Tag Archives: audiobook narrator

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 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?

This Week in Links: October 21 – 25

ACXers in temperate climates are starting to feel that first chill in the air. Autumn is upon us, and with it thoughts of holiday fun and the year’s end. As 2013 winds down, use the links below to inform and educate yourself as you embark on your final audiobook productions of the year.

Remember, now is the time to get those audiobooks recorded and uploaded to ACX for your best chance of having them live on Audible in time for the holiday season.

For Producers:

The 5 Things You Should Be Doing NOW to Close Out the Year – via Dave Courvoisier’s Voice Over Blog – As the year’s end draws near, Dave has a 5-point checklist that will help VO’s wrap things up right.

Whittam’s World Episode 8: Acoustical Treatments for your Home Studio – via Edge Studio’s Youtube Channel – Home studio master George Whittam talks soundproofing in this informative video

Bed, Bath and Beyond – via Finding My Voice – Justin S. Barrett gets philosophical about life away from the microphone.

Why Restaurants And Voice Over Talents Fail – via Marc Scott Voiceover – Marc sees popular TV show “Restaurant Impossible” as a metaphor for VO failure – and success!

For Rights Holders:

Conflict—Giving LIFE to Your Fiction – via Kristen Lamb’s Blog – “Bad decisions make GREAT fiction.” Kristen tells you how to work that adage to your advantage

How Writing “Small Stones” Hones the Writer’s Craft – via The Alliance of Independent Authors – “Novelist Satya Robyn explains the meaning, process and value of writing “small stones” – tiny observational pieces of poetry or prose detailing something close at hand.”

Passion, Purpose, and Power: A Pep-Talk For Writers – via The BookBaby Blog – In need of a pick-me-up? BookBaby’s got you covered

Did you find some great audiobooks links this week? Tell us all about ’em!

ACX Success Story: Badwater – Part 2: Christine Padovan

Yesterday, we spoke with author Toni Dwiggins about her award-winning forensic geology title, Badwater. Today we check in with ACX producer Christine Padovan to hear her side of the Badwater story, and to get some amazing pieces of advice for producers and authors alike.

Hi Christine. Tell us a little about yourself, and your current audiobook projects.

I grew up in New Jersey, near historical Basking Ridge and did my degree in clinical psychology at NYU in New York City. I played and performed on the violin through my early 20’s and fell in love with books from the time I learned to read. Interestingly enough, I was narrating children’s books to kindergarten children when I was in 4th grade in a volunteer program at school.  So I guess I started narrating at a very early age and didn’t pick it up again till 2011 after my introduction on ACX.

Christine_HeadshotI recently  completed Her Marine which is book 5 of the Always a Marine series written by Heather Long; I’m narrating debut fiction novels for two new authors (Kyrathaba Rising by William Bryan Miller and Voodoo Moon (Paranorm World) by June Stevens/DJ Westerfield); book 3 of The Dragoneers series by M.R. Mathias, and continuing the Always a Marine series with books 6 and 12, next in line to record and produce.

What attracted you to Badwater?

I actually love mysteries and thrillers, so after meeting Toni through a self-published writer’s blog by D.D. Scott, and answering some of her questions on audiobook narrating, I auditioned for Badwater. After she and I tweaked character voices and got pronunciations down in an indexed list Toni provided, we were off and running.

What have you done to market Badwater?

I’ve done opted-in email blasts through www.targetedemailads.com; I’ve used Google ads as well as tweets and Facebook posts.  I Googled my name back in late May 2013 and found out through Goodreads that eFestivalofWords.com had nominated Badwater in the ‘Best Audiobook’ category.  So I told Toni, and we took advantage of the nomination to promote the book harder by posting our nomination logo, then our Finalist badge logo – and eventually, our Winner’s badge logo!  The San Francisco Self Published Writers group that Toni is part of also helped plug the book when we were nominated, then won the award.

That’s pretty exciting stuff! How did it feel when you found out Badwater had been nominated for “Best Audiobook?”

It felt great to be nominated, become a finalist and then actually win ‘Best Audiobook’ for 2013!  This was the first year that eFestivalofWords.com (for the Best of the Independent eBook Awards) actually had an Audiobook category.  They based their nominations on the book’s quality in its editing, cover art, styling, and recognition from other critic and reader reviews.

What advice do you have for authors who are considering having their titles made into audiobooks? 

Make sure you have the audio rights to your title or titles.  Check your contract with your publisher or agent for that book or books, and see who owns the audio rights. If you own the audio rights, post your work on ACX and search for voice types that you feel would fit the style and genre of your work. Listen to narrator samples and see how experienced the narrator is in audiobook production.  It’s O.K. if you wish to try out someone new, but asked for audition samples and check if you like the quality of their recording.

I also want to caution authors that want to rush the audiobook production of their work: taking the time to find the right narrator is far better than rushing to get your title online, then being disappointed with the final product.

Lastly, audiobook sales differ greatly from ebook/Kindle sales of the work.  For example, people are pickier in paying for an audiobook than only paying $.99, $1.99 or even $3.99 for the text version.  If they are going to spend money on an audiobook, they have to like the book’s retail sample (does the narrator’s voice make them want to buy it?), the subject matter and possibly the genre of the book before taking a chance on a new work where the author may not be well known to the public.  More people will go for ‘household’ author name first as a safety net, before taking a chance on a new writer.  So having the dollars set aside to really market the audio version to increase sales is vital as well.

Any advice for those new to audiobook narration/production?

For talent starting out in audiobook narration, you don’t need to have expensive equipment to get the job done.  A Zoom H4N digital recorder with phantom power and XLR ports for my RODE NT1-A condenser microphone and a clothing filled, relatively soundproofed, square 4’x6’ walk-in closet helped me produce over 25 titles on ACX and Audible.Badwater_CP_Studio

I would then transfer my 44.1/16 bit WAV files from the Zoom to my laptop for editing in Audacity.

Creating an audiobook is not for the faint-hearted!  It is many hours of your time – to learn narration first from a seasoned narrator and to then make sure you have the resources to either rent studio space or create your own to record in. Then, there’s the time it takes to record the book (roughly double the running time to record it and triple the running time to edit it). You’ll either pay an engineer to edit and master your WAV files into broadcast quality MP3s and/or spent the time and money to do it yourself.  It is far better to learn to edit and engineer yourself, as you can be sure there are no mistakes left behind in your recordings. And in the end you will feel so much better, knowing you helped take someone’s ‘baby’ and give it another life as an audiobook

The best advice I ever heard was to take a book, sit in a closet with a light on, close the door behind you, and start reading it outloud – try doing that without a break for about 30 minutes or so.  Are you comfortable?  Do you think you can do that for 4-6 hours a day, 5 days straight – with 2 days rest in between?  If you feel you can comfortably be in a tight space, whether it’s a closet or studio booth, and narrate out loud for long lengths of time (with apple slices, bottled water, lip balm, snack breaks, etc. to keep you going), then congratulations!  Narrating is for you!

Thanks for the tips, Christine!

What are the secrets to your ACX success? Tell us in the comments!

ACX Success Story: Badwater – Part 1: Toni Dwiggins

ACX Author Toni Dwiggings and producer Christine Padovan joined forces to produce the audio version of Badwater, which went on to win the Best Audiobook award at the 2013 eFestival of Words “Best of the Independent eBook Awards.” We recently spoke with Toni and Christine about their experience producing Badwater through ACX. Read Toni’s interview below, and check back tomorrow for our chat with Christine.

Hi Toni. Want to tell our readers a bit about yourself?

Badwater_Cover

I’m a third-generation Californian who migrated from southern Cal to northern Cal. What I like most about my state is that one can go from the ocean to the mountains in one day, with a lunch stop in the desert. I like it so much I’ve set my forensic geology books in those settings.

I’m author of a US History textbook, and have contributed to texts in the sciences. I’ve done tech-writing for the Silicon Valley computer industry, and that experience hatched an idea that became my first novel, about an attempt to sabotage the nation’s telephone system.

What drove you to have an audio version of Badwater produced?

I’ve long been an audiobook fan. The idea of listening to my book, as I’d listened to other books, was a thrilling prospect. Also, my daughter was a five-hour drive away at college and I thought, what better way for HER to pass the time than to listen to Mom’s book as the miles pass?

From a marketing standpoint, I was eager to get my book out there in multiple formats. Amazon has a terrific program called Whispersync for Voice, in which a reader/listener can switch back and forth between reading the book and listening to the audio version.

How did you hear about ACX as an avenue for your audiobook production?

On a writing forum, wherein authors endlessly discuss ways and means to reach readers—and listeners! On the audiobook threads, ACX was mentioned again and again as an accessible way to get a professional job done. Because I hold the rights to my books, I was able to be proactive in getting my book produced.

Dwiggins

ACX Author Toni Diwggins

What have you learned about the audiobook production process though ACX?

How diligently a narrator works to get the pronunciation right! My book is a science thriller, aimed at a general audience. However, the geologists and radiation workers, aka radworkers, know their stuff and speak accordingly. Christine and I decided to meet so I could pronounce some of the technical terms, so she could hear that tech-talk rhythm. We both live in the San Francisco Bay Area and so we met at an SF café.

Christine: “Is the ‘i’ in travertine long ‘i’ or ‘ee’?”

Me: ee.

Christine: “Is the second ‘t’ in strontium a hard ‘t’ or a ‘sh’?

Me: (realizing this woman had done her homework!): let’s go with the hard ‘t’ because that’s the way my radiation experts pronounce it.

And so on, with americium, caesium, plutonium, all those oh-my-God-iums. And it was partway through the pronunciation of nuclear fission products that I noticed that people at nearby tables were listening. Looking at us. A couple of hands resting on cellphones. Were they going to call Homeland Security?

Has having your audio version produced changed the way you see your book? Has it affected your writing? How?

Oh yes. Listening to the narration was a cracker jack way to analyze pacing and dialogue—lessons that I’m applying to works-in-progress. I’m also more acutely aware of how to translate the character voices I “hear” to the voices on the page—so that the voices come across as I intended.

Congratulations on winning the award for best audiobook! How did that go down?

Badwater’s nomination came as a surprise. Christine learned of it (if I recall correctly) when she saw a post on Goodreads. She emailed me, and my response was along the lines of WOO HOO! When listeners voted it best audiobook, I was thrilled that the story was reaching this new audience.

What’s your next project, and when will we see it on ACX?

The next book in my Forensic Geology Series: Volcano Watch. As soon as Christine and I can find time to get to work!

This Week in Links: October 7 – 11

We’re back with our latest installment of “This Week in Links.” We’ve rounded up our favorite videos and articles from around the audiobook world and listed them for you below. Enjoy some weekend reading, and embark on your next audiobook project as a better informed writer or producer!

For Rights Holders

10 Ways To Develop Confidence As A Writer – via Creative Thunder – “One sure way to become a writer is to write. Every day. With or without destination.”

How to Write a Great Death Scene – via Geek and Sundry Vlogs – Nika Harper offers her tips on write off a character.

How to Assign your Book to the Right Genre – via Chameleon Ink – “Getting the genre right further narrows down your target market and ensures that your book messaging addresses the right audience of readers.”

7 Guidelines For Writing a Nonfiction Book – via The BookBaby Blog – “For many would-be authors putting fingers to keys is the toughest part of the process. Here are seven suggestions to make it a little easier for you.”

For Producers

Mouth Noise – The Bane of a Voice Actor’s Life – via Anna Parker-Naples – Versatile voice actress talks about keeping mouth noise to a minimum.

Anatomy of a Movie Trailer – via Confessions of a Voiceover Artist – An interesting trip though the making of the audio portion of a movie trailer.

Time to Get That Perfect Mic – via Voice Over Garden – Jonathan Tilley offers his advice on what it takes to find the perfect fit for a lifetime of “quality jobs and stress free technical set up.”

Come back next week for more audiobook info, and share your favorite links form this week in the comments below!

This Week in Links: September 30 – October 4

The end of the week means it’s once again time for our roundup of links from the online audiobook world. Informative and entertaining articles and videos abound for actors and authors, so get readin’ and join us next week for more audiobook excitement!

For Producers:

Hard To Believe… – Via Dave Courvoisier’s Voice Over Blog – 2013 is almost over, and Dave’s got a year-end checklist for voiceover actors.

…It’s the Principle of the Thing! – via Road To Introspection – Terry Daniels offers his perspective on the narrator as a small business.

Professional Home Recording Studio Tour, Advice, Tips, and Tricks – via Jordan Reynolds – Informative video tour of a professional home studio.

I’m The Original Voice Of SIRI – via CNN – The voice behind the iPhone’s virtual assistant is finally revealed.

For Rights Holders:

Writing A Series? Tips From A Superstar – Via CreateSpace – ACX author Bella Andre discusses the pros, cons, do’s and don’ts of writing a connected series.

Techniques and Tension in “Breaking Bad” – via Huff Post Books – “Any writer who wants to learn about the art of developing tension in a manuscript would do well to watch, and learn from, AMC’s Breaking Bad.” (Caution – spoilers within!)

Website Tips For Authors – via The Bookbaby Blog – BookBaby’s sister site, HostBaby, offers best-practices to smarten-up your online book marketing.

GalleyCat’s Freelance Editor Directory – via GalleyCat – “A free, automatically updated directory where editors can post their services and writers can seek freelance editors.”

Did you find some great audiobook related content this week? Leave your favorite links below!

Producer Advice from Kevin Pierce

ACX strives to help actors become entrepreneurs, by providing resources that allow voiceover actors to evolve into audiobook producers and marketers. Today we’ve got more advice from one of ACX’s chief entrepreneurs, Kevin Pierce. You may know Kevin as the producer with the most ACX titles available for sale on Audible, Amazon and iTunes. Read on to find out how using ACX between other narration jobs turned into a deluge of audiobook production work.

Taking Care of Business

It was just about a year ago that I discovered ACX as I was looking for a way to “fill in the gap” between audiobook productions for another studio. Today, ACX is the source of most of my audiobook business.

For me, too much of the voiceover and narration business came in fits and starts — a flood and then an ebb. I was looking for a way to develop a steady flow of business.

In January, I jumped into ACX with both feet to find out whether I could make such a business of it — whether ACX was capable of supplying regular work at the volume I desired. Since then, I’ve been producing ACX titles non-stop, two to three finished hours per day, five or more days each week.

My ACX dashboard tells me I’m about to wrap up production on my 117th title through ACX. Roughly half of these were pay per-finished-hour, the other half were royalty-share. And of 300+ finished hours in my royalty-share portfolio, many have had an ACX production stipend. In a matter of just months, my royalty-share books have sold more than 5,000 copies and I’m adding new titles to the list every week. Just like a healthy stock portfolio, I have a few stellar performing titles and a couple handfuls of solid sellers that round things out.

Several things have helped:

  • ACX’s Title Search. Even when a project has my desired per-finished-hour rate or is a royalty share with production stipend, I only audition for those titles that I feel are right for my range and style. I can easily narrow down the 3,000 titles open for audition on ACX using the title search. And when projects are right, I audition for all of them.
  • Regular Communication. While the ACX system does a fine job of notifying rights-holders of next steps required of them the production process, I like to keep my rights-holders up to date on what’s going on in my production workflow.
  • Underpromise and overdeliver. At 2 to 3 finished hours per day, I can get through a project pretty quick. But by building some extra time in the production schedule to ensure nothing throws it off track, I often surprise rights-holders with an earlier-than-expected delivery of their final project.

With the per-finished-hour books and ACX stipends which pay upon a production’s completion, and the royalty and bonus checks which come every month, ACX has become much more than a way to fill in a gap between productions, it has become a full-time flow of audiobook production and a full-time business.

How has ACX allowed you to take  control of your voiceover career?

This Week in Links: September 23 – 27

This week, we’ve got food for mouths big and small. First up is 37 bite-sized pieces of advice for authors and rights holders. Actors and producers, on the other hand, can chew on in-depth info on studio gear and the craft of narration.

Enjoy this week’s main course, and come back for next week’s menu of delicious audiobook information.

For Rights Holders:

5 Ways For Authors to Handle Bad Reviews – via DBW – Bad reviews can happen to good authors. Here’s what to do about them.

5 Mistakes That Will Doom Any Self-Published Book – via Blue Ink Review – Advice on making sure your self-published book looks and feels professional.

5 Focal Points For Writers Reading Books – via Blood-Red Pencil – “We can all learn from the pitfalls and brilliance of other writers—learn what not to do, what didn’t work, and what did.”

Pixar’s 22 Rules of Storytelling – via The BookBaby Blog – Easily digestible tips from the masters of animated stories.

For Producers

How Lee Daniels’ The Butler Serves Audiobook Narrators – via Paul Alan Ruben’s “Audio Book Narrators” – Grammy winning audiobook producer/director offers his in-depth take on the movie’s lessons for narrators.

SomeAudioGuy on EWABS Podcast with George Whittam and Dan Lenard! – via East-West Audio Body Shop – Industry experts talk studios, microphones, and voiceover business.

E.G. Daily’s Voice Impresses, As Does Her Other Career As A Voice Actor – via The Huffington Post – Voice actor of Rugrats and The Powerpuff Girls excels as a singer on The Voice.

Did you see any great links this week? Tell us below!

This Week in Links: September 16 – 20

This week’s link will appeal to all 5 of your senses. See the faces behind your favorite carton voices. Get a taste of a professional audiobook recording studio. Feel the paradox of the modern writer. Hear how an action star can help you pump up your social media pages. And don’t forget to stop and smell the roses as you follow your career path.

Engage your senses with our weekly links roundup, and check back with us next week for more audiobook goodness!

For Producers:

The Art of Seeing Things Differently – via Voice of Wisdom – Advice on staying interested & motivated in your career.

Breaking Into Audiobooks – via Brick Shop Audiobooks – Voice actors in the NY area should check out this audiobook seminar from this Audible Approved studio

ACX Studio Gear Series Part 2: DAWs – via The ACX Blog – Check out our rundown of the most popular DAWs on the market, as well as the discuccion in the comments.

I Know That Voice! – Here’s another great looking movie about the voiceover industry. This documentary looks at the unseen actors behind your favorite animated characters.

For Rights Holders:

The Vin Diesel School of Facebook – via Duolit – The SelfPub Team tells us how to grow your Facebook page as big as the action star’s muscles.

Hugh Howey’s ‘DUST’: The Cleverest Book Promotion I’ve Seen In Years – via Bestseller Labs – Draw marketing inspiration from the ACX authors successful strategies.

In Conversation With Neil Gaiman – via Book Riot – An in-depth interview with one of our favorite authors and the curator of the Neil Gaiman Presents audiobook label.

The Great Paradoxes of Writing – via Creative Writing with the Crimson League – Musings on the contradictory life of a writer.

Share your favorite links from this week below!

This Week In Links: September 9 – 13

Today, we’ve rounded up both informative and entertaining links for audiobook writers and actors. Newbies and seasoned pros alike can learn about audiobook marketing, the business of voiceovers, and what happens when you narrate a stranger’s life like a movie trailer.

Use these links to have a fun and productive weekend, and check back with us next week for more on audiobooks and ACX!

For Rights Holders:

The Justin Timberlake School of Rocking Your Book Launch – via Duolit – The release of this pop star’s latest album can guide you as you launch your next title.

5 Rules Every New Author Should Follow – via BookBaby – Newbies can avoid classic mistakes by following these five tips.

The Short Story: A Way for a Writer to Experiment?
via Creative Writing with the Crimson League – “All authors need to stretch themselves and leave their comfort zone to develop new skills.”

Know Which Critics To Listen To and Which To Ignore – via The Alliance of Independent Authors – make sure to consider the source before you get all worked up over that negative review.

For Producers:

via J. Christopher Dunn’s Voiceover Blog – Reading is your business, so here’s seven books you can read to improve your business.

Voiceover Business Profitability – via Bobbin’s Voiceover Sampler – An in depth look at the business side of being a voice actor.

Voiceover Actor Pranks Public By Giving Them Epic Movie Trailers – via Simply Zesty – Honest Trailers voice actor Jon Bailey constructs hilarious movie trailers for ordinary people.

Are You A Gear Slut? – via Voiceover Garden – How to know if you have too much studio gear – and what to do about it.