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.
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.
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.”
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!