“Can I take you to coffee and pick your brain?” NO. READ THIS BLOG.
I began my narration career in 2008. That’s when the economy tanked and my job evaporated. I was lucky enough to have a husband with a stable job, and I now had the chance to finally figure out what I “wanted to be when I grew up”.
Having an unfinished degree in broadcast journalism, I decided to investigate if some aspect of that focus could work for me at this stage of my life. I attended a community education class about voiceovers and began voraciously researching the field. I read all the articles and columns I could find about it, listened to podcasts, took coaching and business mentoring in the voice over area, and was eventually directed to Recording For the Blind and Dyslexic, to volunteer narrating, in order to get a feel for audiobook narration. I was smitten. I knew it was what I wanted to pursue, and so I continued to volunteer recording for RFB&D (which is now known as “Learning Ally”).I joined the Audio Publishers Association and as many voiceover/narration/audiobook groups on social media that I could find.
It was a hell of a lot of work.
Good thing I’m a hard worker.
Now if you’re reading this, it means you must have some interest in checking out the field of audiobook narration; maybe you’re a friend from a former part of my life. The reason I’ve directed you to read this blog post is because people come to me more often than you’d think, wanting to pick my brain over coffee. Repeatedly, I’ve spent inordinate amounts of time crafting lengthy emails to friends who ask me about getting into narration, only to never hear from them again. So I finally decided to blog about it and simply invite inquisitive people to read it.
But why do I balk at being asked out to coffee for a brain-picking session? You’re asking for me to freely give the information I worked so very hard to learn and stay abreast of, for the price of a cup of coffee. My time is valuable, as is yours, no doubt. If I’m out having coffee, that means I’m NOT in the booth recording, or performing a myriad of functions that keeps my business running. I worked very hard to find out if this occupation would be viable, interesting, and something I could continue into my retirement years. You can do this too. If it’s important to you, you SHOULD do the footwork yourself. This is the best way to learn, and the lessons will stick far better than simply hearing about my experiences. Remember that old Chinese proverb: “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”
An excellent starting point is to watch this video by acclaimed narrator, Sean Pratt.
He has narrated close to one thousand audiobooks, and is a narration coach. His advice is excellent.
Here are some additional helpful links to get you started:
www.narratorsroadmap.com (START HERE FIRST!)
And if, after checking out these resources, you still want to spend time with me picking my brain about audiobook narration, my rate is $100 for a one-hour session. This is a very reasonable rate, and I will share with you what I have learned through my years of experience and hard work, plus answer your questions to the best of my ability.
ETHICS &ETIQUETTE: COMMON SENSE BUSINESS PRACTICES FOR NARRATORS
I debated whether or not to write this blog, because it could so easily take on a condescending flavor. I want to stress that I am not being judgmental when I share these points, and that I am the first one to admit that I am NOT PERFECT. However, I have been in this industry since 2008, and can safely say that if one makes the effort to take the following information into consideration, the professional pathway will be smoother.
I should mention that I am an active member of WoVO (World-Voices Organization), and in fact served on the Executive Board for three years. The reason this is pertinent is that a guiding pillar of WoVO is to help those new to the voiceover industry gain access to information that will help them learn and grow and achieve their goals in a manner that elevates the industry. I passionately embrace this philosophy. Many times I have shared the information written in this blog, both on social media, as well as in direct mentoring situations, one bit at a time. I figured it was time to consolidate it and put it in one location. So without further delay, I’ll launch into it…
ETHICS & ETIQUETTE
-Don't trash talk anyone! How you use your words shows others who you really are. Mentioning others’strengths and fine qualities is much more beneficial for everyone within earshot than sharing an embarrassing story or spreading gossip about someone’s shortcomings. This especially includes never posting about another narrator's poor reviews, whether they're merited or not. How would you like it if someone publicly called out your performance in a less-than-flattering light?
-Don't take credit for others’ work. Remember to mention/thank engineers, proofers, publishers, narrators, in public statements such as acceptance speeches or tweets or social media posts. Along this same vein, remember it’s not all about you. Engage others in a discussion about what they’re doing, what they’re interested in, or how they’ve handled something. You can even try to conduct an entire conversation without using the pronouns “I” or “me”.
-Try to have decorum/good etiquette at workshops and conferences (i.e. don't interrupt conversations rudely, don't shove your business card/demo CD/swag into others’ hands unsolicited, and in certain situations such as APAC, don't discuss rates with your competitors.)
-Don’t abuse others’ good nature by expecting them to spoon-feed you your career. Do your homework. Google is very easy to use, and in social media it’s expected that you use the “SEARCH” function in groups before posting your questions there. There is a wealth of information to be found. Do your own due diligence. THEN you can come back to your favorite social media group and post your specific question. **NOTE** PLEASE READ AND CONSIDER THE FOLLOWING ADVICE CAREFULLY: When you have a question, consider who may be answering it. If posted on social media, you have the strong probability that everyone from non-narrators, to brand-new narrators, to hobbyists will enthusiastically and authoritatively give you their opinion. If you place value on your career and care about the audiobook industry, seek out those with lots of experience and a successful track record, and ask them your question (after you’ve researched it, of course). You will receive sound advice backed by a history of experience and knowledge. Got a problem with your recording chain, or the technical aspects of recording? Hire a professional engineer!
-Don't out someone's pseudonym. How someone chooses to record is their business, and is often a very personal decision. By sharing their identity, you may harm their potential to get hired to narrate some material. A pseudonym can be a means of protecting family and friends from embarrassment or hurtful situations.
-Always remember that as narrators, we have a collective reputation. Numerous times authors have shared with me their horror stories of narrators who act in a less than professional manner. This is especially pertinent in the indie writing sphere. Many narrators take a personal interest in encouraging authors to include audiobooks in their plans when they release their books. If an author has a bad experience with the process, it’s more probable that they will not attempt an audiobook in the future.
-Communication is paramount. Don’t assume your indie author knows how the process works, and be prepared to explain things that seem obvious and simple to you. Not everyone shares your level of experience. Helping someone learn a new skill or process promotes goodwill and excitement for a repeat experience!
SOUND BUSINESS PRACTICES
The following points are geared more toward conducting your narration business:
-Don't lower your rates too badly. Obviously no one has the right to dictate what you charge your clients, but please remember that you are a professional, and as such, your peers would appreciate it if you charged accordingly.
-Perform each narration project as if you expect it to win an Audie. Don't do shabby work because "it's just a royalty share project" It all counts!
-Always obtain permission from the publisher before contacting an author
-Always obtain permission before mentioning your project on social media
-Respond to correspondence timely, invoice promptly, and pay your bills just as promptly.
-Follow directions! Read all instructions completely before beginning recording (example, record at 44.1, 16 bits, and follow file naming conventions, upload instructions, spacing at head and tale of files, etc.)
-Don't miss deadlines: Seriously assess whether or not you can meet a deadline before accepting the book, and be attentive to your calendar so that you don’t forget about deadlines, or end up so short of time that the quality of your work is compromised in your rush to meet deadlines.
-Make sure your narration demo is representative of your capabilities/skillset. You don’t want to “bait and switch” by having a stellar demo and then not be able to deliver an equivalent level of quality from your home studio.
-Don’t party hard before an in-studio session, so that your voice and body cannot record at their best
-Audition ONLY for those projects which you are certain you can perform. I will expand on this to include that you MUST turn down a book you’ve been offered, if it is not a good fit. For example, pass it up if it is written from a man’s perspective and you are a woman (or vice versa) or if it’s heavily accented in a language you cannot affect.
-Pre-read, especially fiction.
-Research words in the manuscript or hire someone to do it for you. Remember that thing about using Google? Do that.
-Be accountable. So you've missed a deadline. Remember you’re a professional and you’re working with professionals and they probably don’t want to know about your infant’s blowout diaper, or the dog who ate your power cord, or or or or…. Just apologize, and get it right, and do your best to not let it happen again. Publishers will understand if you become ill, or if important life events get in the way. However, if you find you are always missing deadlines and making apologies, maybe it’s time to reexamine your methods and commitment. Working with you should be a relief for a client, not a trial. I recently heard a publisher say “Given the opportunity to replace a narrator who misses deadlines, we will.”
I would enjoy hearing others' ideas of etiquette and ethics in the audiobook industry...