By Teresa Burrell
Recently, Jenny Hilborne posted here about audiobooks, but because of the market share they seem to be taking up, I think it’s worth another look.
A few years ago I sat down to my computer and I read one of my books onto about eight CDs. I did that because my brother wanted to read my books but he couldn’t because he is legally blind. It was a real chore. It was exhausting and it was a lousy rendition, but he loved it.
Now I am in the process of getting my novels professionally narrated for audiobooks. I have to tell you that my experience of making the CDs for my brother really has made me appreciate the narrators that have submitted auditions. I know it’s not an easy task and I don’t begrudge them their hourly fees (they’re not cheap). My problem has been in finding someone who gets the essence of the story. I have listened to some wonderful voices but the cadence just isn’t working for me.
I have had several friends listen to the auditions and most of the time they are all in disagreement about which one they like. Although, no one has yet told me, “That’s the one.” Which confirms my opinion that none of them are what I want. So, I’ll keep looking.
I have absolutely no experience with this sort of thing and after you listen to a lot of them, they all start to sound alike. Fortunately, I have a friend, and fellow author, who used to be in the advertising business. He can listen and tell me what’s wrong with the way it is done. All I know is whether or not I like what I hear. My only expertise comes from the many hours of listening to audiobooks, when I drive, when I walk at the bay, and when I workout. I probably go through two or three books a month, sometimes more. If it weren’t for audiobooks I wouldn’t get much reading done. So I’m thrilled with the way technology has made them so accessible. But I don’t know that what I like is what everyone else will like. My friend has helped me to see why someone may or may not like it.
This whole experience has been one more adventure in this wonderful career I have had the good fortune to have. I feel so lucky to be able to write for a living. And just when I was getting frustrated with this process I think I may have received an audition today that just might be the one. I’m passing it through my beta listeners to see if everyone else feels the same.
Meanwhile, I think I'll take a lesson from Andrew Kaufman.
There, that ought to get me started!
What do like about audiobooks? Have you ever listened to one that you didn’t enjoy because the voice wasn’t right? What is it you like to hear in a voice reading to you?
I've been waiting to get my "full read" or whatever it's called from my narrator, selected primarily by my granddaughter. I'm prepared to not have my book read exactly word for word, and to hear some inflections in places where I didn't hear them in my head when I wrote the sentence. What I am hoping for is a good story, told in a voice that's easy to listen to.ReplyDelete
I've only listened to a handful of audiobooks, so can't say I've ever heard one that wasn't right. The only exception was an Alex Cross that wasn't Morgan Freeman. It took a little getting used to, but it worked.
I've never listened to an audiobook, except for a few minutes of the first Jackson book. I couldn't make up my mind whether I liked it or not.ReplyDelete
But for The Trigger, I'll be going through the same process, and I appreciate the advice about involving a group of beta readers in the decision. Listening is even more subjective than reading.
That's true, LJ, because now you've taken the reader one more level away.Delete
I would suggest you try to get some beta readers who regularly listen to audiobooks if you can in the mix.
I expect to have places in the story where the inflection won't be what I intended, but the narrator has to get the essence of the story. I've heard a few "bad" ones. When that happens, I find myself listening to the voice instead of the story. It throws me out and that's not good.ReplyDelete
You definitely get inflection where you don't expect it. It's fascinating hearing how someone else interprets your story. Then there's accents.....we've chatted a bit about that, T. If your story has any kind of accents, decide carefully if you want your narrator to do them.Delete
Thanks for the additional info and insights into audiobook production, Teresa! All interesting!ReplyDelete
How many of you here have at least one audiobook available now?ReplyDelete
I started listening to a thriller audiobook, but the male voice trying to do female characters in a falsetto was so disturbing, I couldn't finish it. I loved one by Susan Elizabeth Phillips (the lady reading it did a fabulous job, and you could kind of hear how much fun she was having reading it). And I listened to another that had oddly pronounced words and felt like it was being read much too slowly, and that was very distracting.ReplyDelete
My thoughts on that as a reader: choosing the person who will read the book aloud is probably the most important part of doing an audiobook.
I absolutely agree, Susan. That's what has made this so difficult. I hope I get it right.Delete
I'm in the process of producing the audiobook version of my latest thriller, CRESCENDO. I took a different route and will be producing the recording through my media company. I was fortunate enough to book TV and film actress Christina Cox. She has a fantastic alto voice and with numerous acting credits know that she's a very talented actress. Will also be recorded at Costa Mesa Studios, primarily because they have produced more than 50 audiobooks. This route is costly, but I will absolutely know the end result from selecting the talent to deciding on final edits. Best of luck with your release, Teresa! Can't wait to listen!ReplyDelete
I think that is fabulous, Deborah. I would like to do that, but it's not looking very likely. I'm excited to hear your finished product. I know it will be great.Delete
Thanks for a different perspective on this whole thing.
As both a writer and an audiobook narrator I understand the frustration of a narrator not getting it the way we think it. The difficulty is that it is highly unlikely we'll ever hear it exactly as we imagined. Same reason a movie version of a book is seldom as satisfying as the book on which it is based.ReplyDelete
I assume, and correct me if I am wrong, that those of you who are talking about choosing your narrators are either self-producing the audio version of your books or going through ACX.com. ACX is a terrific program, especially in that it does give great leeway to the author in those choices.
In my experience with major publishers, the author very seldom gets any choice of narrators. The audio-publisher usually buys the audio-rights and all the writer can do is hold their breath, pray and hope for the best. This is part of the reason why I narrate all of my own titles.
Publishers are also pushing these audiobooks on very tight schedules, as in just a few days from selecting narrator, to a finished product. Which means we seldom get to prep or pre-read a book before going live with a ‘cold-read’ in the studio. Therefore, if any of your book's characters speak with an accent, or if your book has any odd or uncommon words it is immensely helpful to point them out before production begins. While a pronunciation of a word may seem obvious to the author, there is no guarantee it will be anything close to obvious to the narrator. This is especially frequent with Sci-Fi and Fantasy where there are a lot of made-up words.
And regarding accents: There is nothing as disheartening for a narrator to have read two hundred fifty pages of a three hundred page novel using a straight American accent for a major character that appears on almost every page and then see a dialogue tag that says something like....
"It's fine day to be out on the moors," the familiar thick Scottish brogue sounded wonderful, producing the same war feeling it did every time he spoke.
Talk about a heart break. This is not a hypothetical scenario by the way…it happened to a friend not too long ago.
Whoa ...looks back at what loquacious commenter just typed…that’s a lot of stuff in a blog comment…I will stop now.
Next week I’ll be chatting it up as a guest blogger here on this very topic and am looking forward to answering any questions you might have. As a matter of fact, in the lead up to my blog post for the 26th, if you have any specific questions you’d like answered or points you'd like considered regarding audiobooks send it to me at basil (at) basilsands (dot) com and I will try to incorporate it into the post and/or discussion.
Have a wonderful rest of the whatever part of the current measurement of time you are now enjoying, and the following on bits of said time with whomever, if anyone, you are sharing it with presently or in the future.
uh ... correction...Delete
that Scottish brogue was supposed to produce a "warm feeling" ...
I'm in the throes of getting my latest book on audio through ACX and am working with a lovely narrator, Aria McKenna. She has just the kind of young-sounding voice needed for this project. One important thing I learned in working with ACX is that they pay a stipend up to $2500 to the narrator, which makes it a lot easier to get a good one to work with you if you aren't able to lay out the money for hourly rates.ReplyDelete
Now the big question is, how do you market audiobooks, which seems to be different from marketing print or e-books?
Interesting and informative, both the post and the comments. (A brogue goes well with a single malt.) Thanks.ReplyDelete