Tag Archives: producer advice

This Week in Links: Sept 29 – October 3

For Producers:

4 Tips to Focus Your Voiceover Career This Fall – via Backstage – Jen Ruden has a handful of great tips to make autumn a time of renewal for your VO work.

Stop Being So Shy: Why A Lack Of Self Promotion Is Stopping You Getting Voice Over Work – via Gary Terzza’s Voice-Over Blog UK – Actors have no excuse for being shy! Let Gary help you learn to self promote.

Defining the “IT” Factor – via Nethervoice – Paul Strikwerda believes having IT is all about charisma, and this post is dedicated to helping you understand exactly what that is and how to get it into the mic.

The Top Three Tired Tropes of the VO Business – via Rob’s Blog – Just starting out in the voice over game? Don’t make these three rookie mistakes.

For Rights Holders:

Social Media Scheduling Tools for Authors – via BadRedhead Media – We don’t have to tell you that authors are busy people! Save yourself some time and improve your audiobook promotion by using one of these tools.

5 Moral Dilemmas That Make Characters (& Stories) Better – via Writer’s Digest – Believable internal conflict can be the key to a compelling story. Here’s a deep look at how to pull it off.

Face Time – via The Blood Red Pencil – Thoughts and advice on recent changes to Facebook and how to make the most of it as an author promoting her work.

The First & Most Crucial Step to OWNING NaNoWriMo – Kristen Lamb’s Blog –  Participating in the annual novel writing competition? Kristen advises you fill up your creative well before putting pen to paper.

And The Winners Are…

Back in March, ACX and VO Atlanta 2014 teamed up to bring you our latest casting call. Dozens of fantastic voice actors auditioned for the chance to narrate stories from New Orleans Noir and Philadelphia Noir, and Audible Studios producers and Audible Editor-at-Large Susie Bright definitely had their work cut out for them picking the winning voices from such a talented group.

We’re thrilled to announce J. W. Wilburn and Raquel Lozano as the male and female actors cast for these reads!

J.W. Wilburn

Susie was impressed with J.W.’s ability to put himself into the time, place, and character of New Orleans Noir, saying of his audition:

J.W. has a beautiful voice, and he suited it to the period and place – turn of the 20th Century, Storyville era of New Orleans – with nice pacing. Valentin has to be a memorable character that you want to hear from again, and Jeff makes him come alive.

Jeff Wilburn Headshot

ACX Actor J.W. Wilburn

We caught up with J.W. and got his take on the casting call and his advice for burgeoning producers.

How did you get into voice acting?

I first heard about VO when I was studying Shakespeare in Oxford back in the summer of ’99. One of my classmates was a voice actor in L.A. and said she thought I would be good at it. She put me in touch with a VO friend of hers in NY who mentored me over the period of a few years, and helped me find my first VO class and eventually produced my first demo.

What made you want to audition for this casting?

I’ve always been a voracious consumer of audiobooks ever since I was a child, but the opportunities I’ve had to audition for them have been few and far between. So when I heard that Audible was sponsoring this contest at VO Atlanta, there was really no question that I would audition.

How are you preparing to voice these stories?

I’ve read both stories once already with no intent other than to experience them as a reader. Now, I’m beginning to think about the various characters in the stories, who they are and what I think they look like, what they sound like and how they behave. I’ll be taking notes on each character based on what the authors say in the stories, which will inform the choices I ultimately make about how to voice them.

New OrleansWhat advice do you have for those new to voicing audiobooks?

Listen to as many audiobooks as you can! There are so many extraordinary narrators to listen to and learn from. As a beginner narrator myself, I will be drawing on the styles and techniques of narrators I admire to guide me through my first experience, and there’s no shame in that. As the famous saying goes, “Imitate, Integrate, Innovate.”

Thanks J.W.!

Raquel Lozano

Susie bright picked Raquel because of her versatility, saying of Ms. Lozano

Raquel nails it. I love the way she goes back and forth between the character’s life as a Method-studying actress and a cold blooded killer. Sociopath young female, please!

Raquel also took the time to share some insight on her career and tips for up and coming VO’s.

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ACX Actress Raquel Lozano

How did you find your way to the VO business?

I began my voice career as a singer. As a youngster, I always wanted to “do commercials” but I didn’t want to act in them – I wanted to “do the voices” in them! While I’d been singing very young, no one around me really knew anything about voiceovers or commercials. So after much digging and asking questions, I got my first chance on the mic in my senior year of high school. I was able to voice a commercial for a local community college, San Jacinto CC. I was hooked! The first time I heard myself on the radio, I was in heaven for a month. After many voiceover classes and some coaching, I secured an agent and began my journey into the voiceover world.

What made you audition to read these two stories?

Growth, opportunity, and a chance to bring a story to lifeLike any professional worth their salt, I  want to continue to grow and leave no stone unturned. I had done some volunteer reading for children and knew that I had a skill in delivering stories. I felt intimidated because I had never voiced an audiobook, so I knew I had to do it! I took a step back and remembered that I’ve studied singing, acting, and voice work for many years, and I felt I owed it to myself to test those skills in a casting like this.

PhiladelphiaHow did you prepare to voice these stories/characters?

For the audition, I read the pages of the story a few times without voicing at all. Since I didn’t have the whole book I then had to imagine what came next. I really was excited and knew this story was going to get good just from what I had. Then I voiced the audition script once, to just get it out. Next, I really took my character apart. Who is she, What does she want? There was so much emotion in the audition pages, it gave me a lot to work with. And I worked hard to put myself in her shoes, to almost become her, so to speak. I voiced it a few times, went away and came back until I got to the “voice bones” of who I thought she was.

What advice do you have for those starting out in the VO/Audiobook business?

Ask questions, get training, and listen to a lot of examples. We have the luxury of internet these days, so take advantage of it.

Look for New Orleans Noir and Philadelphia Noir on Audible this June!

This Week in Links: January 6 – 10

We’re back with our first weekly links roundup of 2014! We’ve got lots of great stuff planned for the blog in 2014, from collaboration to education, all designed to bring you the best in audiobook information! Take the year’s first trip around the audiobook web, and make sure to hit the “Follow” button on the right to stay up to date on the latest from the ACX blog.

For Rights Holders:

Ten Publishing Predictions for 2014 – via Bob Mayer’s Write on The River – Self-publishing success story looks into his crystal ball to see what 2014 has in store.

Writing Novels: How to Get the Balance Right Between Fact & Fiction – via ALLi Self-Publishing Advice Blog – Your novel may be based in fact, but is it believable? Lucy McCarraher breaks down the important distinction between the two.

Transitions (Video) – via Wordplay With Nika Harper – You character is here, but she needs to get there. But how? Nika covers scene transitions in this fun video from her Wordplay series.

The Science Behind a Bestseller – via GalleyCat – Are there certain words that will ensure your book will sell? GalleyCat is on the case.

For Producers:

New Year, New Gig: Audible Studios/ACX Open Casting! – via The ACX Blog – Here’s your exclusive chance to work with the Grammy Award-winning producers at Audible studios. Submit your audition now!

Removing Mouth Noises (Video) – via Edge Studios – Home studio master George Whittam shares techniques for getting clean sounding audio in this video.

The DUH! list – via The ACX Blog – Earlier this week, we shared our 7 habits of highly effective audiobook professionals. A must read for all audiobook narrators/producers!

The Top Voiceover Blog Posts of 2013 – via Derek Chappell’s Voiceover Blog – Take a look back at  Derek’s picks for the best of 2013.

What was the best audiobook article you read this week? Tell us in the comments!

The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Audiobook Professionals

Are you an actor new to voiceover work? Maybe you’re a narrator looking to become an audiobook producer through ACX. However you came about your “newbie” status, we’re here to give you a run down of all the little things the veterans just seem to know. In an effort to save you from the pain and embarrassment of making the most basic audiobook production errors, we present the seven habits of highly effective audiobook professionals, aka The DUH! List

1. Don’t skimp on equipment. If you have poor sounding audio equipment, nothing else will matter to your potential clients. Not your talent, not your professionalism, not your beautiful head shot. You don’t have to spend a ton of money to get a good sound either.

2. Save your files. No, seriously, save your files. Frequently. If you have friends in the business, you’ll only have to ask a few to find one with a horror story about having to do an entire audiobook project over because their hard drive crashed or their files became corrupted. Save each iteration of your work along the way. Save after you record. Save after each edit and QC pass. Save before you EQ, mix, and master. And don’t just save locally – save to a cloud backup like Amazon Cloud Drive, in case your computer/hard drive is lost or stolen or vaporized by aliens.

3. Be Organized. This goes hand-in-hand with point 2. Come up with a file naming convention you like and stick with it from project to project. Keep files and folders organized on your computer. Keep your studio neat and your calendar straight. Being organized in every aspect of your business will help ensure that you and your files are where they need to be, when they need to be there.

4. Be Consistent. Make sure that your voice and your studio have a uniform sound from day to day and project to project. Pay attention to mic placement, temperature, and humidity, and work to keep them consistent. Note the settings on your studio equipment and software on the first day of a production, and match them on subsequent days. Schedule your recording at the same time of day, every day, if outside noises intrude in a periodic manner.

Consistency is an important part of performance as well, so listen back to a few minutes of the previous day’s (or previous project’s) audio before starting a new session, and compare it to the sound you’re currently getting in your studio. Then make small adjustments to your settings if necessary.

5. Respect Your Microphone. Your mic is your closest friend in the studio – you’re practically kissing! Sitting too close to the mic can make your audio sound muddy and cause plosives – sharp bursts of breath that result in a popping sound on the recording, often caused by the letters P, B, and T. Sitting too far from the mic will cause it to pick up too much of the room and not enough of your wonderful voice.

One trick for finding the right distance from the mic is to make a “hang ten” sign with one hand, placing your thumb on your chin and your pinky on the mic. That’s roughly how far away you should be. Be sure to repeat the lesson from point 4, and keep your distance and location relative to the mic steady as you record.

Finally, don’t forget that your microphone will pick up everything. Don’t wear loose jewelry or clothes that make noise when they brush against something. Take off that ticking analog watch, and keep your cell phone out of the booth. Incoming calls and texts can cause interference between your audio interface and your computer, and can be a major distraction for you as well.

6. Prep Your Script. There’s an age old tale that every narrator has heard at least once. A colleague with a busy schedule forgoes script prep and records the book “cold,” only to find out in the last chapter that one of the characters had a thick accent the entire time. D’oh! Save yourself the trouble and read through your scripts at least once before recording. This will allow you time to sort out character choices and do pronunciation research ahead of time. Trust us, you don’t want to stop recording every 5 seconds to look up a strange word you can’t pronounce.

Find a way to keep everything that informs your performance straight. Some narrators highlight. Some write in the margins. Some keep a spreadsheet with character voices, pronunciations and other performance notes. However you do it, find a method that works for you and stick to it. This ensures the recording process will go smoothly and efficiently.

7. Take Care of Your Instrument. You are the most important piece of equipment in your studio. Take care of your voice. Reduce intake of sugary drinks, as they cause bloating (which inhibits your ability to project from the diaphragm) and excess mucous in the mouth and throat (which will make you sound gross). Avoid alcohol before recording, as it can dry out the vocal chords. Too much caffeine will do the same, with the added drawback of causing a rushed-sounding read. And don’t smoke. We don’t even have to tell you why that’s such a bad thing for your voice, do we?

Finally, remember that audiobook production, as fun, artistically rewarding, and profitable as it can be, isn’t everything. Schedule “mental health” time. Take a walk. Zone out in front of the TV for a bit. Go to the gym. Get out into the real world before you go stir crazy in your studio. Keeping your body and mind healthy will ensure you’re focused on one thing in the studio: getting a great sounding read.

Following these basic tips will put you ahead of all the other rookies and set you on the path to a rewarding, successful audiobook career. And who knows, maybe someday you’ll be the one playfully yelling DUH! at an inexperienced colleague who had to learn something the hard way. Just make sure to be nice and show them this post so they don’t repeat their mistakes.

What tips would you put on your DUH! list? Help the next generation of audiobook pros in the comments!

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.

Wendy Author Photo pds copyright

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!

Alex Hyde-White’s 4 Tips For New Narrators

With That’s Voiceover 2013 coming up on August 17th, we thought we’d check in with Alex Hyde-White, winner of the male narration contract at That’s Voiceover 2011. If Alex’s story inspires you to attend That’s Voiceover! and enter our contest, click here to register, and use code ACX2013 for a 20% discount on attendance!

In August 2011, I was “just” an actor living in Hollywood. I was working with a voiceover demo producer when I saw an ad for the ACX Narration Contest during the upcoming That’s Voiceover! conference. I entered by reading the audition script for The Prince and the Pauper, which just happened to be in my wheelhouse. It was well recorded, thanks to the producer and her editor, and I won!  The moment I saw my name on the screen at the Pacific Design Center with a packed house felt as good as a having top-billing at a premiere.

AHWHaving never done an Audiobook read, and having never won a contest, I was speechless. But not for long. Now, I can’t stop talking. Thanks to ACX, I have over 40 titles produced, with a growing body of work on Audible.

The open marketplace that ACX and Audible have created encourages anybody to try their hand (or their voice) at an audiobook. Now, when I say anybody, naturally I mean anybody who is motivated to start with some basic equipment, develop their craft, and find their style. Cloud-based and easy to navigate, ACX gives anyone in the U.S. the opportunity to post their demo and search for a good fit from the many titles on offer.

In the hopes that others get as much out of ACX as I am, here are 4 things I have learned.

1. Start with two demos, one fiction and one non-fiction.

Find something you like and want to revisit for fiction and something you are good at for non-fiction. For instance, if you like vampire novels, find a passage you enjoy reading and mark it for the emotional beats that resonate with you.

For non-fiction, consider something familiar to you, perhaps related to your past or current work or career. For instance, if you have worked in hospitality at hotels or restaurants or are good at helping people and solving problems, you may be great at self-help or management titles. I have learned to bring a sense of the same authenticity and enthusiasm that the author has invested on the page when voicing nonfiction.

2. Pay Attention to Technical Quality

If you have the time and a quiet space to experiment, record yourself and then find your best mastering specs. Keep it sounding natural and don’t get too caught up in the technical options, which are many. Remember, audiobooks don’t require heavy effects, and if you like what you hear technically and are happy with your read – then you have accomplished something to be proud of (Editor’s note: listen to samples and read listener reviews on Audible to get a sense of what sounds good to you and to listeners). You may want to record your first few books with an engineer for two reasons: to lighten the production load on yourself, to have another set of ears in the booth. The feedback you get and give will be a great two-way, win-win exercise. And you will end up with a great product.

3. Start with a Short Book

By beginning with a title less than 6 hours long, even as short as 1.5 hours, you will be creating and perfecting your craft under manageable conditions. Things such as deadlines, corrections and delivery protocols will be dealt with relatively simply without the burden of too much content.  After all, the work necessary to produce 90 minutes is the same work necessary to produce 9 hours, there just more of it to do.

4. Invest in Yourself

Before committing to expensive equipment and software, invest in your talent by doing a short Royalty Share read without worrying about if it will sell enough. Even if it means you “lose money to make money.” Even if it means paying an engineer to produce it. You will feel like a pro and, without having to edit, you can focus on the read. You will grow from there.  If you have the time and are technically able, by all means do both the recording and the editing. You will grow these skills more quickly, but be wary of biting off more than you can chew. You want this training period to be fun and rewarding, not discouraging.

ACX provided me with an opportunity to get behind the mike and craft stories, from nonfiction to sci-fi. It gave me the opportunity to practice my craft and learn to listen and utilize my ear for accents and tone.

I am thankful to ACX, Audible, and That’s Voiceover! for giving this veteran of TV and film an amazing new career .

And we’re glad to have such talented actors on ACX willing to share their experiences. What advice would you give screen actors looking to break into audiobook production? Tell us below!