AUDIOBOOK CAREER: PART 2
Is Audiobook Narration The Right
Fit For You? Five More Career Tips
By Tom JordanVoice Actor & Audiobook Narrator
In Part 1 of this series I discussed the first five points that I use to help set expectations for VO folks looking to get into audiobook narration.
Let's continue with this list and then I'll share some final thoughts.
6. Plan to spend money on narration coaching.
It doesn't matter how "good" or successful you are as a VO talent, you'll want to seek coaching that's specific to audiobook narration.
You might be able to deliver the best 30-second commercial read in the industry, but the ability to tell a story and keep the listener engaged and entertained throughout an entire book will task new, undeveloped skills.
You'll want the expert guidance of a professional narrator/coach who has the experience and industry wisdom to help you along your path.
Luckily, there are several quality coaches from which to choose. I'm not going to call out the coaches by name here, but can certainly provide their names and contact info to you if you email me. There are coaches for non-fiction, fiction, dialects and accents, character development, audiobook business skills, home studio setup, recording software (DAWs), and more.
Please don't try to narrate an audiobook without working with a coach. Think long-term when approaching this career and understand that the benefits of starting off on the right foot as opposed to "fake it 'till you make it" are numerous.
In fact, if you ever come upon someone who claims you don't need audiobook narration coaching, turn on your heels and walk briskly in the opposite direction. That's how serious this is.
7. If you're planning on doing royalty share projects, you may benefit from learning how to market your audiobooks.
I have narrator friends who don't place a lot of value on marketing; believing that the audiobooks will either sell or they won't and they would rather channel their energy into the next project rather than spend time marketing their last one.
I like marketing, so I do spend some time marketing the royalty share project I do.
When you enter into a contract for a royalty share audiobook in ACX (www.acx.com), you're partnering with the rights holder - usually an independent author, but sometimes an independent publishing house for seven years.
As part of this agreement, you'll share the profits for each audiobook sold; so, ideally, you and the rights holder can work together to promote your audiobook and reap the rewards of your marketing efforts.
This doesn't require a lot of money, but it can take a little time. There are online marketing sites that cater specifically to audiobook promotion. AudiobookBoom.com is probably the most popular one. There are numerous Facebook groups that will help you promote your projects, as well.
Again, there's way too much about this to condense into a single paragraph, but feel free to contact me and I can point you in the right direction.
8. Learn to budget your time and you'll find that you can probably keep one foot in both the VO and audiobook worlds.
I still have a VO agent and continue to audition for VO gigs.
One thing I've found is that I need to set realistic deadlines with my audiobook rights holders so that I'm not forced to deliver my projects late. If I build out a calendar where I'm recording two chapters per day, and I get an onslaught of VO auditions that belay my audiobook recording plans, then I have a buffer built into my schedule so I can still finish the audiobook on time.
Although a bit off-topic, this goes the same for allowing for illness (you can't record with a head cold or chest congestion); so create a schedule that you and your rights holder can agree to that won't leave you stressed if you fall behind.
9. Yes, you can produce audiobooks while keeping your day job (See #1 in Part 1).
I have a full-time job as a marketing copywriter, which keeps me out of the house for 10.5 hours a day Monday to Friday.
I've always been an early riser, so getting up at 4:45 AM and recording by 5 AM isn't an issue for me. I go to bed early, wake up early, knock out an hour of audiobook production, then do 30 to 60 minutes more each night. On the weekends, I put in about six hours of production.
This yields, on average, one completed eight-hour audiobook per month - extrapolate book length and time commitment from there, but you get the idea.
I'm looking forward to retiring some day and being able to invest more time in narration.
Crazy as it sounds, that's how much I love audiobook narration. I want to retire so I can work more… go figure.
I guess Mark Twain was right again:
10. Be prepared to be part of the best artistic community you can imagine.
I've saved the best for last.
For the two of you who have made it this far without being discouraged or cheesed off that I'm being so damn pragmatic in my attempts to set expectations, please know this: The audiobook narration community, much like the VO community, is a wonderful thing to be a part of.
The narrators I've come to know and call my friends are smart, gracious, hilarious people with incredibly generous spirits.
We meet online, at conferences, workshops, industry mixers, and always have fantastic times together.
Narration is challenging work, but the amount of support is heartwarming. With these friends by my side, I'm reminded every day that I may narrate in a small, dimly-lit space, but my colleagues are always here for me with a light to help guide the way.
If you've made it this far and want to give audiobook narration a try, then maybe it IS the right fit.
'TANGIBLE EVIDENCE' OF HARD WORK
I'll leave you with this - and it's something I share with the VO people I consult when they ask why I love audiobook narration.
When I was putting more time into VO work, I'd wake up before the sun and submit audition after audition while maybe landing one job out of one hundred. With audiobook narration, every morning I'm building an audiobook, chapter by chapter. Within a few weeks or so, people will be listening to it.
Maybe they'll like it, maybe they won't, but at least it's out there, and stands as tangible evidence of all my hard work in my little predawn world where stories come to life.
I have so much more to share and, luckily, I'll get the chance to do so this coming March at the ENVISION VO Atlanta 2020 conference. I'll be part of the regular VO conference (where I can talk to VO folks, like you, thinking about audiobook narration), not the Audiobook Academy section. I'll expand on all of these items in an interactive presentation that I'll open up for discussion early-on, so we're sure to get all your questions answered and have a rousing good time! :) Hope to see you there.
In the meantime, I'd like to direct you to a great website that helps answer many questions about audiobook narration and provides valuable best practices for the beginner. Karen Commins does a great job in her Narrators Roadmap.
Tom Jordan is an award-winning audiobook narrator and Audible Approved Producer who entered the world of professional voice acting in 1994. He has worked for hundreds of clients in a broad variety of voice-over genres from commercials to E-learning, and everything in between. A few years back, Tom steered his talents toward audiobook narration and has found his true calling with this creative and infinitely-rewarding endeavor. Tom is a 2018 RONE Audiobook Award Finalist and 2019 Independent Audiobook Award winner for his performance of Gutter Medicine: Twenty-six Years as a Firefighter Paramedic, by Roger Huder. He will also be speaking on audiobooks at the ENVISION VO Atlanta 2020 conference in March.
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