The journey of a thousand audiobooks begins with a single page. A scant few narrators have hit this prestigious milestone, and as of this week, that shortlist includes industry powerhouse Tanya Eby. Her 20+ year audiobook journey has seen an Audie award (and three nominations), along with Earphones & SOVAS awards and multiple original content productions. Join us as we go back in time to the beginning of her story to see how she got to where she is today.
ACX: Tanya, congratulations! 1,000 audiobooks Recorded is a significant achievement, and it strikes me as one that you only reach by treating this work like a marathon, not a sprint. How have you paced yourself to be able to achieve this milestone?
Tanya Eby: It’s definitely a marathon! I needed to learn early on how to pace myself, and how to schedule myself so that I didn’t burn out. I know how much I can comfortably record in a day (about 2.5 finished hours without pushing) and use that to figure out how many days a book will take me to record. Then I take a day or two off in between recordings to give my voice and my brain a rest.
We hear a lot from narrators that they build a career by finding their niche—did you carve your own niche in this industry, or do you do a little bit of everything?
I do a little bit of everything because I love the challenge each new book brings. There’s a natural warmth in my voice that works well with romance and nonfiction, but I also love adding a little grit for mysteries/thrillers, true crime, fantasy and sci fi. Some narrators create a niche where they do one type of audiobook recording. My pseudonym, Tatiana Sokolov, is more of a brand for romance novels with a higher spice level. But other than that, my niche is really focusing on the heart of a story, bringing out humor when needed, and creating a memorable listening experience.
It’s interesting because I don’t think I have a niche, but publishers and some indie writers think I do! Different clients think of me in different ways. Some hire me just for romance, some for nonfiction, some for mysteries (gritty or cozy). Because I have many clients, I’m able to diversify my work this way. Also, having many clients has helped me sustain my career. When I don’t have work from one client, I tend to have work from another.
What other major mile markers have you hit—and how did you know it was time to make the leaps you’ve made?
I look at this career like climbing a long staircase. Slow and steady, each step leads to a new one. So over the last two decades or so of recording, I’ve had lots of little milestones. I moved from recording in my front closet to purchasing a vocal booth. I outsourced post-production work when I realized I’d make more income putting my time towards recording another title than using that time to edit and master an audiobook (skills I don’t really have anyway). When I realized there where titles I wanted to hear as an audiobook and those pieces weren’t being produced, I started my production company. I think when I start to get really comfortable and things are flowing, that’s the time to try a new challenge and stretch myself, to take another step up.
What strategies have you found to streamline or hone your process along the way?
Building relationships with audiobook professionals is the number one way I’ve been able to achieve this goal. I also take my job very seriously and am rarely late on deadlines. I deliver quality performances, turn around fixes quickly, and communicate with production teams clearly. This has built trust with my clients that they know when they hire me, they can count on a good performance and finished product.
I love my work, and I take great pride in it. I think it shows in the consistency and quality of what I offer. I also needed to learn to say ’no’ sometimes, or as I like to say “Yes, but…” Sometimes I can’t make a deadline the client wants because I’m recording something else, so I need to be honest and say I can’t take that project on for that timeline, but here is when I can get the piece to you.
So after 1,000 audiobooks, what keeps you going? What keeps it fun?
Each book requires a little something different from the narrator and I love figuring that out. What’s the tone? What’s the pace? Am I a voice of authority here, or am I a character? Am I falling in love, fighting for my life, or a little of both? Each book is a new challenge, and it keeps my workdays fresh and exciting.
And what about you, reader? Are you on page one or one thousand of your audiobook journey? Do you have any significant milestones you’d like to share? Let us know in the comments!