Monday, November 30, 2015

Audiobook Narrator Rebecca Roberts Shares With Authors What It's Like to Narrate Books and How The Audiobook Process Works

THIS IS PART TWO IN A TWO-PART BLOG POST
TO READ PART ONE, CLICK HERE


(REBECCA ROBERTS, IN HER OWN WORDS) I’ve been a professional audiobook narrator (yes, that’s what we call ourselves) for about three years. However, I also refer to myself as a voice actress because my areas of work include audiobooks, poems, children’s characters, and commercial work. I consider myself an actress. Of all of my voice-acting experiences, I must say the audiobook is, by far, my favorite genre.

Within the world of audiobook narration, the variety of materials available for audition is amazing. Authors tell me all the time, “no one will audition for my book!” Well, that’s not because your work isn’t interesting or worthy. It’s because there is SO much writing going on out there just waiting to be recorded. The dawn of the independent author has created a deluge of work for narrators.

However, it is not easy work and many narrators don’t stick around for more than a few books. It doesn’t get you rich. It doesn’t get you noticed, and it doesn’t exactly lend itself to an incredibly active social life (it can be lonely in the studio). 

So, why do I do it? Why do I spend 5-6 hours a day alone in a small room barely making enough to put food on the table? There are many reasons. First, I am a passionate person and never do anything without complete commitment. And that is easier when what you are doing is something that you are already in love with.

I have been an avid reader since I was a tot—a goofy, skinny, red-headed, freckle-faced girl with a terribly odd sense of humor and a pretty distressing family life who found escape in her books. I don’t read to achieve a goal. I read like I’m breathing. It’s just part of what I do—like breathing. So, this makes it a bit easier to love being a narrator despite the lack of glory. 

Also, it’s wonderful to have a job where I can immerse myself for several weeks at a time in everything from reading about ancient religions, diet tips, children’s fantasy stories, romance, or espionage. Plus, I get to actually take part in creating material in some way.

My job provides a stage for constant learning. With each book I read, my own personal views of the world and the people in it are given the opportunity to assimilate AND accommodate new perspectives, ideas, and concepts. I don’t always agree with my authors’ opinions or aesthetics, but I do practice a sense of gratitude that I am privileged enough to have exposure to so many individuals’ ideas and great loves.

I try with each book to look for nuggets of wisdom, warning signs, revelations, and/or confirmations. And yes, I also greatly enjoy the laughs and glorious characters.

My favorite genre, if I absolutely had to pick one, would be First Person Contemporary Fiction. I find it easier to immerse myself into the text when the words are describing real emotions and subjective experiences rather than physical actions and observations. I hope that makes sense.

I know narrators who feel just the opposite. Their strengths lie in the ability to paint a scene or portray action in the physical realm much better than I do. My strength is in dialogue, emotion, and creating characters—two different types of storytellers, and also, two different types of people, I have discovered.

My favorite book so far involved the story of a jaded, young woman who moved back to her hometown to face the demons of her past and get answers to some very destructive family secrets. It was set in North Carolina, and the characters ranged from New York City attorneys, Hillbilly police officers, teenage boys, depressed elderly women, and on and on. By far my favorite character was the narrator. She was what one would call in the author’s circles an “unreliable narrator.” I LOVE doing these. They are complicated and delicious as you get to hint to the audience and show the development of the narrator’s own understanding of the story. I really enjoy complex characters. Again, a lot of narrators prefer the omnipotent narrator with a clear consistent voice. Call me crazy!  

I have recently discovered the joy of Young Adult and Children’s books. They are a welcomed diversion from my sometimes darker or complicated work. Growing up, my family was… well … unique. I know every little kid has a “voice” for their puppy or kitty cat. That, in and of itself, is not unusual.

However, our family had ongoing relationships with not only our pets but pretty much every animal we ever came across. They ALL talked to us (we for them). I remember being at the petting zoo as a teenager helping out at a birthday party and my mom and I, without hesitation, began conversing with the goats.. and yes… they would talk back in funny goat voices. I was 17 years old and probably scared the poop out of those kids and their parents. What was scarier was that my mother was speaking “goat” too!    

So, it’s not much surprise that this type of work has very quickly become a favorite of mine. Frankly I didn’t even try it out until very recently as it does take a kind of confidence in your performance to just let go and make crazy noises that could get you laughed at. But ever since I began, I find a kind of bittersweet joy while doing it. I am brought back to some very happy occasions that were blessed distractions from some very ugly times. 

I’ve got a GREAT CHICKEN… you should hear it! (and Rebecca makes characters like a grumpy donkey, a youthful bunny, a wicked crow, and other animals sound even more awesome; Seventh Dimension– The Door, a Young Adult Fantasy, Book One.)


Lorilyn mentioned that some of you have questions about how to get a book narrated. I’ll give you guys some basics, but to be honest, there are actually quite a few more options and opportunities to get your books produced than is most commonly thought. I have relationships with a few major audiobook publishers that offer distribution channels that are all a little bit different. So, these specifics I can provide to anyone who asks after I have a quick look at your book. Then I will be able to advise you on your best options. Believe me, you do have them. 

But, here are the basics. 

MONEY:

Authors can elect to offer a Royalty Share program to their narrators. It is usually half of total royalties earned. However, with some publishers, this number can be divvied up any way that is agreed upon.

Authors can also elect to simply pay a Per Finished Hour fee that includes the narration, the editing, the mastering, and any submission requirements. I am experienced in delivering final finished audio to several different companies, and they all have different audio requirements.

Many narrators will record and then send the work out to be edited/mastered. These authors unfortunately will often charge a bit more than I do as they have to pay the subcontractor. It does allow them to take on more work at once, though, which is a benefit to them. I prefer and always will prefer to do my own. My reasons?

First of all, it’s financial. I do this full time, and right now it is our family’s sole income due to an injury that my husband has suffered. So, every penny stays here in my family’s coffers.

Second, I’m a control freak. I have my own tricks, methods, and preferences that can’t be written down in a series of steps to hand to an assistant. I feel like this is as much my artistic process as it is for the author. I don’t feel that editing can be farmed out as it takes a delicate and perceptive touch. The only exception to this would be in-studio work with a live director and producer who handle everything from top to bottom. 

When narrators work on an hourly basis, it is PER FINISHED HOUR of audio, not per actual hours worked. It takes AT LEAST two hours (and sometimes up to four hours if there are a lot of voices, accents, or other challenges) of studio time to record one hour of finished audio. 

Plus any good narrator first does the prep—reading the entire book, making
notes on characters and voices, researching any accents, characters, concepts, or whatever else is needed. This takes an additional 1-2 hours of work per finished hour of audio.

So, the payment per-finished-hour requires anywhere from 3-6 hours of actual work. PFH fees vary widely in the industry. The top dogs can earn as much as $500 PFH (which actually works out to about 100 per actual hours worked.)  It goes down from there based on experience, demand for that particular narrator, whether or not their husband is out of work (LOL), and the author’s desire for that particular voice/personality/skill set.

It’s not like a grocery store where everything has a price tag on it. My peers would hate to hear me say this, but I charge quite a bit less at this point in my life. It’s not because I don’t think I’m worth it; it’s because I LOVE the work and want to read what I WANT to read, and sometimes, those aren’t the big retail titles. They are from the little guys. So, in short. If you think you want your book narrated, reach out to me. Nine times out of ten, I’m able to accommodate any author with good material for me to work with. 

THE BOOK:

There are quite a few websites out there that will count words for you and tell you how long your book will be, but an average 200-page book in paperback will be about 50,000 words and have a running time of about six hours. This would be the number used to determine the fee for narrating. It is your FINISHED HOURS. 

THE PROCESS:

Some narrators will deliver the entire book recorded and then the author will listen to it, offering up any edit requests that are errors or omissions on the part of the narrator. Narrators like to do things this way as it restricts the editorial/feedback process to verbatim issues and misspoken words. Many of us have had horrible experiences with authors requesting a multitude of revisions based on stylistic opinions or a change of heart about phrasing, etc. Most of us try to accommodate these to keep in goodwill with the author.

However, it can easily become beyond the scope of the contracted arrangement. Most authors do not realize that every single edit takes a significant amount of time in order to ensure continuity of sound, tone, mood, etc. It is not an easy feat, and I think authors don’t realize this. So, it is important to have a clear understanding of that before edits are requested. Is the edit necessary to protect the artistic integrity of the scene/writing style? It is necessary to prevent confusion for the reader? Is it necessary because it is an actual mispronunciation or error? The answer to all of these should be YES. If it does not satisfy these criteria, the narrator will not be incredibly happy to make them.

However, I like to do it a little differently. I will upload each chapter as it’s completed, giving the author the opportunity to meet each character as I begin to voice them and to hear the tone for each chapter (often each chapter requires a different tone). The author can then request certain stylistic changes BEFORE I continue on with said character. I don’t mind this at all. I love collaborating with the author. My only request is that you keep up with me, or I will just continue reading!  I do work very quickly. 

HOW DO YOU HIRE ME or someone like me? 



I work with ACX 





Brilliance Audio, and Blackstone Audio,
among others. My work can be seen at www.RebeccaRobertsVoice.com, and you can see my reviews on my over 60 titles by searching for Rebecca Roberts on Audible.com

If you would like to hear a sample of your book, I will happily record a bit for you. I know authors LOVE to hear their words come alive for the first time, and it’s such a joy for me to hear their excitement. I can’t tell you how much I love that. So, please do not hesitate to ask. Even if you aren’t ready to move forward, and maybe you’re just curious, send me an email and I can give you a quick sample of the work and a proposal. I fully expect an open dialogue with my authors. I may even recommend a different narrator who might be a better fit for your book. 

My biggest piece of advice for getting your book produced (and it applies to most things that are goal-oriented) is to not overthink anything. The companies that I prefer to work with allow you to keep all of your rights and will allow for multiple “editions” or releases. The overwhelming feeling that you pick THE PERFECT narrator, have THE PERFECT cover, and THE PERFECT-ly obvious signs from above that you should move forward can go BYE-BYE!   

Keep it simple. If you want to have a book recorded, take the first step. Let me do a sample for you and at least point you in the right direction.

Follow me on Twitter @Rebeccas_Voice

How do I Turn My eBook and/or Print Book into an Audiobook?


PART ONE OF TWO PARTS


"Seventh Dimension - The King" is now available as an audiobook




“How do I Turn My eBook and/or Print Book into an Audiobook” is published in two parts. In part one, I share my experience as an author producing audiobooks. In part two, I share an interview of Rebecca Roberts (no relation to me). She has recorded two of my audiobooks— Am I Okay, God? and Seventh Dimension – The Door, a Young Adult Fantasy, Book One (see below for the links).

Audiobooks are more lucrative than eBooks so it’s surprising to me more authors don’t make their books available in audiobooks. Hopefully, what I share will encourage authors to do so, make the process easier, and even fun. I have found it quite exciting to see my books available as audiobooks.

I have three of my books in audiobooks, two fiction books and one nonfiction book, all produced by professional narrators. However, the first book I made into an audiobook, I narrated myself. After a scathing review, I realized that the quality of my audiobook wasn’t up to the highest standard, so I set about hiring a producer to redo it. While I know listeners love to listen to audiobooks in the author’s voice, which is what prompted me to do it myself in the first place, unless you have the proper equipment (which I didn’t have), I recommend authors hire a professional narrator.

For those who wonder if you can recoup the costs if you hire a narrator, in the two years that Seventh Dimension – The Door was available before Rebecca Roberts redid it, I sold over a hundred audiobooks and received almost five hundred dollars in bounty earnings. If your audiobook is the first book uploaded by a consumer, ACX gives you a bounty fee of $50 for that sale.

If you can’t afford to hire a professional narrator, many producers are willing to split the royalties 50-50 so you have no upfront costs.

How do you get started? Go to acx.com/.  At the ACX link are two important links. One is for “how it works” and the other is for “search.”




On the “search” link is a sub-link labeled “producers for hire.” You can click on that and you will find over 38,000 professionals who will narrate your book. To narrow the field, there are filters you can use. For example; there are filters for genre, sex, language, accent, and vocal style, as well as many other filters. On the same page, there are also samples to which you can listen. It’s actually fun to listen to them and get a feel for how your book would sound in different kinds of voices. My sixteen-year-old daughter found Rebecca Roberts for me.

The next question you’ll have to decide is how you want to pay the producer. As I said, some producers will split the royalties 50-50, but I opted to go ahead and pay my narrator. If you do split the royalties, you are bound under the contract with ACX and that narrator for seven years. Just something to consider—make sure you are happy with the narrator you choose.

Before you hire someone and sign the contract through ACX, your producer will give you a short sample of what you uploaded for the audition. This allows you to get a feel for how your book sounds in that narrator’s voice. You can listen to as many auditions as you like.

If you pay your narrator, oftentimes, the cost is negotiable. The going rate for a well-seasoned narrator with lots of experience is about $200-250 per hour. For example, a seven-hour book (about 75,000 words) would cost about $1500. However, many are willing to do it for less.

Having produced my first book, I know how much work is involved. It’s not easy to narrate a book. The whole process is time-consuming and tedious. I listened to every word of every chapter and made sure the quality was superior. Misspoken words, words left out, and any other mistakes need to be corrected to give your listener the best audiobook experience possible.

It is also important to make sure the words that the producer says matches the Kindle version for a second reason. If the two versions are the same, ACX will sync them, which is called Whispersync. This allows your reader to switch back and forth between reading and listening to the book if he or she desires. It’s another great sales feature you can promote when marketing. If the two versions are not almost identical, ACX will not add that feature to the book.

I also found with one of my books, Seventh Dimension – the King, Book Two, that the narrator wasn’t familiar with Biblical words. The sample he did for me did not have any Biblical words in it, so I didn’t know that until we got further into the recordings. So I would recommend for the sample that you use a section of your book that contains denser or more difficult material to get a true rendering of the ability of the prospective narrator.

With future books, for example, I will probably want to listen to a sample that contains words that will come up that are not necessarily common words. The other option, which I didn’t consider until after we were almost done, is I should have given my narrator those words in audible format, or a link to hear them pronounced. For example, the Hebrew word Baruch, you can hear several examples of how to pronounce it at http://forvo.com/search/Baruch/he/ If I had done either of these things, it would have made the process faster and less tedious for both of us.

Once you are into the project, it’s important to strive for a good working relationship with the narrator. Even though my narrator for Seventh Dimension – The King didn’t know how to pronounce many of the non-English words, he was willing to correct those misspoken words—for which I was thankful. Now I know to search out those unusual words, whether they are names of characters or locations, and give them to the narrator ahead of time.

Another thing I also did, because both of my producers were willing to work for less than the $200-$250 rate, I made sure I listened to what they uploaded to ACX almost immediately. The producers don’t get paid until the job is finished, so if you delay listening to their narrations, you slow down the process, put them in the lurch, and make them have to wait unnecessarily to get paid. Be respectful of their time.

When communicating with the producer, I found it was better to communicate via my personal email versus the ACX email. The ACX email has a limit on how big the email can be, and when you are listing corrections, it can be aggravating if you get to the cut-off point and aren’t finished giving instructions to the narrator.

That being said, I found ACX to be extremely helpful. They are available via phone call as well as email. They were prompt in responding to any questions I had, and on their website they provide plenty of general information to get you started. You can also easily see how many books you’ve sold and bounties you’ve received. Like Amazon, ACX pays once a month via direct deposit into a bank account.



Two other things to consider: First, for your audiobook cover, you need a square book cover no smaller than 2400 by 2400 pixels. In other words, your audiobook cover uses different settings than your print cover or eBook cover. I would recommend you automatically have your book cover designer include an audiobook cover when he designs your print and eBook cover even if you don’t plan on producing an audiobook until later.

Second, if you do not live in the United States, e.g., you live in Australia, check with ACX before getting started. I have a friend who lives in Australia who narrated two books and tried to upload them on ACX, only to discover he couldn’t use ACX for his audiobooks. I can’t remember what the issue was, but I think it had something to do with royalty payments outside the United States. Just be sure you can use ACX for your audiobooks before you hire someone or invest hours narrating your book.

If you are interested in listening to the samples of my audiobooks (or purchasing them), the links are below on Audible. As far as I know, both producers are available if you are interested in hiring them through ACX. I linked their names to make it easier to contact them. I highly recommend both.











Part 2 is an interview of Rebecca Roberts. I think you will find her comments insightful as she shares what it’s like to be an audiobook producer. See the next blog post on this website for the continuation OR CLICK HERE.














Friday, November 27, 2015

Fit For Faith series

John 316 Marketing Network author Kimberley Payne 
offers four new workbooks.

These short books are encouragement, facts, and guidance for your life. How do we keep our bodies in shape--why should we? And how does this mesh with our spiritual side? Find out with this series.

Links to purchase at Amazon and Smashwords can be found below.

  
 

Fit for Prayer (40 pages)

Learn how to fit prayer and physical activity into your daily routine. The book unites physical health and spiritual health to help you lose weight and develop a deeper relationship with God.

Lisa's review: Learn how to fit prayer and physical activity into your physical routine

The author shares about what cardiovascular exercise and strength training do for building a strong body, and links it to prayer life building spiritual strength. The author encourages readers to develop a discipline of strength and cardiovascular training in the same way as training our prayer life to build a good quality of health and mood that is pleasing to the Lord.

Taking Scripture from I Corinthians 3:16, the author reminds us that our bodies are the Lord’s temple in which His Spirit dwells. As with her books in the Fit for Faith series, we are shown what both exercise and prayer are and what they are not, as well as the benefits of both.

Exercise is not difficult, painful, or something that must involve going to a gym. Benefits include maintaining a healthy weight and uplifted mood. A series of strategies such as take time in small chunks, have fun, track your progress, and team up with friends or family may breathe new life into your routine. The books in this Fit for Faith series are also workbooks and have space for goal-setting and managing accomplishments. A list of many different types of exercises is included along with ideas for being specific about your goals.

Building your prayer life is like strength-training for your spirit.
From Philippians 4:6 we are reminded that setting our prayers before God results in a transcending peace. Prayer is not a one-time emergency call-out or something for spiritually mature folks who only talk to God in church. The author tells us that prayer is spending time both talking and listening to God, and a time of physical and emotional rest.

I have followed several types of acronyms for prayer, but the author introduces a new one to me: PATH – praise, admit, thank, help – to remind readers to be balanced in our time with God.

As with all the books in this series, there is a worksheet for reflection and personal goal-setting, lots of encouragement, and some great ideas for an action plan that works for each reader.


Food for Thought (30 pages)

Find out how to nourish your body and spirit through healthy eating and Bible study. Just as eating healthy foods nourishes your body, Bible study nourishes your spirit. You will learn practical suggestions and scriptural guidance to achieve your goals.

Lisa's review: 
Find out how to nourish your body and spirit through healthy eating and Bible study.

Gain insight into incorporating healthy eating and reading time into your daily routine.
The author shares the similarities between feeding your body and soul with the ultimate goal of honoring and pleasing God.

Using Scripture from Genesis 1:29, the author shows the reader that God ordained eating. Eating does not have to be an elaborate and time-consuming complicated ritual. Chapter two contains fourteen easy strategies to help vary and teach your mind and body about ways to eat healthy; ideas such as not eating the same food within four days and giving your brain twenty minutes to catch up with your full stomach, drinking plenty of water and keeping a food diary.

This book in the author’s Fit for Faith series on being fit and healthy also includes gentle information in a non-threatening or overwhelming manner and space to personalize your goals. As with her other books, two, this Canadian author combines body and spirit; in this case, Bible reading. We are reminded that the Bible is not one big clunky boring book, and as with eating, moderation and consistency are good keys. Chapters five and six are strategies and personalized goal planning for incorporating spiritual nourishment into our day.

A quiz, action plan, and page of encouragement are included. As the author says, “Don’t just endure life, enjoy it!”


Flex your Spirit (28 pages)

Discover a new way to express yourself with God through journal writing and stretching. Learn how to recharge your physical and emotional health through stretching activities for your body and spirit. 
Lisa's review: Part of the Fit for Faith series, this small book is for physical and spiritual health to help develop a deeper relationship with God, lose weight and develop healthier eating habits through stretching exercises and journaling.

Using scripture from I Timothy 4:8, the author lays out the guiding principle behind staying healthy for added energy and for honoring God.

The author lets us know that stretching exercise is not the same as warming up before a series of strenuous exercises, that it’s a good regimen to keep our muscles in shape, especially if we have sedentary work or lifestyles. The benefits of these exercises are numerous and reduce stress and risk of injury.

The book includes reminders to make sure you’re cleared by your doctor to do a physical routine, as well as space to write down personal goals. While the authors offers advice about flexing your muscles, there is no specific exercises to practice. This is a guide for encouragement, not a “how to” book.

The author combines flexing your physical body with your spiritual self. Keeping a journal helps keep us on task by being honest and real, and is a good outlet for our feelings, goals and prayers. There are also write-in spaces for journal-writing goals.

JumpStart by Kimberley Payne

JumpStart - A Catalyst to Launch you into a Daily Spiritual & Physical Health Routine (25 pages)

Do you need a little push with your spiritual & physical fitness? A jump start to get you going again? Something that'll get you back into the routine of making healthy choices a habit? If you answered yes to any of those questions, then the JumpStart Challenge is for you! JumpStart provides a daily prayer, a scripture verse, an exercise challenge, and a healthy eating challenge.




 Lisa's review: A Catalyst to Launch You into a Daily Physical and Spiritual Health Routine

JumpStart is based on the BEEP Model (B—Bible Study, E—Eating Healthy, E—Exercise, and P—Prayer). My hope is that you will get into the habit of taking small steps every day to improve both your spiritual and physical health. 
JumpStart is a 2-week program, Monday to Friday

This book is a little different from the others in the Fit For Faith series which contain encouragement, explanation, personal goal-setting and strategy advice. It is a daily, specific program covering ten days, hopefully long enough to create a routine to fit into your lifestyle. The author offers a daily Scripture to meditate on, advice for a healthy eating habit, a specific exercise with a how-to, and a fill-in-the-blank PATH prayer model (praise, admit, thank, help).

In encouraging readers to continue the routine and support each other, the author offers a Facebook group, Pinterest page, an online registered challenge (free of charge).


Recommended for those who need a kick and a plan of attack to get into a routine of beneficial spiritual and physical daily exercise that fits your personal lifestyle.

Amazon USA

Amazon Canada

Smashwords


Find Kim:
Kimberley Payne