When the Professional Audiobook Narrators Association (PANA) recently asked me to create a video about my music for its current Get Outta the Booth campaign, I couldn’t start fast enough!
When the obstacle in your way seems to have stopped you in your tracks,
it’s not a failure.
It’s part of what’s calling forth the necessary change
so you can move through, around, over, or under whatever is on your path to success.
— Christian Sørensen
This quote applies to my relationship to public domain books,
Although I started narrating audiobooks in 2002, it wasn’t until ACX launched in 2011 that I really got a foothold in the industry. Prior to that point, the market didn’t exist for a narrator who lived in Atlanta. You either had to be in New York or LA; otherwise, producers didn’t want to talk to you. With ACX, all of the rest of us could have a voice in audiobooks, too.
I soon burned out doing ACX projects since most of them were royalty share books where the rights holder was not promoting the audiobook. (Shameless plug: If you’re interested, I explain how to pick good ACX titles in my webinar Put Yourself in the ACX Drivers Seat, available on my Shop page.)
At the same time, I wasn’t getting traction with publishers. I decided to start recording more public domain books.
Public domain (PD) books are those where the copyright has expired. They belong to all of us, and anybody can do anything they want to with a book that’s in the public domain.
Over time, I’ve kind of become what I think of as the Public Domain Whisperer™️. I regularly search Hathitrust.org for interesting PD books. I often find a book that I think would be a good one for another narrator to do, so I send the link and the suggestion to them.
I’ve been gratified by the enthusiastic and excited responses to my finds. One experienced and award-winning narrator told me I had set them on a new path, and they’ve won a number of awards for their PD productions!
This article will be my Public Domain Narration Headquarters. I’ll start with ten reasons why I love, love, LOVE recording and publishing public domain books. Plus, check out the resources list below as well as the comments, where I answer your questions!
I’ve been receiving Mike Dooley’s daily Notes from the Universe for years. I’ve taken some of his courses, and I enjoy how he presents material on the Law of Attraction.
I signed up for his Magical Mystery Manifesting Adventure, which began today. Each day in the 21 days, he and co-presenter Pam Grout will send an email with a secret mission of something to manifest.
When I read today’s assignment of a feather, I thought of a peacock feather. If you read my last blog post or saw this tweet or this Facebook post of a my picture of a real peacock, you might think I have a fondness for peacocks! I thought a feather would be unusual to find.
Drew and I were on our way to pick up something we had ordered. It was Friday lunchtime traffic on a major road that is always congested.
I saw we were about to drive by a flea market I like but haven’t shopped in for a year or more. It’s one of those places that used to be a grocery store but is now filled with several hundred vendors who sell everything from baseball cards to crystal chandeliers. Some of the booths contain so much merchandise that you can’t see everything and have difficulty even walking in. I fear one wrong move will send some precarious piece crashing to the floor.
I said I’d like to stop there. His first inclination was that it was too difficult to turn left out of its parking lot to get to the store. I said I had no business at the flea market and wasn’t looking for anything in particular. We should go on to our destination.
As we turned on the street by the flea market, I commented that we could’ve turned right out of the parking lot and gone only a little bit out of the way to the store. He offered to turn around, but I stubbornly said to keep going where we were headed.
He said again he could turn around because he knew I’d want to go to the flea market.
Reader, that wonderful man I married DID turn around, drove back to the flea market, and parked in front of the door.
I usually like to walk up and down every aisle, taking a quick look left and right to see everything crammed in all the stalls. I skipped a couple of aisles to avoid other shoppers and thought about leaving and returning some weekday when fewer people would be there.
I had not told Drew about the feather assignment.
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.