Tag Archives: voice actor

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.

An Enhanced Audition Experience

Introducing a new way to find the best projects on ACX: Sort by Amazon Sales Rank. We heard from Producers that you’d like an easier way to see which titles are selling well on Amazon, and with the introduction of this new feature, we hope you find your next audition opportunity even faster.

Search for Projects Seeking Auditions, and in the upper right section of the page—below the search box—select Sort by Amazon Sales Rank—Bestselling. The Amazon Sales Rank for each title will update daily with its latest sales position, so check back frequently to see which projects are trending.

A book’s sales ranking on Amazon is one of several good indicators of an audiobook’s future performance, along with written reviews and overall ratings averages. We’ve previously written about making smart decisions when it comes to choosing titles to audition for, and here are some of the best tips to pair with the new Amazon Sales Rank sorting feature:

  • Select the genre filters that that you perform best.
  • Take time to read the reviews left by readers on Amazon, as they may alert you to issues of graphic material or writing quality.
  • Consider other titles in the author’s catalog. Has the author published additional titles that may lead to a long-term production relationship? If so, how do those titles compare to the title currently open for audition on ACX?

We hope this makes auditioning for your next great ACX project even easier.

Have feedback? Share in the comments what other features would improve your audition experience.

ACX Guest Post: Andi Ackerman

Last month, ACX met new talent Andi Ackerman while we where out in LA for That’s Voiceover 2013, and she joins us today to help ACX producers learn from her experience. Read on, and let Andi help you avoid some of the mistakes she made in her early in her audiobook career.

Four Things I Learned About Audiobook Production The Hard Way

Most people think of themselves as reasonably astute, myself included.  I may not be genius material, but I like to fancy myself perhaps just a bit smarter than the average bear, or at least smart enough to not have to read instructions. But in truth I always need to read the instructions.

Going against my usual habit, I did actually read the ACX web site pretty thoroughly before accepting my first title.  But that only began to prepare me for my ultimately wonderful, but initially torturous audiobook journey.  Below is a brief summary of four things I’ve learned about audiobook production over the past year.

Andi

ACX Producer Andi Ackerman

1. Amazon reviews only tell part of the story.

Believe it or not, it took me three tries to learn what should be a pretty obvious concept. Everybody has different tastes, and some wonderful books have never been reviewed on Amazon. To make an informed decision when choosing titles to audition for or produce, read as much of the book as you can yourself before you accept the project. (Editor’s Note: ACX producers should feel comfortable politely asking the rights holder for a full script before agreeing to produce the title.)

2. Don’t take on a project that makes you uncomfortable.

Some nonfiction titles that seem innocuous can turn out to espouse points of view with which you may strongly disagree. And in the words of the brilliant Richard Horvitz, the voice is the work of the spirit, or in other words, our true selves.  Your feelings can be heard in your voice.

I agreed to narrate a nonfiction title about holistic health by a credentialed, reputable author.  I love health!  I want people to be healthy!  What could possibly go wrong?  Well, a few pages into the second chapter I discovered the author held opinions about childhood vaccinations that I vehemently opposed.  I could not in good conscience produce that book.  The author deserved a narrator who would help them realize their vision, not undermine it.  And if I had followed my own advice in point number one, I wouldn’t have made this mistake!

There are certain things you have to know about yourself, and I know that I can’t do erotica because I get the giggles. If you don’t care for violence you probably want to stay away from mysteries and police procedurals. You’re going to be spending a good chunk of time with a work so choose a project you like.

3. Editing will always take you longer than you think.

When I first signed on to ACX I had been editing short project voiceover work comfortably, and naively believed an audiobook couldn’t really be that different. It really is that different.  I had a pretty darn steep learning curve with the production end.  Allow yourself more time than you think you’ll need.  Watch the videos on ACX and check out tutorials on YouTube before you start your first book.

4. Don’t get so caught up in the technical end that you forget to enjoy your time with the words.

You’ve been entrusted with someone’s “baby.”  It really is a gift and a joy to be able to create a landscape, a universe, a story with your voice.

Now that I’m wiser and more experienced (but not yet a master!), the work of audiobook production is a joy.  I am grateful to be able to do what I love.  If you’re just starting out on your ACX journey, I hope you can learn from my experience and forge a successful voiceover career.

Help others learn from your mistakes by leaving your best piece of audiobook production advice in the comments!

Your Book Deserves to Be Heard – Live at BEA!

Calling all authors! Are you attending BookExpo America (BEA)? If so, we’d like to meet you. ACX will be exhibiting at the show Thursday May 30 through Saturday June 1 in booth DZ1860.

If you haven’t produced an audio version of your title, here’s your chance to experience a narrator performing a sample of your book live at BEA. Bring us 2-3 pages of your manuscript (or a copy of your book if it’s handy!), and our professional voice actor will consult with you on your story and perform your excerpt live! We’ll send you the free sample recording within a week of the show, and our staff will be on hand to assist you in signing up for ACX and claiming your first title. Reservations for these free performances are limited, so register here to reserve your space.

ACX is thrilled to have some of the best voices in the business participating in this event. Here’s who you can expect to meet and perform your book:

Elisabeth Rodgers – Thursday 5/30, 9a – 1p

01_Elisabeth Rodgers_SMALL

Kevin T. Collins – Thursday 5/30, 1p – 5p

03_Kevin T. Collins_SMALL

Piper Goodeve – Friday 5/31, 9a – 1p

05_Piper Goodeve_SMALL

Nick Sullivan – Friday 5/31, 1p – 5p & Saturday 6/1 9a – 1p

04_Nick Sullivan_SMALL

Gabra Zackman Saturday 6/1, 1p – 4p

02.1_Gabra Zackman_SMALL

We can’t wait to meet you at booth DZ1860 and hear your books performed live. Don’t forget to register for your performance!

Spend Your Weekend Auditioning For These Awesome Titles!

Calling All Producers! We’re back with new titles that are open for audition right now on ACX. These projects either share royalties with rights holders and include our $100 per-finished-hour stipend offer* or are offered on a “pay for production” (P4P) basis. Take a look at this week’s new opportunities, and if you think one is right for you we encourage you to submit an audition! All titles listed here are accepting auditions at the time of writing – but act
fast, as they could be cast at any time.

Please ensure that you are logged into ACX with your producer account to view each title.

For Male or Female Voices
For Female Voices
Air (The Akasha Series)
by Terra Harmony
Family Thang (Volume 1)
by James E. Henderson
For Male Voices
Kin
by Kealan Patrick Burke

Finally, for more hot titles, as well as tips on producing and marketing your ACX audiobooks, make sure to subscribe to this blog using the form on the right and follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

*For more information on how the stipend program works, click here:
https://www.acx.com/help/production-stipends/200708200