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AUDIOBOOKS
Audiobook Narrator: Does It Make Sense
To Outsource Proofing, Correcting & Packaging?
August 2, 2016

By Tim Danko
Audiobook Narrator & Voice Actor

Author's Note: This article is an expanded discussion based on a Facebook post from July 30, 2016, in the group ACX Narrators and Producers. While this article focuses on audiobook narration, the concepts are, I believe, applicable to any form of voice over work. Thanks to Paul Heitsch, John Tetlock and Dave Courvoisier for their insightful responses to the original post.

It is widely held that an audiobook narrator is a freelance artist responsible for his or her own business … in the broadest possible sense. 

Yes, it’s obvious this is true for full-time narrators. 

Yet it’s also true for part-time narrators, and there’s useful insight for those just entering the profession in looking through the lens of business.

Recently, a Facebook thread emerged regarding the desirability of using of proofers, editors, and engineers to complete production of an audiobook, rather than the narrator doing that work by himself or herself. 

A PROCESS MODEL

At its core, this is a discussion on business design and operation - the key processes in an audiobook narration business, whether a narrator chooses to outsource some of those processes, and, if so, which processes to outsource. 

It begs a process model for the discussion. Let me use the following model.
Marketing > Auditioning > Contracting > Preparing > Narrating
> Proofing > Correcting > Mastering > Packaging > Delivering

Other models, equally valid, could be built, and not all processes in the model are of equal scale. 

For example, Marketing is actually a collection of sub-processes and larger in scope and scale that Proofing. Conversely, Proofing, Correcting and Mastering could be consolidated in a larger process called Production

But for our discussion here, smaller processes after Narrating serve us better.

OUTSOURCING FOR PRODUCTIVITY

The discussion about using proofers, editors, and engineer is, at its core, a discussion about outsourcing. 

There are only a few essential reasons to outsource a process:
1. to avoid or reduce costs,
2. to improve quality, and
3. to improve productivity. 
For those who rely on audiobook narration as a primary means of income, productivity is vital. And outsourcing the processes of Proofing, Mastering, and Packaging frees up time to narrate more books.

Outsourcing brings its own administrative work, though. For example:
  • finding skilled providers,
  • contracting for services,
  • monitoring results, and
  • paying for services. 
So while outsourcing is not free, it is still preferable for a narrator to do so, assuming the narrator can generate sufficient income in the time recovered. 

To generate that income, a narrator must devote some of that new, available time to Marketing and Auditioning, as well as Narrating.

SHOULD YOU OUTSOURCE?


For a narrator just starting out or working part-time, outsourcing may not be financially viable. He or she has not yet established relationships with major publishers and are, most likely, securing their work through ACX (Audiobook Creation Exchange) for royalty share. 

This is where the level of commitment to a build a career can influence the choice of business operation. 

If a narrator is committed to the career, he or she is likely also open to investing in that career and may choose to outsource for the sake of adopting best practices and building relationships with proofers and engineers – perhaps even incurring a loss as they build skills and relationships in anticipation of working for major publishers.

For more established narrators, the question is ‘when should I outsource’? 

That’s a matter of personal judgement and risk tolerance. Yet there are two possible indicators of readiness:
1. you are missing opportunities by turning away new book offers because you must proof and master your current books, and
2. you can afford to outsource because your project portfolio shows a meaningful and consistent shift from royalty share to per-finished-hour.
There are surely other indicators, and I encourage established narrators to share their experiences (please use COMMENTS below).

FOR YOUR REFERENCE


For those who are considering outsourcing, a directory of providers is available on Google Docs at https://goo.gl/237Ph6. It is maintained by Jeffrey Kafer, a well-known and highly successful narrator … and a strong proponent of outsourcing for productivity.    
----------------
ABOUT TIM
After a long and rewarding career in business, technology, and consulting with IBM, Tim Danko has returned to the work he loved so much in college - voice over. At that time, it was radio. Now, it's narration for audiobooks, documentaries and other long forms. Tim narrates from his home studio in Mechanicsburg, PA  Among the genres he enjoys narrating are science fiction, mystery, religion/spirituality, and science/medicine. His voice is described as warm, thoughtful, and trustworthy - the voice of every man. Outside the studio, he is his wife’s personal help desk for all things technology-related, helps his local parish with strategy and communications, and plays a never-ending online chess tournament with a life-long friend.


Email: tjd1701@outlook.com
Web: www.timdanko.com


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Comments (2)
Sean Pratt
8/2/2016 at 8:45 AM
Great article!
Nano Nagle
8/2/2016 at 5:03 AM
I have just finished producing my 10th book and even though I have felt some pride in learning all the technical things surrounding production - I just wish I could go into a booth and the engineer would do that for me! How long does it take on average, for a narrator on ACX to start being able to make enough to have the technical bits outsourced?
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