On 1 February 2018, I started working on a 13″ x 18″ Glorafilia Tiffany peacock needlepoint kit. While it isn’t finished (yet!), it serves as inspiration and motivation for both my hobbies and career choices.
Happy belated birthday Walt Disney!
I narrated, produced, and published the public domain book The Story of Walt Disney by Diane Disney Miller and Pete Martin. I was thrilled that it released on 5 December in celebration of the 120th anniversary of Disney’s birth.
While I’m excited to announce this audiobook, I’m writing this post to talk about its cover art, and more specifically, information about image usage that may help you if you publish your audiobooks.
I’ve previously written about Copyrighted Images in a Public Domain Book.
That article discussed the images inside the book. Of course, the copyright laws also apply to the cover art, so I encourage you to read it.
Today, I want to talk about the laws concerning right of publicity. (Insert my usual disclaimer about not being a lawyer though I have voiced many in audiobooks.)
Today Bee Audio’s new CEO Roy Forbes sent a disturbing email to all members on their production roster. He gleefully wrote about working with 2 different international companies “who share our vision and enthusiasm” to help develop AI Text-to-Speech (TTS) for audiobooks.
I say he wrote “gleefully” because, as a professional audiobook narrator, I am skilled at analyzing an author’s printed words and interpreting the subtext, the underlying meaning.
One doesn’t have to be a professional narrator to also understand that such an email is completely tone-deaf and insulting to the workforce. We do not hold any “vision and enthusiasm” for technology meant to replace us!
Artificial intelligence can’t detect the subtext in a sentence, much less over the trajectory of an entire book. I can’t believe it ever would be that good.
One’s voice conveys the essence of being human. Nothing expresses our thoughts, feelings, and emotions better than the human voice. Words on a page can fall flat and be interpreted in different ways, where a speaker makes their views known in multiple ways like volume, pitch, tone, and pauses.
If someone only wanted to have a story read to them, they could use the text-to-speech capabilities on their computer or e-reader. Sure, the inflections and pronunciations are often wrong, and the entire reading lacks any kind overall understanding of the material needed to guide the listener.
Of course, visually impaired people benefit from TTS and understand its fallacies. Paying consumers require much more,
People buy audiobooks because they want to be entertained, informed, and inspired. An audiobook is a performance art based on the narrator’s interpretation of the author’s words. We do far more than simply read the words on the page!
Before I ever walk in to the booth to record an audiobook, I’ve carefully prepared for the moment:
- I read the entire book.
- In a fiction book, I note all of the characters’ quirks and descriptions so that I can develop a convincing voice for each character and present them as real people in real circumstances, not some cartoon.
- In non-fiction books, I research the author and the content of the book so that I understand the message to be conveyed.
- I’ve done copious research on correct pronunciations. Anyone who has ever heard a GPS mispronounce the name of their town will be annoyed to have a computer voice mispronounce things in an audiobook. Mispronunciations take the listener out of the story.
Once I’m recording the book, I’m careful to distinguish voices among the many characters, especially when they converse in the same scene. The listener always needs to know who is speaking. Whether fiction or non-fiction, I must make organic acting decisions that help realize the author’s intent.
My experiences and knowledge shape every word that I utter and breathe LIFE into printed words.
I know that the narrator is the greatest cost in audiobook production, and companies perpetually look for ways to cut expenses. However, taking steps to remove the human voice and replace it with a synthesized one destroys the art form.
Technology is ideal for robots to replace humans in soul-sucking jobs like installing computer chips on a circuit board. It will never replace a human’s ability to convey emotion.
Since Bee Audio is actively participating in the development of TTS to replace narrators in audiobooks, I cannot in good conscience stay on their roster. I also encourage other narrators to avoid this company unless its “vision and enthusiasm” changes in favor of pro narrators.
Perhaps Bee’s TTS applications will be voicing their audiobooks even sooner than they realized.
Recently, I had the great pleasure of being a guest on Daniela Acitelli‘s fabulous Narrator’s Cup of Joe show. Daniela is an effervescent and skilled interviewer who asks meaningful questions and makes you eager to tell her all of your secrets! I know I did!
Naturally, I want to share some links to expand our discussion and give you some helpful resources. I’ll add the time codes below with the links.
03:42 The first time I identified my day job employer on my blog was in the article titled My life as a secret agent.
13:37 Here’s Neil Gaiman’s exact quote from his 2012 commencement address at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia:
I decided that I would do my best in future not to write books just for the money. If you didn’t get the money, then you didn’t have anything. If I did work I was proud of, and I didn’t get the money, at least I’d have the work.
15:24 (also 48:55 and 58:09) I’ve written about Evernote several times on my blog:
- Putting the “I” in Organized
- Why Use Evernote for Audiobook Pronunciation Research
- Plan Your Work and Work Your Plan
17:38 This site has a good overview about the Myers-Briggs Personality test.
23:07 I had never told people about the reason I played oboe until Daniela asked what drives me. (Didn’t I say that she got me to tell all?!) I mentioned being able to stand out in high school band by playing oboe in this article about listening to the still small voice.
After the call concluded, I wrote in the Narrators Cup of Joe Facebook group:
I realized I said “I don’t audition well.” I am going to speak affirmations to change that negative energy so that my grade school past doesn’t become my narrator future!
36:36 The article I wrote when I finally left my day job was 5 Quick Tips for Following Your Dreams.
38:31 The book I discussed was Barbara Sher’s I Could Do Anything If I Only Knew What it Was: How to Discover What You Really Want and How to Get It. I’ve written several articles that reference Sher’s books:
- How to lose friends and irritate people
- Creating your roadmap to success
- Every passion does not lead to a career choice
40:13 Drew and I dished about how we met in this 2:28 video we created to promote an audiobook we narrated together.
43:07 Volunteering as a reader for your state’s reading service for visually impaired people helps you grow skills and provides a needed service to the community.
1:01:36 I use a lot of shortcuts and automation to get more things done, as I described in this article.
1:05:56 I placed these reminders on my office desk to help prevent the distractions of social media from negatively taking root in my spirit. Left to right, they say:
Find joy in every journey. Laugh.
I have arrived. (You can make Bart Simpson write your own message on his chalkboard at this site.Take a screen shot and print the picture for your own reminder.)
Run your own race.
1:08:08 If you also want to read Nancy Cartwright’s columns in Animation World Network, let me point out:
- She wrote about “deciding to win an Emmy” in this one in the last section The Moral to the Story?.
- After she surveyed her readers in 2008, she printed an excerpt from my response in item #4 of this column.
- She also graciously wrote me a personal and meaningful email in reply to my survey answers! I actually got to thank her for her fantastic advice 10 years later at That’s Voiceover in 2018! Naturally, I took copious notes in Evernote of her talk and Q&A that day. (Being able to share my Evernote pages on-line is one of over 30 ways I use Evernote on my job.)
1:11:02 In this article, I quoted Eckhart Tolle’s profound statements about giving out what you think you lack as a reason to create your own projects.
1:13:18 If you’re interested in the power of affirmation spoken to that face you see in the mirror, I highly recommend Louise Hay’s book Mirror Work: 21 Days to Heal Your Life.
1:17:59 My travels have inspired a number of my articles, including:
- 10 Business Tips From My Day at the Great Pyramids
- Shining the light on pitches to prospects
- Cruising for a competitive advantage
- 5 marketing lessons from Ralph the artist
1:18:50 OF COURSE I’ve written about and posted pictures of Barry Manilow on my blog, mostly about him as a marketing example we can all follow!
- Hollywood Star Search
- 3 Cs of Branding Illustrated by Barry Manilow
- 3 Cs? Make that *4Cs* of Branding Illustrated by Barry Manilow (this one includes an audio clip where I actually got to SPEAK with THE MAN!)
I really enjoyed my far-reaching conversation with Daniela and hope that you did, too!
I recently was approached by a person who wanted to translate some of NarratorsRoadmap.com for their site. I decided to share my response here with the hope it inspires others to create your own original material. Also, long-time readers know that I re-purpose my writing as often as possible to extend its life and broaden the audience for it.
I didn’t just gather info for my site. I wrote most of it, which took considerable time and effort, not to mention the years spent in gaining the knowledge to start with.
Everything on my site is my copyrighted material with a few exceptions:
- A good number of the links and most of the embedded videos point to copyrighted info on other sites. Many of the articles and videos I link to are mine!
- Some narrators and producers have generously given me permission to republish their copyrighted words in my Knowledge Base articles.
Copyright owners have the rights to control how their work goes forth in the world, including:
- derivative products like translations
My aim is to create more content, not translate what I’ve already done.
If I decide in the future to translate the site, I would hire the translators and own the translated text. Such translations would only appear on my site.
I therefore am declining any request to translate any part of my site.
Note: I hold the same policy about my blog articles on this site but have given permission for my articles to be re-published as written and with link and attribution.
However, I would encourage you to think about how you could create and share your own original material.
We all have unique experiences, views, and ways of expressing ourselves, even when we’re talking about the same topic. You could write a blog, produce a podcast, create videos, design inspirational/informative graphics, etc. You could create a variety of things as it suits you and your purpose.
When I worked my day job in IT, users and my peers considered me an expert. I helped other system admins solve technical problems and taught the users how their software and hardware worked.
I began working in VO in 1999 and started my first advice page on my site in 2002. I have been writing my blog since 2006. As I shared posts, people in the industry got to know and trust me through my blog. Soon, people began referring others to my blog.
NarratorsRoadmap.com is an extension not only of my blog and advice I’d given online and in emails for years, but of my personality and whole approach to being of service.
My point is: If you start creating and sharing your own content, you never know where it will lead!
I found Austin Kleon’s book Show Your Work! 10 Ways to Share Your Creativity and Get Discovered to be VERY helpful and inspirational in connecting the dots about growing an audience. Basically, he contends — and I agree — that If you can think of ways to document things about your work processes, an interested audience will make its way to you.
Let me know if you create something along these lines. I may want to link to you!
Material in the public domain belongs to ALL of us. You can use public domain material for any purpose you want without licensing it or paying royalties to anyone.
Public domain books are a boon to creative, entrepreneurial narrators! I made a video course exclusively for members of my NarratorsRoadmap.com site called Create Your Own Path. The first video discusses how to research the copyright information to determine whether a book is in the public domain. (I would be remiss if I didn’t also point out that the course has its own set of resources, including collections of public domain books I’ve created for members to peruse for possible projects!)
When planning your cover art for public domain books, consider these quotes pulled from this Publishers Weekly article about publishing new editions of public domain texts:
“It’s been 95 years since they were published in the United States — so we’re thinking about how we can present them as fresh and relevant.”
“The design process for reimagining classic covers also requires a special sort of attention…You just need a cover that’s going to jump out from all the other covers.”
“I always feel it’s important to create covers for classic authors that they would appreciate. I think it’s really important to be respectful of the text.”
Many people who create audiobooks from public domain texts also look to use public domain artwork for their audiobook covers. I’ve done that with a number of books, including:
I found the image for JAILED FOR FREEDOM on the Library of Congress site. The sun on THE DYNAMIC LAWS OF PROSPERITY came from NASA.
You may even need to layer images to achieve the look you want. In the case of SO BIG, my cover designer found a perfect antique, public domain painting of the woman standing in the cabbage field. Meanwhile, I found a modern photograph of a farm boy squatting in a field on a commercial site of stock images. I bought the picture for around $15 and then used Photoshop to place him in the image of the painting with Photoshop. I used a number of filters and effects to give him the same look as the original painting.
Since I’ve seen a number of posts from narrators looking for sources of public domain illustrations, I thought I’d curate a handy list for all of us! Note that I’m not including the plethora of sites with modern stock images or that may charge fees for usage.