#1. If you could go back in time, what is the one piece of advice you would give yourself as a beginning audiobook narrator?
Be patient. Listen to other audiobooks by narrators you think are good. Learn ProTools. Learn to really listen.
#2. Are there any books that you've done that you are especially proud of? If so, which ones?
I am delighted with the Peyton Brooks Mystery Series. It’s great writing, terrific characters that I have fallen in love with. And the author, ML Hamilton feels like we are collaborating on a new genre of art for the written word. It’s uplifting to work with someone who so respects my work. I’m also extremely proud of PETTY MAGIC – I narrated over 30 characters of various ages and dialects. It was quite challenging AND again a great story. HOT CHOCOLATE and BITTER CHOCOLATE are my award winners – lots of characters & dialects and also absolutely hilarious. Maria of Agreda: Mystical Lady in Blue is a non fiction work about a 17th century cloistered nun in Spain; a veritable who/what/where of European people & places of that age – lots of language and pronunciations that had to be exact.
#3. What professional organizations do you belong to?
I am a member of Screen Actors Guild/American Federation of Radio and Television Artists (SAG/AFTRA) and Actors Equity Association (AEA) and considering membership in the Audio Publishers Association (APA).
#4. How do you decide which books to audition for? What criteria does a book need to have?
Well, I’m trying to make part of my living from narrating so it helps if there is some upfront money attached. I like stories I like. I am an avid reader so it is helpful if it’s something I am interested in.
Good writing is of course preferable.
#5. Can you briefly describe your typical day?
Recording days I like to work early. My husband is a musician, we both use the studio, so we have to schedule it with each other. I try not to drink anything with milk in it as that can cause a great deal of phlegm and make for a slow start. I warm up vocally as I walk the dogs. I record in approximately two-hour sessions or about 20 pages. I try for about one session a day but if I am pushing a deadline, I will do two – one in the morning and one in the afternoon. In between is when I check for any new auditions or listings, any marketing/ business or invoicing that needs my attention. When the house is quiet I like to record at night too. I tend to do my auditions at night. When I record, I hook up the dogs and we head downstairs to the studio and fire everything up and get to it. I prep scripts mostly at night before I go to bed. I ask for the files of the various novels or books in Pages or Word so I can load them on my iPad in Pages and insert comments, pronunciations, highlight details, etc. So I sit up in bed and read before going to bed and prep the scripts as I go. I also like to take the Table of Contents of the novel I am working on and split it up into sessions, so I know exactly how many days it will take me to record a particular book. That way I can really have a handle on my schedule, both day to day and also when I can realistically schedule the next job. I don’t work well if I feel over whelmed or like everything is a big unknown. I also like to keep to a regular workweek; take weekends off. If I choose to work a weekend, then I find my leisure time on another day. I also try to maintain a regular workout schedule 3-4 days a week before or after my recording sessions. Sitting & recording is very static. Maintaining cardio, strength and flexibility through exercise keeps vitality in my narrating.
#6. How much time do you spend marketing/promotion?
As much as I can. I shoot for an hour a day. I find it creative to remember that marketing is more than just ‘buy my audiobook’. So it can be done almost anywhere. I try for 4-6 daily posts on Twitter and 1 post on Facebook .
I am working on a blog, Stories From Storyteller & hope for a weekly installment. But truly I think effort on a monthly or quarterly newsletter via email might be better spent. Goodreads is an obvious ‘connect’ with readers and listeners. And they have an active audiobook community building.
I am very pleased with my SoundCloud page and am considering ways to make it more interactive/blog-like.
It’s easy to spread yourself too thin. The reading audience is not necessarily the listening audience. The audiobook world can seem elusive. I’ve focused on one or two social media that feel creative. I like to keep business cards with me when I lecture for The Griffith Observatory. Audience members often ask how they can stay in touch or what other work I do. This is a simple way to connect the two audiences from the different work I do.
#7. Are there any books, webinars, classes, or conventions you have found particularly helpful and informative?
Classes are very expensive. I think much too highly priced. They are important for beginners – but make sure it’s the right one. A good studio or teacher will allow you to audit a class to see if it’s right for you.
I learn a lot from listening – to myself and others – to discover what I think is good work. That can be anywhere – not just audiobooks. Close your eyes and ask yourself ‘Is that listenable for 10 hours? Why?’
There is a very interesting column at the Audio Publishers Association website that answers the question ‘How do I become an audiobook narrator?’
I learned a lot about marketing through Pubslush.
Audiobook Creation Exchange (ACX) has a weekly blog that can be very helpful. Subjects range from tech to getting started and more. One blog in particular from narrator Karen Commins was very helpful on how to get your marketing act together.
I plan to attend the next Audio Publishers Association Annual Convention in NY. It seems like a great opportunity to network and get one’s feet wet in terms of the inside track for larger publishing firms.
I regularly attend my SAG/AFTRA Union meeting, lending my voice as an up and coming narrator to promote change that will help support actors like myself who are transitioning into audiobooks from an on-camera and stage career.
#8. Is there anything I didn't ask that you would like to share?
This is a time of great flux for the audiobook industry. Audiobooks used to be recorded in big studios with directors. Talent received a very high wage. The advent of the home studio has made it easier for people to enter the field but has also lowered the going rate. At the same time, fluctuations in the entertainment industry and the economy in general have brought more ‘stars’ and celebrities into the audiobook narration world. Things have never been more competitive. Sometimes the environment is not always a friendly one. However, as in all things, integrity, talent and perseverance can prevail. The story’s the thing.
#9. A brief profile of your statistics like how long you have been doing this, how many books you've recorded, what software/hardware do you use, etc.
I’ve been a professional actor for 30 years or so. That includes commercial voiceover and narration. I transitioned into audiobooks about 2 and ½ years ago. In that time I’ve recorded about 45 audiobooks, was named Top New Audiobook Talent of 2013 by Audible.com, won 2 Audiofile Magazine Earphones awards, was selected to present for the HEAR/Now Audio Festival in Kansas City in 2015, and over 10,000 of my audiobook recordings have been purchased.
My recording studio is an intimate space carved into a foothill of the San Gabriel Mountains near Los Angeles. I use a vintage Soundelux E-49 tube microphone. It’s plugged into a Jensen Twin Servo mic preamp connecting to a Black Lion-modified ProTools rig. Mastering is done with the Izotope Ozone Mastering Suite.
#10. What is your favorite part of being a voice actor? Least favorite?
My favorite part is also my least favorite part. My career is my own. It is what I make of it. That is extremely rewarding and can also be very difficult. When you are your own engine and things are going well, you are on top of the world. When you can’t seem to get a book, it can be very frustrating and lonely. But at the end of the day I get to go to work with my dogs at my feet and very often my husband by my side. I tell stories for a living. My imagination is my brush; language and my voice are the paint. I work with other artists like myself - writers and authors. I love authors! And I am helping them get their work out there. There are worse ways to make a living.
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