Join Voice Over Expert and award-winning narrator Scott Brick in his debut podcast “How To Get Started in Audiobook Narration.” Scott emphasizes the importance of an audiobook demo, details how to go about making it and refers listeners to a number of great resources that will help them further develop their audiobook narration skills and passion for voice over.
Scott Brick, Audiobooks, Narration, Narrator, Scott Brick Presents
Transcript of How To Get Started in Audiobook Narration
Julie-Ann Dean: Welcome to Voiceover Experts brought to you by Voices.com, the number one voiceover marketplace. Voiceover Experts brings you tips, pearls of wisdom and techniques from top instructors, authors and performers in the field of voiceover. Join us each week to discover tricks of the trade that will help you to develop your craft and prosper as a career voiceover talent. It’s never been easier to learn, perform, and succeed from the privacy of your own home and your own pace. This is truly an education you won’t find anywhere else.
Now for our special guest.
Scott Brick: Scott Brick presents how to break in to narration or an audiobook narrator shares the extent of his knowledge on creating a demo to crack the doorway into the world of audiobooks by Scott Brick.
Okay, I’m asked constantly how people can get started in the business of audiobook narration and for the last six months or so, I’ve been promising everyone that I’m writing a blog on just that subject so if they’ll just check my website regularly, they’ll find the advice they’re looking for. Well, it’s taken me way yonder too long and all those people are probably sick and tired of checking back by now but I’m finally doing what I committed to so long ago.
This is it, my advice on how to break in to this industry. The most important thing just like with any type of voiceover work, you’re going to need a demo to send off to publishers. But those who have never heard of this, a demo is just a short collection of vocal tracks all dolled up in a pretty package to best convey the idea that you are the person who should be reading the next novel by Stephen King or Daniel Steele. It’s essentially an audition in abscencia and the common tool in the voiceover community and in fact, many, if not most aspiring VO artists already have one. Here’s the bad news though. For those of you who already have one, your standard VO demo won’t help you book an audiobook gig. Sorry, it just won’t.
Voiceovers are short form whereas narrating a book is about the longest form you can get. You’re going to need an audiobook demo specifically created to show off those long form skills. Now, you may be in denial in thinking you might be the exception to the rule, maybe because your VO demo is so freaking cool that some publisher will just have to listen to it and won’t care that you haven’t sent in the appropriate type. If so, let me tell you. Do not hope for this. A friend of mine who’s in the position to cast new readers all the time told me he tosses VO demos right into the trash unopened no matter how cool your standard voiceover demo, it most likely won’t be heard. Trust me. Go for the audiobook demo.
The first thing you’ll have to do to make your demo will be to choose a minimum of five different genres to read. Why five? Why not just one or two? Well, there’s a lot of different types of books out there and you need to show your adept at reading as many as possible. The genre choices are all up to you. Well, including fiction of some sort is an imperative. The vast majority of audiobooks published today are novels after all so show them what you can do with one. Pick a scene with a mixture of both narrative and dialogue so they can hear how you transition between those two types of writing. Also pick a two person scene between a man and a woman for the exact same reason. The first detail any publisher will be paying attention to is how well this particular male narrator does with women’s voices or female narrator handles males and can he, she transition smoothly between them.
A smattering of non-fiction is also a good idea, biography, history, current events, religious or self-help are good ideas too. The genres and sub-genres to choose from are endless, children’s, young adult, science fiction, thrillers, romance. Pick a good variety and make them as a different as possible. Of course after picking the genres then comes the hard part. Which books specifically should you read from? This is the part that stumps everyone I know making their demos, the part where most people spend way too much time worrying but seriously, don’t let this throw you. My advice, pick your favorite book from each of the genres you’ve chosen. It will make a difference. Anyone who has ever recorded a voiceover will know that if you smile while you say something in a recording studio, the listener will hear it in your voice. Well, in the same way, listeners will be able to tell if you’ve got a passion for the book you’re reading. It may not be an overwhelming impression but it will be there and in this business, subtlety is a good thing.
Next up in your decision making process comes the length of each track, how many pages should you read and here, there’s no definitive answer. They can be as short as two minutes in length, as long as five or six. Don’t spend too much time deciding this one. Just practice reading your scenes out loud and see how long they go. If it’s anywhere in the two to six minute range, fine. If not, cut. If you can, pick scenes that have a definite beginning, middle and end because having some kind of resolution in your scene will definitely help you as it will illustrate to potential publishers that you know how to move the story along from start to finish, that you can effectively transition – there’s that word again, between the set-up, the delivery and the payoff.
Your next most important concern will be to find a studio. Many voiceover artists and aspiring narrators have installed their own home set-ups these days and should you know anyone with one, my recommendation would be to beg or barter your way in to theirs. If not, then look in your phonebook or do a quick Google search and find a local set-up. It’s difficult to nail down prices on this so I won’t offer any guesses here because most studios will offer a wide variety of services some of which are vital, other of which you may not need. Tell the studio owner what you’re doing and ask what his rates are. Then, shop around to compare prices. You’ll need him to provide an engineer for the session and edit the final product unless you’re savvy enough to handle that on your own. You may find if you live in Los Angeles or New York that certain studios provide all those services as well as classes that will essentially give you the side benefit of training and direction while you record. It’s entirely up to you whether or not you feel you need this. Don’t be afraid to say, “No thanks.”
When the time comes to actually record your selections, start by slating your name, Scott Brick, audiobook demo. Remember to make this a separate sound file, not the intro to the first track. People should hear your name even if they decide to fast forward to the romance section. You can be creative here in your title but don’t go overboard and when you record your selections, slate each one with a title of the book and the author’s name, “Lake Wobegon” by Garrison Keillor. That’s all you need. Don’t list your name again in the individual genre tracks. It will sound really repetitive by the time someone has heard it five or six times on the same disc. After you’re done slating your selection, give just a two to three second pause before beginning and leave the same length at the end of the selection to help separate it from the track coming immediately after. Make sure the engineer editor you’re working with understands you need this. Otherwise, you’ll finish on a really dramatic high note and it will be followed up immediately by you slating the next title, “Walter The Farting Dog” by – it may sound funny here but you don’t want laughs there.
By the way, I’ve been asked repeatedly if there are any copyright issues to worry about, whether it’s cool to read from somebody else’s book or if applicants should write something original. Don’t worry about copyright. That only applies if you’re selling this demo or broadcasting it somewhere which you’re not. Pick whichever books you want without worry of prosecution. You don’t have to take this next bit of advice as gospel but I hope you will. Enjoy your time in the studio as much as you can. Seriously, reading is a fun gig and you should make the most of it. You also don’t want to sound nervous or distressed. You should sound as though you do this everyday and will do it everyday when whoever hears this demo and hires you starts giving you work.
My last bit of advice on the recording process itself, don’t read all your selections on the same day. Seriously, if you can avoid it and afford it, don’t. They’ll sound too similar and you need them to sound very different not just in tone but in pacing and energy. If you can afford to get into the studio once if time or money is a concern, then make sure each time you finish a track, that you get up and walk around the outside of the building at least once. Otherwise, your energy will be the exact same on each cut and publishers will have a hard time distinguishing between them.
Now that you’ve got all your selections recorded and arranged in the order you want them, you’re pretty much ready to burn it to a CD and yes, CD is the preferred media. The days of cassettes are long past so don’t even think about it and not everyone will take the time to click on the appropriate link to where your demo is waiting to be downloaded from your website. Some publishers will, some won’t but almost all of them will happily accept the CD. Your packing is up to you. You can go quick and cheap or intricate and expensive. That’s what’s known nowadays as branding and unfortunately for our purposes, an entirely different subject.
Fortunately, there are some great resources out there to help you in this if you want to put the time, effort and money into it such as Nancy Wolfson. While I haven’t worked with Nancy personally, I attended a seminar she gave at Voice 2008 here in Los Angeles and she had some pretty powerful ideas about branding. You can contact her website and see if she might be able to help you. She’s at www.BrainTracksAudio.com. Still at the very least, if you’re going to do just a simple label and a clear plastic CD case, make sure you’ve labeled your disc with your name and your contact information. If you go with the CD case label as well, make sure they both have your contact information. God forbid the disc slips out of the case, the case gets lost, the publisher hears the demo and loves it, wants to hire you on the spot but oh no, you had only labeled the case and the disc is blank. At that point, it’s on to the next demo.
Now you might still be asking things like, “But am I ready to make a demo?” or “You mentioned transitioning between narrative and dialogue, between male and female voices. How do I do those things?” Those are separate subjects, alas, and best handled with more interaction. But take heart, there are quality classes you can take, instructors whose opinions and guidance will be invaluable to you. Pat Fraley is an awesome resource and he teaches all over the country so don’t worry if you’re not in LA. I, myself have also jumped into instruction recently and will be available in the near future, either here in LA or via video download. Again, in the near future and you should also definitely contact Stefan Rudnicki and Gabriel Decuir. They are the folks who gave me my start in the audiobook business and better teachers can’t be found anywhere. Pat’s website is a wonderful resource, www.PatFraley.com. There, you’ll even find a free lesson posted, what he refers to as his Ed Asner lesson, www.PatFraley.com/Free/FreeListens.html. Pat can also be reached via e-mail at PatFraleyTeaches@aol.com. Stefan and Gabriel teach in conjunction with Dolores Diehl in the Voiceover Connection whose website you’ll find at www.VOconnection.com. Stefan and Gabriel’s own private website is www.SkyboatRoad.com while their e-mail address is info@SkyboatRoad.com.
Whoever you choose as an instructor can help you with whatever challenges you face while planning or making your demo. Once you’re ready, record it.
I’d like to point out something briefly. The people whose classes or resources I suggest here don’t give me any kind of kickback or gratuity for passing along business to them. I suggest their names only because of my experience working with them. I’ve observed or guest-lectured in both Stefan’s and Pat’s forums and can testify first-hand to their terrific skills at instruction. But don’t feel that you have to go to whomever I suggest. There are other resources out there too. Pick someone you’re comfortable working with, that’s the most important thing. And remember that whomever you want to learn from, even if they’re on the other side of the country and you’re unable to travel to their class, if you ask nicely they might be willing to do private sessions over the phone or perhaps even direct you via speakerphone while you’re in the studio laying down tracks.
Okay, at this point you’re done with your demo, and the question now becomes where to send it? Your best bet is to get AudioFile Magazine’s Audiobook Reference Guide, available from their website, www.AudioFileMagazine.com. It’s got the contact information for every publisher of audiobooks out there. Buy a copy, grab a package of CD mailers from your local office supply store, and start typing up labels or word-processing them. Geez, typing – talk about dating myself.
Okay, one last thing to quickly address, how best to market your demo once you’ve created it. Well, unfortunately, that’s another topic that will have to be addressed in another forum. Marketing is an acquired skill and requires extra effort and planning. I’m more than happy to help you with this as well, but won’t be able to do it here. Instead, I’ll be offering the first of what I hope will be many videos on the subject of audiobook narration available for download here on my website.
The first will be all about how to market yourself, and how to target specific companies where you have the best chance to break in. You’ve gone to the effort to create a kick-ass audiobook demo. Now what do you do with it? How do you package it? And how do you make it work for you? How can you make sure it presents you in the most positive light? Sample topics will include how to write an appropriate introductory letter, which publishers to target, and the most important skill to employ while waiting to hear back. Future topics for this video series will be the specific skills I touched on earlier, how best to differentiate between character voices, how to make dialogue stand out from narration, as well as how to make choices that’ll keep your listeners coming back for more. There’s no release schedule for these videos yet, but I hope you’ll check back in at the website for information. I’m very much looking forward to making them, and I hope they’ll be a help to you.
Well, that’s it. This has been a long blog, but I hope you’ve found it instructive. I hope it leads to fun and rewarding work for all of you. I hope something you learn here will help you to score your first and second, and third audiobook gig, and most importantly, I hope that after you do, you’ll drop me a line and let me know. My email address is scott [at]scottbrickpresents.com, and hearing someone tell me they booked their first job is always the highlight of my day. Thanks for listening, Scott Brick.
Julie-Ann Dean: Thank you for joining us. To learn more about the special guest featured in this Voices.com podcast, visit the Voiceover Experts show notes at Podcasts.Voices.com/VoiceoverExperts. Remember to stay subscribed.
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Your Instructor this week:
Actor, screenwriter and audiobook narrator, Scott Brick definitely gives new meaning to a hyphenate career with credits in film, television, stage and radio.
Born on January 30, 1966 in Santa Barbara, California, Brick studied both acting and writing at UCLA, and joined the ranks of working professionals upon leaving school in 1989. He then spent ten years with the LA-based Will and Company, a traveling Shakespearean company which performed for schools throughout California, in addition to acting in such roles as Cyrano, Hamlet and Macbeth at various playhouses around the country.
Brick went on to become a freelance writer and published articles in magazines such as WIZARD, CREATIVE SCREENWRITING and TOYFARE.
In 2000, he was hired by Morgan Freeman and Revelations Entertainment to adapt Arthur C. Clarke’s classic science-fiction RENDEZVOUS WITH RAMA for the big screen.
Also in 2000, Brick ventured into narrating audiobooks and quickly found himself embraced by the audio world. To date he’s won over 40 Earphones Awards for his narrating skills, as well as the 2003 Audie Award for DUNE: THE BUTLERIAN JIHAD. After recording some 250 titles in five years, AUDIOFILE MAGAZINE named Brick “one of the fastest-rising stars in the audiobook galaxy,” and proclaimed him a Golden Voice. But it was the WALL STREET JOURNAL that sealed the moniker with a front-page article in November, 2004. Having now recorded over 400 titles, Brick has no intention of slowing down. He obviously won’t be happy until he’s recorded every book ever published.
Most recently, he collaborated with famed sci-fi writer Orson Scott Card to adapt a collection of Card’s short stories for the stage, which resulted in the play POSING AS PEOPLE. Brick also completed the production draft of RAMA, set to be directed by David Fincher (SEVEN, ZODIAC).
Brick is currently writing his first novel, a modern-day supernatural thriller based on an 18th-century murder in New England. No word on which celebrities will be asked to record the audiobook.