Earlier this year, ACX launched the Audio Analysis tool for Production Manager, a new feature that allows Producers and DIY Authors to upload audio files and receive immediate feedback in a report identifying seven of the most common production issues—all before submitting the project to Quality Assurance.
We hope you’ve been exploring the new feature and are finding it to be a helpful tool in your production process. Now that you’ve had a little time to get comfortable with Audio Analysis, we’re making an adjustment to the ACX submission process: starting today, some accounts will see the new experience, and byMay 4, all titles will be required to resolve any issues identified by Audio Analysis before they are able to submit for review.
Need help making corrections? The Audio Analysis tool provides a full report on all your audio files, with details on the issues that need addressing, and links to specific ACX Submission Guidelines and Reference Guides that can help you address them. And as always, if you need more guidance or assistance in getting your files QA-ready, the ACX blog and YouTube channel are at your disposal with further resources on recording, editing, mastering, and more.
Last week, we heard from Audible Approved Producer Hannibal Hills on how he built a successful narration career from square one in three years. If you’re new to narration or thinking about taking it full-time and wondering where to start, be sure to catch up on the first part of this narrative and learn how to set a solid foundation for yourself. And now, with the help of our narrator, we continue on our journey…
Investing in Editing, Coaching, and Mentoring
Like any growing business, your narration career may reach a point where you can afford to hire outside help to so your business can continue to grow. I have now reached the point where I outsource my editing so I can focus solely on narration. Earlier in my career, I felt the need to save on the pennies and stay in control of the whole process. But when income started to come in steadily, being behind the mic became the most valuable use of my time, and the increased output I was able to achieve from outsourcing easily counterbalanced the cost.
Performance coaching was another investment whose value I cannot overstate. Early on, I was beyond fortunate to connect with the great Sean Pratt, and he has been a true mentoring light as I moved from narration as a side-job to a full-time career. Coaching with a true expert is the single most important investment you can make in your narration career. The knowledge and advice they share can save years of trial and (mostly) error, and be the very difference between long-term success and failure.
Choosing the Right Projects
Choosing the right projects is every bit as important as having the performance skills or the right equipment. Sean, whose excellent book, To Be or Wanna Be: The Top Ten Differences Between a Successful Actor and a Starving Artist is a trove of clear wisdom, has given me countless useful pieces of advice and challenges to learn through. An example of the wisdom a coach like Sean can offer can be found in his famous three questions: Of each project ask yourself: will it pay, will it be good for my career, and will it be fun. If all three are true, that project is a clear good choice. If only two are a yes, it should only be accepted if you can comfortably live without the third. If only one (or none) is true you should never accept the project. This simple test is a golden barometer for a narrator in all stages of their career.
I am now careful to evaluate every project I am offered or consider auditioning for—not only for value, but for scheduling. Overbooking is an easy trap to fall into in the early years, but spreadsheets are just as good for calculating reasonable monthly output as they are for projecting income. Don’t undervalue your time and work. When you have only a few books to your name and are starting to realize how much you still have to learn, impostor syndrome can bend your will to accept projects that aren’t right for you and poor rates of return. Though it is hard, you mustn’t stop believing you are worth the accepted industry rates. Too many hours working hard while knowing you are being underpaid will eventually start to poison your heart, smother your passion, hurt your performance, and eventually make you regret your career choice altogether. A good coach will help you to continue to believe in the value of what you do.
Finding My Voice and Building My Identity
With the right home setup, a process you feel confident in, ongoing training that produces real improvement in your performance, and a steadily growing output of titles, it very quickly becomes clear the sort of titles that best suit your voice. I worked to resist the temptation to be an “everyman.” One of Sean’s most valuable contributions to my career was helping me define my niche and refine my identity and brand—externally but also internally, in my performance and approach. I now look for projects that suit that brand. This personal “flavor” can be applied across both fiction and non-fiction, and in my case to horror, comedy, classic literature, and more colorful, opinionated non-fiction. Every narrator will have their own flavor that comes from their own heart and passions, and this should be embraced rather than denied. I have found that taking on projects that appeal to me as a person, and which match my own personality and tastes, makes for a far more fulfilling professional life. My most successful projects have been achieved through forging relationships of trust and mutual understanding, where they know you believe in their work, and trust you to make the right creative choices to best bring their words off the page.
Occasionally, I have taken off-brand projects, sometimes because the money and opportunity were tempting, or because I wanted to experiment with a new genre outside my core brand. For these projects, I have several alternate names—a pseudonym or “nom de vox”—so that my brand remains clear, and I can work anonymously if needed.
Learning and Looking Forward
In creating recent box sets with long-term collaborators—the authors of the books—I have had to revisit some of my very early work. It was fascinating to see how far I have come, and how much coaching has helped me improve. It is good to be reminded of the lessons I needed to know then, so I keep them at heart moving forward. Even if we are not proud of our early work, we should be glad that it helped us take another step toward where we are today.
Goal-setting is essential for moving your career forward. I have two key reminders I look to every day—the first is a small whiteboard of my goals for the year. Some I have already achieved, others still need a lot of work, but they are there in plain sight. Each goal I set can be measured in a very real way, from royalty units sold to number of books completed. The goals cover all areas, and each one nudges some aspect for my narration career ahead one more step—and when it does, it is toasted (perhaps with a glass of something with my wife), erased, and replaced with another goal just a little more challenging.
The Shared Adventure of Audiobooks
The second thing I come back to each day is our community: the indie audiobook narrators Facebook group, narrators I have met through mutual coaching, and those I’ve reached out to via email because I simply admire their work. Many authors and small publishers have also become friends through our collaboration, and I meet with many regularly on Zoom to discuss market trends and new project ideas.
Few industries have such a supportive, positive community of helpful cheerleaders, friends, joke-sharers, listeners, and advisors. We all want to see success in the others and cheer when we do, because we know that there is room for us all, that so many unique voices each have a place, and that what is right for me may be rightly different to what is right for you. We also know that together we are creating libraries of lasting enjoyment for millions of listeners. This really is an industry where dedication, honesty, manners, fairness, trustworthiness, and sharing are the qualities that build success. This is a job where the good guys and dedicated spirits really do win. It may have taken almost 46 years, but I found a home—one where each book brings to life a new adventure to be shared.
Hannibal Hills is the narrator of more than 40 titles. This ‘darkly sophisticated British storyteller’ can be found lending his voice to many a horror, mystery, or thriller novel.
Are you a narration newbie inspired by this career journey? An audiobook veteran who can add some sage wisdom of your own? Let us knowin the commentsbelow.
There’s no roadmap to building your own narration career. Many independent narrators come to narration as a second profession, without a background in voiceover or audio engineering. With so much to learn and master, embarking on a career in audiobooks can be daunting to say the least. So how do you know if that plunge is one you should take? And where the heck do you start anyway? Well, there’s no one right way, but here to tell you how he built a career in audiobook narration from square one to successful Audible Approved Producer of more than 40 audiobooks, is “The Darkly Sophisticated British Storyteller,” Hannibal Hills. You may not follow the exact same path, but you’re sure to find some important road markers for your own journey.
I was almost forty-six when I first read from a book into a microphone. This isn’t unusual in the world of audiobook narration—many of the voices you hear reading your favorite books came to the job with half a lifetime of experience in very different roles, and so it was with me. Although I trained in theater back in the early 1990s, I left that path. For a time I worked in banking, and for twenty years after that I was a self-employed web designer. I also worked as a wedding minister from my thirties on. Many narrators carry a love of performance from childhood, like a pilot light that waits patiently to be needed. After officiating one summer wedding, a guest made an off-the-cuff remark about wishing I could read them an audiobook. I remember the glimmer of a notion that maybe I would like to try that. Four years later, I finally did.
The First Auditions
In February 2017, on impulse, I decided to buy an hour of time at a small local studio with good, promising reviews—just to read something into a “real microphone” in a “real space.”I came out of that first session longing for something more substantial to read and most importantly, I had finally been behind the microphone, and I liked it. I liked it very much.
I then found ACX via Google, and it was very easy to create a profile. I booked a second hour in the local studio the following week and picked three books to audition for: a comedy, an urban fantasy, and a non-fiction title. I recorded the scripts, paid extra for the studio engineer to tidy up and master the final takes, and uploaded the files with a polite message of greeting to the authors. To my astonishment, forty-eight hours later I had been offered contracts for all three. This was my first major decision point. I knew I enjoyed recording, but also knew I would have to pay for the studio time. For three books, this was a much bigger expense, but I felt it was something I had to do. Recording for two or three hours a week, in a couple of months those books were done. So far, it was still just an expensive hobby. But I loved the process, and by the end of the first book I knew I never wanted to stop.
I made an agreement with my engineer, who would work for a cut of the royalties from the next book. This actually turned out a very good deal for all concerned, and we ultimately did five titles together—one of those books is still my best-selling Royalty Share project—but recording at a local studio had two significant drawbacks: it was cost-prohibitive and studio time was extremely limited.
From the beginning, I had been tracking my audiobook costs and income on a spreadsheet, and projecting probable earnings at various levels of output. I had already figured out this was a long game, and that I would not be making a sustainable full-time income for at least two years, and not unless I could record on my own terms in my own space. Looking back, the first couple of years narrating were primarily about investment: investing in time, in coaching, in a proper recording space and equipment, in learning more and more every day, and sticking with it every day, because momentum is essential.
Choosing and Funding a Home Studio
I live in a noisy location: heavy road and air traffic, many neighbors keen on gardening and DIY projects, and at the time we owned the world’s loudest cat. I realized quickly that blankets would not be enough to dampen the intrusive sounds. Between March and May of 2018, I worked hard at projecting the numbers for costs and income, and started inquiring about loans to cover the cost of a recording booth that would be good enough to beat the local noise pollution. Needing a booth that I could access twenty-four hours a day, in a location already available for free, I decided on our vacant guest bedroom. After gathering quotes for booth construction and some long, frank conversations with my wife, I talked to my bank and they offered me an “equipment” loan, which meant a lower rate than a typical personal loan. With those funds, I purchased my 6’ by 4’ Vocalbooth Platinum. I know that many narrators thrive with a much less expensive space treatment, but in my location I needed more. I have not regretted it a single moment, and in the two years I’ve had it, my beloved booth has given me a consistent, professional sound quality that has allowed me to audition and perform with confidence, and prevented many noise issues that would have caused extensive and costly edits or re-takes.
Becoming an Editor
Having moved into my home studio, I needed to learn to edit and post-produce my own files—a significant undertaking. I tried months of tinkering, slowly improving, but finally knew I needed a professional to help. The marvelous Tim Tippets helped me create the right effects stack (the order in which one applies effects like EQ and compression to their audio files), and streamline the whole process. Sean Pratt, about whom you’ll learn in the next installment, had already taught me the essential value of “punch and roll,” a recording technique that makes audiobook editing far easier. Knowing that you have your process down means you can concentrate on performance and career-building. For narrators, I now believe the end goal is to outsource editing and post-production, but first we should know how to process our own audio. As with your recording space, the right DAW (your Digital Audio Workstation—the software used to record, edit, and post-produce audio) is different for everyone. I now record in Reaper and edit in Audition. There are a variety of DAWs that will get the job done; it’s about creating a system and process flow that gives you confidence and allows you to get on with the job of performance most effectively. For me, the simplicity and comfort of the Reaper interface perfectly suits my needs during the performance phase, while the functionality of Audition allows me to process every aspect of my recording and easily master files to the right specifications.
At this point, I had recorded over a dozen books, and learned a lot about the technical part of the process. But, I knew I still had a great deal more to learn about performing, and especially how to find work, build my brand, and to take my career to the next level.
Stay tuned for the second part of Hannibal’s narration career journey, where he’ll tackle specializing, outsourcing, and goal-setting.
We recently read Andi Arndt’s advice for at-home professionals adjusting to a full house and thought it was valuable for the ACX community. Andi graciously agreed to let us republish it below.
This is for you if you’re a home studio narrator (or other freelancer) used to having the house to yourself during the day, and find yourself (courtesy of the pandemic) surrounded by people unused to structuring their time. Routines can be so reassuring, without us having to say a word.
In the last week I’ve gone through what we all have, and noticed how it made my sense of day/time a bit swimmy. Fell into some news/social media habits I don’t want. By Friday I realized that I need structure in my work days, and it is going to be up to me to establish it, and ask my family to respect it, or I am not going to get much done.
Get YOUR head together first. Do a brain dump, on scratch paper or in a journal or wherever, of all of your thoughts, fears, hopes, big and small, related to this whole situation. Get all that noise on paper and look at it, own it, set it aside. Not a bad way to start or end each day for a while if it helps…kind of like morning pages in The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron.
Look at your work commitments, schedule, etc. and erase the things that were canceled. You’ve probably already done this.
With the things not happening, do you have more time to meet deadlines? If so, rather than taking on more projects, can you plan a condensed workday / work week? Consider a policy of not working after dinner, not working weekends. You could do 10 hours in 4 days instead of 5.
Consider your family’s daily rhythms now. Do you have little ones who are up with the sun, or teenagers who sleep in? When you look at your work day, plan work time that is congruent with these rhythms. Save yourself frustration wherever possible.
Plan your in-the-office calendar. When will you be in your office / studio? How much of the time will be recording, how much time for admin tasks? Build in a couple of stretch / walk around breaks as needed. Set TRT goals for each recording block. Make rules for non-work internet use. Use apps that lock you out of news / social media during certain hours if necessary. This version of your schedule is more detailed and it’s for you.
Now look at your detailed calendar and zoom out a bit. What is work and what is not work? This is all that matters to your family. Summarize your workday. For me, it’s 8:30-12:30, 1:30-4 with an option to be done at 2:30 if I was super-productive in the morning.
Post your schedule on the family bulletin board, fridge, wherever everyone sees it. Also post it on your office door. Your detailed schedule can be in your office.
Communicate about it. Your only goal this week is to try your hardest to hold to your plan, and to patiently communicate with your family. It’ll take time for everyone to settle in. Emphasize that routine can be helpful for everyone at a time like this, that you are sharing your routine that helps you, and encouraging them to come up with a daily routine that helps them. For younger kids, agree on a few times during the day they can count on to connect with you. When those times come, “pencils down” and keep your promise.
Hold steady and keep your patience, both with others and with yourself. Your schedule is not a battle line, it’s not a punishment, it’s not a declaration that you are more important than others. For kids, you are setting an example. For a spouse or partner who misses the rhythms of the office, your work rhythms can give them that same sense of the day/week they had at work.
If people aren’t understanding the difference between work and not-work time, it might feel silly but you can actually talk as though your office is outside the house. “Ok everybody, heading to work now, I’ll see you around x:xx for lunch!” might feel silly but it underscores that you are not going to be available to do household things for a bit. If people are asking you to do household or fun things during work time, you can always Obi-Wan that person: “that sounds really fun! I look forward to doing that with you at x:xx.”
I’d love to hear how it’s going with everybody and what helpful hints you would like to share, problems and how you solved them, all that. We are going to need this virtual water cooler now more than ever, so I thought I’d get the conversation started.
Good luck and good health, and may we all be back to normal soon!
Andi Arndt is a full-time audiobook narrator and Executive Producer of Lyric Audiobooks. As of March 13, 2020, her husband is now working from home and her teenagers’ high school is now online.
In these rapidly changing times, our creative community is top of mind. We wanted to let you know about a few changes we’ve made to help support our independent creators and entrepreneurs in light of evolving challenges.
Additional Royalty Support– To reduce the financial impact of COVID-19 on the creative community, we are temporarily paying an additional 5% royalty on all sales of your ACX audiobooks through Audible, Amazon, and iTunes for sales during the months of April, May, and June. So, if you distribute your title exclusively through ACX, your total royalties will temporarily increase to 45% during this period (22.5% for those choosing Royalty Share), and for non-exclusively distributed titles, your total royalties will temporarily increase to 30% on sales during this period.
Employee Safety – All of our associates are working remotely at this critical time. You may experience delays in response times as we make this transition, but we are striving to maintain an outstanding creative experience.
Additional Educational Resources – ACX has always been committed to providing accessible user education through our ACX University program and this blog, and as new writers and performers turn to audiobooks as a way to reinforce their earnings, we’re doubling down on connecting you to experts and resources to make your creative journey easier and more successful.
Even though indie creators and entrepreneurs may be accustomed to working from home, we know everyone’s lives have been disrupted during this period of uncertainty. Keep an eye on our blog and newsletter for ideas from your peers on how to create stability and work productively.
We wish you and your loved ones safety and good health,
The Audies were last night, and there was a strong showing from the ACX community, with several outstanding independent creators receiving nominations for their work. The Audies are the Audio Publishers Association’s annual awards for the best titles in audio publishing, and we have the inside scoop on what made these productions stand out, how they came to life, and why their creators submitted them for the consideration. Read on for inspiration, and let us know at the end if you’ll be submitting your title for next year.
Lauren Blakely – Birthday Suit
What makes Birthday Suit unique?
Birthday Suit is narrated by 12 amazing performers, full-cast style, so it sounds like a book met a radio play. It’s an aural experience, a book experience, and a theatrical experience all at once. The cast sounds great together and you can tell they had fun playing off each other.
Tell us about the vision for this project—how did you bring it to life?
I’m a theater lover, so I’d wanted to produce a full-cast audiobook for some time and Birthday Suit was the perfect story for it because the romance includes an interesting cast of characters that the hero and heroine interact with during a scavenger hunt. I felt each character was unique, with his or her own quirks and traits, and because of that, the story called out for a new audio style. More so, I believe Birthday Suit has a powerful love story at its core—one that plays out over ten years, with all sorts of angst for the hero, which Sebastian York captured brilliantly as his character falls in love with his best friend’s girl.
I worked closely with two talented people who I partner with on most of my audio books—Andi Arndt, who is both my primary heroine narrator and the force of nature behind Lyric Audiobooks, and Tyler Whitlatch at Plunk Productions, who edits and produces all my ACX titles. The project was a true collaborative production, with us bouncing ideas off each other, then assembling the cast and sending them to a studio in New York. Not only is Andi an award-winning narrator, she makes casting call spreadsheets like nobody’s business! And Tyler is vital to all of my books with his terrific ear for detail and his focus on creating a fantastic final product—he was in studio working with the actors during the recording, and he made sure everything sounded amazing in post.
What gave you the confidence to submit this project for an Audie?
I fell in love with this production from the very first minute I listened to the files. It was everything I’d hoped it would be and more—bright, dynamic voices interacting together. I decided before it even released to submit it, though I never expected the nomination to come in audio drama! That was a terrific surprise!
Stephanie Bentley & Miranda Ray – Lustily Ever After: The Audiobook Musical
What makes Lustily Ever After unique?
We are thrilled to be the first audiobook musical for adults! This multicast narration of a novella-length fictional story includes 20 original songs inspired by 90’s pop music peppered into the book, which heightens the comedy of the romance parody. Characters voice their own dialogue and chapter headings are sung by a trio invoking the R&B group En Vogue.
Tell us about the vision for this project—how did you bring it to life?
I am a full-time audiobook narrator and a longtime musical comedy performer, so the inspiration for this book was truly as organic as it could get. I narrate mostly romance novels and would find myself giggling in the booth over and over at some of the tropes. Suddenly these lyrics just started coming into my head for the classic billionaire character—“the models in my bed don’t keep me warm at night, and no amount I spend can make me feel alright”—I started writing, and pretty soon a whole musical just came tumbling out! The songs were mostly written before I hired Miranda Ray to pen the actual book, so this was very much an audio-first project.
There was so much creative collaboration on this project. Miranda was sending me pages from her theater tour on a cruise ship, I was sending vocals to Aaron Wilson to create the tracks, and I brought in very funny comedians from The Groundlings and Upright Citizens Brigade Theater to voice the other characters in my home studio. This was such a labor of love and every person who touched this project changed and enhanced some part of it and made it into what it is today!
What gave you the confidence to submit this project for an Audie?
I hope more than anything that this nomination will inspire ‘regular people’ like myself to go out there and just create whatever they are dreaming of! This is such an exciting time to be an author and anything truly is possible! I submitted my work for an Audie because I absolutely love it, and I believe that this audiobook musical niche is about to be a huge marketplace in audiobooks.
Tanya Eby & Blunderwoman Productions – Nevertheless We Persisted: Me Too
What makes NWP: Me Too unique?
This is truly a unique audiobook. It was created by survivors of sexual abuse/discrimination and features original essays and poems, as well as original music and art for the cover. When casting, we asked our narration community for people who felt a connection to this topic, and we did crowd funding to underwrite the production so that we could pay all participants in it.
Tell us about the vision for this project—how did you bring it to life?
Blunderwoman looks for unique and important storytelling, and I try to do one passion project each year. I was deeply touched by the #MeToo movement and saw that so many of my loved ones had similar experiences. I wanted to amplify the message that abuse and discrimination still happens—is happening—and to give those stories a chance to be heard. An audiobook seemed to be the natural way to amplify voices—literally—so I created a call for submissions from writers, and narrator and writer Karen White joined me as co-editor for the piece. Friends and fans helped me spread the word about submissions, and we received pieces from all over the world. Narrators recorded poems and stories in their studios, Amanda Rose Smith did post-production and created original music, and singers who recorded tracks in their own studios and sent them in to be mastered. This was truly a sprawling project, and sort of a marvel on what we can accomplish using modern technology.
This project was definitely created with audio in mind—there is something deeply powerful about hearing a story told. In this case, having people speak directly to the listener and say “here is what happened to me.” It’s incredible the impact that audio can have. It connects emotionally with the listener, it can be transformative, and the team who came together to produce this (all 100 of us as writers, singers, artists, and performers) felt connected not only to a project, but also to something bigger: the power in telling a story, of the end of secret keeping, and the empowerment and healing that can come through expressing your truth.
What gave you the confidence to submit this project for an Audie?
I knew no matter what happened, I was going to submit this. While this is not an easy listen, I wanted to give it a chance to be heard by as many people as possible, and I thought the Audies would be a wonderful way of thanking the creators of this project by acknowledging their hard work and commitment to creating something powerful. I’m so honored and pleased that it received a nod as one of the Best Original Works. In my mind, we’ve already won.
Congratulations to all this year’s Audie nominees! Your boundless creativity and drive to create never fail to inspire us. Let us know in the comments what you’re feeling inspired to create, and if you’ll be submitting your 2020 title for next year’s Audies!
Today, the ACX team is excited to announce the launch of a new feature available in Production Manager: it can analyze all your audio files, let you know if they meet ACX Standards, and give you a precise report on the changes that need to be made, all before you ever submit your project to QA—it’s the Audio Analysis Tool!
This feature will be accessible to producers and DIY authors on all new ACX projects. Now when you upload audio to ACX—starting with the 15-minute checkpoint—you’ll get an immediate report on seven common audio issues:
That means no more waiting for the book to go through QA to learn you have one file in stereo and having to resubmit the whole project over again. Now you can find out right away and quickly make the required adjustments. The report contains precise indications on what needs to be adjusted and by how much, with links to helpful resources on how to do it. Don’t worry—all ACX audiobooks will get a final listen from our QA team before going on sale, and they’ll be on the lookout for spacing, noise floor, and other issues that can’t be detected by the tool—only now the process will be able to move a little easier, with smoother production timelines for all.
To give you some time to get used to this new feature, we’re accepting all audiobook submissions, even if Audio Analysis identifies errors within your files. When the feature launches fully, any issues detected by Audio Analysis will need to be corrected before the project can be submitted for Quality Assurance. This initial phase will give you time to identify recurring issues in your productions and make the necessary adjustments to your workflow without impacting your ability to submit audio and receive QA feedback.
We’re excited for this feature and we hope you are, too—we hope the earlier feedback and additional insights will help you improve you skills and setup, and result in a smoother production experience for all. And as always, if you have any questions about the feature, the answers can be found in our Help Center.
Audiobook airwaves are all a-flutter with a spectrum of sweet-to-sizzling love stories for the month of February. Vi Keeland and Penelope Ward have dozens of individual NY Times best-selling romance titles between the two of them, and together they have co-authored nine novels and counting that have gone on to capture the ears of audiobook listeners with the voices of Sebastian York, Andi Arndt, and other top narrators. In celebration of their gal-mance and gal-mances everywhere, we got them to tell us (and romance writers looking to learn from their success), what they love about each other’s audiobooks. Take it away, ladies!
Authors Vi Keeland (l) and Penelope Ward (r)
Vi Keeland: Just One Year is one of my very favorite audiobooks for so many reasons. It starts out as a light and fun story about a British college student coming to the United States to study abroad, but turns into a heartfelt story exploring why we sometimes need to travel far to find ourselves. One reason I loved the audio of Just One Year, and it might just be at the top of my list of reasons to listen to this book, is the hero’s sexy British accent. So, when I sat down to ask Penelope some questions, I was curious to know how she decided which narrator was the right fit for her character. Penelope, before you decided on casting, how many narrators did you listen to?
Penelope Ward: I actually listened to several! I had a pretty good idea whom I might want to cast as the hero, but I wanted to keep an open mind before finalizing my decision. I’d never written a British hero into my solo books before, so this was my opportunity to branch out and use a new-to-me narrator. I’d listened to Shane East several times before, so it felt comfortable casting him.
VK: How did you find narrators with a British accent to listen to?
PW: I knew a few because I’m an avid audio listener myself, but I also checked out Audible’s Accent on Love page. They list books with all different accents.
VK: Did you write the “British” into your book or give the narrator free rein to decide how to make the character sound like a true Brit?
PW: A bit of both, actually. I incorporated some British terms into the written book to give the narrators something to work with. But the narrator also had free rein to determine which words to play up with the accent more than others when speaking. If there are special notes about pronunciations, accents, or any other concerns, I make them known to the narrators when I send them the manuscript. However, since I’m privileged to work with very experienced talent, I pretty much let them do their thing with little guidance. They always message me if they have questions along the way.
PW: Okay Vi, now I have some questions for you! I recently listened to Inappropriate and loved it. It’s actually my favorite book of yours. One of the things I loved was the dual narration of Sebastian York and Andi Arndt. They just became Grant and Ireland, and their performances were amazing. Sebastian’s deep, sexy voice was perfect for the alpha CEO, and true to the typical Vi Keeland heroine, Ireland is strong, independent, and feisty, and Andi nails that side of her personality. Why did you choose dual narrators over a single narrator?
VK: I think dual narration allows listeners to connect to the individual characters more. It also provides a nice break of voice, which keeps the material feeling fresh. I’ve been dying to try duet narration, and I think Inappropriate would have also been perfect for that.
PW: What’s the difference between dual narration and duet narration?
VK: In duet narration the female reads all the female parts and the male reads all the male parts—they’re acting it out together. Whereas in dual narration, one person reads an entire chapter based on which point of view is being presented in the text, so that each narrator must read both the female and male roles at times. Lauren Blakely does a ton of amazing full-cast and duet narration audiobooks.
PW: I think you should definitely try that! Okay, here’s an unrelated question. If you could choose one actor to voice one of your characters in an audiobook, who would it be and why? You have no budget constraints!
VK: I think I’d have to pick Sam Elliott! I’m in love with his voice. It’s iconic and memorable, and his delivery is just so dry and on point with sarcasm. Same question for you…who would you dream cast?
PW: For a male, I would have to say Josh Duhamel. I was watching a movie with him once and couldn’t help but think how good his voice would be for an audiobook. For a female narrator, I would say Claire Danes. I recently listened to her narrate The Handmaid’s Tale.
VK: While we’re on the subject of iconic voices, do you ever give direction to your narrators using a famous actor or scene that you had in mind while writing dialogue? For example, if your character is saying “Could you be any more difficult?” you might suggest the narrator make it sound like Chandler from Friends?
PW: Not yet, but that’s a great way of helping give the proper direction for a performance. It’s a little more specific than a direction like “spoken with a Southern twang” or something like that!
Okay…one last question. Who’s your favorite author to co-write with when publishing audiobooks?
Update 3/12/20: Out of an abundance of caution, VO Atlanta 2020 has been rescheduled. We hope to see you at a later date.
Have you heard the news? ACX and VO Atlanta have teamed up to present a brand-new audiobook-specific education and networking event: The Audiobook Academy! Taking place March 27 – 29, 2020 at the Crowne Plaza Atlanta Airport, this two-day extravaganza offers audiobook narrators a deep dive into technical, business, and performance topics geared towards those who have narrated fewer than 50 titles.
Keynote speaker and Audible Hall of Famer Dion Graham kicks off a conference of over 20 breakout sessions and panel discussions as well as 8 small group workshops (X-Sessions) for a combined 50+ hours of audiobook education! Panelists and session leaders include fellow Hall of Famer Andi Arndt, Andrew Eiden, Joel Froomkin, January LaVoy, Natalie Naudus, and many more.
You’ll also get to meet and read for an Audible Studios producer who’ll give you feedback on your performance and advice on how to navigate important studio relationships.
ACX is presenting four panels on a variety of topics, including:
Chapter One: Intro to ACX, The Audiobook Creation Exchange (3/27/20): If you’ve been waiting for the right moment to launch your audiobook career with ACX this is the session for you. We’ll cover creating a profile that highlights your unique skill set, understanding the audition and production workflow, and working directly with authors and publishers to create awesome-sounding audiobooks.
Working with Authors (3/27/20): In this session, you’ll hear directly from an author and narrator who have established an effective partnership and will share exactly how they get things done. Find out how to communicate effectively about budgets and deadlines, collaborate on text interpretation and character voices, and work together to market your productions and maximize sales.
Marketing Yourself and Your Audiobook Projects (3/27/20): Promoting yourself to authors and publishers and promoting your work to audiobook listeners have more in common than you might think. This discussion will help you understand how to effectively pitch yourself to authors on and off ACX, team with authors to generate interest in your audiobook work, and boost your bottom line by driving sales of your productions.
Making You a Business (3/28/20): When it comes to your audiobook career, you’re the artist and the businessperson, the boss and the employee. In this session, we’ll guide you through the business concerns of freelance audiobook professionals, including time management, budgeting and outsourcing, healthcare, taxes, and more.
Find more details and the full schedule for VO Atlanta’s Audiobook Academy here.
We’re a month into 2020, and now is a great time to check in on your 2020 goals to see what progress you’re making. Didn’t make any resolutions? It’s not too late! There’s still 11 months left to set and meet some big audiobook goals for this year. Not sure where to start? We’ve got a device that can help you figure it out: S.M.A.R.T. stands for Specific, Measurable, Assignable, Realistic, and Time-Related, and when applied to planning for the coming year, it can help you set goals that you’ll actually attain. Here’s your ACX guide to putting S.M.A.R.T. to work for you.
S is for Specific
Think about any task you set out to complete—it’s always easier to get it done if you have good, clear instructions. Choosing definite areas for your goals makes it easier for you to get to work on them and measure your progress. For example, if you’re an author, instead of setting the goal of growing your fanbase, consider setting a goal of increasing your social media followers on Facebook or Twitter specifically. If you’re a narrator, instead of setting the goal of expanding your repertoire as a voice actor, perhaps you set a goal to master one or two new specific accents or dialects.
M is for Measurable
Setting goals that are measurable is essential to achieving them—otherwise, you have no way of determining whether your goals have been met. That means you need quantifiable indicators of progress. So, if you’re that author that wants to grow your social media followers on Twitter, set an amount by which you’d like to grow them. Or if you’re a producer and your goal is to master a new dialect, maybe your quantifiable indicator of progress is adding a sample with that dialect to your ACX profile, or auditioning for three new titles for which that accent is required.
A is for Assignable
This one might not make sense for you at first glance—but as self-publishing authors and independent producers, you are your own business, so wouldn’t you just assign everything to yourself? Not quite. Maybe this means taking the time to assess your workflow to see what you can outsource. For authors, that might be cover art or advertising graphics, as a producer, maybe that’s editing and post-production. But it could also mean taking a look at all the different hats you wear as an indie creator, and determining which of your many personas each goal falls under. Is it your writer persona that will be working toward these goals? Your publicist persona? Your actor? Your engineer? Assigning your goals to the different sides of yourself-as-business can be a good way to make sure you stay focused and on task (authors have told us, for instance, that they separate writing work from marketing work by time of day, so they can better “activate” those areas of their brain to get the job done). If you have too many goals in one area of your business, it might be the time to consider balancing with other goals or outsourcing some work. Which conveniently brings us to our next point…
R is for Realistic
We know you’re dreamers and risk-takers—as independent creators, you have to be! But when setting smart goals for yourself, it’s important that most are things you could realistically achieve. Consider the resources you’re working with—time, skills, finances, outsourcing, and what you’ve managed to achieve in similar periods in the past—and set your goals accordingly. For example, if you’re that author looking to grow your social media followers, look at how your followers have grown in previous terms. If you’re a voice actor mastering those dialects, consider how long it took you to learn similar skills in the past. Maybe that means increasing your goals compared to past years if you’ve gained more resources, or maybe it means pulling back a little if you’ve found yourself overwhelmed. Either way, setting realistic goals is a great way to keep yourself motivated—or put another way, setting a bunch of goals you won’t achieve is a great way to get discouraged fast. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t dream big—you can break big goals down into smaller goals so you’re hitting milestones along the way, and you can and should set a few reach goals for yourself outside the ones you know are realistic to give yourself something to keep reaching for.
T is for Time-Related
We all know we start big with the enthusiasm when we set new goals, but it can be difficult to maintain that momentum if we don’t have deadlines. When setting your goals, be sure to specify when you want to complete them by and whether it’s a short, medium, or long-term goal. Maybe you set your social media follower goal at 100 new followers in three months, 300 in six months, and 1,000 by the end of the year. If you’re that dialect-mastering narrator, set a date by which you want to submit your first audition in that dialect. And if you aren’t already, consider using a marketing or production calendar to track your goals and keep yourself accountable. It doesn’t hurt to put a little pressure on yourself to stay motivated, and seeing a deadline in writing can do just that.
Now that you know how to plan your goals for the new year and beyond, we want to hear what they are! Let us know in the comments if you’re setting any 2020 audiobook publishing goals, and what you’re doing to make sure you’re meeting them. Now get to work—you only have 11 months to go!