Black Jacks audiobook, promotion by author Shaun Webb.
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Black Jacks audiobook, promotion by author Shaun Webb.
Recently I replayed some of my earliest character voicing, which I do from time to time to compare the quality to that of present day. Now, with the voiceover training, and experiences I’ve had through making audiobooks, the difference… is astounding.
I began voice acting roughly 3 years ago, when I joined the computer gaming community. I found it marvelously enjoying, and I was quite proud of my work, even becoming a popular sought-after voice for online gaming. This was all freely created community content, share and give alike. I even published a lot of my own game work: level design, programming, voicing, writing and singing songs, all of it. Like I said, I was proud of the voice acting… at the time. But compared to what I can do now, I’ll be honest… it sucks.
It’s been quite an interesting journey, and I’ve had a vast amount of improvement, particularly in this past year after taking a workshop last November with John St Jon. To quote the lovable Sam Gamgee, “There’s an eye opener, and no mistake!” That was when I decided to get seriously involved in voiceover, launching my “second career” in January this year. I entered into training with Such-A-Voice, joined ACX (audiobook production), made myself business cards, a new website, created a company name and brand, and jumped in on the social media scene. I even took a gulp and began experimenting with the dreaded M-word… Marketing!
The latest step in my journey has been learning how to improve my audio files. So far I’ve been doing just the basic minimal processing requirements for game and audiobooks, mainly because that “technical stuff” baffles the bejezzus out of me, and I’d rather just do what’s necessary than risk over-processing when I don’t understand the rest. The fact that many online videos and tutorials all have different opinions about how files should be edited, and “it’s an art, you’ll have to experiment to find what’s right for you” really just add to my confusion. It seemed to me that Compress, EQ, Normalize, and Limiter all do very similar things, so why do I need to do all of them? Fortunately, I have an ex-audio engineer nearby (my dear husband), who took some time to educate me. I didn’t realize EQ has be tailored to a person’s individual voice! That makes it even more daunting.
I can’t wait to get my professional demos done! Scripts, coaching, and editing all specific to my voice. The Bar(d) has been raised. My performance, and my mastering, are of much better quality now. Keep on soaring 8^)
Yesterday I went to the InDescribe writers convention in Palm Springs, CA. First I have to say, great name! Very punny, haha. It was soo much fun. I got to meet some of the authors I’m narrating for, and all of them I talked to were very nice. I passed out business cards, schmoozed, got free books and downloads, and made some great contacts.
One woman, after I told her I’m a narrator, immediately said, “Alright, let’s hear you!” I fired back, “Alright, give me something to read!” She then pulled up her laptop and showed me a section to read. I did so, and as I read, both she and her friend excitedly started saying things like “Wow, she’s really good! Can you feel it in the back of your mind? That’s how I know a good narrator!” I continued reading the next paragraph, cold read, and thought I did it rather well. My thought is, that is a good author. If I can read something so well that the listener feels it, then the author has conveyed it very well.
As they were saying these things, part of my mind thought, “Wow, they really like me, that’s awesome.” Another part of my mind thought, “Yes, they’re saying those things, but stay focused and keep reading.” The author asked if I do male voices too, and British voices. I replied yes. She showed me another piece, which I read, and they again began making similar comments. They said they would definitely consider me, I thanked them, and moved on, giddy and happy from the challenge, which I felt I had passed.
A few other voice actors were attending as well. A British voice actress and fellow ACX narrator chatted with me, and we exchanged cards. She pointed me to Daniel Dorse, an audiobook veteran with now 100(!) titles to his name! When I spoke with him, it came as a surprise that he knew me from Facebook and ACX forums. Since I had posted only a few comments on the Forums, he must have read just about everything to see mine there. He was very friendly and gave me sound advice (hey! that punny, haha!), such as always try to get Per Finished Hour pay as opposed to Royalty Share, since you just never can tell how well an audio is going to sell. One author I spoke to said she preferred that anyway, as she’d rather simply pay out and be done with a deal. Many narrators prefer it as well, getting paid each time on a job and not have to hope a title sells a lot of copies.
Making my rounds, I was pleasantly surprised just how many authors were looking for narrators. Many of them already had audiobook companions for some books, and were looking for more. Some of them knew about ACX, but some did not, so I got to explain to them. It’s a really good time for narrators to be doing our thing. One author said to me, “Audiobooks are pretty much expected! It’s like people don’t even read anymore!” I laughed and gave her my two cents. “I’ve done a complete one-eighty from how I used to think: audiobooks are for lazy people, heaven forbid they actually open a book!” But now I love them, because I can do two things at once, and even better, now I’m making them!
One interesting thing I noticed, was that nearly all of the authors were women, with only three men. All of them wrote fiction. Many wrote fantasy, specifically urban fantasy. Many wrote romance: modern romance, paranormal romance, historic romance, even western romance. Several authors write Scottish romances, which definitely perked up my antennae. Many authors asked what I like to read, and then, what do I like to narrate? My answer is pretty much the same to both: fantasy, action-adventure, romance, comedy, mystery, and I love sassy humor. In fact, it’s sort of a specialty in my voice acting. I do it well, and I definitely have a lot of fun doing it.
I confided to some authors that I am a budding author myself. I have several stories going, but never finished anything. Perhaps if there is another convention next year, I will be one of the authors with a table full of books and paraphernalia nic-nacks. My eventual goal with ACX is to narrate and produce my own stories.
After three hours of schmoozing, I took a break to get some water and make a call. At that point I realized something: I wasn’t exhausted. I wasn’t even tired! Usually that amount of schmoozing, even twenty minutes of it, can take so much effort for me, being an introvert, that I have to get away by myself for a bit. This time, however, I felt exhilliarated. It was unfamiliar, and strange, but also very satisfying, because it was from doing something I loved. My heart was fully in it, and I was having fun.
The InDscribe writers convention is a must for new and seasoned Indie writers, and for voice actors looking for new books to narrate. I was blown away by all the wonderful stories out there, and all the free books (both e-books and physical books, because they don’t want to have to take them back on the plane!). Now to find the time to read them all!
I have recently become an audio book narrator on ACX.com. It’s a great place; you can find great books to narrate, and there are wonderful authors to meet and get to know. I love narrating good stories. I love it even more when the writing is high quality. I don’t just mean having an interesting plot, although that certainly helps. I’m talking about a much more basic necessity: grammar, closely followed by punctuation.
These might seem trivial, but I am constantly surprised (and irked) when I read yet another sentence in which the writer confuses “their/there/they’re, here/hear, your/you’re,” etc. Maybe it’s a typo, I think, but then I see another, and another, and then I think “the editor really should have caught these, at least some of them!” Additionally, I have seen indirect object pronouns used as the subject of a sentence. This is incorrect: “Her and Shane went to the car.” This is correct: “She and Shane went to the car.” Not sure if a pronoun can be used as a subject? Try each one separately. Does each one still make sense on it’s own? “She went to the car. Shane went to the car.” Saying “Her went to the car” does not make sense.
Punctuation is just as important. Narrators need to be able to read smoothly, and when sentence structure is choppy or awkward, we get tripped up, and then we get frustrated, and need to spend extra time marking up the manuscript so that it reads well when spoken aloud. When I write, I often read it aloud to myself, partly because I like to act and get into my characters, but also to make sure it’s understandable. Please put commas, semicolons, and periods where they ought to go.
Perhaps my English Honors and AP classes in high school, and the grammar drilling I had in school before then, made me a bit more sensitive than others to these sort of writing mishaps, but I believe they have also made me a better writer, and, if I chose to be, would make me a very good editor. I would probably edit for free a book I was narrating that I really enjoyed.
I have other peeves, but I think those are the biggest ones. Understanding them will make writers much more credible, and their narrators will be much happier. 🙂