Tag Archives: audiobook narration

Hannibal Hills: Lessons from the First Three Years Part 2

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

Hannibal Hills in his booth

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 know in the comments below.

The Best of the Blog 2019: The Re-Gift of Knowledge

It’s been quite a year for the ACX community: ACX creators published over 30,000 audiobooks, aided by the launch of some exciting tools and features, like Royalty Share Plus and Enhanced Promo Codes. Thank you for continuing to elevate the field of independent publishing through your hard work and innovation. In this giving season, we’ve decided to honor the tradition of re-gifting by wrapping up a few of our favorite blog resources from 2019 and presenting them to you to help support your continued excellence. Enjoy… or re-joy!

Now Hear This: Promoting with SoundCloud: Audio samples are your best friend when it comes to marketing your audiobook—they’re a great way to grab a listener’s attention and leave them eager to purchase the audiobook. Check out this article for great ideas on leveraging this free audio platform to put those samples everywhere your audience is, so they’ll be sure to give them a listen.

Bonus: Want more content on low and no-cost social media promotion for your audiobooks? Check out this episode from ACX University.


Amy Daws on Her Authentic Social Media Self: Authenticity is the key to a devoted community of fans, and nobody knows that better than this author and social media maven who uses her own genuine energy, fun content, and regular engagement to keep her fans’ attention between new releases. Learn from her social media strategies and fan the flames in your own fan base.

Bonus: Want to hear more on engaging with your fans? This is the ACX University episode for you.


Lighting the Way: An Author’s Journey into Narration If you’re an indie author, you’re no stranger to doing it all yourself, so chances are you’ve considered narrating your own audiobook. Well, paranormal mystery author Mary Castillo decided to do just that for her series, and you can read her full account of the production process from a writer’s perspective here.

Bonus: Interested in narrating your own book? Learn more about the art of audiobook performance here.


Production Pointers from Audible Approved Producers Whether you’re a narration newbie or a production pro, it never hurts to hear from other independent Producers on how they’re getting the job done. In this Q&A with a few of 2019’s newest Audible Approved Producers (AAPs), you can read about their favorite gear, pre-recording rituals, and at-home studio setups—you might learn a thing or two to add to your own process!

Bonus: Looking for more tips, tricks, and technical advice for audiobook production? Check out this ACX University series from our QA team.


A Portrait of the Artist How do you make a big impression and catch the attention of the authors you want to work with? It all starts with a compelling, professional, comprehensive Producer profile. In this article, we walk you through creating an ACX profile that stands out with examples from some of our favorite AAPs.

Bonus: Looking for more advice on your audiobook production career? This ACX University episode is for you.


Whether you’re new to the blog or seeing these articles for the second time, we hope it renews your drive and enthusiasm for creating great audiobooks, and gives you some good ideas for propelling your passion and your work forward into a successful new year. Feel free to re-gift these to the indie author or producer on your list!

This Week in Links: July 17 – 21

For Producers:

Cultivating Your Personal Brand As A Voice-Over Artist – via suchavoice – You know you need it, even if you don’t want to work on it. Read up on the five ways to “cultivate a personal brand that is really, and truly your own.”

What Are You Waiting For? – via Paul Strikwerda – Paul’s here with that kick in the pants that every freelancer needs from time to time.

4 Reasons You Should be Marketing Your VO Business on Instagram – via Dave Courvoisier – Learn why the visual social network is a great place to spread word of your audio services, and the best part is that now you can Buy instagram likes whenever you want, this will improve your marketing strategies on social media.

ACXU Presents: Inside the Booth: A Day in the Life of an ACX Pro Producer – via ACX – Get an idea of what it takes to make a career out of voiceover work with Audible Approved Produced Caitlin Kelly.

For Rights Holders:

How to Create Pre-Launch Buzz for Your Book Right Now – via Bad Redhead Media – As you read this, note the tips that can be repurposed for your audiobook launch.

A Step-By-Step Indie Authors Guide for Attracting Media Attention – via Book Marketing Tools – “If you’re like most indie authors who can’t afford the razzle-dazzle of today’s publicity masterminds, there is an option for you. It’s called DIYing your own publicity campaign, and it’s not as scary as it sounds.”

Authors and Marketing Fatigue – via The Book Designer – If you’ve got an excuse for why your book marketing isn’t working an are ready for a dose of reality, this is the article for you.

Tips on Writing a Sequel (When You Didn’t Plan to Write a Sequel) – via Writer’s Digest – So, you’ve heard that series do well in audio, and you’re kicking yourself for not planning ahead. Never fear, Writer’s Digest’s got you covered.

This Week in Links: June 5 – 9

Audible’s Matt Thornton stops by today to fill us in on an exciting new initiative Audible has recently launched.

The mixture of words and voices that give books their power is an even more fundamental element of the audio experience, which can bring together the best of writing and narrative performance. Last week, Audible announced a $5,000,000 fund to commission and produce new works by playwrights for Audible listeners. This project elevates three areas of focus that have informed Audible’s mission from the beginning: serving listeners, serving the professional creative class, and applying the best of emergent digital technologies on behalf of listeners, actors and authors.

Audible has enlisted an advisory board of distinguished theater talent to collaborate in the selection of recipients for the grants, and will solicit submissions for fund grants immediately. Read more about this program here, and inquire about submission at AudibleTheater@audible.com.

For Producers:

Dial Down the Intensity of Your Delivery – via Dr. Ann Utterback – “The problem is that if your excitement bleeds into your delivery too much, you’re doing a disservice to your listener.”

Refresh, Reboot, Refurbish, Renew – via Dave Courvoisier – Don’t collect digital dust. Consider these aspects of your voiceover business that might be ready for an upgrade.

6 Questions About Audio Publishing – via Karen Commins – Thinking of buying audio rights and becoming an audiobook publisher? Karen answers some questions about the process you may not have considered.

For Rights Holders:

Beginners guide to Indie Author Jargon: Book Marketing Glossary – via ALLi – You’ll find multiple entries for each letter from A – Z, with recommended blog posts for every term. Bookmark this one now.

5 Skills Every Writer Should Develop – via The Book Designer – Learn the attributes a writer should attain to become a true “autherpreneur.”

Can You Sell 10 Copies Of Your Book Every Day? – via BookMarketingBuzzBlog – “Any goal that you set needs to have a number attached to it, something that’s measurable, realistic, but inspiring.”

Is Email Marketing Still Relevant? – via CreateSpace – It turns out the key to effective email marketing is… all your other forms of marketing. Who knew?

This Week in Links: December 12-16

FOR RIGHTS HOLDERS:

How to Conduct a Year-End Review for Your Writing: 25+ Questions to Consider – via TheWriteLife.com –Sometimes it’s important to take inventory of what you’ve done so that you can get a better idea of where you’re going. How was your 2016?

Marketing tip: link your blog posts to Goodreads and Amazon – via CreateSpace.com – A blog is a great way to let your audience know what you’re up to. Making sure it’s linked to the right websites and resources is key to making it successful.

1 Simple Marketing Tip to Boost the Reach of Author Facebook Pages – SelfPublishingAdvice.com – Facebook is a great way to stay in touch with family and friends. It can also be a wonderful resource for promoting and marketing your title.

How the Age of Digital Books is Fostering the Writing and Self-Publishing of Mid-length Books – via SelfPublishingAdvice.com – Is more better? An interesting article about how digital books and publishing are changing the way authors approach shorter, more concise content.

FOR PRODUCERS:

Apps for Voice Over Actors – via VoiceOverHerald.com – Need to record an audition on the run? These apps can help your smart phone into a mobile studio.

Are Your Prejudices Hurting Your Voice Overs? – VO Master Class – You know what they say about people who assume… Gary Terzza explains the psychology of assumption when it comes to traditional roles in narration and how they can hinder your performance.

The 5 Elements of a Winning Voice Over Audition – via Michaellangservo.com – Every audition is different and each needs to be approached as such. Check out these helpful suggestions for how to turn auditions into offers.

Video Lessons and Resources – via ACX.com – Sometimes you don’t need to scour the internet for great advice and resources for getting started with #vo work. The ACX website has a wealth of helpful information from video tutorials to Amazon wish list of equipment to help you get started.

This Week in Links: February 15 – 19

For Producers:

How to Create a Business Plan for Your Voiceover Business – via Victoria DeAnda – “You cannot achieve success without a plan. It’s just like trying to reach a destination without a map.”

Improving Home Studio Acoustics [INFOGRAPHIC] – via Bobbin Beam – “A great quick-reference guide to help improve the sound of the home studio for recording.”

3 Tricks to Turn No into Yes – via J. Christopher Dunn – Learn when to use “no, but” rather than just “no.”

How Drug Ad Narrators Take the Scariness Out of Side Effects – via Stat – An interesting perspective on how the human voice can be used to very specific intentions.

For Rights Holders:

How to Get Traffic to Your Author Website: 30+ Tips for Discouraged Writers – via Your Writer Platform – “Consider changing your goal from quickly growing your traffic, to focusing on ensuring that the traffic you are attracting is right for your author blog. ”

9 Author Website Trends You Need to Know About – via BookBub – Check out this handful of author website enhancements to maximize your marketing efforts.

6 Low-Cost Avenues for Greater Audiobook Sales – via Ind’tale Magazine – Audible Approved ACX producer Karen Commins offers 6 audiobook specific marketing tactics.

How to Connect on Twitter Without Selling Out Your Community – via Writer’s Digest – Learn how to build an authentic social media presence without shouting “buy my book!”

How to Put Together a Marketing Plan for Your Book – via Mediashift – “This marketing plan will help you decide whether you’ll blog and have a presence on social media, and it’ll help you organize your outreach strategy for reviews.”

This Year in Links: 2015

Here at ACX, we’re proud of the work you’ve done creating thousands of audiobooks in 2015. We hope the education we’ve shared this year has helped make you a better audiobook producer, publisher, and marketer. Before we look forward to 2016, we’re counting down the top links – based on your clicks – published in our This Week in Links series this year.

For Rights Holders:

5. Where to Find Free Images Online to Use in Blogging & Social Media – via The Write Conversation – Visual marketing content has been shown to be at least two to five times more effective than text alone. Boost your efforts with these free resources.

4. The Twitter Secret – via BadRedheadMedia – Learn how online fan acknowledgement could be secret ingredient in your successful author platform.

3. Six Magic Phrases You Can Use to Sell More Books – via where writers win – Learn key words to use in your “Amazon sales page, your website, your book announcement press release, your e-mail announcement, and other promotional materials that will help you sell more books.”

2. How To Promote Your Self-Published Book On The Cheap – via Book Marketing Tools – New authors may not have the robust marketing budgets of the established players. Use these tactics to jump start your promotions.

1. 25+ Ways To Market Your Audiobook: A Quick Guide – via Kate Tilton – A distillation of our #TalkingACX Twitter chat features a trove of audiobook-specific marketing ideas.

For Producers:

5. Potato Chips Required – Who Would Have Thought? – via Mike Lenz – Can you believe that the fix for common in-booth issues could be so delicious?

4. 3 Things That Define A Successful Audiobook Narrator – via Dane Reid – Veteran Nashville-based audiobook producer Joe Loesch shares the three pillars of his successful career.

3. What is the Best Microphone for Voiceover Work? – via Voice Over Herald – Five solid options for getting professional-quality recordings without breaking the bank.

2. What’s Your Production Process? – via Wayne Farrell – The Audible Approved Producer shares a step by step guide to his production method. A must-read for new narrators.

1. The 7 Most Overlooked Daily Habits of Successful Voice Actors – via Dave Courvoisier – The top spot goes to the veteran “CourVO” and his reminder of the little things that can lead to big successes in the voiceover field.

Get all the best audiobook-related links in your inbox – subscribe to the ACX blog.

Five Things Every Audiobook Beginner Should Know

Gary Terzza is a UK-based voice over artist and coach who runs a popular voice over master class and has trained successful actors like recent guest blogger and Audible Approved Producer Anna Parker-Naples. Today, he joins us to offer a handful of helpful tips for audiobook newbies.

To Begin At the Beginning

Gary TerzzaMy first encounter with an audiobook was back in 1976. As a mediocre student I was going nowhere with my English literature studies, but an enterprising teacher opened my 16 year old ears to something quite remarkable – a box set of vinyl records of the play Under Milk Wood by Dylan Thomas, with the ‘first voice’ part read by the sonorous Richard Burton. Have a listen to Mr. Burton’s narration below.

Suddenly, the Welsh actor’s distinctive and assured delivery brought this sleepy fishing village vividly to life. Here was one voice (Burton) becoming the same as the storyteller’s (Thomas) so that the two were indistinguishable.

From that day onwards I realised that a truly good voice actor speaks the writer’s words with total conviction.

Today I passionately believe this is at the core of all voice overs and is especially true in audiobooks.

So what should you be mindful of when embarking on your audiobook career? Here are five things to keep in mind as you progress.

1. Audiobooks Can Be Very, Very Long

Last year I received an urgent call from one of my voice over students. Sonia (not her real name) was panicking, and quite rightly so. She had never performed a voice over before, but an author had contacted her about reading a 110,000 word novel in the style of Jane Austen. She loved Austen, but 110,000 words frightened her, because it sounded like a lot.

Time HeadShe was right – it is. In fact that is approximately 11 hours of listening time or what we call ‘completed audio’.

“How can I do 11 hours of reading and recording all in one go?” she asked nervously. I responded with the good and bad news.

The good news was she did not have to do the whole read in one go. The bad, was that 11 hours of completed audio would take her 44 to 55 hours to record, edit and review. That equates to a couple of weeks’ work including essential breaks and weekends off.

“It was a baptism by fire,” she told me later “but very enjoyable.” In fact it took her nearer 70 hours to complete because of technical issues (she was grappling with unfamiliar software and hardware), but the author loved the end result.

The lesson? Never underestimate the amount of time it will take you to produce an audiobook. Not all projects are over 100,000 words (the average audiobook is about 9 hours long), but I would allow a ratio of 4 to 5 hours of your time for every completed hour of audio. Make sure you clear your calendar before starting.

2. Don’t Read the Book – Tell the Story

At first glance this may appear contradictory. Surely reading is storytelling? Well no, not quite.

Boy LibraryIf you have ever read a story to young children (especially as a parent) you will notice that you have a highly critical audience. If the characters do not sound convincing, your young listeners will soon let you know – in fact my eldest son was particularly critical of my delivery of The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, which I have to admit I would sometimes skip through nonchalantly.

I soon realised that I had to be genuine in my delivery; I had to believe in what I was saying 100%, because my son would soon let me know if I was just “going through the motions’.

Likewise, your listeners want you to narrate the story with complete conviction. Remember too, you are talking to them and not at them.

Like Richard Burton, you should completely immerse yourself in the story so that your voice doesn’t just sound like the author’s (metaphorically), but is inseparable from the author’s.

3. Choose Your Book Carefully

GelatoWhat do you like to read in your spare time? Do you prefer crime fiction, historical tales, or romantic novels perhaps? Imagine you absolutely hated science fiction, but were forced to read Arthur C. Clarke; well that is what it’s like if you get stuck narrating an audiobook that you don’t chime with.

In some areas of voice overs it does not matter if you like (or even understand) the subject matter. A 30 second radio commercial for toilet paper does not mean you have a predilection for all things bathroom related.

But an audiobook narration is different. You will be reading thousands upon thousands of words. Remember Sonia? She lived and breathed her author’s book for weeks and she probably even dreamt about the characters!

Carefully selecting a book you will enjoy is crucial.

So how can you make sure the project you are embarking on is for you?

Check out the book on Amazon. Every title profile on ACX has a link to the print/eBook edition on Amazon, and you don’t even have to make a purchase. Just open up the preview pages and have a read through. Can you hear the voice in your head? Do the words speak to you? If so, this could be a job worth taking on.

Perhaps you don’t like (or don’t yet have the chops for) doing character voices, in which case I advise you stick to nonfiction, or avoid novels that are peppered with a diverse range of vocal personalities.

If the book reads well, chances are you will enjoy the narration.

4. Know Your Author

Once you are in the happy position of accepting an offer on ACX, it is time to form a very special relationship. This is between you and the book’s original voice – the writer.

Reading RoomOn ACX, you’ll audition using pages from the book itself. Once you’ve been selected to narrate, you’ll produce a 15 minute portion of the book and submit it for the author’s or publisher’s approval before moving forward. She will then take a listen and make some critical observations.

  • Is the pace correct? Does the tempo need to be slower or faster?
  • How is the general tone? Is the narrator in tune with the spirit of the book?
  • Are there any mispronunciations of names or fictional places?
  • If there are characters, do they sound convincing?

The rights holder may then request some adjustments based on the answers to the questions above. Once you have been given the green light, stay in touch with your new client at regular intervals as she will want to be kept up to date. If you have a bad cold or anything else that might put you behind schedule let her know straight away.

Remember, cultivating a relationship based on respect and understanding is the best way to smooth any rough water you might encounter.

5. Be  A Producer

In the early days of your audiobook career you will likely be recording from home. That means taking on the role of editor, performer and producer – three hats on one head…. yours.

Getting the sound right is essential, so spend some time creating a home studio. It doesn’t have to be grand or expensive, just practical and comfortable. There are two basic aspects to domestic recording: the hardware and the acoustic space.

Old EquipThere are lots of options in terms of microphones. Check out ACX’s previous post on mics, or visit some of the voice over community groups on social networks such as Facebook , Linkedin and Google +. They are very helpful and supportive.

In terms of software, I recommend using Audacity. It is flexible, easy to use, has lots of training videos on YouTube, and best of all, it’s free. It is ideal for audiobooks and all your other voice over work.

Achieving the required ‘deadness’ in you room is a little more tricky. ACX has also covered the key elements of home studio construction, and you can read that post here. Your aim is to remove the inherent ambiance that every room possesses and create an echo free environment. This helps your voice sound direct and intimate – as long as you are close enough to the mic.

Starting out in the world of audiobooks need not be daunting. If remember these key points, stay focused, learn as much as you can and never give up, success could be on the next page.

What’s your top tip for audiobook beginners? 

We Are Pleased to Announce…

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 Hazen

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 HazenKelley 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 K Price Photo 1Jamieson 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.

File Management with Andrew The Audio Scientist

ACX’s resident audio scientist first joined us on the blog last month, when he discussed the theory and best practices for encoding audio. Today, he’s back to discuss the bedrock of any successful audiobook production: file management.

File Backup and Preservation

Andrew_250x320Anybody who has produced a lengthy audiobook will tell you that it can be rather arduous. After hours of prep work, days of recording your narration, and several additional days of editing, QC and mastering, the last thing you want to have happen is a disastrous and sudden loss of all your hard work.

As a former Audible Studios engineer and digital expert witness, it didn’t take long for me to realize the importance of backing up my work. While it may be obvious to some producers that data backup is important, learning file storage and archiving methods appropriate for audiobooks is key to your project’s success. Today, I’d like to go over some best practices i have found from my reasearch on sites like https://www.flashbackdata.com/data-recovery/server-raid-recovery/ for data preservation and how you can help prevent any tragic file loss for your next ACX production.

5 Keys to Proper File Management

  1. SAVE, SAVE, SAVE. Make a habit of saving your work every five minutes. It takes almost no time at all and will ensure that, if data loss occurs, you will be able to recover most of your current work. The keyboard shortcut to save is almost always “Ctrl+S” in a Windows program, and “Command+S” in a Mac program (command is the “⌘” key on your Mac keyboard).
  2. Each chapter’s audio file should be backed up upon completion of each stage of production:
    1. Completed Recording Backup – The WAV or AIFF file containing the completed raw recording of your chapter.
    2. Completed Edits Backup – The WAV or AIFF file containing the completed edits to your recorded audio.
    3. Mastered Audio Backup – The WAV or AIFF audio file created after putting the Completed Edits Backup file through your mastering chain.
    4. Encoded Masters – The Mastered Audio Backup file that has been encoded to MP3 for ACX submission. This is your final, retail-ready audio.
  3. At the end of each day of production, you should make a backup of your DAW session, making sure the filename contains the day’s date.
  4. Each time you make a backup of your work, it is strongly recommended that you store the files in two storage locations. (We recommend doing automatic backups to an external hard drive as well as cloud storage. More on that in a bit!)
  5. Until you are ready to encode and submit your audio to ACX, back up all audio as WAV or AIFF files. No chapter file should be backed up as an MP3 unless it is 100% complete and ready for ACX submission. Making changes directly to an MP3 will lower the audio quality of your final production.

The above practices are important habits to form. Should you ever need to make changes to your files or fix an error found by our audio QA team, having consistent backups at each stage of your production will ensure that changes can be easily committed. For instance, if you master a chapter file only to discover that you want to re-record a particular line of dialog, doing so would be as easy as opening up your chapter’s Completed Edits Backup file and re-recording the line. Without this file, you will be forced to record and master your new dialog to a different file and paste it on top of your old Mastered Audio Backup file. Things can get messy!

Data Storage Options

File preservation is important, but it is undoubtedly a hassle. Luckily, file storage is more versatile, cheap, and reliable than ever before. We producers can take advantage of not just excellent portable hard drives, but specialized software and online backup services as well! We recommend the options below.

Portable External Hard Drive – The easiest and quickest file storage solution is to simply purchase an external hard drive. We love the Seagate Expansion drive series, which has a 1TB option priced at only $64.99. Cheap and easy to use, these drives should be on the shopping list of every beginning ACX producer. However, using it can be a bit clunky, as you must organize all of your files manually.

Backup Scheduling Software – Luckily, there exists software for both Windows and Macintosh platforms that aid file backup. We strongly recommend that Mac users utilize the built-in Time Machine feature on OSX to automatically back up and organize your files on your external hard drive. For Windows, I love the free FBackup by Softland. Both of these tools are easy to use and can be configured to automatically back up your files to external locations every night, or even every time the file is modified.

Cloud Storage – Amazon, ACX’s parent company, knows as well as anyone how important reliable storage solutions are for consumers. AWS, Amazon’s online web storage platform, is the leading “cloud storage” solution on the web. What is cloud storage exactly? In essence, it is a series of interconnected servers which safely handle and store massive amounts of data for customers of all stripes. Amazon provides this service to consumers for free as Amazon Cloud Drive. Upon signing up, all users receive 5GB of free storage! Using Amazon Cloud Drive in conjunction with the free Cloud Drive App, you can automatically back up your files to the Amazon Cloud Drive network without needing to lift a finger. Once you finish installing the Cloud Drive App, simply follow the on-screen instructions to set up your computer for automatic nightly backups.

In following these best-practices, you may save yourself and your rights holder from a potential disaster, and you will be putting your best foot forward by amply protecting both your hard work and your rights holder’s intellectual property.

What is your file management and backup process? Do you use any of the methods Andrew recommends above?