Tag Archives: Joanna Penn

This Week in Links: January 23 – 27

For Producers:

4 Reasons to Voiceover Blog – via Dane Reid – From upping your recognizability to boosting your SEO, blogging has many benefits for the successful VO.

Testing, Testing – via Pro Sound Network – Get a geeky look at audio recording software, and learn how evaluating audio production has moved from “ear” to “eye.”

Tools ‘n’ Trends – via Dave Courvoisier – Dave recommends some solid online organizational utilities for VO’s for managing relationships with clients and peers.

My Queens Accent Got Me A Book Deal (Well, Kind Of) – via Audible range – Hear The Moth’s Tara Clancy pay tribute to the role her voice has played in her success as a teller of hilarious, moving stories.

For Rights Holders:

7 Top Book Marketing Tips from DBW 2017 – via BookBub – “From building an author’s platform to improving a marketing campaign’s ROI, many [of DBW ’17’s] sessions were buzzing about audience research, fostering reader relationships, and running iterative marketing campaigns.”

3 Key Strategies for Thriving in the Ever-Changing World of Being an Author – via Joanna Penn – Change can be scary, but embracing it can help you stay forefront of writing and publishing.

How to Sell Books Long Term: What Worked for Me – via BookWorks – Learn one indie author’s blueprint for sustained sales success.

Have You Created Your Sell Sheet? – via The Book Designer – Find out how a slick one-sheet featuring your sales successes can help you and your book.

This Week in Links: May 30 – June 3

For Rights Holders:

How Successful Authors Use Social Media: 23 Content Ideas – via BookBub – Get a range of tactics for promoting yourself and your titles on the most popular social platforms.

The Author’s Guide to Book Marketing: Part 1 – via Digital Book World – Can you answer the basic questions of book marketing: who are your readers, and how do you reach them?

5 Ways That Authors Can Use Facebook Advertising – via Joanna Penn – Get Joanna’s five-step plan to using the popular social network to promote your titles.

Making the Most of E-Mail Marketing – via Publishers Weekly – Separating your email communications into two different audiences can improve your results.

For Producers:

When Your ‘Pickups’ Don’t Match The Original Recording – via Voice-Over Xtra – Get tips for ensuring your corrections sound like your original recording.

Should You Start a YouTube Channel for a Voiceover Business? – via Victoria DeAnda – You may not think of it as such, but YouTube is Google’s other great search engine. Find out how to leverage it for VO marketing.

Please Don’t Fade Away! – via Dr. Ann Uttterback – Bone up on the importance of breath support and get a few exercises to improve your vocal stamina.

[VIDEO] ACX University Presents: Audiobook Audition Techniques and Critiques – via YouTube – Audible Studios producers Mike Charzuk and Kat Lambrix  have heard it all. Hear their wisdom on how to land your next gig with a high-quality audition.

This Week in Links: May 16 – 20

For Rights Holders:

10 (Practically) Cringe-less Self-Promotion Ideas for Authors – via Publisher’s Weekly – “When played right, self-promotion can have a resounding ROI—Return on Investment—especially when guided by a few rules.”

How To Use Audio as an Author For Book Sales and Marketing – via The Creative Penn – Get Joanna’s thoughts on why adding audiobooks to your portfolio is important for every author.

How to Use Guest Blogging to Promote Your Book – via Jane Friedman – Author Beth Hayden looks at the advantages of this book marketing method.

How Does Age Affect Reading? – via Digital Book World – Learn how reader analytics testing can “improve books and optimize the book marketing process.”

For Producers:

Six Audiobook Publishers/Producers Reveal What They Seek When Casting Narrators – via Voice-Over Xtra – Find out how to position yourself to get on the roster of audiobook publishers.

Voiceover Podcasts to Grow Your Business – via Victoria DeAnda – Ready to listen to someone talk about how you should be talking? Check out these instructive audio programs.

The Most Important Factor For Voice Over Success – via Marc Scott – Is it your voice? Your studio? Your equipment? The answer may surprise you.

How Dangerous is Your Voice-Over Studio? – via Nethervoice – Learn how to protect your eyes, ears, and fingers from long, repetitive hours in-studio.

 

Happy Birthday to ACX in the UK!

Hi all, this is Sophie, from the ACX UK team. It seems like just last week we were preparing to welcome the UK’s talented authors and actors to ACX—but here we are, celebrating our first birthday. And since ACX is all about authors and actors collaborating to produce great sounding audiobooks, we invited some of our most successful UK early adopters to help us celebrate by sharing what they learned in their first year.

First up, we’ve got Audible Approved producer Anna Parker-Naples, who we met at last year’s London Book Fair. Anna has gone on to produce 10 audiobooks through ACX, and joins us to share how she chooses which books to audition for.

Anna Parker-Naples—Narrator of Legacy Code:

APN Homepage_HR021. Have a look at the Amazon ranking. I’m not going to give you a hard-and-fast number by which to choose your titles from, but be aware of them. Low rankings on a book that has been released for a while may not be a good sign that the audio will sell well.

2. Research the author. If they are active and engaged on social media, then it will mean they already have a following who may be interested in the audiobook when it is released.

3. Consider the genre or content of the title. Make sure that you have an interest in the topic. You will be spending a long time with that subject matter if you land the job and are planning to narrate, edit, proof, and master it yourself. And if there is content that you are uncomfortable with, go with your gut instinct and steer clear.

4. Be honest about your abilities. How much do you know about the main characters and their accents and dialects? If something is required that isn’t in your toolbox, perhaps this isn’t the right one for you.

We first met Joanna Penn at the ACX launch party, hosted at the King’s Head pub in London, and has gone on to publish five titles via ACX with another on the way.

Joanna Penn—Author and Narrator of Business for Authors:

ACX Author and DIY Narrator Joanna PennI love working with ACX narrators for my books because together, we produce a new interpretation of the work. The listener has to enjoy the voice of the author and also the voice of the narrator, so it’s a completely separate kind of product from the ebook and print book. Narrators are creative professionals who know a lot more than authors about audio, so I tend to trust my narrators to produce the best product rather than being over-controlling. I QC listen and comment on specific pronunciation with place names, but I like to allow the narrator a lot of freedom of expression. This makes the whole experience more fun for us, and hopefully, for the listener!

At an author luncheon in the autumn, we heard firsthand how profoundly affected our UK writers were by hearing their work in audio, and how important it is to hire the right narrator for their book.

Keith Houghton—Author of the Gabe Quinn series:

When I write a novel, I assign my own made-up voices to the characters. They are my creation and I know how they should sound in any given situation. In the Keith Houghtoncase of audiobooks, the job is done for us, and that’s why it’s important to get the right producer the first time, someone who will bring your characters to life in the way you envisaged them. Audiobooks stimulate the imagination in a very different way than print books. Everything hinges on the narrator’s performance: the drama, the mood, the emotion. The right narrator will paint an audible rainbow, adding shade to context and definition to contrast.

In my experience, the best way to ensure a true reflection of the voices you have in mind is to provide your producer with key background information about each of your main characters–where they are from, their motivation, their idiosyncrasies–plus specific scene details such as fear, happiness, or stress. This will help them choose the right accents for your players and relay the right tone for each scene.

In addition to learning how to work hand in hand with their producers, as UK authors brought their book marketing expertise to a new medium, they found that hearing their work in audio would in turn improve their future writing.

Mark Dawson–Author of the Beatrix Rose series:

I’m convinced that audio is the next frontier in the indie revolution, and I wanted to be a part of it sooner rather than later; I was delighted when ACX finally came to the UKMark Dawson

And it was well worth the wait. I eventually settled on a couple of US based narrators for my two series and we got stuck in. The recording process was straightforward and the experience of listening to my words read by professional actors was amazing. 

The books went on sale and there was a new challenge to consider: what about promotion? The support industry that has grown up around Amazon’s self-publishing platform isn’t there yet, so you have to think laterally. I emailed my mailing list and asked for volunteers for an audiobook advance reader team, eventually closing the door when we had enough. ACX makes promo codes available to help with getting early interest in your titles. I received 25 codes and my narrators received another 25. I collected all of these and gave them out to the team with the request that they leave honest reviews in return. The response was excellent, with dozens of reviews placed and some very nice comments included. They helped stimulate sales, and I now have a nice secondary income stream every month. I expect that it will grow over the forthcoming months.

Steven A. McKay–Author of the Forest Lord series:

In the year since ACX first opened up to UK authors, I’ve had all three of my titles produced as audiobooks. ACX opened up a whole new market bringing me new ‘readers’ and a new revenue stream in the process (which is always Steven McKaynice)! But on top of those obvious rewards, hearing my work read by a professional narrator has been a learning experience, as things like word repetition and pacing of scenes show up in audio more obviously than they do on a laptop screen. I’d like to think my writing has improved as I now take this into account when working on anything new.

It’s been a heck of a year and I’ll raise a glass in your honour today–Happy birthday to ACX in the UK!

ACX Storytellers: Joanna Penn

In addition to connecting authors and publishers with voice talent and studio pros, ACX offers those with completed audiobooks a pathway to distribution through the top audiobook retailers, Audible, Amazon, and iTunes. This DIY” workflow is a popular choice for authors who want to voice and even produce their own work. Author Joanna Penn recently completed the process herself, and she joins us today to share her experience recording Business for Authors: How to be an Author Entrepreneur (out today) for ACX.

ACX Author and DIY Narrator Joanna Penn

ACX Author and DIY Narrator Joanna Penn

How to Record Your Own Audiobooks For ACX

Audiobooks are a fantastic growth market for authors, narrators, and producers alike, and I’ve been working with fabulous narrators for my fiction since ACX opened up in the UK in 2014. But as a listener, I prefer non-fiction audio in the voice of the author themselves, so I decided to record one of my own books, Business for Authors: How to be an Author Entrepreneur.

Here are the lessons I learned in the process:

1. Make Sure You Record the Highest Quality Audio

There are specific technical requirements one must adhere to when publishing an audiobook on ACX, so that the listener has the best experience possible. You can reach this level of quality by recording in your own home, but only if you can get rid of the various noises that may pollute the audio, which you may not even hear anymore.

I’m a podcaster so I’m used to recording and editing audio, but when I listened to the sounds of my flat, I could hear planes overhead, cars going past, the rattle of someone in the garden, and the occasional yapping of a dog outside.

AndyMarlowRecordingStudioInstead, I hired professional audio producer (and musician) Andy Marlow (pictured), who has a great little studio just a bus ride away from me in South London. We worked in two-hour slots and Andy made sure that the quality of the initial audio was excellent, and he mastered the file to produce my retail-ready audio for upload to ACX.

2. Prepare Yourself for Recording

It’s surprising how tiring recording audio can be. I was exhausted after each two-hour session, because it was essentially a performance. You have to put energy and expression into what you’re saying. And in a professional studio you might be shut into a small, padded box, which takes some getting used to! Here are my tips to manage yourself during the audio process.

  • Schedule sessions a few days apart if you’re new at recording to ensure you have enough energy. People can hear exhaustion in your voice, so respect your audience and make sure you’re at full strength when starting, and stop before your voice begins to drop. It took 7 sessions of 2 hours each to get to a finished audiobook of 6.5 hours, a ratio of about 2:1.
  • Try to avoid dairy before recording or anything that might give you excess phlegm or clog your throat. Try cleaning your teeth and create a routine so that you know your voice will be ready for speaking. If you’re ill or your voice is affected in any way, you’ll need to postpone, as audiobook listeners will be able to hear the difference.
  • Joanna Penn records her audiobook.

    Joanna Penn records her audiobook.

    When you’re recording, try to modulate your breathing so you don’t end up holding your breath. I found that I needed to stop sometimes for deep breathing during longer chapters. I would consider a voice coach for help with this if I was recording more often, as it definitely affected my stamina. Professional actors and voice artists can record for a much longer period, as they have mastered this.

  • You’ll want to read from a Kindle or other tablet so you don’t encounter page-turning noises while recording. Remember to turn off any WiFi connection on the devices and set to airplane mode as they can make a static noise on the audio, even if you can’t hear it when recording.

3. Learn Some Editing Skills to Keep the Costs Down

You can pay a producer to edit the audio files as well as record and master them, but this will make your cost per book higher, meaning less profit for the project. Since I already edit audio for my podcast and I had high-quality raw audio files, I decided to do the edits myself.

Here are some specific tips:

  • You can use free editing software like Audacity to produce professional-sounding audio.
  • If you make a mistake when recording, clap your hands so you create an obvious spike on the audio file that you can use to find the error later (pictured).Clap in Waveform_01 Your error rate will increase as you become more tired, so make sure that you take breaks. I found that 40 minutes was the maximum time I could spend reading “in the box” before I needed a break.
  • The ACX technical requirements require you to add a few seconds of room tone at the beginning and end of the file. We recorded this separately, in the silence of the empty vocal booth. I then just used the pre-cut segments to begin and end each file, which made the process quick and easy.
  • After editing, there needs to be a full QC listen to the audio to ensure all the edits are done properly and the audio matches the book. Since I was truly sick of hearing my own voice by this stage, I employed my Virtual Assistant to do this step for me. Most of the files were fine, but there were a couple of instances where I had repeated myself without editing the error, so this QC step is crucial to avoid issues later.
  • High-quality audio files are very large, and because you’ll be sending them back and forth, you can’t use email for this. They will also fill up your computer memory really fast. I used Dropbox to send the edited files to my Virtual Assistant and the final files to the producer.

For more recording and editing tips, I recommend Audiobooks for Indies by Simon Whistler which has a lot of useful information, whether you want to record your own books or work with a narrator.

Would I do it again?

This process has given me a renewed respect for audiobook narrators, because now I know how hard the job is and how many hours go into recording and editing a book. It was much harder work than I expected!

businessaudioHowever, it was definitely rewarding and I will be recording other non-fiction books in the future. It also gives the entrepreneurial author another product in their business, and if you’d like to learn more about that, check out Business for Authors: How to be an Author Entrepreneur, available now on Audible.

Joanna Penn is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of thrillers under J.F.Penn. She also writes inspirational non-fiction for authors and is an award-winning creative entrepreneur and international professional speaker. Her site, TheCreativePenn.com is regularly voted one of the top 10 sites for writers and self-publishers. Connect on Twitter @thecreativepenn.