Most of this blog’s readers know about the audiobook production site ACX.com. Each year, ACX produces educational programming called ACX University. I had the great pleasure of being a guest speaker on the topic of Acting With Intention in one of the 2018 ACX University sessions.
During and after the video broadcast, I chatted with viewers. As usual for the Queen of Links, I shared a number of resources in that chat session. I also answered a number of questions.
While the chat is embedded with the video, I wanted to post all of the ancillary material and discussion here on my blog to make it easier to reference. That way, you can watch the video and not worry about missing anything.
Links to resources I mentioned in the video with time stamps:
9:36 Sisters in Crime
10:36 Barbara Sher’s fabulous book Wishcraft
12:04 Facebook groups for narrators:
- Audiobook Crowd
- Indie (ACX and Others) Narrators and Producers Facebook group I referred to it as the ACX group in the video. After you join the Indie/ACX FB group, be sure the check the extensive group FAQ, which I created and maintain.
- Narrating Audio Books from the Public Domain
- Professional Audiobook Narrators is not visible to the general public. A current member must add you, and you must have done 10+ books to be approved.
- Findaway Voices Narrators I didn’t name it in the video, but you’ll want to join it if you narrate for Findaway Voices.
13:18 C. J. Hayden’s Get Clients Now! book
13:43 C. J. Hayden’s Business Building Writing workshop
14:23 Krista Tippett’s “On Being” interview with Seth Godin
Other links I shared in the chat:
I send newcomers to audiobook narration to this article.
Someone in the chat mentioned being an introvert. I replied that lots of narrators are introverts, including me! Here’s an article of 3 networking tips for introverts. I still smile at the graphic I created for that post!
Links on ACX:
My articles on the ACX blog:
- How to Act Like an Audiobook Narrator
- A Narrator’s Look at Audiobook Marketing – Part One
- A Narrator’s Look at Audiobook Marketing – Part Two
ACX U Chat Questions and Answers
Rather than merely copying the questions and answers in the order they appeared, I’m going to resequence them and group related questions together to make them more organized and digestible. Of course, I’ll add links to this info as well, which is another bonus of viewing it here instead of in the chat window.
Q: When you started, did you start with shorter auditions? Or just plunge into what you were interested in?
A: The AUDITION is short, no more than 5 minutes, but the BOOK never was. Starting with a short book seems intuitive but really is counter-productive long term. Many ACX producers take short books to get their feet wet, and usually those books don’t look good in their portfolio 7 years later. I would say to start with REAL books like mysteries, romances, etc. no matter the length.
Q: How detailed do you get with your notes for intention/feeling? Do you evaluate by chapter only, or do you get as detailed as marking each paragraph with an intention or feeling?
A: I used to mark up my texts in different colors for every line of dialogue but now find that too distracting. I underline dialogue tags that describe the emotion, like “she said angrily”. I might write a quick description of the emotion in a scene, or something about the subtext to remember, but usually I remember the emotions from my prep.
Q: So, you’ve trained your eyes to see the underlined dialogue tag, even if it comes later than the dialogue?
A: Yes, for the most part, but I do underline some tags during prep.
Q: Do you self-direct or always have a separate director?
A: I’m blessed that my husband Drew directs all of my performances and even most of my auditions. If I didn’t have him, I’d team up with another narrator to direct each other. Having a 2nd set of ears hearing everything and someone to discuss the text with makes the performance more accurate and emotionally rich!
Q: What was the self-directing game changer for you? Could be a technique or a moment where things really clicked and you could see a noticeable change in your narration.
A: Paul Ruben’s narrator workshop was a game changer. He pushes you to be more emotionally invested in each and every word from the author — what he calls “upping the stakes”. He also teaches you to mine the subtext for your approach to the performance. You make think you’re going overboard on the emotion, but may not come across that way to the listener.
Q: Do you ever have a concern of coming across as “hammy” in a performance? And how do you assess that?
A: No, I don’t have that concern because I view fictional characters as real people and act them that way. You can’t just “do a voice” for a character. That’s when it starts to sound like a caricature.
Q: What do you mean by “you can’t just ‘do a voice’ for a character”? Do you mean that can’t be the only thing you do to differentiate that character’s personality?
A: Doing a voice” is different than “being a character”. So many things in the text will tell you about the character’s personality that it helps you shape their voice, rhythm, speech.
Q: What is your process for maintaining consistency of characters over the reading process?
In my prep, I figure out who the character is. I wrote a post on the ACX blog discussing that process. [See section 2 of this article.] While recording, I make and save WAV files of each character.
Q: Why save WAV files instead of just saving in the native format of the app, e.g., Audacity project files?
A: If it’s a WAV, I don’t have to stop one project and load another to hear a voice match.
Q: During 3rd person narrations of a book, how much emotion or “character” do you assign to those portions?
A: YES!! In fact, the 3rd person narrator definitely has a point of view and is often in everyone’s mind (for fiction). You can really mine the subtext for characters’ emotions for a nuanced performance.
Q: Have you done any Non-Fiction books? If so, how is your approach different?
A: Yes, I LOVE non-fiction books! In fact, ROAD TO TARA: THE LIFE OF MARGARET MITCHELL by Anne Edwards is nominated for a Voice Arts Award in Audiobook Biography! Non-fiction still requires ACTING and being emotionally committed to the author’s words. In many ways, it’s more difficult than fiction because you have to speak with the author’s knowledge and confidence. Plus, non-fic books often require lots of pronunciation research. My approach is pretty much the same for any book — you have to emotionally connect.
Q: We have been having a bit of a back and forth re: nonfiction reads. Do you read the whole book beforehand in nonfiction like you must to in fiction?
A: PRE-READ THE WHOLE BOOK EVERY TIME. No exceptions. If you don’t know where the author is taking you, regardless of fiction/non-fic, how could you possibly expect to take the listener along with you?
Q: When you find your focus straying, what do you do to stay focused on the narration?
A: I usually take a quick break out of the booth. If something’s bothering me, I might write it down in my journal. If it’s summer and thoughts of being in the pool keep me unfocused on my work, I get in the pool!
Q: Are certain times of the day better for your voice for recording? Like, more energy in the morning?
A: Vocal energy and resonance depends on each person and things like your previous night’s sleep, hydration, stress, etc. I hope everyone knows they shouldn’t scream at concerts (sorry Barry Manilow!)
Q: The dullest of geeky questions – what mic do you generally use for audiobooks?
A: It’s not dull, and I worked a career in IT, so I’m a geek, too! I have only had 1 mic throughout my vo/narration career: a Neumann TLM 103. [As of Jan. 2019, I upgraded to a Neumann TLM 49.]
Q: What’s inspiring you today? (This one and the next from AudibleACX as we wrapped up)
A: We just moved to a new house, so I’m being inspired by seeing boxes getting unpacked and art hung on the walls! The studio was the first thing we did and looks gorgeous!
Q: We definitely need pics!
A: Absolutely! We ran out of time during my session, so I didn’t post these photos in the chat. I’m delighted to share them here.
Labor Day weekend 2005 was the first time we assembled my WhisperRoom. We spent Labor Day weekend 2018 in WhisperRoom assembly, take 2!
The booth has over 40 pieces and weighs over a ton once assembled. Drew did all of the disassembly at our previous house and reassembly in the new one, with only minor help from me: steadying pieces while he screwed bolts, and lifting the ceiling panels into place. We had the moving crew transport the disassembled WhisperRoom when they moved our furniture.
In the above picture, Drew joins the 2 floor panels on top of the base on casters. We left the casters on the frame during the move. The photo below shows him putting the last screws in the ceiling about 4.5 hours later.
Here’s a pano shot of the new studio! I’m in the booth. My executive producer Yogi is facing Drew, who stopped directing to take this picture.