Thursday, July 27, 2017

Producing Your Books in Audio Part Three: Picking Your Narrator

By Angela Quarles, @AngelaQuarles

Part of the Indie Author Series

In the previous post in this series, Producing Your Books in Audio Part Two: Auditions, I gave tips on getting the best auditions for your book on ACX. So for this post, I'm going to step you through some advice for what to do with all those lovely snippets!

Tip #1 - Things to Listen For

Some of your audition samples are going to be easy No's. Especially if they botch an accent. Side note: Can actors please learn to do some various Southern accents other than the Hollywood one? OMG. Seriously, some of my auditions I only listened to about 4 seconds of them the accents were that bad. So, good news is, if you know what you want, you don't have to listen to the whole audition. But what do you want to listen for?

1. Make a list of things that are essential/vital for the narrator to nail, and ones that are nice-to-haves. For me, I actually decided that the Southern accent was a nice-to-have, so I chose one who used a standard American and just gave her some tips on specific word pronunciations. I could do this because my character only had a slight accent (hence why those over-the-top ones were so wrong). What was more important for me was tone and a sense that they "got" the story and the voice. Also high on my list was delivery for the humorous moments, as well as how well they did with the opposite gender voices (I auditioned both male and female narrators). Your list might be very different.

2. Use this list to help eliminate candidates.

3. Listen to audio quality too, though this can be misleading. A lot of narrators audition from their home studio and so their sample isn't run through a studio polish like it would be once they're narrating your book. I even had an audition from one of the biggest names in historical romance and hers was done on a hand-held mic in a park and I could hear birds, etc. I knew she'd have a professional studio for the actual recording, so I didn't count it against her.

Tip #2 - Pick a Top 5 or Top 3

If your samples end up anything like mine, it was really easy to eliminate a LOT of the 65 auditions without much fuss (I'm using 65, because that's how many I had. Your number might be different). I could tell right off that most of them wouldn't work. What proved a lot harder was narrowing it down to ONE. So, first I narrowed it down to a Top 5 (though now that I think about it, it might have been a Top 10 first, lol). Whichever way the chips fall, get it down to a small list of final candidates. It might be that only one works, period. Great! Or it might be that 50 of the 65 auditions were easy to eliminate, leaving you with 15. Just get it to a manageable size so that you're not stressing about ALL the auditions you have to evaluate.

Tip #3 - Make a list of pros and cons for each one

Now take your top candidates and really listen hard to them and make a list of the pros and cons for each one. Don't pull out your list from #1 yet, just listen and make notes. You might find there are qualities to their narration that you really love that you'd have never thought to want. Write it down. What you want to end up with is a healthy list of things you really loved about their narration, the things they did well, and the aspects you didn't like. For instance, I write with a lot of parenthetical asides (though mine are set off with em-dashes). I had no idea that some narrators just didn't know how to do the cadence right for those. Also discovered that some are better than others for internal dialogue. So my pro-con list noted those who did these well, and who didn't.

Tip #4 - Compare pro/con list to your list from Tip #1

Now take out your list and see who are able to check off the items in your vital list, and which also nailed items from your nice-to-haves. This alone might make it clear who the winner is. But also give weight to some aspects you really loved about a narrator that you discovered when making your pro/con list. At the very least, this might narrow it down to a Top 2 or a Top 3.

Tip #5 - Seek advice

If the best narrator isn't clear yet, you can seek advice from others, but please don't do it publicly! Or even in a Closed reader's group on Facebook. Maybe you have a friend who likes to listen to audio in your genre, and s/he can come over and listen to your samples.

Tip #6 - Consider possible reach

If it's down to 2 or 3 and you still can't narrow it down further, consider again some factors from the previous post. Look at their reviews, look at their social media presence. Are they someone who generally has people saying "I'd listen to X read a phone book" or "I listen to anything X does"? If they are, and the other candidates don't, go with the one who has a bigger following/fan base.

Tip #7 - Make sure they understand who's doing what

Before you make an offer, double check with your top candidates that they are clear on what is required of them. I had a narrator picked and made an offer, only to find out the fee we'd agreed upon did not include production costs with her studio. When she got the quote from her studio, it took it way over budget for me. So we parted ways and I picked my second choice and I've never regretted it. It's funny how things like that work out! The only reason she hadn't been the first pick was because she hadn't done a full sample and so I didn't know how she'd handle the male part. I went back to her, because I really loved her sparkling delivery and asked for that sample, loved it, and made an offer.

My point is, some of the bigger narrators are used to working for audio producers, not indies, and so it's not even on their radar that they need to book a studio and factor that cost into the pfh rate we agree on. I also make sure they know that I'll do the proofreading, which saves money (and so it's also not something that comes out of the pfh rate).

So, double check with your top choices.

Tip #8 - Message your pick first

Yay, congratulations, you found a narrator! Via ACX, it's better to negotiate everything first by message. I know you double-checked rates and what that included in Tip #7, but here's where you need to nail down deadlines and the like. Work that out via message and then click the Make an Offer button once you're both clear on expectations.

What about you, do you have any tips I've forgotten for picking a narrator? Do you have any questions? 

Angela Quarles is a USA Today bestselling author of time travel and steampunk romance. Her debut novel Must Love Breeches swept many unpublished romance contests, including the Grand Prize winner of Windy City's Four Seasons contest in 2012. Her steampunk, Steam Me Up, Rawley, was named Best Self-Published Romance of 2015 by Library Journal. Angela loves history, folklore, and family history. She decided to take this love of history and her active imagination and write stories of romance and adventure for others to enjoy. When not writing, she's either working at the local indie bookstore or enjoying the usual stuff like gardening, reading, hanging out, eating, drinking, chasing squirrels out of the walls, and creating the occasional knitted scarf.

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About Must Love Kilts: A Time Travel Romance 

The Jacobite Rebellion--not the best time to get drunk, hook up with a guy, and lose your sister.

A drunken bet...

When computer game designer Traci Campbell gets too close and personal with a bottle of Glenfiddich while vacationing in Scotland, she whisks her kilt-obsessed sister back to 1689 to prove hot guys in kilts are a myth. Hello, hundred bucks! But all bets are off when she meets Iain, the charming playboy in a to-die-for kilt.

Wrong place, wrong time, wrong name...

Iain MacCowan regularly falls in love at the drop of his kilt. The mysterious red-haired lass with the odd accent is no different. But when his new love is discovered to be a Campbell, the most distrusted name in the Highlands, his dalliance endangers his clan's rebellion against King William.

It’s all hijinks in the Highlands until your sister disappears...

Traci thinks men are only good for one thing--thank you, Iain!--but when she awakens once again in Ye Olde Scotland and her sister is gone, she must depend on the last person she wants to spend more time with. He wants to win a heart, she wants to keep hers, but can these two realize they're meant for each other before the Jacobite rebellion pulls them apart?

1 comment:

  1. Thank you so much for this series. Now that ACX opened up to Canadians, I'm trying to learn everything I can before diving in.