Tending to My Seedlings

Germinating_seedling
It’s been a while since I last posted. In that time I recorded a new audiobook: The Sea Queen by Jovee Winters, which will hopefully be released some time in November or Early December. I’m also prepping a new audiobook. Both of these were seeds I planted earlier by going out and seeking authors I wanted to work with. The response so far to my seed planting has been fantastic. These are the only two book deals I’ve “closed” so far, but it’s been fun tending my little seedlings. There are still lots of shoots that could bloom into flowers. It’s possible I might actually be beginning to understand marketing!

Yes, it’s only taken me nearly a year, but I’m finally making more time for marketing. There are a lot of royalty share books on ACX that you would never make your money back on. Finding paying gigs on ACX can be difficult. Which is why I started focusing on planting seeds. I don’t want ACX to control my career. It’s a wonderful site, but it’s too easy to become lax and just wait for auditions to come in. I’m thrilled to have recently finished a multi-cast recording with a local publisher. My first non-ACX audiobook project. It is a collection of Norse poetry titled The Poems of the Elder Edda, which was a fun, challenging read. It was nice to collaborate with others, but boy those Norse pronunciations were a challenge!

In the meantime both Compendium and The Demon of Darkling Reach came out. And I recently joined the Seattle VO meetup group, which will get me out of my blue box from time to time. How exciting!

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!

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.