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
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:
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?