100% Genuine Snake Oil

Snake-oil
I mentioned in my previous post that I’ve joined a Seattle VO meetup group. This has put me into contact with a lot of brand new VO talent looking to get coaching and break into the business. It’s a wonderful little group, all willing to share information. “Mr. LA Coach is in town next weekend for a workshop at XYZ Studios.” “Ms NY coach will be doing private sessions and you can even record your demo if you have a few thousand dollars laying around.” Okay, so maybe this kind of information isn’t helpful. If anything, I find it downright disturbing because you suddenly become aware of the sheer number of people who will happily take your money and leave you with the promise of a career.

Just in my few years training in VO I’ve had a coach contact me advertising his latest class with a reminder that he’s getting ready to help cast a major project so maybe if I sign up for the course, I can get hired too. I had another VO talent who I had contacted in regards to how she handled her British and American demos, who bombards me on a weekly basis with email about this course and that course that she’s selling. Even coaches who are supposedly beloved by professionals for taking them to “the next level” don’t seem above coaching beginners and producing their demos. I even saw a VO talent, with only two years in the business, teaching classes online, charging for basic information that is readily available online for free.

This isn’t to say that all coaches are like this. If you attend a Bob Bergen class for instance, he won’t even let you take another class for two years. Personally, I still remember working with Mary-McDonald Lewis, as we wrapped up the intro to voice over class she was teaching. She urged all of us in the class to continue studying with different coaches and not even think of making a demo for two years. Is that two years a hard and fast rule? No. Not necessarily. But she’s right that we shouldn’t make a demo until we’re absolutely ready. This business is harsh. You don’t get a second chance to make that first impression, and you have to be able to compete with the pros in LA who have tons of experience.

So how do we get that training? Well, for starters, by being discerning. Research, research, research. Lately, it seems, a lot of LA actors are discovering that Seattle is near enough away to come here for the weekend and teach a class. This is great news if that person is a working voice talent. But if that person has a small handful of video games under his belt and is more famous for his on camera work, maybe that isn’t the best way to spend $200. Ask around. Really ask around. Private message people. Nobody wants to openly bad mouth folks in this business, but they’ll be a bit more open about their experiences with certain coaches if they know it’s not available for the world to see.

But remember, it’s not just about coaching. We learn in all kinds of different ways. Some of those ways include practising with other voice talent so you coach each other. I actually hope we get to do more of this at our Seattle meetup group. If you don’t know any talent nearby, go to Edge Studios and record some of the practice scripts and put them up for evaluation. Also, go to voice bank and listen to demos from the pros. Record yourself reading copy, and listen critically. Compare yourself to the pros, and try to get a sense of what they are doing that you’re not doing. Voice Bank’s Voice Registry also has a great weekly workout session, which is a relatively cheap $84. The point is, coaching is great, if you can find a good coach you trust, who will bring the best out of you, but it takes more than money to get a voice over career started, and you may regret that four thousand dollars you spent on a demo when you consider that the average non-union voice talent earns about $4500 a year.

In other news, Intertwine, the time travel romance I recorded at the beginning of the year, hit number 11 on Audible (may have even gone higher than that, I only just discovered the stats) and was last seen planted between two Diana Gabaldon titles. I’m pretty chuffed, I must say! In the meantime, The Sea Queen by Jovee Winters is getting ready to be released on Audible, and I’m ging to be starting recording on book two of The Black Prince triology.

A Whiff of Strike in the Air

I was going to talk more about audiobooks today, but since there is talk of a SAG-AFTRA strike regarding interactive (ie video game) contracts, I thought this would be worth discussing. The actor Wil Wheaton gives a good explanation on why he voted to strike which is worth reading at least to understand the situation more fully.

The big argument everyone brings up is that it is due to residuals. Unlike many other forms of acting, video games don’t come with residuals. So that AAA title you bought with a massive cast of actors that allows you to immerse yourself in a whole ‘nother world? Yeah, those actors only get paid for the sessions.

I’m not SAG-AFTRA, although I fully intend to join. I think the union is a good thing. With rates going down the toilet, the union is more important than ever. I also think the union can be more than a little out of touch. For instance, their view that non-union talent can’t perform as well as union is utter nonsense. And heaven forbid you choose to go Fi-Core and play both sides!

As a voice actor who has done more than a few games, I would love to get residuals. But most of the titles I work on are indie titles, and there is absolutely no money to pay actors. So the real question is should the companies producing AAA titles pay residuals? Yes. They should. The fact is the video game market is growing, not shrinking. As technology continues to advance, with devices like the Occulus Rift and virtual reality technology it’s only going to grow. So yes, of course the AAA title companies can afford it. What’s more, it’s interesting how these companies who have increasingly turned to Hollywood celebrities to voice games clais they are too poor for residuals. I find it difficult to believe that an actor like Kiefer Sutherland got paid scale to lend his voice to Metal Gear.

But as Wil Wheaton points out, it’s not just about rates. One of the other terms SAG-AFTRA claim has been rejected is for shorter voice sessions. Currently 4-6 hour sessions are not uncommon for video games, though thankfully not so much in the indie world. Four to six hours doesn’t sound that long, but when you’re screaming, whispering, making death cries, yelling and breathing hard, it is taxing on the voice. It strains the vocal cords, and very often your voice is unusable the next day. You can’t audition for stuff, you certainly can’t work another job. This one for me is a biggie. When I first heard that sessions were getting longer in LA I couldn’t believe it. I’ve done the shouty, death yell sessions, and I couldn’t imagine sustaining that for four much less six hours at a time, yet this is what major game companies are supposedly rejecting.

Honestly looking at the verbiage of the SAG-AFTRA letter that went out, I think both sides are gearing up for an ugly battle. Or as someone described it, a bitter divorce, with a whole lot of he-said/she-said. I’ll be interested to see what happens next.

In other news, I did an interview with author P.J. Fox. Our new audiobook The Demon of Darkling Reach should hopefully come out next week! Additionally, my latest audiobook, Compendium was also released this week. I’m very proud of this book. It was a fun book to read, and hopefully listeners will enjoy it.

Until next time!

Coming Up for Air

staycation
Well this wraps up another busy stint of audiobook narrating in which I got no actual marketing done. I’ve had a tight schedule filled with back-to-back audiobook projects, in which I was either narrating several projects at the same time, or editing/proofing a project while narrating a different book. Not something I usually like to do as I normally hire out this type of work, but that
s just how it all worked out.

I’ll be honest, being “on” all the time: auditioning, recording, editing, and always being available to respond to requests both from clients I’m working with and potential clients has left me WIPED OUT. Not to mention in my “free” time I’ve been chasing down several authors regarding approvals and offers.

So I need space from the recording for a bit. I had been telling myself “okay I’ve just got to get to the end of the year, and then we can go to Hawaii and relax properly.” Except I forgot that aside from a couple of weekends away, I hadn’t taken a chunk of time off since last November and if I had to wait until winter, I was not going to be much fun to be around. So I’m going into Staycation mode. The trouble is, is it even possible to take a staycation when you run your own business? It’s certainly going to be a challenge to not constantly check my messages for auditions and job offers. But that’s what I’m going to try to do. Starting today I’m going “on vacation.” I had a long weekend, which is new for me. This week I get to goof around with my dog and husband. Guilt-free? Probably not. But it’ll have to do.

In the meantime, in other news, here’s an interview I did a while back for Lisa M Lilly. I actually know Lisa from my writing days, and was thrilled when she asked me to narrate book two in her Awakening series, The Unbelievers. It was scary doing this book, I must say. She’s my friend. I don’t want to disappoint her! Hopefully I didn’t. What do you think?

Also, Aranya the audiobook I narrated for Marc Secchia just received a Bragg award. Awesome! Also, Compendium by Alia Luria won the Silver Medallion award from Readers Favourites. The audiobook version of Compendium will be coming out in just a few short weeks. I’m extremely proud to be a part of both of these book projects and was so excited to narrate them. I’m glad to see them get the recognition they deserve.

See you in a week!

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!

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!