Tag Archives: audiobook performance

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.

Save the Date—ACX University is Back October 28th!

Sharpen your pencils and get ready to hit the books: October 28th, ACX University is back at 5:30PM ET for its seventh year and it’s all about the pros: pro tips, pro experts, and the biggest pro of all—it’s free! We can’t think of any cons.

Our 2019 curriculum is a masterclass in taking your audiobook business to the next level, so expect plenty of advanced techniques and insider tips from the industry’s best. Get to the head of the class by marking your calendars with this handy calendar reminder and catching up on past episodes here.

Want a sneak peak at this year’s classes? Check out acxuniversity.com to catch a glimpse of our instructors and see what’s on the agenda for this season. We hope to see you in class!

This Week in Links: February 5 – 9

For Rights Holders:

Five Marketing Tools for Authors Who Hate Marketing – via Writer Unboxed – “If you’re a writer and you’re on social media, have a website, blog, or even just talk about your work with friends, you’re already marketing. So here are five inexpensive and relatively easy-to-use tools to help optimize the marketing you’re already doing.”

How to Collaborate Effectively with Other Indie Authors In Your Genre – via ALLi – Find out what happened when one author decided to stop competing with his fellow writers and start building a shared fan base.

Book Marketing (and Publicity) is not About Book Sales – via Author Marketing Experts – Learn why “exposure,” while harder to measure than unit sales, can be just as important an area of focus as the number of (audio)books you sell.

15 Ways to Strengthen Writer Courage – via Live Write Thrive – Do you suffer from Imposter Syndrome? Are there steps you’d like to take in your career, if only they didn’t seem so daunting? Read on to find ways to overcome your fears and access your inner strength.

For Producers:

Who Are Finalists For The Coveted 2018 Audio Publishers Association Audie Awards? – via Voice-Over Xtra – Audible has racked up 28 nominations, including 6 titles published by ACX Producers and Rights Holders! Check out the full list of nominees.

3 Things to Consider Before You Build Your Voice Over Studio – via Marc Scott – Follow along as the VO pro and coach shares lessons (and photos) from his own home studio construction process.

The Superbowl’s 3 Big Lessons for Voice Actors – via Dave Courvoisier – “It’s not often I find inspiration in professional sports…but there is much to be noted in the successful portrayal of the truly deserving individual who masters spectacle, excellence, and legacy.”

ACX U Presents: Beyond the Booth: Monetizing Your Voice – via ACX – Find out how to make sure the time you spend off-mic is just as lucrative as the time you spend on it.

 

This Week in Links: ACX University Edition

Yesterday, we wrapped up the 2017 semester of ACX University. This year’s event featured audiobook production, publishing, and marketing advice for ACX authors and actors. We broadcast enlightening conversations with bestselling authors, Audible Approved Producers, and the top minds from ACX and Audible Studios. You can watch all episodes below, and subscribe to our YouTube channel to get notified about future ACX videos.

For Producers:

Performance Perfection: Go Behind the Mic – via ACX – In this episode, Sarah Mollo – Christensen performs passages and receive corrections from award-winning director Kat Lambrix.

How to Pass ACX QA Every Time! – via ACX – In this episode, David and Brendan from the ACX QA team discuss editing, mastering, and spacing issues, causes and treatments for each issue, and some fixes for after the fact.

Ahead of the Curve: Prospecting for Pros – via ACX – Audible Approved Producers Steven Jay Cohen and Neil Hellegers share their secrets for how to maximize their profit and time by finding great projects both on and off the ACX platform.

Beyond the Booth: Monetizing Your Voice – via ACX – Join us for a discussion featuring Andi Arndt and Carin Gilfry on how conferences, voiceover coaching, and performance awards can help you boost your bottom line.

For Rights Holders:

Peace, Love, & Understanding Your Audio Partner – via ACX –  Join us as we talk to publishing duo Piers Platt and James Fouhey, an author and narrator who’ve created eight audiobooks together.

The Life of an Audiobook Publisher – via ACX – Follow bestseller Kym Grosso through the process of creating an audiobook from scratch, all the way to completing the finished audiobook.

If You Market, They Will Listen: Marketing 101 – via ACX – In this session featuring bestselling author Lauren Blakely and author marketing consultant Kate Tilton, you’ll learn audiobook-specific marketing tactics to attract reviews and sell more copies.

The Elements of a Well-Reviewed Audiobook – via ACX – Paul Stokes of AudiobookReviewer.com and Robin Whitten of AudioFile Magazine discuss  how they choose which audiobooks make their listen lists. From the performance to the cover art, they’ll share how to improve your submission and improve your chances of receiving reader and professional reviews.