Last month, ACX met new talent Andi Ackerman while we where out in LA for That’s Voiceover 2013, and she joins us today to help ACX producers learn from her experience. Read on, and let Andi help you avoid some of the mistakes she made in her early in her audiobook career.
Four Things I Learned About Audiobook Production The Hard Way
Most people think of themselves as reasonably astute, myself included. I may not be genius material, but I like to fancy myself perhaps just a bit smarter than the average bear, or at least smart enough to not have to read instructions. But in truth I always need to read the instructions.
Going against my usual habit, I did actually read the ACX web site pretty thoroughly before accepting my first title. But that only began to prepare me for my ultimately wonderful, but initially torturous audiobook journey. Below is a brief summary of four things I’ve learned about audiobook production over the past year.
1. Amazon reviews only tell part of the story.
Believe it or not, it took me three tries to learn what should be a pretty obvious concept. Everybody has different tastes, and some wonderful books have never been reviewed on Amazon. To make an informed decision when choosing titles to audition for or produce, read as much of the book as you can yourself before you accept the project. (Editor’s Note: ACX producers should feel comfortable politely asking the rights holder for a full script before agreeing to produce the title.)
2. Don’t take on a project that makes you uncomfortable.
Some nonfiction titles that seem innocuous can turn out to espouse points of view with which you may strongly disagree. And in the words of the brilliant Richard Horvitz, the voice is the work of the spirit, or in other words, our true selves. Your feelings can be heard in your voice.
I agreed to narrate a nonfiction title about holistic health by a credentialed, reputable author. I love health! I want people to be healthy! What could possibly go wrong? Well, a few pages into the second chapter I discovered the author held opinions about childhood vaccinations that I vehemently opposed. I could not in good conscience produce that book. The author deserved a narrator who would help them realize their vision, not undermine it. And if I had followed my own advice in point number one, I wouldn’t have made this mistake!
There are certain things you have to know about yourself, and I know that I can’t do erotica because I get the giggles. If you don’t care for violence you probably want to stay away from mysteries and police procedurals. You’re going to be spending a good chunk of time with a work so choose a project you like.
3. Editing will always take you longer than you think.
When I first signed on to ACX I had been editing short project voiceover work comfortably, and naively believed an audiobook couldn’t really be that different. It really is that different. I had a pretty darn steep learning curve with the production end. Allow yourself more time than you think you’ll need. Watch the videos on ACX and check out tutorials on YouTube before you start your first book.
4. Don’t get so caught up in the technical end that you forget to enjoy your time with the words.
You’ve been entrusted with someone’s “baby.” It really is a gift and a joy to be able to create a landscape, a universe, a story with your voice.
Now that I’m wiser and more experienced (but not yet a master!), the work of audiobook production is a joy. I am grateful to be able to do what I love. If you’re just starting out on your ACX journey, I hope you can learn from my experience and forge a successful voiceover career.
Help others learn from your mistakes by leaving your best piece of audiobook production advice in the comments!
Great learning about your learning curve, Andi. You did a fantastic job with the first book in my Sidra Smart mysteries ( Dance On His Grave) and I’m thrilled you agreed to produce the rest of the series! And we did have fun with Southeast Texas pronunciations!
Make sure your samples are professional and loud enough to be heard. Compare them to other narrators’ samples to make sure they are not too low. If they can’t hear you, they wont book you.
I am buoyed by your advice as I’ve become incredibly bogged down in my own learning curve. All the equipment is sitting here staring at me and each day I learn a bit more but I do often feel overwhelmed. I wish I could go back ten years and still be walking into a great studio with a brilliant engineer and just reading the copy like I used to.