along the way.

ACX Storytellers: Luke Daniels

Old school meets new school with ACX producer Luke Daniels. Beginning his narration career with Brilliance Audio in 2009, Luke kept his ear to the ground and rode the wave of home studio expansion to find success producing audiobooks for major publishers and ACX Rights Holders alike. Luke’s hard work has paid off with 13 Audiofile Magazine Earphones Awards and 7 Audie nominations, most recently for The Purloined Poodle, written by Kevin Hearne and produced via ACX. Luke joins us today to share his story.

Q: How did you become an audiobook narrator?

A: I was raised in Kalamazoo, Michigan, in an environment of storytelling. Both my parents were actors, directors, and taught theatre, so from the very beginning, the arts spoke to me. I loved movies, plays, music, and visual arts. But most of all I loved stories. Books, comics, 50s radio dramas…I absorbed it all. My undergrad years were spent exploring storytelling through film production/interpretation, literature, and theatre. I got my Master’s from the University of Connecticut in Performance. But it wasn’t until I recorded my first audiobook that I felt that old connection to a story told solely through words and voice. I knew I was taking part in a ritual as old as human beings themselves, and it electrified me.

I got the chance at my first book narration due to a lot of hard work, plus more than my share of luck. My older brother had narrated audiobooks for Brilliance Audio, based in Grand Haven, Michigan, back in the cassette tape days. He was kind enough to pass my name to their casting directors. After I auditioned, they offered me my first book, a backlist John Lescroart title called Sunburn. I was in. But now I had to actually record it…and what the heck did I know?

I jumped in with both feet and I read. But I also listened—to the directors, to the engineers, to other narrators that I met, to the text. I listened to what the authors told me. I listened to the TV with my eyes closed. What images did the voices I heard create in my mind? I listened to people on the street and I used their voices in the books I narrated. I relistened to my books after they were released and shuddered at the choices I’d made that fell flat. I felt exulted in the few moments that felt electric and tried to learn from it all. Listening to my own performances highlighted familiar rhythms and stress patterns I can slip into during narration. This is a clear sign that I’m just reading and not fully engaged with the text. Relistening also showed me times when I went too far with a character and other times when I wish I’d gone further.

In addition to all that listening, I read, and I read and I read some more. The more familiar I became with different genres and authors, the more I started to understand how their stories should be told. Before I knew it, I was recording two books a week for Brilliance.

Luke’s latest Audie-nominated performance

Q: How did you grow your business from that point?

A: While Brilliance and their studio system were fantastic, I knew I needed to diversify to be a viable entity in this emerging industry. But I lived in Michigan. Hemmed in by the Great Lakes, Michigan is known for cherries, beer, and snow days, but it’s no major industry hub like New York or Los Angeles.

I’d heard that my fellow narrators were now able to record for other companies from their home studios and still be home in time for dinner —because they never had to leave home in the first place. From there I slowly began to build my stable by searching out producers at other studios. After working with Brilliance, I was comfortable asking their casting directors for other studio contacts that I could reach out to. Word of mouth through other narrators, directors, and engineers helped, too. I learned that having an easily accessible website where studio producers could listen to my samples was essential. I never made them click more than two buttons to listen to me. When introducing myself, I supplied producers with practicalities right off the bat. Saying “I have my own studio,” or “this is my availability,” gave them answers before they had to ask the questions.

Publishers and producers hired me to record from home. I also continued to record at Brilliance’s studios until they were comfortable letting me take over the reins from my own studio.

Q: What do you wish someone had told you when you were just starting out?

A: 1. “Think before you act.” I’ve always been so gung ho to make my mark that I’ve sometimes been overzealous or guilty of trying too hard. I have to remind myself to take a moment. Breathe. Slow down. Tell. The. Story.

2. “You are your greatest asset.” Trust yourself, but also push yourself out of your comfort zones. Take risks. Have a point of view. Make a choice and commit!

3. “Support other narrators and producers.” We’re all in this together. It’s not a competition. Stats are great. Good reviews are manna from heaven, but none of it is as important as people. From the proofers to the producers, everyone has an equal right to play the game and no one part is more important than the whole: a story well told.

Q: Do you have any other advice for those just getting their feet wet with audiobook production?

A: In addition to courting producers and casting directors, it’s important to develop relationships with your fans and authors. Social media is a boon to us performers, a free marketing tool for our product, audiobooks, but also ourselves. Listeners love a shout-out on Facebook. That small personal interaction can translate into a lifelong fan. Authors love Twitter, so use it to connect with them and promote your work. I use YouTube and Facebook Live as a way to give fans and authors a small glimpse behind the curtain. In an emerging industry like audiobook production, the sky’s the limit.

How can you find your niche and create your own brand? If you are writing to a current or prospective client, take the time to make your emails simple, clear, and to the point, but also find some small way to personalize it. I would say 90% of my interactions with producers/authors is through email. How can you show them you’re not an automaton? It’s difficult to build a strong business relationship with someone you’ve never met in person, but it’s not impossible.

Q: How do you define success in your creative career?

A: When producers, authors, or Rights Holders reach out to me and ask me to do a book without auditioning. Whether or not I take on the project, that is success. That’s someone saying we’ve heard your work, or at least heard of you, and we want you to tell this story. Success is when my previous work is good enough to pave the way for future work.

Q: Do you have a fun hobby or skill unrelated to your audiobook work?

A: I lived and worked in Yosemite National Park for a while and was an avid climber and hiker. I still try to make it out to the mountains at least once a year.

Luke Daniels is the recipient of Audible’s 2012 Narrator of the Year Award. Daniels’ vast repertoire of work ranges from Kerouac to Updike, Nora Roberts to Stephen King, and Michael Crichton to Philip K. Dick. His background is in classical theatre and film. He can be found at http://www.luke-daniels.com/.