Category Archives: Storytellers

Audiobook Advice from Hall of Fame Narrators—Part Four

On Sunday, as part of their 20th anniversary celebration, Audible announced the inaugural inductees of the Narrator Hall of Fame. This week, four ACX Producers receiving this honor share their reflections and their advice to future inductees. For our final installment, Simon Vance offers his thoughts.

I honestly never suspected I’d make it into any kind of Hall of Fame. That I have been inducted into Audible’s Narrator Hall of Fame is beyond my wildest dreams, and I am so honored.

Hall of Famer Simon Vance

I was asked here if I had any advice for narrators just starting out. Well, I’ve been recording audiobooks for a long, long time. So long that I wouldn’t have the first clue how to get into this business if I wasn’t in it already! But I do know people who are the kinds of teachers I would go to and who can give excellent advice. They’re the people who have a good track record of experience themselves. Johnny Heller and Paul Alan Ruben are based in New York, and Scott Brick and are two narrators I trust on the west coast. Almost all these narrators (Paul Alan Ruben is a Grammy-winning director) will coach via Skype if you’re not in their city.

Once you’re underway, then I would advise you to keep Neil Gaiman’s three rules for success in your work life in mind:

  1. Be very good at what you do.
  2. Be pleasant to work with.
  3. Always deliver what you promise on time.

And bear in mind, he says (and I think it’s true) that you can survive on two out of the three. So, you may not be the best, but if you’re good to work with and you deliver on time, you’ll probably always find work.

Audiobook narration is not for the faint of heart. Sometimes it can be a grueling marathon. It’s certainly not a sprint. But the rewards (maybe not always the financial, but certainly the spiritual rewards) can be amazing. If you’re lucky and you’re talented you might find both. This is a wonderful community to be a part of.

Congratulations to all the inductees, especially those who joined us this week! Read the full series here.

Audiobook Advice from Hall of Fame Narrators—Part Three

This week, four ACX Producers who are among the 20 inaugural inductees into Audible’s Narrator Hall of Fame join us to share their reflections and advice for their fellow narrators and producers. Today, Luke Daniels offers his thoughts.

Hall of Famer Luke Daniels

For almost a decade, I have been blessed to become a small part of the audiobook industry, and now I am extremely honored to be selected for Audible’s Narrator Hall of Fame. I want to share this recognition with every other narrator, producer, proofer, casting director, designer, sales rep, engineer, and listener who labors in their own significant way to bring these stories to life. It’s all of us who have made this industry what it is today, and I am lucky to count myself among your ranks. As for Audible, thank you for being the lighthouse as we discover this new world.

Choice is the lynchpin of any journey, and I’ve been asked to share some of the decisions that I believe helped get me to this point.

  1. Listen to audiobooks! Listen to other narrators. Talk to people in the industry and listen to what they have to say. Gather information like its oxygen. Learn about all sides of the business. You’re not just a talk-monkey. Well, you are, but become a better one by being aware of what’s happening in the audiobook industry.
  2. You are your product. Tend to yourself. As a performer, your body is your instrument. Sitting still with intense focus in front of a screen is not great for our physical or mental health. Do other things. Get out. Experience life. It will inform you as a performer and help make you a more well-rounded product.
  3. Market yourself. Put yourself out there. Take chances. Build a fan base through social media. Help out your peers in the industry. Lift each other up, and we all rise to the top.

Thanks for all the hours of listening and for this incredible honor. I am truly grateful.

Want even more Luke? Read his recent Storytellers post, or find him on ACX, Facebook, Twitter, and—of course—Audible.

Get more advice from hall of fame inductees here, and join us on Friday for the final installment of our series, featuring Simon Vance.

Audiobook Advice from Hall of Fame Narrators—Part Two

On Sunday, as part of their 20th anniversary celebration, Audible announced the inaugural inductees of the Narrator Hall of Fame. This week, four ACX Producers receiving this honor are sharing their reflections and their advice to future inductees. Today, we’re joined by Scott Brick.

Hall of Famer Scott Brick

Being told I’ve been elected to Audible’s Hall of Fame is easily the most surreal experience of my life. As a sports fan, I’ve grown up in awe of the men and women worthy to be designated Hall of Famers, but never anticipated the possibility of it happening in my life. And while I don’t feel even close to worthy, I am nevertheless grateful, hugely grateful for the honor. Like my peers, I didn’t come into this industry for accolades. We work in isolation, after all, reading alone in a room, unconnected to the listening audience.

And in some ways, I try to maintain that isolation. I think it helps me, I think it can help all of us. Don’t get me wrong, I love a nice review like anyone else, but I try not to read them, because good or bad, they’re one person’s opinion. If you’ve spent any time in Hollywood, you’ve likely heard the saying, “Oh, he believes his own press.” Staying away from listener reviews or blog sites keeps me from doing that, but also protects me from getting bogged down by negativity.

Yes, ours is a profession that relies heavily on self-promotion, so it’s a fine line to walk, but I try to navigate it as best I can. I will absolutely post the occasional rave for a project I’ve worked on, but I do so primarily to help publicize the book, as well as to honor the author and the publisher, and show my appreciation for the faith they’ve shown in me. That’s both good manners and good business. Beyond that, though, I try not to pay attention. While speaking at a conference a few years ago, a fan approached me on the street and asked how many narration awards I’ve won, and I told her truthfully, “I don’t know.” I kinda don’t want to know, you know?

When I was in my twenties I got the chance to work with a well-known actor, and in a quiet moment I asked him which of his many roles was his favorite. His response? “My next one.” That taught me a valuable lesson and has been an example I’ve tried to follow. I have never once forgotten what it felt like to walk into Dove Audio in Beverly Hills all those years ago for my very first narration job—on June 10, 1999; yes, I wrote it down! Although I had already booked the job, I nevertheless knew that my work in the studio that day was an audition: I was auditioning for my next job, and I have been ever since.

Thank you, Audible. It’s been a lovely twenty years, and I am deeply grateful.

Scott Brick can be found at ScottBrick.net, and you can listen to one of his 683 audiobook roles on Audible.

Tomorrow, ACX Storyteller Luke Daniels stops by to share his thoughts.

Audiobook Advice from Hall of Fame Narrators—Part One

On Sunday, as part of their 20th anniversary celebration, Audible announced the inaugural inductees of the Narrator Hall of Fame. The 20 members of this founding group were chosen by a panel of passionate listeners at Audible who spent many, many hours deliberating the merits of hundreds of talented performers based on the caliber of their work, the breadth of catalog, and listener feedback.

Among the honorees? Four ACX Producers! This week, they are sharing their reflections on the honor, and their advice to future inductees. Today, we kick things off with ACX University alumna Andi Arndt.

Hall of Famer Andi Arndt

When I got the call informing me that I had been voted into the inaugural “class” of the Audible Narrator Hall of Fame, I was in shock. I have only worked in audiobooks for the latter half of Audible’s 20 years. My fellow inductees have been, and continue to be, my role models, my teachers, my mentors. To be included among them is the highest honor I can imagine.

When I look back at the things that made a big difference along the way, a couple come to mind.

  1. Surround yourself with people who support you and believe in you. My dear husband Chris bought me a Dell Media Center computer for Christmas back in the 1990’s, and said he thought maybe I could use it for a home studio. That gift got me thinking about starting my own business, and along the way Chris and my daughters gave their blessing and encouragement as I traveled all over the country for workshops, conferences, and recording sessions, and as my increasing working hours complicated our family schedule. I know from talking with some of my coaching students and colleagues that not everyone has that kind of moral and financial support, and I absolutely do not take it for granted. This advice applies to people you hire as well; when I asked our family’s former tax accountant some questions about the tax implications of my then-new small business, he said “ask me that when you make over $10,000.” I felt like I’d been patted on the head and dismissed. We now have a great accountant who takes our questions seriously and helps us plan for the future with an eye toward growth.
  2. Show up for stuff. Go to workshops and keep up with your classmates and teachers. Go to industry events, big and small, a few times a year. Don’t worry about immediate results; focus on getting to know people that you will learn from and work with for years to come. You can do a lot from your home studio, via social media and email, but until you show up in person and start getting to know your clients and colleagues as people, you’ll have a hard time feeling as though you truly have access to the information and connections you need to get where you want to go.

Best wishes to you in your professional endeavors, and please join me in congratulating Audible on their two decades bringing the spoken word to ever-increasing audiences. Congratulations also to my fellow Narrator’s Hall of Fame inductees. Here’s to the future!

Andi Arndt is an Audible Approved Producer who’s voiced more than 180 titles on Audible. Find her on ACX, Facebook, and at her website.

Read reflections from Hall of Famers Scott Brick, Luke Daniels, and Simon Vance.

ACX Storytellers: Luke Daniels

Old school meets new school with ACX producer Luke Daniels. Beginning his narration career with Brilliance Audio in 2009, Luke kept his ear to the ground and rode the wave of home studio expansion to find success producing audiobooks for major publishers and ACX Rights Holders alike. Luke’s hard work has paid off with 13 Audiofile Magazine Earphones Awards and 7 Audie nominations, most recently for The Purloined Poodle, written by Kevin Hearne and produced via ACX. Luke joins us today to share his story.

Q: How did you become an audiobook narrator?

A: I was raised in Kalamazoo, Michigan, in an environment of storytelling. Both my parents were actors, directors, and taught theatre, so from the very beginning, the arts spoke to me. I loved movies, plays, music, and visual arts. But most of all I loved stories. Books, comics, 50s radio dramas…I absorbed it all. My undergrad years were spent exploring storytelling through film production/interpretation, literature, and theatre. I got my Master’s from the University of Connecticut in Performance. But it wasn’t until I recorded my first audiobook that I felt that old connection to a story told solely through words and voice. I knew I was taking part in a ritual as old as human beings themselves, and it electrified me.

I got the chance at my first book narration due to a lot of hard work, plus more than my share of luck. My older brother had narrated audiobooks for Brilliance Audio, based in Grand Haven, Michigan, back in the cassette tape days. He was kind enough to pass my name to their casting directors. After I auditioned, they offered me my first book, a backlist John Lescroart title called Sunburn. I was in. But now I had to actually record it…and what the heck did I know?

I jumped in with both feet and I read. But I also listened—to the directors, to the engineers, to other narrators that I met, to the text. I listened to what the authors told me. I listened to the TV with my eyes closed. What images did the voices I heard create in my mind? I listened to people on the street and I used their voices in the books I narrated. I relistened to my books after they were released and shuddered at the choices I’d made that fell flat. I felt exulted in the few moments that felt electric and tried to learn from it all. Listening to my own performances highlighted familiar rhythms and stress patterns I can slip into during narration. This is a clear sign that I’m just reading and not fully engaged with the text. Relistening also showed me times when I went too far with a character and other times when I wish I’d gone further.

In addition to all that listening, I read, and I read and I read some more. The more familiar I became with different genres and authors, the more I started to understand how their stories should be told. Before I knew it, I was recording two books a week for Brilliance.

Luke’s latest Audie-nominated performance

Q: How did you grow your business from that point?

A: While Brilliance and their studio system were fantastic, I knew I needed to diversify to be a viable entity in this emerging industry. But I lived in Michigan. Hemmed in by the Great Lakes, Michigan is known for cherries, beer, and snow days, but it’s no major industry hub like New York or Los Angeles.

I’d heard that my fellow narrators were now able to record for other companies from their home studios and still be home in time for dinner —because they never had to leave home in the first place. From there I slowly began to build my stable by searching out producers at other studios. After working with Brilliance, I was comfortable asking their casting directors for other studio contacts that I could reach out to. Word of mouth through other narrators, directors, and engineers helped, too. I learned that having an easily accessible website where studio producers could listen to my samples was essential. I never made them click more than two buttons to listen to me. When introducing myself, I supplied producers with practicalities right off the bat. Saying “I have my own studio,” or “this is my availability,” gave them answers before they had to ask the questions.

Publishers and producers hired me to record from home. I also continued to record at Brilliance’s studios until they were comfortable letting me take over the reins from my own studio.

Q: What do you wish someone had told you when you were just starting out?

A: 1. “Think before you act.” I’ve always been so gung ho to make my mark that I’ve sometimes been overzealous or guilty of trying too hard. I have to remind myself to take a moment. Breathe. Slow down. Tell. The. Story.

2. “You are your greatest asset.” Trust yourself, but also push yourself out of your comfort zones. Take risks. Have a point of view. Make a choice and commit!

3. “Support other narrators and producers.” We’re all in this together. It’s not a competition. Stats are great. Good reviews are manna from heaven, but none of it is as important as people. From the proofers to the producers, everyone has an equal right to play the game and no one part is more important than the whole: a story well told.

Q: Do you have any other advice for those just getting their feet wet with audiobook production?

A: In addition to courting producers and casting directors, it’s important to develop relationships with your fans and authors. Social media is a boon to us performers, a free marketing tool for our product, audiobooks, but also ourselves. Listeners love a shout-out on Facebook. That small personal interaction can translate into a lifelong fan. Authors love Twitter, so use it to connect with them and promote your work. I use YouTube and Facebook Live as a way to give fans and authors a small glimpse behind the curtain. In an emerging industry like audiobook production, the sky’s the limit.

How can you find your niche and create your own brand? If you are writing to a current or prospective client, take the time to make your emails simple, clear, and to the point, but also find some small way to personalize it. I would say 90% of my interactions with producers/authors is through email. How can you show them you’re not an automaton? It’s difficult to build a strong business relationship with someone you’ve never met in person, but it’s not impossible.

Q: How do you define success in your creative career?

A: When producers, authors, or Rights Holders reach out to me and ask me to do a book without auditioning. Whether or not I take on the project, that is success. That’s someone saying we’ve heard your work, or at least heard of you, and we want you to tell this story. Success is when my previous work is good enough to pave the way for future work.

Q: Do you have a fun hobby or skill unrelated to your audiobook work?

A: I lived and worked in Yosemite National Park for a while and was an avid climber and hiker. I still try to make it out to the mountains at least once a year.

Luke Daniels is the recipient of Audible’s 2012 Narrator of the Year Award. Daniels’ vast repertoire of work ranges from Kerouac to Updike, Nora Roberts to Stephen King, and Michael Crichton to Philip K. Dick. His background is in classical theatre and film. He can be found at http://www.luke-daniels.com/.

 

The Diary of a Canadian Author: Part Five

We asked Sci-Fi Romance author Susan Hayes to keep track of her progress publishing Double Down in audio, and we’ve been sharing her journey over the past few weeks. Missed Parts One, Two, Three, or Four?

07/06/17 – Day 36: Telling My Fans About My First Audiobook… And Planning the Next One

It was less than six weeks from the date I started on this audiobook adventure until I was ready to approve the final version of Double Down. The only thing that could have made the moment more satisfying is if ACX included a brief digital set of fireworks that went off when I hit the “approve” button [We’ll take it into consideration! – Ed.].

My title passed through ACX QA within 48 hours with no problems, and then I began waiting for my title to become available for sale at Audible, Amazon, and iTunes. During the wait, I put together some promotional images, wrote marketing copy, and researched what blogs I could submit my new audio title to for reviews. I found both the Audiogals and Eargasms Audiobook Reviews receptive. I teased my readers with “coming soon” posts on social media, too. I wanted to be sure my readers were as excited as I was!

By the time I had approved Double Down, plans were already in motion to produce All In, the second book in the series, as an audiobook. I wanted to make sure that readers could continue with the series right away. There are currently four books in the Drift series, and I plan on having them all available to readers by early next year. Now that I have the fantastic Tieran Wilder and know more about how the process works, I’m eager to keep up the momentum. [All In is now available for sale as well – Ed.] From my research, I’ve learned that audiobook production is a marathon, not a sprint, though. It will likely take some time to earn back the money I’m investing, so I’m trying to temper my excitement and make sure I stay within my budget.

Looking back over the last two months, I’m amazed at how quickly everything came together. Despite having listened to a number of audiobooks, it was stunning to hear my narrator bring my characters to life. It gave me a much greater appreciation of the work that goes into every audiobook. Listening to the completed work also got me thinking about ways to deepen the characters on paper, especially the way they speak. Going forward, I know I’ll be using what I learned by including more information about the character’s verbal tics, accents, and cadence to help enrich the story.

I’m very happy that ACX finally opened its doors to Canadian authors. It’s given me an opportunity to expand my markets, reach new readers, and think about my craft in new ways. Having taken the plunge, I can say it was worth the risk to try something new.

Susan lives out on the Canadian west coast surrounded by open water, dear family, and good friends. She’s jumped out of perfectly good airplanes on purpose and accidentally swum with sharks on the Great Barrier Reef.

To contact her about her books or to arrange end of the world team-ups, you can email her at susan@susanhayes.ca or find her at susanhayes.ca. If you’d prefer to stalk her from afar, you can sign up for her newsletter http://susanhayes.ca/susans-newsletter/

The Diary of a Canadian Author: Part Four

We asked Sci-Fi Romance author Susan Hayes to keep track of her progress publishing Double Down in audio, and we’ve been sharing her journey over the past few weeks. Missed Parts One, Two, or Three?

Day 29 – 06/30/17 : My Audiobook’s Complete!

Tieran sent me the completed audiobook several days ahead of schedule, which was a lovely surprise. The entire book came in at just under six hours of finished audio, but it took me longer than that to go through it all. I needed to stay focused, but often I found myself getting caught up in the story, and I would have to go back a bit and make sure I hadn’t missed anything that needed correction.

As it turned out, there was very little that needed to be changed. Tieran’s characterizations and pronunciation were almost perfect. I had kept notes of any issues that cropped up as I reviewed everything, and once that was done, I went back and listened to sections I’d noted a second time to make sure I had the correct chapter and timestamp. Once that was done, I hit the “request changes” button and sent a handful of changes Tieran’s way

The experience of listening to my own book was an amazing one. I wrote this book over a year ago, and getting to revisit it again in a new format let me enjoy moments that I had forgotten about. My producer added her own subtle touches to my characters. She expressed the personalities I had given them with differences intonation, cadence, and speaking styles, and the result put a smile on my face from the very first scene.

Tieran’s rendition of my story enriched everything from the description of the scenes to the personality of even the smallest background character. There’s a lot of trust that goes into a collaboration like this, and I am very pleased with the way everything is coming together.

Susan can be found on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+. Continue on to Part Five of Susan’s diary on Friday.

The Diary of a Canadian Author: Part Three

We asked Sci-Fi Romance author Susan Hayes to keep track of her progress publishing Double Down in audio. Join her on her journey here on the blog. Missed Part 1 or Part 2?

Day 16 – 06/17/17: My Book is Starting to Sound Great!

Before my Producer, Tieran Wilder, started working on Double Down, she and I exchanged several emails to make sure we were both on the same page. I sent her a list of the main characters, along with a few defining traits. I also gave her a pronunciation guide, which was quite necessary given my story is a science fiction romance containing alien names, planets, and other languages I had created.

My fifteen-minute checkpoint audio came in right on time. I was excited to hear what Tieran had produced, and amazed at how much depth it added to my story to have her bring the characters to life. I listened to it several times over the course of the day, and I couldn’t find a single thing I wanted to change. I approved the checkpoint audio the same day I received it.

While I was waiting for my producer to work her magic on the rest of the book, I started letting my readers know that Double Down was in production. My cover artist created a gorgeous new cover for the audiobook. I had fun sharing it with my reader group and newsletter subscribers, as well as with the rest of my social media followers. As the audiobook nears completion, I’ll ramp up the marketing by increasing mentions of the project on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+, and making an announcement on my website. I will upload the retail sample to SoundCloud and post links to give my readers a taste of what’s to come. I want to be sure the word gets out to my readers and fans of the series. Some of them have been waiting for years for me to start producing audiobooks of my work.

Susan can be found on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+. Read more about Susan’s audiobook journey in part four.

The Diary of a Canadian Author: Part Two

Once we opened our doors to Canadian authors and actors this June, Sci-Fi Romance author Susan Hayes posted Double Down, the first book in her series, for auditions. We asked Susan to keep track of her progress through the audiobook publishing process. Join her on her journey here on the blog. Part one is here.

Day 6 – 06/07/17 : I Found the BEST Narrator!

I was fortunate enough to have the guidance of a few authors who had already gone through the process, including Kristen Painter, Zoe York, and Jill James. I bounced ideas off them all morning, especially when it came to picking an audition script. They reminded me that I would want to hear the narrator read for all of the main characters. Since I write ménage romance, there are three main characters: two heroes and a heroine. They also had a few tips about how to make the book appealing to potential narrators. I made sure to mention it was part of an ongoing series, that it was well reviewed, and I laid out what kind of social media reach I had in place for promotion. It seemed to work, because Double Down attracted more than thirty-five auditions in the first three days it was posted, which was equal parts exciting and terrifying.

Listening to the narrators reading the script for my book was an unforgettable experience. They brought my story to life and made my characters far more real than I expected. I got to experience my book in an entirely new way. I was out of the country at a book signing when the auditions started coming in, so my assistant and I wound up listening to various narrators in our hotel room every night. Between us, we whittled down the choice to a handful, and finally to one, Tieran Wilder. She made me laugh at all the right moments, and she captured the essence of the story and the characters.

Listen to Tieran Wilder’s winning audition for Double Down:

I’m learning as I go, but my narrator has been a wonderful resource for information, as have my friends and fellow authors.

I think it helped that I did my research before starting this project. I had listened to a variety of audiobooks so that I had some ideas on what I wanted in a narrator. I knew how much I was willing to pay, and I had already spoken to my friends about royalty splitting and some of the other choices I would have to make along the way. That preparation made the process easier.

Even though audiobook publishing was always part of my long-term plans, I must confess that when the opportunity arose, I was incredibly nervous to take this step. Now that I’m on my way to having my first audiobook completed, I’m glad I dove in and didn’t let my worries stop me. It’s been exciting, fascinating, and more fun than I expected it to be.

Susan can be found on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+. Read more about Suan’s audiobook journey in part three.

The Diary of a Canadian Author: Part One

Sci-fi romance author Susan Hayes had been waiting patiently for the opportunity to publish her audiobooks via ACX. Once we opened our doors to Canadian authors and actors this June, she posted Double Down, the first book in her series, for auditions. We asked Susan to keep track of her progress through the audiobook publishing process; join her on her journey here on the blog below.

Day One – 06/01/17: I Can Finally Join ACX and Post My Book!

I’ve been a small press and indie-published romance writer for five years now, and it wasn’t long after I started as a professional author that I first heard about audiobooks and ACX. I was intrigued enough to start looking into it, but quickly learned that ACX was not available to Canadian authors. I explored other options for audiobooks, but in the end, I decided to wait for ACX. The access to quality narrators, good technical support, and a solid distribution model all made it the right choice for me.

In the meantime, I talked to friends who had published in audio, and started buying audiobooks to listen to different narrators and get a feel for what could be done, they had to get financial help from https://nation21loans.com/ in order to be able to buy what they needed. I knew audio was something I wanted to do to expand my audience and give my readers what they wanted, so I aspired to educate myself on the topic before I jumped in.

When I got the news that ACX was finally open to Canadians, I hit the ground running. I was ready to post my first book for auditions in a matter of hours. To say I was excited might be something of an understatement.

While I have over thirty books published at this point, I knew from the moment I signed up which book I’d publish first. Double Down is the first book in my current sci-fi romance series, The Drift, and I’ve had many requests from readers to make it available as an audiobook. When I told my readers Double Down was coming to audio, their positive reactions affirmed that I’d made the right choice.

Being an independent author/publisher means wearing a lot of hats and acquiring a multitude of skills, many of which I couldn’t have imagined when I was first starting out. Now, I’m adding a new hat to my collection: audiobook publisher.

Susan lives out on the Canadian west coast surrounded by open water, dear family, and good friends. She’s jumped out of perfectly good airplanes on purpose and accidently swum with sharks on the Great Barrier Reef.

To contact her about her books or to arrange end of the world team-ups, you can email her at susan@susanhayes.ca or find her at susanhayes.ca. If you’d prefer to stalk her from afar, you can sign up for her newsletter http://susanhayes.ca/susans-newsletter/

Read part two of Susan’s diary here.