Tag Archives: audiobook recording

ACX University Presents: Finding Your Voice: Part 1

In May, we invited 70 ACX producers to our offices in Newark, NJ for ACX University, a day of audiobook production and performance education and networking. Among the highlights, the day featured outstanding presentations from Audible Studio’s pros and Audie-Award winning actors.

Today, we’re featuring part one of the performance intensive Finding Your Voice, featuring Mike Charzuk and Kat Lambrix of Audible Studios, as well as Audie-winning narrator Ellen Archer. Watch the video below, then scroll down for our top takeaways.

Tops Tips From Part One

  • Know Your Voice. Learn:
    • The demographic you fall into.
    • The genres that are right for you.
    • The content that’s right for you.
    • The accents you’ve mastered.
  • Seek Professional Training.
    • Professional training can help you refine your demo and ACX samples.
    • The two main types of professional training:
      • Group classes.
      • Private lessons/coaching.
  • Learn about top-selling audiobook categories.
    • Mysteries and thrillers.
    • Business and self-help.
    • Romance and erotica.
      • Learn the differences between romance, erotica, and new adult.

Join us next week for the second part of this session. You can check out other informative sessions from ACX University on our YouTube channel.

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ACX Storytellers: Wendy Lindstrom & Julia Motyka

Wendy Lindstrom’s previous post on the blog, Writing For Audio, was such a success that we’ve asked her back. This time, she speaks with the narrator of her popular Grayson series, Julia Motyka. Read on to find out about Julia’s emotional connection to Wendy’s characters and how her career on stage informs her audiobook work.

Wendy Lindstrom: The inflections in your voice and the ways in which you approach each character’s dialogue are just wonderful. What is your process for bringing a character to life within a book?

Julia: I come to the world of audiobooks from the world of theater, so I find that I approach each book I narrate very much as I would a play, or one person show. As I read the book for the first time, I create a spread sheet of every character which contains their age, physical features and a few key descriptive words about their personality. I note whether the character has an accent of any kind or is described vocally in any way as well. After having read the book once, I look back both at the primary scenes a character takes part in and also at my description sheet.

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“Grayson” series narrator Julia Motyka

Most often, what happens next is a bit of a mystery- even to me! I sit quietly for a little while and kind of meditate on each character. I know it sounds silly, but I start to feel what it would feel like to be them, in my body; How they carry themselves, where they speak from (are they more intellectual or sentimental), etc. When I have a feeling for the essence of the character, I try on a little bit of their dialogue. If that feels ‘right’, I try a little bit more.

I don’t rehearse the entire book- that would take WAY too long, and besides, it would take a lot of the fun of the spontaneity out of the recording process, but I do try to get as fully ‘inside’ each character as possible before recording so that, as I read their dialogue, I feel fully invested in who they are are where they’re each coming from.

Which scene(s) in Shades of Honor/The Grayson Brothers Series did you most enjoy recreating and why?

Julia:  There were so many!! Truly! But, if I have to choose… [Spoiler Alert!] I’d say the scene(s) surrounding Evelyn’s father William Tucker’s death. I became very fond of that character and felt a particular affinity for him. I have a very close relationship with my father (both of my parents, actually) and spent several years caring for him when he was in ailing health in my late teens and early twenties, so that provided an added connection for me within that material.

727tpe4761sf5cg11374614520830I also felt the writing in that section to be particularly evocative and very moving. I had to stop narrating in the booth more than once to blow my nose and dab at my eyes! It’s always the best when the investment in a given set of circumstances and characters becomes overwhelming to that degree. It makes me feel like I’m doing justice to great writing!

Can you describe a typical day in the studio during the recording of Shades of Honor/The Grayson Brothers Series? For instance, what happens the day of recording, and how long are your days in the studio?

Julia:  A typical day of recording for me is pretty simple. I’m generally in the studio for about 5 hours per session (some people prefer a 6 or 4 hour session, but 5 is my preference). I generally take about 5-10 minutes every 60-90 minutes to use the restroom, rest my voice, and/or eat a snack.

On the actual day of recording I get up pretty early, do about an hour of yoga, have a good breakfast, and steam my voice (Keeping your chords well hydrated is of paramount importance! If I’m recording a lot in a given week I’ll likely be steaming my voice at least 2x per day for about 20 minutes each time). Before I leave home, I warm my voice up a little bit – everyone is different, but I do little articulation exercises and sometimes even little vocaleases to get my voice as pliable as possible. I also look over the pages I’m hoping to record that day, reminding myself of any new characters that may be emerging in the book, and perhaps running through a couple of voices to make sure I have easy access to them.

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ACX Author Wendy Lindstrom

What one piece of advice would you share with those who would love to do what you do for a living?

Julia:  I LOVE what I do and feel so lucky to get to do it but people often think it’s MUCH easier than it is!! If you’re interested in narrating audiobooks, find a book you like and choose a chapter. Then record yourself reading it out-loud while sitting COMPLETELY STILL! Stop and go back every time you make a mistake, have to clear your throat, or swallow. If you still enjoy it (like I said, I LOVE it, but it’s not for everyone), listen back and see if you like what you hear. If you’re still giving yourself the thumbs up, consider putting a demo together and creating an ACX profile! The book world is booming with opportunity! Go get ’em!

Julia can be found on via Brick Shop Audiobooks’ ACX profile or at her website, www.juliamotyka.com.

What did you learn from Julia’s interview? Leave a comment and let us know!

ACX Studio Gear Series: Home Studio Setup – Part 2

Today, we’re wrapping up our continuing series on home studio setup with a look at studio construction. We’ve polled ACX users who’ve set up home or professional studios, as well as members of the Audible Studios teams for their expert tips on constructing your own studio (and managing your time and work once you’re up and running!).

ACX: What did you learn from setting up your own studio?

Peter A. Rohan: I learned that it’s important to know my enemy.  In this instance, I had two. The first was an unacceptable amount of noise when I recorded (aka a high noise floor), and the second was excessive room reflection. I had too many reflective surfaces, the sound waves were bouncing off of every wall, and my New York City apartment was too noisy to record in. After a lot of trial and error (and money spent), I chose to build my own vocal booth.

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Brick Shop Audiobooks: It’s important to establish your budget and do your best not to go over that. You need to be focused on your art, not your credit card bills.

Peter A. Rohan: Right. With minimal construction skills and a much lower budget, I was able to construct a vocal booth that gave me much better results than any of the available pre-fabricated options. The most important decision I made was to build it myself. My initial investment was about one-fifth the price of the cheapest sound booth that I could find for purchase.

ACX: What advice do you have for an actor looking to set up a home studio?

Darren Vermaas, Audible Studios Post-Production Associate: Treat your recording space. A lot of people think they simply set up a microphone and go. In reality, no matter how nice your microphone, preamp, and DAW are, and how fantastic your voice sounds, it will all go downhill if your room does not have some treatment. That means putting up some sort of sound absorbing materials to stop room reverberation and early reflections.  When someone listens back to your audio, you don’t want them to be able to visualize the room you’re sitting in. Treating a room can be as simple as hanging up a bunch of packing blankets and creating a makeshift vocal booth, or as extreme as purchasing professional, application specific sound absorbing panels. There are also products like this Reflexion Filter that will do a lot to minimize sound reflection.

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Rob Granniss, Brick Shop AudiobooksAgreed. You’ve got to start with treating your space. There’s no point in getting high-end audio equipment that can hear a pin drop if you have 18 wheelers passing by every 5 minutes. Some of my favorite cost-effective treatments are bookshelves loaded with books, which provide a great refraction pattern and nice dense absorption; hanging moving blankets; and raising the floor if necessary with tires (lay them flat – think of a box of a dozen donuts to visualize it) with some kind of wood flooring on top. It may be hideous on the outside, but draping the blankets on top and making a “door” with the blankets can close you off pretty well and is a good place to start.

ACX: What about once a studio is up and running? How can actors set themselves up for success?

Brick Shop Audiobooks: We found that it’s important to grow naturally. We started with 1 or 2 books a month, working nights and weekends on projects. When we began getting more work, we took time off our day jobs and then eventually moved into a dedicated space. We’ve been constructing more recording booths and editing stations as our production has increased. Staggering it out as we have, we didn’t end up with a large debt hanging over us during the beginning by borrowing a lot from a bank and working just to pay interest.

Darren Vermaas: Distractions are a work killer!  Working out of your home is convenient, but can also be a huge distraction. If you can get out of your areas of distraction, you will get a lot more done. Disconnect your WiFi if you don’t need it while you work. Facebook will be there when you’re done recording. Don’t edit on a comfy couch because if you’re like me, you’ll want to take a quick 15 minute nap and get back to it later. Last but not least, don’t wait until the last minute. You’re your own boss so there is less pressure, but don’t take advantage of your own time.

Brick Shop Audiobooks: Another lesson is that audiobook production, as all businesses, is about people and communicating respectfully. Much of our day is filled with correspondence to make sure authors, narrators, and our engineers know what’s happening in production, and that their needs, whether artistic or schedule-related, are being addressed. The more attention you pay to this, the fewer problems you’ll deal with later down the line.

ACX: Thanks for the killer advice, folks!

Have you set up your own studio? What did you learn in the process?

ACX Success Story: Anti-Matter Media

Aric Johnson, owner of Colorado-based Anti-Matter Media, is still reeling from their Audie nomination for the  production of Josh Kaufman’s wildly successful The Personal MBA. Josh used ACX’s DIY platform to upload the completed audio and distribute it through Audible, Amazon and iTunes. Today we’re checking in with Aric to discuss Josh’s newly released The First 20 Hours, and to get this studio pro’s advice for authors, narrators and producers.

Tell us about your current audiobook project.

We just wrapped up The First 20 Hours: How To Learn Anything… FAST by Josh Kaufman. We get to ride with Josh as he explores a few completely new skills, and the ups and downs are not only entertaining, they’re very educational.  Listening to this book, you might  be surprised at how your interests expand. After working on it with Josh, I found myself wanting to try things I’d never thought about before.

Of course, that’s one of the main benefits of being an audiobook producer: you get intimately exposed to some really great content! Especially when working with an author as productive and focused as Josh is. His stuff is so useful, so applicable, that just working on his projects has impacted my business in ways that go well beyond the act of recording them. And since this was Josh’s second turn at bat narrating himself, we were able to really settle in and enjoy ourselves

Tell us about yourself.

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Aric Johnson, Owner/Creative Director of Anti-Matter Media

I have always wanted to inspire people, much the same way that I was inspired by the movies and music I experienced when I was young. So I started out in film production, but moved into music production because it was much easier to be independent in music. I started out producing albums for independent artists on small labels, and I’ve been doing that for over 20 years now.

After working on several small independent films, mostly documentaries, I was fortunate enough to be able to combine music production and post-production into an ongoing business and own my own studio. And now, my wife and I – we own the studio together, and are a team in the business – we get to work on really interesting projects with really interesting people from all over the country.

That’s part of what is so exciting to us about ACX and the Audible model. It is truly empowering to authors who want to work independently, to produce and own their content. Even if authors are already partnered with a publisher, the ACX/Audible engine affords them great control over quality and the means of distribution. And that’s everything, in the digital era: getting as close as possible to your audience, with efficiency and a minimum of overhead.

AMM LogoWhat attracted you to The First 20 Hours?

After working on The Personal MBA, I knew that anything Josh Kaufman created was something I wanted to be involved in. Josh’s projects are very congruent with the whole reason I love what I do: both The Personal MBA and The First 20 Hours are about empowering people to be their best and to be successful without the huge institutional overhead we so often assume is necessary. We had built a rapport on the first project, so it was a no-brainer that we would work together again. I enjoy working with authors who narrate their own projects; I think you get a passion and immediacy that, sometimes, only the author can provide.

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

First and foremost: keep your rights! Audiobook rights are and should be separate from publishing; do what you can to keep control and as much ownership as possible.

Then think about what you want your audience’s experience to be. Put yourself in their shoes, and create an experience for them that really honors your intentions. Don’t just hand it off and let it be done by someone who isn’t invested in your vision. Passion matters.

Don’t be afraid to break rules or stand against convention; be creative. As a producer, I would say to an author the same thing I often say to songwriters: If it helps tell the story and make it more compelling, do it! If it takes away from the story or distracts, throw it out. The story is king. That’s why sometimes letting the author narrate their book works. It may not be as polished or smooth as a professional read, but there are some ideas that are stronger coming directly from the mind that made them.

What advice do you have for those new to audiobook narration/production?

AMM Studio New

Anti-Matter Media’s state-of-the-art studios in Colorado.

For a narrator: Put some of your self into a project.  It will come through, and you’ll end up attracting more projects that are similar in tone and intention. That may be a basic life principle, but it is uncannily literal in audiobook production, simply because the naked human voice always tells the truth, in spite of what you might want it to say. There’s just nowhere to hide.

How you feel about the project, about yourself, about what your cat did or your primary relationship that day – all that will come through. So do whatever you need to do to bring your best self to the booth.

For producers: God is in the details. I can’t stress this enough: details matter. Get the editing really clean. Fix every fade and every breath. Even minor technical glitches or inconsistencies register subconsciously in the sophisticated voice-recognition software in our heads. It will pull the listener out of suspension of disbelief and remind them that they’re listening to a recorded product. You don’t want that.

It’s also the producer’s job to help the talent bring their best selves and to find the project’s core. That’s a whole art in itself – maybe that’s a book on its own – but use common sense and always keep the big picture in mind.

 Are you listening to any other audiobooks now? Which?

I know I’m really late, but I only recently finally got around to listening to my wife’s copy of The Da Vinci Code. What a great read by Paul Michael!

What’s your biggest takeaway from Aric’s interview? Tell us in the comments below!