Luck Follows Preparation

maui
I’ve been away from the booth for a couple of weeks re-charging my batteries in Maui. Hawaii is a second home for me. After spending four years living there (and starting my voice over career there) I never really got it out of my system. So of course, when I’m looking for a place to slow down it’s my first choice for a vacation.

Yes indeed, even a freelancer can and should take a vacation. As a European I find the American attitude to vacations strange. Most of my American friends haven’t taken a vacation in years, which blows my mind. Vacations are proven to help you mentally and emotionally, it makes you more open-minded and independent. So yes, even though I run my own business, it’s important for me to unplug. I admit, I didn’t get to unplug as much as I’d wanted to. I needed to stay available because of an upcoming conference that needed arranging, and as it turned out, I had other personal reasons that meant I couldn’t turn off my email and Facebook completely. But it was still nice not to have to be available.

So what did I do on vacation? I read a lot and watched whales. One day we went paddling and had three humpback whales wander close to our kayak. It was a truly memorable experience, but one, I admit, that has happened to us before. I got to thinking about that. Were we lucky to have had whales appear by our kayak on multiple occasions? Yes. But was it pure luck that got us there? Not precisely.

One of the books I read on the plane had a line that has stuck with me: Luck follows preparation. That is pretty much how it was for us. It’s difficult to go seeking an encounter with a humpback whale, and frankly dangerous. But if you prepare; if you keep putting yourself out there, in the water, with an open mind and your eyes and ears open, ready to see what can happen you’ve got a better shot at seeing whales. In the same way, it’s very rare to get plucked out of nowhere to voice a role for a major game or audiobook. However, if you keep preparing, training, meeting people, putting yourself out there, it can happen.

Suffice it to say we were very reluctant to go home. But go home we did, and I’m back in the booth. One piece of good news I had when I got home was that I had received my Audible Approved status. It’s a seal of approval ACX awards based on your audio samples, how many titles you’ve done and the overall quality of your work. I don’t know at this time how that translates as far as getting work, but it does hopefully offer some reassurance to authors seeking out narrators to collaborate with.
And on that note, I shall say mahalo for reading this and aloha nui loa, until next time!

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Take Your Business Seriously, Because No One Else Will

Okay, I’m in-between projects right now, so I finally have a chance to play catch up. This has included getting rid of pesky unwanted pop-up ads that kept appearing on my site. My apologies to anyone who had to deal with that. It turns out it was a piece of code in a plugin I was using. Needless to say, I disabled the plugin, but it took me two hours to go through the code and research before I finally figured it out. I was getting ready to hire someone to remove it, because really it does come across as unprofessional. Thankfully I realised what the problem was and now it’s gone. Yay!

An interesting thing happened a few weeks ago. I was talking to an author about narrating an audiobook. The audiobook was being crowd-funded, and she needed a sample for the Kickstarter page before the book went up. I went to my usual forums to ask what a good price would be. I already figured as a courtesy I would charge a fee, but deduct it from the full price of the audiobook. It seemed prudent to charge something because this wasn’t a pre-existing client, and who knows what might happen.

The responses shocked me. Some were supportive but I found there were far too many narrators arguing to work for free. Some of the things being said were “you don’t charge for auditions, why would you charge for this?” Well, that’s true. But this isn’t an audition. The person already wants to hire me, and besides, this is going into a public space. An audition requires very little preparation from me, but this needs to more or less be a retail-quality sample.

It was interesting to see the divide in comments. Those who, like me, are voice actors (not just narrators) saw it as quite reasonable to charge something. Those who were only narrators thought I should do it for free. It became plainly obvious that because audiobook narrators on ACX are so used to doing the first 15 minutes sample on-spec, they didn’t see any problem providing a 1-2 minute sample for this author to use for free, before the book was recorded.

This attitude is something I find worrisome. Between the first 15 minute (which I have no problem with in general) and royalty share, the attitude is prevailing that working for free is okay. It’s not. If you don’t value your work, why should anyone else? Moreover, I have bills to pay. It didn’t help that that week happened to be the same week my dog broke his front canine tooth, which is going to cost nearly $1000 to extract. Of course I’m not going to work for free for a job that may or may not happen. This is a business.

It should also be noted that there was at least one author on this forum who suggested that if I really felt passionate about the project, I shouldn’t charge anything for the sample. To that I say again, I do not feel so passionate about someone else’s work, that I am willing to work for free. To be honest, I don’t have room in my life to be passionate about every author’s work that comes my way. When we talk passion I think of my passion towards my family. Towards animals. Towards travel. Those are the things I’m passionate about, and I need to be paid to fuel my passions.

This isn’t to mean that I don’t enjoy an author’s work, or that I won’t do a good job narrating the book. It doesn’t mean that I’m not excited to narrating this book. But in the end, it’s a job, and it should be treated as such.

On an interesting note, I was recently going through my list of audiobook publishers I had compiled a year ago, only to find that I’m already on the books of one of them (Deyan Audio) and was approached earlier this month to be on the books of another major audiobook publisher!

You Get What You Pay For

Hello! I’m back. I’m feeling refreshed. Mostly. It wasn’t quite the Staycation I let on. We went camping up in the San Juan Islands where I was forced to disconnect entirely. Seriously, we were closer to Canadian cell towers than U.S. Ones. This was good for me. I came home feeling far less guilty about not checking mail. Inevitably, I missed out on an audition from my agent while I was gone, but there’s always the next audition.

Since I’ve been back I finished my last audiobook project, The Demon of Darkling Reach, which should be coming out in a couple of weeks. I went to the Seattle Public Library sale and stocked up on fun books to read. 32 books, including some rare finds, for $50! And now I’m just twiddling my thumbs waiting for the next gig. No. Not really. But I do admit to that familiar anxiety rising: “Wait! I don’t have another project lined up already?” That’s when desperation kicks in. I’ve had to fight that a lot over the years. Taking jobs that I know aren’t right for me, or don’t pay enough, because I’m impatient. “ Are my rates too high? Am I scaring people off?”

I won’t lie. I’ve been told often enough by authors that they can’t afford my rates. To be blunt, they would much rather I work for free. And who wouldn’t take free over paying out a couple of grand? If you can attract a great narrator with clean audio to your project for free, that’s great, but most likely that narrator will want to get paid. Sure there are plenty of people who will work for free to build their resume and I certainly can’t compete with that, but is it really worth it? Let’s talk value.

What do you get from the narrator that charges $200-$400 per finished hour? Well, for starters, you get experience. I’ve recorded 16 audiobooks. I guarantee you I’m more experienced than that person offering to work for free. I’ve had training. I started as a stage actor, and then a voice actor, and transitioned into audiobook narration. I have trained with Pat Fraley who is one of the most well-known audiobook coaches in the business.

You also get quality. I have a dedicated booth which you can see in the image above. I own studio quality gear that I have put together over the years. Not only do you get that, but you also get professional editing and proofing. I hire professionals to do this for me because while yes, I could do this stuff myself, it takes me longer and I will inevitably make more mistakes than a dedicated editor and proofer.

Because I only take paid work, I am able to invest in the productions I work on. Whether that is gear, editors, or training to make me a better narrator. It’s my cost of doing business, but it’s also what sets me apart from those working for free. So, the next time you’re considering creating an audiobook for free, don’t think about the costs, consider the value. Because when those reviews come in complaining about the poor audio quality or crappy editing, those are going to stick around for a long time.

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.

Dark Futures Audiobook

Dark Futures

As I’ve mentioned, I’ve been insanely busy these past few months, particularly in the audiobook department. So much so that it’s taken me this long to post about my first audiobook project, Dark Futures. Dark Futures features a selection of dystopian YA short stories by Meliss Marr, Kami Garcia and Carrie Ryan. I am so excited to have been able to work with these authors. I’m honoured that they chose me to narrate their book, especially since this was a book I probably would have paid to read anyway, being the nerdy girl that I am.

Nancy Drew: The Shattered Medallion

Kiri Nind Nancy Drew Last Fall I booked a job at local studio Her Interactive, voicing the role of Kiri Nind, a competitor and potential suspect for the newest Nancy Drew video game. Kiri was such a blast to play. A reality TV star. Manipulative. She says hilarious lines like “You best stroll on out, less you want to roll on out.” Kiri is from New Zealand which was a fun accent to try out. It’s tighter lipped than Australian but not as much as South African. I’m not sure that I didn’t sound more Australian as I got more into character, but it was still a fun time. Anyway, Nancy Drew: The Shattered Medallion finally came out May 20th and I decided to make a fun tribute to Queen Kiri.

New Blog Page!

I admit I’ve been hesitant about adding a blog to this website. I already run two other non-voice related blogs. Do I really want to add a third to the mix? But let’s face it, blogging is an excellent marketing tool, and I have so many new projects to share that it seems silly not to be using this space.

So what can you expect in upcoming posts? I’ll talk a little about my new audiobook projects, of which I am just beginning audiobook #3. I’ll talk about my new video game that just came out! You’ll also get to see my famous TARDIS booth. Not to mention, plenty of links to interesting VO articles as I come across them.

Just don’t expect daily blog posts. Because, really, I’d much rather just be talking…