I just got a mass email the other day about how accessible audiobook work is, saying that many more books need to be produced and no-name narrators are grabbing all this great work. The email then goes on to suggest that you can setup a home studio at the cost of solely a $40 mic. There’s so much “anyone can do it” hype in this industry and especially surrounding audiobooks, and I wanted to offer up what I’ve learned to share with newcomers and anyone interested in pursuing audiobook work. There’s so much to consider that I had to break this topic into 2 posts.
As to my own experience, earlier this year a book I self-directed and produced from my home studio, Blood Angel, written by Justine Musk, was released, and I’ve done a few shorter pieces for self-published authors. I have friends who’ve done 8 or 9 books in the time I’ve done one, but they’ve worked harder to make that happen when I’ve put my focus elsewhere. So I’m not coming to you as an Audie nominee or someone with a ton of titles to my name right now, but as a peer who’s about 3 years down the road you’re interested in traveling. What I can tell you of value is information you’ll want if you’re curious about or considering audiobooks.
Here’s the first thing – not everyone is cut out for narrating audiobooks. It’s important to figure that out upfront as a lot of time is involved in getting your name in front of people and you don’t want to let them down once they’ve trusted you with a book.
1) Do you have (or are you willing to commit to) the training suitable to perform this specialized genre of long-form narration?
2) Can you record from home without a director?
3) Are you willing to do a lot more production and editing than you’re used to?
4) Would you accept royalties on sales in lieu of payment for the first book (or first few books) to get a few titles under your belt?
5) Once you are contracted to do a book for a set per finished hour rate, do you have a realistic idea of what you’ll make for all the time you’ve invested and worked, and are you happy with that?
The most important element of whether you’ll have a future in audiobooks is your level of performance, directly related to your training and preparation to do the work, and second to that is your demo. Most of the audiobook work done by non-celebrity narrators is done by you in your home studio, without a director. You’re wearing your director’s hat while narrating, and listening to yourself as a producer at the same time. There’s a lot of do’s and don’ts that you won’t know you need to do, listen for, or avoid without investing good money with an audiobook pro. Knowing the “rules” and giving a great performance are two pieces of the puzzle. How to perform will be covered in your training with a reputable coach – someone who has a history with audiobooks and perhaps some awards or nominations for a job well done. I’ve studied under Pat Fraley and he has another workshop coming up in LA, if you’re interested. Paul Alan Ruben directs and produces audiobooks with a different flavor than Pat and also offers personal coaching, although I understand that his style will be harder for beginners to grasp.
A good coach can also direct you and produce a solid demo for you. The casting director isn’t going to listen to an entire audiobook you’ve completed to hear if you’re going to do a good job for them. They rely on your demos, your resume of books you’ve done, and reviews when available (even if it’s just how many stars your audiobook received on Audible.com). Personal relationships and visibility are important in audiobooks just like any other industry, too, but your demo is your calling card, and it represents your abilities AND your studio quality. Make sure you can deliver what your demo is promising, and that it’s put together well.
Now, when it comes to recording the session and editing, this is where you’ll have to do your research to see what each company requires and what you’re willing to do (a phone call will get a faster response than email). Not every company will want you to edit your pickups back in to the original audio, and some of the larger publishers have editors in-house and you just need to send in a clean read and later send the corrections they request. But if you’re doing a book through ACX, production houses producing for a larger publisher, smaller publishers, or working directly with the author, you can almost guarantee you’ll do more editing on your own. You may even have to proof the audio for your own corrections, but keep the goal in mind. You need to find someone to trust you to record your first book. Do a little research to make sure you’re a good match for the company you’re submitting to.
This is leading me to payment and time spent per book, which is a big enough topic to save for my next post.
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