Give Your Words a Voice
Shortly after my epic fantasy novel, Hardt's Tale was published, a playwright friend of mine brought his copy into the lobby at the opening of his latest play. He gathered the waiting audience and announced that I was going to read a selection from my book. Surprise! I quickly decided to read a few paragraphs from the prologue which received generous applause. Over the course of the evening; while finding our seats, during intermission, and at the cocktail reception after the show, more than a few people approached to tell me how much they enjoyed my reading. A well-known actor in the Los Angeles theater community said (it wasn't really a question), "You are narrating your own audiobook, aren't you?"
Well I certainly was after that encouragement.
That's how my narration career began. Now, in late 2015, I've recorded ninety-two books and learned more about the process than I ever imagined there was to know.
Do your Research
If you want to jump on the audiobook bandwagon, start by listening. Listen to as many audiobooks in your genre as you can get your hands on. Heck, you might even find a narrator you adore.
Next, wander around on the ACX website. The site has lots of easy to understand FAQs about the process. Read it all. Know what you're getting into. And when you're ready, sign up as a Rights Holder (do be sure you hold the audiobook rights, btw) and set up your Title Profile. If you have any confusion, the folks at ACX are incredibly supportive and kind whether via email or their phone support line.
Make your Project Attractive
You want to set up your Title Profile (audition) with the same care you would use creating any sales listing. Narrators want to record books that are going to sell. It makes us look better. Plus, narrators are trying to gleam every smidge of information they can get from your listing that will help them make the best choices when interpreting your story. Give some evocative description of the characters in your audition selection; what have they just survived, what do they want from each other? Do you have a description of how they sound? Put that in your profile.
Keep it Simple but Specific
Your audition selection should include dialogue, preferably with your main characters. Dialogue is difficult. You want to be sure your narrator handles voices the way you'd prefer. If you write romance, include a love scene. You want to know up front how much heat your narrator is going to bring. Keep the selection short. Two pages at most.
Choosing your Narrator
When you listen to the submissions, listen first for the narrator's tone and interpretation. Do you enjoy their voice? Do they understand your style? But also listen for technical aspects of the recording. Are there a lot of hisses or pops? Background noise? Definitely listen with headphones, high quality ones if you've got them. If you like a voice and the production quality is high but they didn't quite get your tone or a character's voice, ask them to redo the audition (or an excerpt of the audition!) with your direction. A short exchange of messages can tell you more about how the narrator works and if your personalities will work well together.
Google the narrator. Listen to their samples on ACX. It's all very exciting, but take some time to make certain you've found a narrator you're going to love. Listeners want your series to be read by the same voice and you want someone who respects your direction and is easy to work with. For preference, you want someone who loves your writing!
Communication is Key
Writing is an art. Narration is a different art. Communicate often and positively and if your narrator doesn't understand your direction, reword your request. Find different ways of saying what you're going for. And remember how personal all this storytelling can be. Compliment your narrator. Let them know what you love about the work they are creating for you. As I often said when touring with Sex Signals, "If you tell me what you like, I can give you more of that."
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