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AUDIOBOOKS
Prepare A 'Performance Dialogue'
To Schmooze With Publishers

April 30, 2012

By Paul Ruben
Producer, Director, Casting Professional & Teacher
Tribeca Audio

If the sole priority of each narrator attending APAC - the Audio Publishers Association Conference this June 4 - isnít to secure employment, it would be interesting to know what is.

Given that youíll likely find yourself assuming the schmooze position when encountering potential employers, a question that arises is,

How do you truly distinguish yourself vocally? What could potential employers possibly hear from you that hasnít been proffered in a hundred iterations a thousand times before?

FYI, in a wholly unsolicited email Aunt Mary assured me, "I will be there schmoozing the socks and nylons off publishers with my hot new demo thatís gonna blow the authorís words off the book!Ē

SAY WHAT?

To be sure, a substantial resume featuring award-winning work for major publishers couldnít hurt.

Itís fair to say, too, that given economic reality, a facile, prepared narrator is an attribute worth emphasizing. That said, whatís special about you?

My bet would be that because most narrators are actors or have a performance background, theyíd like to assert that their ability and passion to tell stories not only distinguishes them, but actually means something to the listener.

The problem is, employers are ahead of you: they get the enthusiasm and they recognize that the person in front of them isnít about to discredit their skill. So, as a narrator seeking to pique a potential employerís curiosity, what to do?

You can always follow AMís lead: "Iíll be squeezing their cheeks with my pointy nails screaming, hire me, till they either nod yes or pass out.Ē

A BETTER IDEA ...

Or how about an equally unique, albeit more nuanced sell, one that proposes to directly link your abilities to the listenerís storytelling experience by Ďparticularizingí them through a performance lens.

Let me explain by first suggesting that, in my opinion, though audiobook employers value great narrators, many may not possess the performance vocabulary to sustain a conversation about acting, much less storytelling.

Hopefully, they will find a dialogue that seeks to tangibly clarify what you do fascinating, different. Arresting? Iím getting carried away.

PUBLISHER AS YOUR LISTENER

In contemplating how to initiate your performance schmooze, donít think of potential employers as publishers or producers, but rather, listeners.

As a listener, consider:
  • Where should they be, emotionally, the moment they hear your voice?
  • What should their experience of you be throughout the audio program?
  • How might you introduce (respectfully, deferentially, of course) terminology that assists them in articulating their opinions (hopefully raves) about your performance?
  • And how should they congratulate themselves for hiring you in the first place?
Letís suppose that you suggest, your demeanor matter-of-fact, breezy:

"Ya know, in fiction and non-fiction, my job-one is to emotionally connect you to the authorís story so that we are both engaged in the narrativeís action as if it were happening right now.Ē

I wishfully see the employer taken aback, thoughtful, contemplative:

Ooooh, yeah, thatís like, so cool. Tell me more.

Well, assuming he hasnít been yanked away by a long lost colleague, why not add, as if momentarily propelled by an inspirational gust,

"In fiction, imagine locating each characterís point of view, feeling it, as if you were inside their head? When that occurs, Iíve succeeded as a storyteller. Iíve connected you to the text, emotionally.

"Oh, and in non-fiction, I expect you to feel connected to the authorís passion, her point of view, because itís as if Iím that passionate author, you can believe that.Ē

AND YOU CONCLUDE WITH ...

I envision - inching wondrously toward Ďbest case scenarioí - the potential employerís tantalized visage as he reconsiders audi books through your performance lens, thinking to himself, yeah, this is totally awesome.

Heís primed for the bottom line: what distinguishes the storyteller from Aunt Mary, who is lurking behind him, fingernails battle ready?

"By the way, Iím the authorís emotional conduit. I connect the feeling embedded in every single word of the narrative to you. Actors call that feeling subtext.

"Oh, hey, happy to unpack the jargon during cocktail hour. Anyway, I know you gotta bounce, but, remember, connecting emotionally is how I keep you in the garage finishing the last CD when you should have been in the kitchen chopping the salad, right.Ē

YOUR PERFORMANCE DIALOGUE

Itís never easy to schmooze a potential employer. Few people enjoy selling, even fewer can tolerate selling themselves.

That said, it may be fair to argue that attempting to create a performance dialogue with an employer Ė one that particularizes the narratorís responsibility to the listener - might introduce a new and meaningful lens through which the employer can regard the narratorís relationship to the listener.

Yes, the proof is in the storytelling. Ultimately, potential employers must be impressed by the narratorís work.

But I imagine them thinking sometime later,

Wow, I had this conversation with a narrator who really gets his craft, knows what heís talking about. Yeah, really interesting. Oh, Iíll remember the conversation. And if I hire him it's because he connected me to that book, end of story!

BTW: Iíll be hosting a panel discussion at APAC: Casting the Voice.

ABOUT PAUL ...
 
Paul Ruben has produced and directed numerous award-winning audiobooks for every major publisher since 1987. His many Audie Awards include work for Itís Not About the Bike, Raymond and Hannah, The World is Flat, A Slight Trick of the Mind. He also received the 2003 Grammy (Best Spoken Word Album) for Al Frankenís Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them, and the 2009 Grammy for Always Looking Up by Michael J. Fox. He has directed regional and summer theatre productions, contributed features on audiobook narration to Audiofile magazine, and was elected to the Audio Publishers Association Board of Directors in 2005. Based in New York City and casting and directing many first time narrators - some of whom have become outstanding and award-winning working narrators - he also teaches audiobook narrator workshops through his company, Tribeca Audio
 
Audio Publishers Association Conference (APAC):
www.audiopub.org/events-apac-agenda_2012.asp

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Comments (3)
Alan Sklar
5/1/2012 at 10:48 AM
Paul,

You always write from the heart. A lovely tutorial. So many actors think that the way to get a producer's attn is to shove a CD demo and business card in his/her face ... even when the producer obviously has no place to put it.
Maxine Lennon
5/1/2012 at 10:36 AM
Great article - wonderful advice - speaks volumes...
LoveThatRebecca
5/1/2012 at 7:34 AM
This is the cocktail hour shortcut to the elevator pitch for audiobook actors! Fun... thanks for these delicious tidbits that brought me into the conference floor where I could hear the click of glasses and shuffle of feet... and see the menacing Aunt Mary in cat-eye bifocals and pink fingernail polish. :o)
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