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.