Why Try A New Genre at This Point in My Career?
You might be wondering, as a full time voice actor with pretty stellar commercial bookings, why would I go after a new, and frankly uniquely different genre now? Well, if you are new to my blog you might not know that my twins left for college this year. So at the age of 45 I became an empty nester in the snap of a finger. My life was turned upside down and for someone life me downtime is not desirable. I need to be busy every second. The notion of learning a new skill set, something I could get lost in and spend hours studying, became very appealing. When I started in voice over many years ago, long before I ever had a single client, I looked at the study of the craft of commercial voice over as my full-time job. It served me well. My passion for a given genre can lead me to success when I apply that passion to the detailed study of it. So, non-fiction audio books, here I come!
Working With an Awesome Coach
As a voice over coach myself, I can tell you that learning from a top coach is essential to success. I started to work with Sean Pratt. He is a perfect fit for me. If you don’t know Sean, he has a very specific curriculum. He takes you through both the craft or study of how to work on the copy, and also teaches you about the business side of audiobooks. I LOVE my lessons with Sean. I love the homework he gives. I can actually feel myself learning. I very much enjoy working through the assignments. The challenge, the struggle, is something I have not had for years. His curriculum is excellent. I am confident that next year, after going through all of the lessons, I will be prepared to work in audiobooks.
Applying the Skills
In our last session Sean told me it is time to start putting myself out there and auditioning on ACX. Sean advised me that I need to get titles under my belt. Fortunately, I have a sense of where my voice fits in and what kind of texts I want to read. I seem to have a decent booking ratio here too, and in the first two weeks I actually booked two books. After doing my elated happy dance in the booth and celebrating with my husband, the real work of recording the books began!
What I didn’t Know…. The Tech
Well, if I thought I was learning a lot from Sean in terms of technique and craft, I can’t tell you how much I learned from actually working on a book. Initially I began marking my script in iAnnotate just as Sean recommend. I was using my trusty Apple Pencil and quite happy. I realized I needed help with iAnnotate so I paid for Karen Commins’ videos. They are outstanding by the way, as are all of her resources, and if you are new to audiobooks like me her website is a must visit!
Organizing the audio and staying organized was the next part of the learning. I found myself writing notes both on the iPad and in my booth. I also found myself creating lots of different subfolders in dropbox that were new to me due to the length of the audio.
I was quite pleased with everything and it was time to upload it into ACX when I hit my first major snag. ACX has something that analyzes your audio when you upload it. I had processed it same as I always do for commercials and eLearning. The same stacks that make producers all over the world happy got flagged. I learned about something called and RMS and apparently my number was too high, which actually meant my sound was too low. If you are on Twisted Wave, this is the meter on the right side. Well, I was in a panic. I had no idea what to do.
All these years as a full time talent and it was like I was starting over. I was at a total loss. I called an engineer who does commercial and explainers and he told me to normalize it. I did that and I was still not within the range. If an engineer who went to college and graduate school for this couldn’t help, how on earth would I sort this out? I went to YouTube and I did find videos with others talking about the issue, but most of them used Audacity or Audition as their DAW, not Twisted Wave.
In the midst of my break down in the booth, I heard from a friend and fellow coach Jack de Golia. G-d his timing was good. He told me I needed to reach out to George Whittam (AKA George the Tech) for a specific stack just for audio books. Hallelujah. There was hope in site. If you don’t know George, you can actually pay for 911 emergency service to get bumped to the front of the line in cases like this, otherwise it takes about a week.
I got online and both emailed and Facebook messaged George. George is a G-d-send, and angel, and a genius all wrapped up in one. To me delight he was available and helped me right away. I followed the steps of sending my audio and my gear. George followed up, within the hour, (I actually think it was less) of sending me a stack and a video just for me about how to work with all of this.
I got lucky. George happened to be free when I needed him and I had a friend who could point me in the right direction. Crisis averted! This is the very short abridged version of the story that skips the details of missed dinner, a very supportive husband who tried hard to do what he could, and me acting like a toddler having a tantrum. The good news is that very night I submitted the book to the ACX specs. I wish I could say I behaved better, but I did learn so much!