Audiobook Month and More!


Eek. It really has been far too long since I last posted. Mostly for good reason. I’ve been very busy with audiobooks these past few months. In fact I’m in the middle of juggling three and possibly a fourth audiobook project, although two are almost ready for retail.

Alas, I did not make it to APAC this year, but that was a very slim possibility. I will say I feel pretty good about being able to attend APAC next year. Which will be in Chicago, another place I’ve never been to, and will give me the opportunity to meet up with an author friend of mine. Bonus!

I’ve also been very busy with video game work. I’ve recorded more voices for Infinifactory, a game by Zachtronics. I voiced four characters and they are all quite different. I also got to voice one of two playable characters for a couple of other titles. One was for Heroes of Newerth in which I played Riptide. The second is for a zombie DLC which is still awaiting release.

They were a lot of fun. I got to channel my inner badass as well as practice my exertions. Exertions, for those not involved in video games, are the grunts, heavy breathing and death cries that you usually hear in games.

Alas, these past few months has left me little time to market. So no Dragon Age: Inquisition yet! The good news is that with all this video game work I have a lot of new samples to add to my demo, which is exciting. I feel like I now have a pretty good range with alien military leaders, fighters, hysterical women, snooty women, villainesses and a whole range of exertion noises to really take my demo and marketing materials to the next level.

Finally, before I forget, June is audiobook month. So in honour of audiobook month, here’s a sample from Aranya by Marc Secchia.

One Month In…

I thought I’d do an update after my first month of marketing. Well, the truth is the first couple of weeks of the month I was doing really well with my marketing goals. Then around mid January, I wasn’t able to meet nearly as many of my goals. What happened? Two things actually. First I got a puppy which has taken a lot more of my time and brain power. I have puppy-parent-brain. The second thing is that I got very busy with audiobooks.

I’m getting read to record back-to-back audiobooks that will keep me busy for the new few months, as well as a few possible other VO projects. So clearly for the new couple of months, I need to adjust my goals to fit my new schedule. Usually when an audiobook comes up, I am very busy with it, so this time I’ll need to make some time for marketing that I have to treat as hallowed.

I did not get two new clients, although I do have at least one who sounds very interested. It usually takes several interactions with a client before they remember you and think to hire you, so this doesn’t surprise me. I did just book a nice job based on some marketing from a few months back, so that tells me that this does work.

Alas, no Dragon Age: Inquisition reward for me. Yet. That’s okay. I’m still poring through Dragon Age: Origins. I did treat myself to a book I’d been wanting to get, because I did a lot of marketing this month, and I’m rewarding the effort.

I emailed 24 new prospects. I followed up with 65 other prospects. Follow up has always been my big hang up, so this is a big deal for me. I added 130 new names to my mailing list. I have my elevator pitch in order, and I bought new business cards which I’ve been needing to do ever since I redesigned the site in November. And I’ve been blogging on here. So all in all not too bad.

Next time I’m going to focus more on contacting new prospects and following up, since I’ve got plenty of new names to contact. I also want to create at least one youtube video, since that makes a great piece of advertising.

Here’s to another month of marketing madness!

Preparing for an Audiobook Audition

This past weekend I auditioned for an audiobook on ACX only to discover the author was taking her favourite auditions and posting them on her Facebook page for fans to vote on. She took it down later that day but I was not happy about the situation.

I’d heard of this sort of thing happening. I know some narrators who even include verbiage specifically asking that their auditions remain private.

I could go on about how this might actually be breaking the terms of the ACX contract. How SAG-AFTRA has specifically deemed auditions as private, not public performances. Or how some narrators use a pseudonym and this is a violation of privacy. Instead I thought I would talk about the audition prep I normally go through for a book.

when I find a book I might be suited for, the first thing I do (if it is royalty share) is check the sales ranking and how long the book has been out. If it seems as though I can make my money back on the project, I will take a closer look at the book.

Is the cover professionally done, or does it look cheaply slapped together? I personally try not to judge a book by its cover, but a cover can be indicative of the quality of the writing and how much work the author is willing to put into promoting it. I check to see what the reviews have to say. Sometimes I will even check what kind of promoting the author has done already.

Finally, I spend a few minutes reading the preview pages on Amazon. This will tell me if I like the writing and if I really do think I’m a good fit for the book. It also might give me some insight into characters that can’t be found in the audition script.

Assuming all of that checks out, I will then download the audition script and read it through aloud. Again, I’m checking to see if this is a good fit for my voice. What can I bring to the performance? If there’s pronunciation I have to research, I’ll go ahead do that before recording.

And that’s about it. Then I record the audition. I don’t worry too much about characterisation unless the author has given specific notes about it, or if I already have a clear image of the character. Mostly my performance is broad strokes. I haven’t read the whole book. I may not even fully understand what is going on in the scene. All I can do is analyse the text and make the best choices based on what’s in front of me. To me an audition is 90% about my voice. If my voice doesn’t sound right, the author will know right away and discard it. If I can get past those first few seconds, I can showcase my range.

Once the audition is recorded, I listen through for mistakes and record pick-ups if needed. I then finish cleaning up the audio and I master it so the author knows what to expect of my finished sound. Next I upload to ACX and write a quick cover letter. It takes me about 45 minutes to do this one audition.

So as you can see, despite the work involved the audition is still very rough. I’ve never read the book. I can’t gauge how characters should speak. All I’m doing is making educated guesses. Which brings me back to those (thankfully) rare authors who see no problem in publicly displaying auditions. An audition is just that: an audition. Not a finished performance. It’s a job interview. It’s not meant for the public domain, and when an author places it in the public domain, that narrator’s name and reputation is suddenly being judged by one Unfinished performance.

Not cool.

Pengwins

Found this clip of Benedict Cumberbatch who narrated a project on penguins only to realise he had been mispronouncing it. Yes! I’m not the only one! This is just hilarious to me as there are certainly words I’ve learned I’ve mispronounced all my life such as “crescendo” In my defence, it’s one of those words you usually never hear spoken out loud.

Let Go

ivy-46
One week into the new marketing campaign and it’s going really well. I’ve already got one video game company who is very interested in using me. Ironically, I’d contacted them previously and the email address hadn’t worked. I guess this is where persistence pays off. I did really well getting most of my tasks completed over the first few days, although less so the last couple of days due to errands. So clearly I need to work on my home/work priorities a bit more.

I confess also that I played hookey on Monday and went indoor skydiving. It was a Christmas present from my husband. I was totally nervous about this new adventure. I wasn’t afraid I would get hurt or anything like that. I’ve been parasailing, hot air ballooning and scuba diving before, so it’s not too adventurous for me. Mostly, I worried about my body’s tendency to fight for control (which it does when I scuba dive). I hated the idea of being watched while my body is flailing about trying to get stable.

So how’d it turn out? Great! I was too busy focusing on the instructor to worry about anybody else, and rather than fight for control, I just let myself ride the wind (blasting in at 93mph!) until the instructor told me to make adjustments. Ultimately, I let myself relax. To think I stressed so much about it beforehand!

I think learning to relax and focus on the job at hand is a skill we all have to learn, especially as performers. Going on stage scares the bageebus out of most people. Theoretically, it scares me too. Before I get up on stage I worry about flubbing a line or missing a cue. But when I’m up there, I don’t have the time to think about that. I don’t even think about the audience, although I might be somewhat aware of whether or not we got the laugh we intended. On stage, I let go of those worries. I ride the wave, stay in the moment and go with the flow of the performance.

Those not in voice over might find this strange, but there is plenty of nerves with speaking into a mic. And you can hear it too. I don’t know about other VO peeps, but my nerves are exacerbated when I don’t have someone there directing me. I start over-analysing every nuance of every word I speak. Perhaps I just don’t like wasting other people’s time but I absolutely perform better with an audience. When it just me and the mic, it’s only my time I’m wasting.

Lately though, I’m changing. I’m starting to go with the flow more, ride that gust of wind, be more intuitive, especially with auditions. Chances are, 90% of what they’re looking for is whether my voice sounds right for the job. So why worry so much? Over-analysing. Recording take after take. Is your tenth take really going to be that much better?

I’ve heard from a friend who studied with Marice Tobias that she recommends not recording with cans and I think I might start trying that. It would take some getting used to, but maybe, just maybe, if I can get past the over-analysing, I can let go, stay in the moment where the performance exists and ride the wind. It’s worth a shot, anyway!

A New Year, A New Marketing Plan

marketing plan
My schedule has been fairly light lately with the holidays, so it’s been a good time to think about what I want to accomplish in the coming year, and how I plan to go about doing that. This past year has been fantastic. I started the year hoping to start working in audiobooks, and now have narrated eight of them. I picked up work for some big name clients such as Philips and Electrolux. I also got to do a bunch of fun video games. But with all that I’ve done, there’s still so much more that I would like to be doing, and on the top of that list is marketing.

I am not great with marketing. I hate selling things to people, and I hate people selling things to me. Perhaps that’s why I suck at marketing. I’m very good at doing the research. Finding the right companies and making contact. I have a pretty good response rate. But staying in contact? Not so much.

I’ve been thinking hard about what my problem is, and there’s a few things going on here. First, I honestly have been busy with work. I did eight audiobooks, and they all take a lot of time. Pretty much from March to October (which was my last audiobook) I did very little marketing because I was so busy with the work. So obviously I need to work on scheduling some marketing time, while juggling work and auditions. The other thing that’s holding me back is the selling. While I usually ask if it’s okay to touch base every now and again, I always feel as though I’m being pushy. The trouble is it can take several attempts to get your name in front of a client before they know who you are and will book you. Which means it requires a certain amount of pushiness. But how much? If I contact you in a month? Is that too long? Three months? six months? That’s all the things I need to figure out, besides also figuring out what types of marketing works well for me.

To get a better handle on the marketing thing I took advice from narrator Karen Commins and checked out the book Get Clients Now! By C.J. Hayden. I’m like what I’ve read so far. It’s told me basically what I’ve been already sensing. That my problem isn’t so much finding potential clients as following up with them.

Get Clients Now talks about a 28-day program in which you complete marketing actions on a daily and/or weekly basis. I’ll be honest, if I get caught up with an audiobook, I’m not sure how much marketing I will get to. Nevertheless I have begun completing my GCN action worksheet in earnest.

My goal: to get a meagre two new clients during those 28 days. It’s pretty small, but I think manageable. My reward: Dragon Age Inquisition, which I’ve been holding off from buying while I re-play Dragon Age: Origins. I also like the idea that Hayden suggests rewarding effort. So even if I don’t get those two clients, I’ll still reward myself with something, and, most importantly, be able to learn and refine my marketing plan.

As for the rest of my business plan for the year: Revamp my narration demo, to include all the new work I’ve accrued. Get some more coaching, particularly in video games, since I’d like to do a lot more of that. Sort out some of the boring paperwork side, so I’m less rushed around tax-time. Attend a VO conference. Make a trip out to New York for APAC. That last one is more hope, than part of the plan, but we’ll see how things are going in the first quarter.

What does your business plan for the year include?

Seasons Greetings

Sorry for not posting in a while. Was out of town for a bit, and since I’ve been back, I’ve been working on various small projects, including a couple of upcoming video games. I’m also working on a new marketing plan for the new year, which I will probably discuss in a later blog post. But in the meantime, here’s a little something to get you in the holiday spirit!

New Look!

VoiceBox3

I decided the site needed some punching up, so here it is, with a brand new logo. I thought since my vocal booth/TARDIS has always been such a talking point, why not make it the centrepiece of the redesign? It speaks to my other life as a geek blogger, and it provides a subtle reminder of my English background without any flag waving. In redesigning the site, I got rid of the Sound Cloud players which always seemed a little clunky to me, and added a sleek new player by the folks at VoiceZam. I’m still on my free trial with the player, but I’m excited to try out some of the extra features like Zamtistics, which I will have the opportunity to do shortly. Stay tuned!

 

piratequeens

In other news, last week my latest audiobook came out: The Legendary Adventures of the Pirate Queens by James Grant Goldin. Quite honestly, I’m very proud of this book. It featured some 35-ish character voices, 7 accents and I believe 5 different languages, plus several sea shanties. Needless to say, I and my team put a lot of work into this one. It is bittingly witty and the subject matter is quite dear to my heart.

You see, it’s based on the real life female pirates Anne Bonny and Mary Read. I’d read about them as an A-Level Theatre student and always fancied the idea of putting on some kind of two-woman production, perhaps in front of the Cutty Sark. As often is the case, life got busy and the two-woman production never took place…. until now. But instead of a two-woman production, it was one woman bringing to life over 30 characters. What an adventure! This is why I love doing audiobooks, and I know you’re not supposed to have favourites, but I particularly love this one, and urge you to check it out on Audible.

Finally, in case you think I’m biased, have a read of Miss Susie’s review here.

Good Intentions and all that….

So much for staying on top of the blogging. It’s almost November. How did that happen?

Well, it happened while producing several back-to-back audiobooks as well as other VO projects from August to now. The End, Take No More and Hannah and the Gods of Olympus all were released during the month of August.

And despite a week break (took a drive down highway 1 to Big Sur) I was back in the booth again with two more audiobooks. Wander & Roam just came out yesterday. It’s a contemporary romance, which I admit, isn’t a genre that usually draws me in, but this particular book about a pair of young people who escape from their emotional turmoil to volunteer at a farm in Australia was beautifully written. plus I do love practising my Australian accent. I have yet another audiobook coming out about the pirate queens Anne Bonny and Mary Read which should be released within the next week or so.

Oh, and on top of that, I went to an audiobook masters workshop with Pat Fraley, which, as with all of Pat’s workshops, was very enlightening. Phew. Busy few weeks.

Things are slowing down at the moment, but with the promise of more things on the horizon come January.

Does this mean I shall actually have some time to blog about voice over without just plugging audiobooks? Hopefully. I have a few ideas of things I want to talk about, especially in the audiobook world, since I often meet authors who have no idea where to start or why narrators charge the rates they do.

In addition to the blogging, I’m hoping to do some site revamping just because, well, I’m bored, and this is what I do when I’m not in front of the mic. I’d also like to take some time out to specifically work on getting a video game demo put together. That is the goal for 2015. Well, that and actually booking work with AAA titles off that demo. That would be the real goal.

I know. All in good time.