Last week, we shared part 1 of ACX University’s performance intensive, Finding Your Voice, featuring advice from Audible Studios’ Senior Director Mike Charzuk and Production Manager Kat Lambrix, as well as Audie-winning narrator Ellen Archer. Today we’re back with Part 2, which covers navigating the ins and outs of the source material. Watch the video below, then scroll down for the high-level takeaways.
Top Tips From Part 2
Staying True to the Material
Collaborating with your rights holder.
Handling material you don’t agree with.
Acting out uncomfortable scenes delicately.
Challenges in Narration
Getting the giggles.
Take a hard look at your demographics, accents, and preferences to find your vocal strength.
Seek professional training when possible.
Honor the material despite personal challenges.
Thanks for watching! Check back next week for more audiobook production advice for actors. In the meantime, learn from ACX University’s other video lessons on our YouTube channel.
In May, we invited 70 ACX producers to our offices in Newark, NJ for ACX University, a day of audiobook production and performance education and networking. Among the highlights, the day featured outstanding presentations from Audible Studio’s pros and Audie-Award winning actors.
Today, we’re featuring part one of the performance intensive Finding Your Voice, featuring Mike Charzuk and Kat Lambrix of Audible Studios, as well as Audie-winning narrator Ellen Archer. Watch the video below, then scroll down for our top takeaways.
Tops Tips From Part One
Know Your Voice. Learn:
The demographic you fall into.
The genres that are right for you.
The content that’s right for you.
The accents you’ve mastered.
Seek Professional Training.
Professional training can help you refine your demo and ACX samples.
The two main types of professional training:
Learn about top-selling audiobook categories.
Mysteries and thrillers.
Business and self-help.
Romance and erotica.
Learn the differences between romance, erotica, and new adult.
Join us next week for the second part of this session. You can check out other informative sessions from ACX University on our YouTube channel.
Audie-nominated ACX author Rosalind James has done it all throughout her audiobook journey. A longtime audiobook listener, Rosalind self-published 6 titles through ACX, driving enough buzz and sales of her audiobooks that Audible Studios bought the rights to her next series. She joins us today to share her path to success and the benefits of a varied audiobook portfolio.
Audie-nominated ACX author Rosalind James.
Almost exactly a year ago, my first audiobook, Just This Once(Escape to New Zealand), went live on Audible via ACX. To say that I didn’t know what to expect would be an understatement. Not only was the book my first work of fiction, it was my narrator’s first audiobook. That doesn’t sound like a recipe for success, does it?
The results of that experiment, and the four books in the series that have followed it over the past year, have far exceeded my expectations. It hasn’t been cheap (more than $16,000 for narration), but I’ve earned a good return ($35,000 so far), publishing-industry visibility and credibility, and—to my utter shock—an Audie nomination in the Romance category for that first book.
Why did it work? I think partly because, as an early adopter with hundreds of books in my audio library, I knew what to listen for. The narrator is truly an equal partner in an audiobook—not just a reader, but an actor. A talented narrator can make a good book great and a great book outstanding. When it came time to pick my own narrator, I opted to pay upfront (in the $200-400 per finished hour range) in order to attract the quality I wanted. I was able to choose from a multitude of excellent narrators, and the one I cast, Claire Bocking, absolutely nailed the feel and tone of the book. She somehow read that little piece of an emotional scene at the end of the book exactly the way it had played out in my head. Readers (not to mention the Audie judges) have felt the same way, and I have reaped the benefits.
Not to say that the past year has been entirely smooth. First, there was listening to the auditions. I had to have my grown son sit with me to do it—that is how strange it felt to listen to my words spoken aloud. And after three books produced by three different studios, Claire has finally settled on producing them herself, facing her own learning curve. Fortunately, through all the trials, her acting talent has never wavered, and the books just keep getting better and better.
The Next Phase
As happy as I have been with my narrator, and with the production wrinkles ironed out, why did I sell the rights to my second series to Audible Studios? Two reasons: time and money. The benefit of ACX is that the author has control. We select the narrator, we listen to the book as it is recorded, and we guide the performance. I think a lot of authors (especially indie authors) have a little control freak in us. It is definitely more comfortable to get your book narrated and produced your way. And the royalties are better, but there’s that pay-upfront aspect, too. And the control comes at a price in terms of the time spent listening to auditions, communicating with your narrator, and proofing the audiobook—time you could spend writing.
So when Audible Studios offered me an advance and promised to take all that work off my hands for my Kincaids series, I jumped at the chance to be one of the chosen few authors. I knew they could do the project quickly, accurately, and with less input on my end than going through ACX. They even solicited my input on narrators and secured my first choice, and I couldn’t be happier about that. Now I have what I hope will be the best of both worlds: two series, each with a different professional narrator, and each produced in a way that worked best for me at the time.
While audiobooks don’t currently have a fan base to rival print and eBooks, I believe that the medium is still in its infancy. From what I have seen with my books, the Whispersync for Voice program seems to be attracting a whole new group of customers to audio, and their purchases push Whispersync enabled books higher up the charts. From there, the books can be noticed by subscribers looking for a place to spend their next credit. For that reason, I always beg for my books to be Whispersync enabled early—it’s the best tool I’ve found for visibility. I believe that, in our multitasking, mobile society, audio is only going to grow, and that authors who have their catalogs in audio will be in the best position to benefit from that growth.
Most importantly, perhaps, having my books in audio is just about the coolest thing that’s come out of my publishing career. When I realized that one of my books could be seen alongside Susan Elizabeth Phillips’ latest—that was an incredible moment. Right there with the woman whose books I had listened to again and again, who set my standard of what a romance audiobook could be? Cool.
Rosalind James, a publishing industry veteran and former marketing executive, is an author of Contemporary Romance and Romantic Suspense novels published both independently and through Montlake Romance. She and her husband live in Berkeley, California with a Labrador Retriever named Charlie (yes, she named a character after her dog, but she swears she didn’t realize it until later).
Last month, ACX and Audible Studios teamed up to kick off 2015 with an open casting call to find the voices for two Roxanne Conrad titles: Copper Moon and Exile, Texas. We received over 1,000 auditions, and it was no easy task for Audible Studios’ producers to select just two actors.
But two great actors did stand above the rest, and we’ll wait no longer to congratulate Kelley Hazen and Jamieson K Price for winning the coveted narration contracts! Let’s meet our winners.
Kelley is an Audible Approved Producer who works out of Los Angeles and saw audiobook narration as a natural extension of her acting career. Author Roxanne Conrad raved:
Kelley just leaped out of my headphones with this story, and absolutely everything worked for me … the pacing, her voice, the great voice work that differentiated the characters so completely. I just loved the work.
We spoke with Kelly to get to know the voice behind the upcoming Copper Moon audiobook.
ACX: What compelled you to audition for Copper Moon?
Kelley Hazen: I was intrigued with the Copper Moon storyline immediately; I love music and the idea of possession and spirits. After I read the material provided for the audition I wanted to know more, I wanted to know where the story would go. If it is a story I want to pursue as a reader, I know I will enjoy narrating it.
From the business side, earning/winning an ACX/Audible Studios Open Casting Call title was the next ‘goal’ in my business plan. To work directly with Audible Studios is a great opportunity and I’m really excited about it.
ACX: What inspired your winning audition?
KH: Roxanne Conrad’s smart, funny writing inspired my read. She has a definite rhythm, a cadence to her writing. I knew I needed to embody that in my read. My impression from the audition material was that the winning narrator would be the one who most accurately captured Roxanne’s very specific ‘sound’. There is humor drawn directly from the popular culture, jokes that could only be delivered one way. I practiced those to make sure I had the correct rhythm. I marked up the script I read from quite a bit – like a piece of music. And I wasn’t afraid while I was recording to go back and re-record to get something just right.
ACX: What advice do you have for those new to voice acting or audiobook narration?
KH:The most important elements in your audio chain are your ears. Hone your listening skills. It’s important to ‘hear’ the author – not just word-to-word, but as an entity, as a total expression. What is the overall milieu they seek to create through their story as it comes to life through your sound? Listen to the quality of your voice. It should be a sound the listener will want to cozy up to for ten or more hours. Listen to the sound of your studio to make sure your recordings are exemplary and your background is silent and worth a listener’s time and money. And most of all, listen for your own authenticity and organic connection to the story.
Listen to Kelley’s winning audition below.
Jamieson K Price
Jamieson describes himself as a “Los Angeles-based actor who has worked around the country on stage, screen, and microphone.” According to Audible Studios Production Manger Kat Lambrix,
Jamieson has a great voice for storytelling, and he gave both of the characters in the audition script the perfect voices and intonations. His pace is just right, and his voice draws you in to the story, wanting to hear more.
Jamieson joined us to share the story behind his voice acting career.
ACX: How did you get into voice acting?
Jamieson K Price: I was performing in a play right after I finished grad school, and my leading lady was dubbing anime. She brought me into the recording studio and the director felt I had promise. That progressed to working with other directors and in other studios, which led to voice-acting in video games. At the same time I was starting a family and reading aloud to my children, which was wonderful practice. The voice acting provided a flexibility that fit in well with being a parent so I have really concentrated my acting there for the last ten years or so.
ACX: So you’ve done voice over work, but not audiobooks. What made you audition for Exile, Texas?
JKP: I have been interested in doing audiobooks for several years now, but haven’t really focused on it. I love reading, and the challenge of bringing words to life aloud is much of what we do as actors. The tone, the feel of the prose in my mouth, the life I could see in the characters, that was what really compelled me to give it a try.
ACX: How did you prepare to deliver this performance?
JKP: I read the copy and let it sink in, thought about the characters, then did a couple of reads to hear how it sounded. I let it rest for a few days, but continued to turn it over in my mind. Then I came back and recorded several more reads using different intentions and characteristics for the two voices to see what sounded most true. On my final read I tried to just relax, not push anything, and let the story tell itself, kind of get out of my own way. That read sounded honest and had the ring of truth, so I submitted it.
ACX: What advice do you have for those starting out in the VO/Audiobook business?
JKP: Take acting classes! It’s essential to being able to quickly access your emotions and expressing truth. We are all such unique individuals but all too often who we are becomes inhibited as we get older. Acting classes allow you to exercise your imagination, explore all the myriad parts of your personality and awaken truths you never knew you had.
Thanks, Jamieson. Check out his winning audition below.
Audible Studios and ACX are kicking off 2015 in style by teaming up for another open casting call! This time, we’ve got two great titles from author Roxanne Conrad, and two narration contracts from Audible Studios worth up to $2,700 each!
Male actors are invited to audition for Exile, Texas, the story of Sheriff’s Deputy Dan Fox, a missing girl, and a 15 year old murder case the Texas town can’t seem to forget.
On tap for female actors is Copper Moon. Don’t miss your chance to voice the adventures of small town music teacher Abby, as she meets a handsome stranger, becomes possessed by his dead mother, and begins to learn some unsettling secrets.
The casting opens Tuesday, January 13 at noon ET, and runs through Thursday January 29 at noon ET. Visit ACX.com, and create a free account to upload an audition. The winning narrator will read in Audible’s studio’s in Newark, NJ, or self-record from home. No editing or post-production is required.
Welcome to our final post of 2014. It’s been one heck of a year; you and your fellow actors, authors, studios and publishers have produced over 13,000 ACX audiobooks! All the while, we worked to bring you the best audiobook education, information, and inspiration around.
We’re here today to count down the top 5 ACX blog posts of 2014, for both producers and Rights Holders. Join us right here in 2015 for even more!
Audible Studios and ACX are kicking off our latest casting call. This time, we’re teaming up with Voice 2014, one of the LA area’s top voiceover industry conventions, taking place in Anahiem, CA August 27 – 30 2014.
This casting call gives actors attending Voice 2014 the chance to audition for Audible Studios’ Grammy-winning team of producers, as well as one of the audiobook industry’s top talents, Scott Brick. Male actors can audition for the opportunity to voice Build for Change by Alan Trefler. Female actors can audition for Pivot Points by Julia Tang Peters. Both titles are non-fiction, and require an instructional read appropriate for newbies and veterans alike.
Both titles pay a per finished hour rate commensurate with the actor’s experience.Build for Changewill having an estimated running time of 6 hours, and the contract is valued at roughly $1,200. Pivot Pointswill have a running time of about 10 hours, and will reward the female winner a contract worth roughly $1800. The contract is for narration only; all editing and post production will be handled by Audible Studios.
Actor and casting call judge Scott Brick
To audition, visit ACX.com and create a free account. Auditions are open to attendees of Voice 2014 from Friday August 8th at 9 AM ET – Monday, August 25th at 11:59 PM ET. The selected actors will be announced during Scott Brick’s audiobook panel at Voice 2014 and right here on the blog.
Earlier this month Audible Studios, ACX, and AudioFile Magazine teamed up for this spring’s open casting call. You submitted a record-smashing number of auditions, and we were thrilled to hear so many great new voices!
Both Robin and Kat were impressed with Hollis’ ability to entertain with the material. Robin notes, “Hollis grasps the author’s point of view and ‘gets’ the humor,” while Kat was swayed by her “wonderfully pleasant voice” and ability to “weave the narrative of Counterclockwise and keep the listener engaged and entertained.”
Update: Listen to Hollis’ winning audition below.
Turning to Raiders!, Kat found that Josh “adds another level to the entertainment of the story of Raiders! He is very invested in the story, and you can tell that he’s really enjoying the material he’s narrating.” Robin noted that Josh “is able to balance the narrative view and the energy of the two boys.”
Update: Listen to Josh’s winning audition below.
Actor Josh Goodman
The narrators won’t have to wait long to cash in on those contracts, as production will begin shortly. Hollis and Josh will voice the two books and Audible Studios’ Grammy-winning team will handle the production. Watch for Raiders! and Counterclockwise from Audible Studios this later this summer. In the meantime, why not try one of the over 3,700 open castings on ACX today?
However you’re looking to improve your craft, we’ve got you covered. Are you fighting allergies, or wrestling with your writing tics? Maybe you’re looking for a better way to audition or to monetize your backlist. Perhaps you’re looking to master punctuation, or land a gig with Audible Studios.
Whatever you want to achieve in your writing or recording time, read on for our hand-picked tips and advice from around the audiobook web.
The 7 C’s of Auditioning – via Backstage – Great advice for all types of actors that can be put into practice the next time you step in front of the mic.
The Secret Weapon For Beating Allergies – via Jordan’s Chopped Thoughts – Seasonal allergies can derail your recording sessions in no time flat. Jordan has some remedies that may put your ears, noses, and throats at ease.