ACX producer Kevin Pierce recently wrapped production on the NY Times bestseller ObamaCare Survival Guide: The Affordable Care Act and What it Means for You and Your Health Care, by Nick Tate. Today, Kevin stops by the blog to recount some of the important steps in his process of auditioning for and producing a high profile bestseller.
Kevin, how did you prepare for and win the audition for ObamaCare Survival Guide: The Affordable Care Act and What it Means for You and Your Health Care?
When I saw this title come up for audition on ACX, I submitted mine immediately. Because the majority of my audiobook work has been non-fiction, business and self-help, I felt qualified to voice this book. While this wasn’t a purely medical title, I did have hundreds of hours of previous medical narration work to draw on, if necessary. And although I was aware of the publisher’s political leanings, my read of the audition script was neither pro-Obamacare nor con. I went with my gut, and made the delivery choice without guidance. As the rights-holder indicated with an offer to produce, this approach was exactly what they were looking for.
What challenges did you face while producing this title?
Making an audiobook involves turning a completely visual product into a completely auditory one. The ObamaCare Survival Guide was filled with charts and tables. Fortunately, these elements were added to support the words in the text, so when they were removed (along with any references such as “see table 3.1”), the remaining words still made perfect sense. We eventually decided to remove all but one of the charts/tables in the book, leaving only a list that was not otherwise represented in the text. Also, the titles, headlines and subheads within chapters that serve as visual markers for a book reader needed some aural representation in the audiobook. We decided that most headlines would be treated as subject separators with an appropriate pause of 2.5 seconds (as outlined in ACX’s Rules For Audiobook Production), except in one chapter where they signified items in a list.
What would you say was the most critical point of the production?
I believe the 15 minute checkpoint is the fundamental point in the ACX approval process. It not only represents the initial installment of the project, but once approved, it becomes the reference point for the sound of the remaining hours of the book. On this particular project, the metaphorical preset on the performance was labeled “ME,” that is, straightforward and in my natural tone. As a result, I did not have to refer much to the 15 minute checkpoint. If the requested performance had required more of a stretch, I would have referred to it at the beginning of each recording session in order to keep my tone and delivery consistent. On “Obamacare,” little was changed after the 15 Minute Checkpoint was recorded, but that recording was the touchstone for the direction of the remainder of the project.
What areas of the book required extra attention?
Once finished recording the final audio, it was time for the next important step in the production process: proofing. Luckily, I am usually guilty of “good” errors – those that don’t change the meaning of the text (much, anyway). The word “crucial” might become critical, “medication” becomes medicine, and though the text reads “overthrow,” I might say overturn. I call these the good errors because they indicate to me that I was engaged with the message of the book (if not the precise words used) when I made them. Yet, errors they are, and a good proofer will catch them. Proofing for a precise match to the book’s text before the project is finalized is very important, even if the meaning of the word isn’t changed.
What did the rights holder of the ObamaCare Survival Guide do to set the book up for success?
ObamaCare Survival Guide is this publisher’s first venture into making its own audiobooks. As a result, their review of the final project was careful, involving a few sets of eyes. This is real attention to detail from a rights holder, and can help ensure a great finished product. In the end, however, no changes were required, which is testament to the careful proofing, attention to the production plan and adherence to the approved delivery and pace of the 15 minute checkpoint.