Auditioning For Audiobook Gigs:
ACX's Promise, Potential & Process
By Andy Bowyer
August 2, 2011
Audiobooks - the Final Frontier. Well, for some of us, anyway.
Once upon a time, not that long ago, getting picked up for an audiobook gig meant you either had a publishing/production house that wasn't a prohibitive commute from you, and you could go in and record a book "on site."
Or, you had a pipeline to enough auditions from publishers/authors that appreciated the power of a good home studio, that the odds weren't always stacked against you.
On May 12, 2011, that all changed.
ACX (Audiobook Creation Exchange) opened its doors - after spending quite a bit of time in beta testing - and suddenly there wasn't just one book to audition for, but literally hundreds to choose from.
On that first day alone, feeling like a kid with a bag full of money turned loose in a candy store, I auditioned for several titles ... OK, nine titles, with the intention of doing even more.
Note: ACX is the brainchild of Audible Inc. - an Amazon subsidiary and the leading provider of digital spoken audio information and entertainment on the Internet
Probably the most astounding thing about this service is that it is utterly free to use.
Think Pay-to-Play without the "having to pay part.”
The process itself is a familiar one:
... AND WAIT
And in the case of many of the titles on the site, you'll wait some more.
Of the titles I auditioned for on day one, I'm not entirely sure any of them have yet been awarded yet. (I've been too busy working on the books I've been awarded subsequent to that day to check!)
IF YOU ARE PICKED ...
So what happens when you're told "You're hired”?
A few things.
You'll find out about the financial arrangements:
And of course, there will be a contract to review.
A deadline for the first 15 minutes of the production will be set, which gives the rights holder an opportunity to review your approach, and you'll learn the ultimate deadline for completion of the finished book.
ADRENALINE TO A DREAD
Then a few other things will happen: you'll get an adrenaline charge from the rush of finally getting a book gig like you've always wanted!
You'll call or email (or both) your friends and tell them of your triumph. You'll pat yourself on the back for a job well done ... and then you may freak out when you realize just how many words "180,000” really are.
After your near-death-experience-due-to-dangerous-coronary-overload, you'll likely set out to achieve benchmark #1: recording and finishing the first 15 minutes of the book.
FULLY PRODUCED FILE
But here's something important to consider:
ACX requires that uploaded files, even the first 15-minute benchmark file, be mastered to their standards.
To quote the site: "This is not just a rough record or punch edit ... it should be fully produced.”
WHERE TO GET HELP
If you don't understand what "mastered” means, don't panic yet.
The ACX team is, in my experience, pretty responsive about answering questions regarding the mastering process, and the site even offers a few video tutorials, including some tips and tricks on mastering.
There are a plethora of tutorials that cover most of the typical audio editing programs available at YouTube and various other places.
You can also ask your other VO friends for tips and suggestions - but I'd refrain from doing so on your favorite water-cooler sites. World Wars have broken out over more trivial matters than "Parametric EQ-vs-Graphic EQ.”
HIRING EDITOR IS COSTLY
Of course, if you did all those things and your head still feels like it's about to explode, you can always hire out the editing and mastering portion of the project.
But be warned. The time it takes to edit an audio book can be pretty staggering.
The longer it takes to edit your work into a "retail ready” production for ACX, the more you're going to pay out of pocket for someone else to make it that way.
And if you're working a royalty share project, that could be quite a risky gamble to take.
TO ACX STANDARDS
One more thing about mastering, and perhaps the most important: remember that you're mastering your files to ACX's standard.
The rights holder may love the way it sounds, and you may have followed all the "advice by committee” you picked up in various online forums.
But if ACX feels it's inadequate, you could have some big problems on your hands when all is said and done.
Contact someone at ACX and ask them to review a file you feel is "mastered” (the first 15-minute cut is probably a wise choice for this), and see what they say.
ACX may make a few suggestions, or they may say "You're good to go.”
As I mentioned, they're pretty responsive and quite helpful.
And really, at the end of the day, what ACX really wants is for your audio to be listenable.
After that, it's up to you to tell the story so that people want to keep listening.
For more about ACX, visit www.ACX.com.
ABOUT ANDY ...
Andy Bowyer is a nose-to-the-grindstone voice actor who has been cheerfully "saying words" for a diverse clientele for over 20 years. He also participates as a member of the SaVoa Advisory Board, and plays a mean game of backgammon.
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