We’re halfway through with the questions on my Audiobook Narrator Self-Assessment Quiz! To catch up, start with Analyzing the Audiobook Narrator Self-Assessment Quiz Part 1.
Continuing where I left off in part 2, we’ll discuss the last 7 of the 15 questions in the Personality/Work Habits section.
How would you rate your comfort and skill levels with working with technology more complicated than your phone?
Not too many years ago, all audiobook narrators went to recording studios and were only responsible for performing the text of the book. An engineer ran the computer controls, and a director helped the narrator shape the performance. Those same narrators might have done auditions from a home studio, but they recorded the full book in a commercial studio.
Due to changes in technology, more and more narrators must record the complete project in their own studio. Most narrators who work in a home/private studio don’t have the luxury of employing an engineer and director. Instead, the narrator wears all 3 hats simultaneously.
Recording your voice looks very different on the screen than writing an email. You will use a Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) like Pro Tools, Audition, or Twisted Wave to record and edit your voice in a WAV file, which is the graphical representation of the raw, uncompressed sounds.
Teddy Roosevelt said, “Do what you can, where you are, with what you have.” Your first studio may be a simple set-up of a computer and good microphone. However, you still must be able to research the hardware and software that you need to get and learn how the pieces work separately and together. You’d also need to set up a dead-quiet recording space in order to create the type of audio expected by publishers and listeners.
Once the narrator completes the recording, she must be able to submit files that A) conform to a publisher’s specifications and B) use the publisher’s choice of delivery methods. No one asks you to copy files to CD any more. They will tell you the format of file to submit (WAV, MP3, FLAC) and whether to use a commercial FTP service like WeTransfer or connect to their server using your own FTP software. They may instead ask you to upload files to Dropbox or another site.
They will not tell you HOW to do any of those things. They expect that you either already know or will spend the time and energy to learn.
If the high-level description and quantity of acronyms in this section make your eyes glaze over or cause you to feel nervous or apprehensive, take a deep breath and relax. Other people have learned all of these terms and skills, and you can, too. Realize, though, that you may need to take some computer classes and/or pay consultants to help you create an ideal recording environment and absorb all you need to know to use it with ease.
How does the thought of learning new software make you feel?
I’ve talked with many people who dread learning software and are afraid of making a mistake that will erase all of their work and damage their machine. Some leave 15,000 emails in their in-box because they are afraid of deleting something they might need later or missing some piece of information.
Both of these scenarios stem from lack of knowledge and confidence. The more you learn about your software and hardware, the more confidence, ease, and productivity you will have in using them.
As I pointed out in this article, a lot of software operations are transferrable skills. Understanding and becoming proficient with DAW processes seems to give most people the greatest difficulty. If you are struggling to learn your DAW, 1 or more of the training options I shared in this post may benefit you.
How would you rate your communications and customer service skills?
Even before I specifically talk about marketing and networking in the upcoming final article of this series, I want to point out that good communications and a customer service attitude are at the heart of this job.
Narrators pleasantly and persistently contact and follow up with people who can hire us without overdoing it and becoming a pest.
Publishers hire you only after they TRUST you. You must be reliable and a person of your word. Once hired, if you run into any issue that jeopardizes meeting your deadline, you must immediately inform the publisher.
However, you also must be able to help audio rights holders who are new to audiobooks understand the production process as well as industry best practices. For instance, an author may expect you to do something like sing copyrighted song lyrics that the author included in the text, add background music to certain scenes, etc. In such cases, the customer is NOT always right! You must be able to use a firm, professional, non-argumentative tone to advise the rights holder of the industry position.
How do you feel when you need to research something?
Mispronounced words are a sure way to annoy listeners and cause them to temporarily lose their focus in the audiobook. You need to say city, street, and business names the way people in the local area say them. For instance, one narrator I know received numerous complaints for mispronouncing Houston St. in New York City. Go ahead and research that one to see what I mean.
You’ll find that most books require the narrator to research some pronunciations of proper names for people, places, and products. Non-fiction books particularly demand rigorous research; here’s an example showing my research for ROAD TO TARA: THE LIFE OF MARGARET MITCHELL by Anne Edwards. You may be able to find sources on-line, or you may need to dig further and actually call people to ask for pronunciations. You may need to check multiple sources. You’ll want to document your findings to share with the proofer and publisher.
Are you able to concentrate on one task for long periods?
Kids and other people in your house, social media, clients, the doorbell, lawnmowers and weed eaters in your neighbor’s yard — an endless number and variety of possible distractions await the audiobook narrator each and every day. When you’re in the booth, you need to put the rest of your life on hold.
You have to get your mind in a good place before you walk in your booth so that you’re totally focused on the story at hand. All sorts of things could be running through your mind, even something simple like, “Oh, I need to make my grocery list.” If you’re upset about something, you need to get that out of your system before you come in front of the microphone. You have to put all of that aside so that you are totally and completely focused on the story in front of you. That’s the only way that you can give justice to the author’s words — to be so immersed in their story that you can tune out the rest of the world.
Remember, the listener is right there. You are literally in their ear when they listen to your narration. They will be able to hear when a narrator is disconnected from the story.
Are you patient?
I see too many people entering a narration career with the false expectation of quickly earning enough money to make narration their sole source of income. The people on top of the mountain didn’t just land there. People who are viewed as overnight successes usually have been working diligently for years or even decades before attaining public recognition.
It takes time to develop a narration style, gain the trust of 1 or more publishers, and build a client list and a thriving business. You also need to be patient with yourself as you gain knowledge about the industry and learn new competencies. A while back, I wrote about 12 lessons from a popular TV show that further explains the many ways you’ll need to exhibit patience.
Are you a perfectionist?
If you proudly proclaimed your perfectionism, you might have done so thinking it would be a valued trait. However, as Voltaire wrote, “the best is the enemy of the good.”
You could labor over each sentence in a paragraph doing retake after retake until you get that sentence JUST RIGHT. Paragraphs recorded this way could end up sounding stilted and forced. Instead, we want the words to flow with energy and be naturally connected to each other.
Perfect is also the enemy of the DONE. You could make any project into life’s work. After having a proof listener go through the completed audiobook and then re-recording any parts of the text that they point out for correction, you need to have the confidence in your art to meet or beat your deadline and release it to the world.
In my upcoming final segment to analyze answers to my Narrator Self-Assessment Quiz, we’ll discuss the nitty and the gritty financial considerations. In the meantime, are you writing things down? Have you discovered anything about yourself that makes you reconsider your desire to become a narrator? Please leave me a comment with your feedback!
Sarah Nessel says
Just wanted to say thank you for your blog, Karen! This particular series of posts has been really helpful to me as I start my narration career. It is indeed a long game — and all the resources you provide are invaluable.
Karen Commins says
Hi, Sarah! Thanks so much for the nice note! I’m glad you’re finding my info to be useful.
To really get 2019 off to a great start, I’d love to send you a special journal so you not only can write your answers to the quiz, but plan and shape how you want your life to be. Please send me an email with your mailing address.
Best wishes for a stellar new year that sees your dreams come true!