Tag Archives: audible

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.

Join us tomorrow for thoughts from our second Hall of Famer, Scott Brick.

This Week in Links: March 28 – April 1

For Rights Holders:

10 Great Ways to Promote Yourself As An Author – via BookMarketingTools – Ten foundational ways to get yourself (and your work) more exposure.

Your Biggest Book Marketing or Platform Building Roadblocks – And How to Overcome Them – via The Book Designer – A guide to pushing past author platform frustration and get your books in front of readers.

The Myth of the Average Reader – via Writer Unboxed –  Learn about demographics, psychographics, and why “marketing to everyone is inefficient and ineffective.”

The Least You Need to Know About Search Engine Optimization (SEO) – via Where Writers Win – “[A]s search engines become smarter, it’s becoming much more important to give your readers an enjoyable and useful user experience.”

For Producers:

4 Reasons for VO Agility in a Changing World – via Dave Courvoisier – “We’d love for things to stay the same while we march up the steps of certainty to the top, and say we’ve made it.  But the stairs these days keep moving, and the top is elusive.”

Bad Business – via Joe’s Dump – Learn how a missing sundae can provide advice about running a VO business.

The Human Voice Trumps Siri’s World – At Least For The Foreseeable Future – via Voice-Over Xtra – Do advances in voice-to-text spell doom for human narrators? Not exactly.

Regarding Room Tone with Alex the Audio Scientist – via ACX on YouTube – Get a blast from the ACX past with the second video in our Alex series, and subscribe to our channel to get notified of our latest videos.

 

 

A New Way to Promote Your Audiobook: Audible’s “Clips”

Audible recently released a new feature for iOS users that allows listeners to create short clips of their favorite audiobooks, share them on social media, and send them directly to friends. This feature (called Clips, naturally), also gives Rights Holders and Producers a unique tool to promote their audiobooks. Watch the video below to learn how to create a clip of your audiobook, then check out a handful of suggestions for leveraging clips in your marketing efforts.

Here are a few additional tips about this feature before you get started:

  • Clips may only be created from audiobooks that are in your Audible library. If your audiobook isn’t in your library, consider using one of your promo codes to add it to your collection.
  • Clips can only be created for audiobooks longer than 50 minutes.
  • Each clip can be up to 45 seconds long, and you can share up to five minutes total of each audiobook in your library. Once five total minutes of Clips from a book have been shared, you can’t share beyond those five minutes. But don’t worry, your fans can still make additional clips of your book and share them!
  • While the feature is exclusive to iOS and Windows Phone users, Android users can expect an update in the coming weeks that will include the Clips tool.

And, here are just a few ideas for making Clips a part of your audiobook promotion strategy:

  • Clip Scavenger Hunt: Challenge your fans to search your audiobook for a specific scene or phrase. The first five fans to clip the section, share it with their social media networks, and notify you could get a prize.
  • Clip Contest: Compel your listeners to create clips of your audiobooks that remind them of a friend or family member and share it with them on social media, with each “share” counting as an entry into a giveaway that you host on your site.
  • Social Media: Share clips from your audiobooks to Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, or any of your favorite social media sites. Find areas of your book that you can tie to holidays, current events, trending topics —anything that feels relevant and fun!
  • Newsletters: Drop a URL to your favorite scene into your newsletter blast to your fans.
  • Blog Post Inspiration: Create a series of blog posts that profile the characters in your books, and link to an audio quote from each within the profile.

These are just a few fun ways to highlight the unique power of audio to build your author brand and sell more audiobooks. We bet you can come up with all kinds of creative uses for Clips. Share your own ideas in the comments.

Subscribe to the ACX blog to get the latest audiobook promotion ideas in your inbox.

ACX Storytellers: Rosalind James

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.

Rosalind

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.

Just This Once_HDNot 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.

KincaidsWhile 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).

Home Studio Setup with Andrew the Audio Scientist: Part 2

WelAndrew_250x320come back to the second half of my two-part home studio setup series. Last week I covered where to place your home studio, how to properly soundproof it, and the basic equipment you’ll use in it. Today, I’d like to share real-world examples from three Audible Approved Producers. Let’s look at (and listen to) the great results a home studio can produce.

Visible Sound Audiobooks

Visible Sound

 The controlling and deadening of acoustic reflections in her bedroom and specifically around the microphone is one of the main contributing factors to the professional audio quality of her recordings – Ben Glawe of Visible Sound Audiobooks.

This home studio photo comes to us from Visible Sound Audiobooks, an Audible-Approved Producer whose operations primarily take place in a Brooklyn bedroom. How does this team achieve their professional sound quality in the midst of the country’s busiest city? House-narrator Christine Papania explains:

The biggest noise problem with my bedroom was my window, which overlooks a a noisy street in Brooklyn as well as a park. I bought special blackout curtains which block out light and sound from windows, which lowered the outside noise to acceptable levels. My laptop fan was also leaking noise into the microphone, but the addition of a silent laptop cooling pad fixed the problem.

Now we’ll hear a recording from Visible Sound’s space. You might be surprised how good it sounds!

 

kate udall

Udall

 

Kate Udall got her start as a narrator at Audible Studios. After working on her production chops and securing some great ACX titles, she earned herself the Audible-Approved Producer distinction. Kate’s studio is a great representation of an effective DIY home recording setup.

According to Kate

We call it Fuzzy Jail around here. It is made of blankets, the size of a cell and I am often inside in locked-down solitary confinement.

Kate uses thick packing blankets to isolate her recording studio from the rest of the room’s noises, which also provides the added benefit of reducing sound reflections that may otherwise occur on the side wall to the left. Her microphone is situated in front of an Auralex Mudguard, a great tool that can further reduce sonic clutter that occurs in home recording environments. She is also wise to set up an external monitor and other necessary components so that her laptop, which sits outside of the recording environment, does not introduce more artifacts and noises into the recorded signal.

Lets listen to a recording from Kate’s Studio:

Stephen Bel Davies

Bel Davies

Our final example shows the upper limits are of home audiobook production. Yes, you are looking at a home studio! This photo comes to us from veteran narrator Stephen Bel Davies.

Located in his Manhattan bedroom, this Studiobricks* installation is the top-of-the-line option for home recording due to its incredible noise-blocking capabilities and reflection controlled environment. Acoustic treatments on all walls, as well as the ceiling, guarantees a deadened recording space with extremely dampened artifacts and reflections. While Stephen is able to achieve a stunning -60dB of sound reduction with this setup, it doesn’t come cheap. These installations will set you back about at least $4,000 before factoring in installation costs. Still – one can dream!

Here is a bit of audio produced in Stephen’s studio.

 

FINAL NOTES

While Whisper Rooms are an ideal recording environment for any audiobook narrator, they are not necessary to produce a great recording. The most important consideration during an ACX production is consistency – both in practice and in aesthetic. For this reason, after you’ve installed your home studio, I strongly encourage you to read up on my four-part series, How to Succeed at Audiobook Production, which goes over methodologies to ensure success with your new audio production system.

How do you achieve a professional recording? Leave your feedback in the comments below.

(This section originally misidentified Mr. Bel Davies home studio as a WhisperRoom.)

Home Studio Setup with Andrew the Audio Scientist

Welcome to the latest musings from Andrew the Audio Scientist. Today, I’ll be addressing the most essential component of a successful ACX audiobook production: constructing a home recording studio. You may be surprised to find how clean and clear your narration can sound after implementing just a few of the techniques and products below into your own studio setup. Let’s take a look at the two main aspects of a solid studio arrangement.

Andrew_250x320The Room

The most important consideration when building your home studio is its location. The ideal recording space dimensions are rectangular (NOT square), with low ceilings and 90º corners. Closets and other enclosed spaces make perfectly great recording spaces after implementing a few basic room treatments.

Reflection absorption materials, such as the ones detailed on the ACX Beginners Amazon Wish List can make all the difference. The primary reflection points that should be addressed are any surfaces behind the microphone and on the side walls, at a distance exactly half-way between your sitting position and the microphone stand. If you want to go the DIY route, the same effect can be achieved by hanging your old winter coats on the walls, or even throwing up moving blankets where clothing is not an option. The idea is to use fabrics that are thick and provide ample absorption so that once sound hits the material, it stops dead in its tracks.

Isolation is an important consideration for your room, too. An important step in the audiobook production process is the pasting of clean room tone on top of edits and other extraneous noises. Doing so can be greatly inhibited, though, by a non-ideal recording space. You may find the room tone to be too noisy to affect any real sonic improvements. To combat this and other noise problems, make sure to isolate outside noises from your recording space by hanging blackout curtains at all windows, and insulating your room’s open cracks and crevices. However, note that there are some rooms where even the most expensive room treatments are unlikely to make a big impact.

ACX Recommends:

  1. Avoid installing your studio in large rooms such as kitchens and sun rooms. These will cause undesirable echo and reverberation, and result in a muddy sound.
  2. Small rooms with reflective surfaces like bathrooms should also be avoided, because the porcelain and mirrors will send your voice flying across the room without remorse.
  3. Last but not least, recording outdoors is a big no-no. While the sounds of nature can be pleasant, squawking birds and passing cars are not sounds that belong in audiobook productions.

3-Spaces-Bad

THE MICROPHONE

This is pretty obvious – if you want to record your voice at home, you’ll need a microphone. Not so obvious, however, is the kind of microphone you need to purchase. At ACX, we recommend a large-diaphragm cardioid condenser microphone. These microphones are typically more accurate and clean than other types of vocal microphones, but are also more sensitive to recording mistakes. You’ll need to adhere to some setup best practices to get the most out of your purchase:

  1. Placement – A microphone is best set up at a point no further than 40% away from the front wall. Ideally, the microphone would be placed half-way between the side walls.
  2. Height – Microphones placed at or below mouth-level tend to pick up more “body” of a voice, while placement above the mouth (closer to the nasal cavity) capture a more “bright” and airy sound. However, this is a very personal aspect to studio configuration that is best left to experimentation.

    andrew's blog ratio

    Diagram of a ideal mic placement within a home studio

  3. Distance – It is never necessary to stand the microphone further than 6-10 inches from your mouth. This should help you avoid plosives, but we strongly recommend purchasing a pop filter for your microphone if it does not already come with one. (For you DIYers, you can also construct your own pop filter out of – no joke – some pantyhose and flex tubing, as demonstrated in this Lifehacker article)
  4. Interface – All cardioid condenser microphones require an audio interface that can provide phantom power to the microphone. If phantom power is not provided to the microphone, then it will not work.

ACX Recommends:

One of our favorite starter microphones of this type is the Rode NT1-A, which can be found on the ACX Beginners Amazon Wish List. The NT1-A kit available on Amazon comes with a pop filter and all of the mounting hardware needed to get started. This, in conjunction with the Blue Icicle XLR-to-USB microphone interface and a solid microphone stand, provides an excellent starter ACX production system.

Following these basic rules for home studio setup will allow you to transform the appropriate area of your living space into a great sounding vocal booth. Check out Part 2 to see and hear examples of some real-life Audible Approved Producers home studios.

This Week in Links: June 9 – 13

We’re nearly halfway through “June Is Audiobook Month,” the annual celebration of our favorite spoken word format, and the audiobook community’s month-long observance got us wondering what our authors and producers are doing to promote the audio format. Are you talking about audiobooks on your blog? Running giveaways using your promo codes?

Tell us how you are joining the Audiobook Month fun in the comments, and use the info in the links below to keep yourself writing and recording beyond the month’s end!

For Rights Holders:

How to Tell if Your Story is On Target—What is Your Book About in ONE Sentence? – via Kristen Lamb’s Blog – Kristen uses a recent trip to the movies to illustrate the importance of good story structure.

3 Ways to Plan a Marketable Novel without Losing Creativity  – via Live Write Thrive – Let’s face it: You’re in this industry to be creative and make money. Find out how to do one without sacrificing the other.

Writing What Scares You – via The Huffington Post Books – Rachel Thompson has a simple piece of advice: Stop Worrying and Write Already!

For Producers:

5 Health Tips for Voice Over Talents – via Lance Blair – A handful of ideas on how to stay healthy even with a sedentary, studio-based career.

Unlocking the Hidden Secrets of Your Voice – via Gary Terzza’s Voice-Over Blog UK – Gary provides an in-depth look at a VO’s most important piece of equipment.

‘Law & Order’ Voice Steve Zirnkilton on Sustaining a VO Career – via Backstage – The voice behind the popular series’ famous intro talks about his VO journey.

The Newest Voices of Audible Studios

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!

ACX_051314_v2Actors read samples from Raiders! The Story of the Greatest Fan Film Ever Made and Counterclockwise: My Year of Hypnosis, Hormones, Dark Chocolate, and Other Adventures in the World of Anti-aging, and the titles were cast by Audible Studios producers in conjunction with Robin Whitten, Editor and Founder of AudioFile. So, without further ado…

Congratulations to Hollis McCarthy reading Counterclockwise and Josh Goodman reading Raiders!

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Actor Hollis McCarthy.

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.

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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?