Tag Archive for voiceover community

Audiobook Narrators need Narratic!

I try not to write posts that are too restricted in content, but when I saw the neat tool that Craig had developed for narrators, I knew I had to sit down with him and capture the details and story behind what Narratic was and how he came up with it. I love to connect with innovators and see how they do what they do. If you’re a narrator and interested in your reviews, this is a great aggregate service! Hope you enjoy!

1. Narratic! What does it do? 

Narratic tracks your audiobook ratings and reviews automatically. New reviews are sent in a daily (or weekly) email digest, or you can view all your recent ratings and reviews on one page on the site. No more sorting through all your titles individually on Audible! Narratic can also notify you of new releases, and report detailed statistics on your titles (e.g., how many five star reviews you have total). Besides checking in on listener feedback, it’s a great tool to compile review quotes for marketing.

2. How did you come up with the idea?

As a narrator myself, I’m a compulsive review-checker. As my list of titles grew, it became really time-consuming to look through all my titles and search for new ratings and reviews. I have a tech background so I decided to make my computer do the hard work. I’ve been using a simpler version of Narratic just for myself for a couple years. When I mentioned my system to other narrators, they expressed interest in using it. So I worked on and off for a year to fully develop it into a website and make it public.

3. Do you run the back end yourself?

Yes! I’m a one man band. I’ve always been a bit of a hobby software engineer.

4. You’ve got quite a good array of features already, do you have any plans for expansion?

Yes, absolutely! The next big feature is adding Audiofile review notifications to the site. More features are also in the works.
5. A lot of your fellow narrators have mentioned marketing to authors, is that in the works?
Narratic is definitely aimed toward narrators and other audiobook industry folks, since it only tracks audiobooks, but authors who have a strong audiobook presence would absolutely find it useful.

The Memes are Lying to You

There is a common cultural trend nowadays, to ignore the ‘haters’ in life. I’ve seen a thousand colorful pictures with trite sayings explaining how only your dreams matter, how everyone who tells you no is trying to drag you down, and to not allow those people ‘power over you.’. Of course it’s very true that there are always people who are negative for no reason, who do harm and intend to do nothing less. But the ‘ignore the haters’ trend can very easily be taken too far.

In the voiceover industry, there have been tectonic shifts over the past 20 years or so. What was once an industry exclusively conducted in professional studios has now morphed into an army of at home talent who buy some equipment, hang some blankets, and record some stuff. There are those who regard this trend with somewhat of a jaundiced eye, seeing raving packs of lowballers and people who are diluting the market. Others may view things more charitably, seeing it as an opportunity to expand the market, and allow more flexibility in terms of how the work is done.

Where these two trends intersect is in the way that some voice talent ferociously defend how they do things. Whether it’s low rates, or artistic choices in audiobook prep, these people will fight to the death that their choices are just as valid as the anyone else’s and no one can deny them the right to do whatever they like.

But there’s a few points I think those folks are missing:

  1. It isn’t personal.

    No one is attacking you. Seriously. It may seem like people are lining up to take potshots at you, but I promise you, I have met hundreds of voice talent in my 5 years doing this, and the vast majority of them are really nice people. In most industries, the kind of advice and real world experience that you can draw upon FOR FREE would cost you a great deal of money. People want to help. What they are sharing are things that already work, because most of the folks who are sharing often in those groups are working professionals. No, you don’t have to robotically follow their advice, but it can really pay off to carefully consider their thoughts and experience, because this is about more than your choices, this is about your business in a whole. Do you really want to dismiss this, and lose out on the chance to reach your goals faster?

  1.   This is real world advice.

When you ignore or dismiss advice from working pros, you’re not ignoring words from people who are rich and famous and have no connection to the regular working stiff. Each and every one of those people have worked their way from beginner to pro by tenaciously pursuing excellence and craft, and learning every step of the journey. Yes, there is bad advice out there–vet your advice! If someone is well regarded, knowledgeable, and experienced, you can find out pretty quickly with a few questions and some quick searches. If someone is promising you the world when you do this or that thing, or if you pay them lots of money? Yeah, that you can ignore. But when someone who is living and working where you want to be with your career gives you advice? Step outside of yourself, quiet your ego, and listen.

  1. Ignore your ego.

As I’ve said above, there are plenty of people online and in the real world who are negative just for the sake of being so. But, the majority of opinion and action isn’t something to shrug off for ‘your way’. What experience and background do you have to substantiate your opinion? Where is your expertise? I’m not saying these things to dismiss you-again, as above, this isn’t personal. However, if you can look at the bigger picture, if you can step outside of yourself, and truly become humble and learn, you can find success much more quickly and thoroughly than you will driving yourself very quickly in the wrong direction.

  1. What ARE your goals?

Fundamentally, the higher end voice hirers DO have standards. There are specific things that you will need to approach those people, and it isn’t negotiable. Do you want to do voiceover as a sideline? A few extra dollars here and there? Then keep doing what you’re doing. Keep ignoring those ‘haters’. But if you want more, if you want success, then ignoring those who came before is going to get you nowhere. It’s not that you have to do the same thing, creativity and innovation are certainly both valid and valuable, but defending your views against all comers, accusing and finger pointing, and not accepting the validity of someone else’s ideas at any cost? You’re going to have a hard time creating that career.

  1. Beware of ripples.

We are a connected community. Although you may not see the voiceover hirers in the Facebook groups, there are some there. And more importantly, if you are known as a jerk in the community, people aren’t going to forget, and your reputation will suffer. Perhaps you don’t worry about what other voice talent might think of you. Well, that’s valid, except for one magic word. Referrals. I know quite a few talent who refer work to others, and who seek out people of particular voice niches. (Accents, bilingual talents, etc) who are reliable to use as names for their clients. And you never know who will hear or see something. Things on the internet don’t go away, and something you said weeks, months, or years ago, can easily come back to haunt you.
In conclusion, there is more. There is more than you, there is more than your opinion, more than the current state of your business, more than the obvious and immediate consequences for your actions. Thought, consideration, and reason can lead you away from some serious roadblocks you can create for yourself.

Intake Form Question

Hey guys! I’m working on an intake form for new clients, and I was looking for some opinions. What do you think of what I have below? Is it easy to understand and sensible? I’d love to hear any comments or suggestions on what I’ve written, or if you think I could add anything more to help clarify things for both parties involved. Please feel free to leave comments, or to email me at [email protected]

 

Hello! Thank you for your interest in scheduling a project with me. Below are a few questions I need you to answer for us to begin. Please deliver to me raw mono .wav files if possible.

 

  1. Project Length? Hours/minutes if possible, or word count if not.
  2. Your project is
    1. Editing
    2. Proofing
    3. Editing/Proofing
    4. Editing/Proofing/Mastering to ACX Specs
    5. Clerical Work
    6. Other
  1.  You need it by ________Date. Time Zone?
  2.  File delivery format?
  3. For clerical work or any other type of non editing/proofing work, please explain in detail everything you’re looking for for the project, the date you would like it turned around by, and if the project you have in mind is ongoing work.   

 

For audiobook editing/mastering/proofing:

 

I will edit through your book, noting pickups in either a) highlighted notes in the script or b) an excel spreadsheet with columns denoting the specific elements of the error. When removing breaths and mouth noise, I will remove the loudest and most bothersome, prioritizing noises in the silence. I won’t remove all mouth noise, or all breaths. Breaths will be removed for a) flow b) noise c) gasping. Mastering consists of manipulating the file until it reaches ACX specs. Please send me raw mono wav files.

 

For short form editing/proofing:

Please let me know clearly any file specs, file naming conventions, and breath/mouth noise removal needed for the particular project. Please also let me know what format to return the completed files in, and if it needs to be separated into smaller slides.

 

For proofing:

I will deliver notes either in a highlighted script, or in an excel spreadsheet with columns denoting the specific elements of the error. I will listen for script deviation, noises, or general mispronunciations and character voice mistakes. For character names or unusual genre names, I will listen for pronunciation consistency, and let you know of any changes. Please let me know if there are any other specific elements you would like me to keep an ear out for.

 

For Clerical Work:
If you don’t know exactly what you need, please call me and we can line up your specific needs and requirements for your project.

The Faffcon Community

I wrote this a while ago. By the time this posts, registration for Faff 9 will have already happened, but I wanted to share the love of my ‘tribe’ here on my blog. 

Every time Faffcon approaches, I can’t help but find myself thinking about my history with this unconference, and everything it has meant to me. Faffcon was the spark that started my business, the reason that I’m sitting here writing to you, and one of the catalysts that changed my life.

Six years ago, I was working in a grocery store chain in NC, living with my brother Eric Souer. To make a long story short, this was a store that put profits over people, and although I made okay money, I was never happy there. I’m not their ideal type of worker-physically fast and efficient-so it was not the best situation all around. Our Dad, Bob Souer came to visit, and he said, “Eric and Karen, you’re coming with me to Faffcon.”

I had no idea what this Faffcon thing was. And I remember feeling very uncertain about the whole situation, I was going to a place where I didn’t know anyone, had no idea what was going to happen, and Dad had just said that maybe people would hire me to do the sorts of things that I had always helped him with. (A little writing, a little editing, that kind of thing.)

My biggest memory from that first Faffcon (Faffcon 2 in Atlanta) was the kindness that people showed me. None of them knew who I was. (Some people had met Eric, but I’d never met any of them.) But all greeted me enthusiastically, and were interested in who I was and what I had to say. I remember going home from the event, on fire and excited to see where I could take this brainful of ideas that I had. Fast forward to the present day, and I am a different, much happier person, enjoying a reasonable amount of success.

But over the years, the thing that truly astonished me was the community that developed from the conference. Friendships were created, businesses grew one another, many people lifted one another up through challenges in both work and personal life. There are strong divisive, dividing elements in our society today, and it has been truly astonishing to see the kind of strong, communal vibe that has developed.

In 2012, after Faffcon 5, Lori Taylor created a Facebook group, Faffcon friends. This group has had a strong element in keeping the community together, and bringing folks together to tap group knowledge, share, or to ask questions. It gives people a place to talk to one another between events, and it’s been a pleasure to watch all the positive interaction. Lori eventually turned the administrator role in the group over to me, and it’s been an interesting job, to say the least!

I decided early on to limit the group to people that have already attended a Faffcon. The reason for that is the intensely personal stuff that is often shared in the group-health struggles, life issues, and the like. I wanted anyone in the group to understand the nature of a Faffcon, the lowering of barriers, to keep it unlike other groups, to folks that “get it”.

One of the phrases often used at Faffcon is ‘a rising tide lifts all boats’. The community is proof of that, and it has been a valuable experience to get to watch it grow over the last five years, and change with the addition of new members with new ideas. My hope for the future is that it can continue to be a place where the good of the group is a big part of what goes on. Through Amy and Lauren, Connie and Pam and everyone who’s ever attended, we have created something unique, in terms of the community, and that it should be nurtured and taken care of, even 2 years from now when the event is no longer happening. Our industry doesn’t have water coolers or company picnics, so what we have is something to hold on to. May it always endure, and continue to spread and bring in new people.

Outsourcing Survey Responses 2

In my last post, I covered the first couple responses to my outsourcing survey of last year. I decided that I wanted to get to know my customer base better, and to understand the thought process between hiring out vs not hiring out. I made a point to offer as many responses as I could think of, and was completely fascinated by what I learned.

Question 3. What kind of outsourcing would you be interested in? 

The big winner for this question was, unsurprisingly, editing. 74% of respondents picked that choice. (I did allow multiple responses, though.) Proofing was next with 53%, and mastering right behind with 45%. That trifecta makes up a lot of outsourcing work, since it is time consuming and many people like to spend that time behind the microphone! Research came in at 35%, which didn’t surprise me. I’ve done a number of those projects, and people love having some of the leg work taken out of finding new clients or more information.

23% were interested in social media content writing, and 17% in content posting, which is a task I enjoy but don’t get to do all that often. The hardest thing about posting online is finding something to say consistently, and I enjoy the challenge of coming up with language that ‘fits’ the personality of the client. 14% weren’t sure what they were looking for, but wanted to talk through ideas, and 4% wanted something not on my list.

Question 4. If you do outsource currently, where do/did you find your help?

Last but not least (other than my request for contact information for follow up) was my curiosity about where people found their help. I was raised as VO help, thanks to having a dad in the business, but I know that there are quite a lot of other ways to connect with someone to help you. 3% of respondents found their person on Upwork, or their local college respectively. 20% trained a friend or family member. (Represent!) 49% of people found their help through word of mouth, which makes a lot of sense. The community is certainly communicative! 29% connected with help on line, and 25% picked ‘other’ as far as their method of communication went.

 

I’m glad I finally got a chance to touch on this interesting survey for my blog, and I hope that you’ve enjoyed learning a little bit about the answers I got from our colleagues. I know I certainly did!

Pronounceology Interview

Hey guys! Adam Verner, a very fine audiobook narrator and a fellow Faffer has come up with a great tool for narrators called Pronounceology. As soon as I saw him post about it, I knew I had to get the lowdown on such a great idea and how he came up with it! Here’s all the details about this site, which will make your future research way easier!
1. Pronounceology! What is it? (And where did you come up with the name?)
In a nutshell, Pronounceology is a tool that hooks into the backend of major online dictionaries and pronunciation resources like Merriam Webster, Oxford, and ForVO to provide bulk pronunciations and definitions.  It also acts as a kind of “home base” for research on the web, allowing you to save reports or words you’re looking into, the source URL for pronunciation, phonetic spellings, and any research notes.  I’m hoping it will be kind of like a Swiss Army Knife for research, with as many import and export options as possible.  Right now you can import a spreadsheet or CSV with page numbers, simply paste in a list of words, or import notes from iAnnotate (it’ll pull out just your highlighted terms).  Other PDF sources can be supported in the future if they’re popular enough or in demand.  Other dictionaries can be added down the line, as long as they have an API (Application Program Interface), which is a way for programs to access databases.  Those will form the core functionality of the tool, since that’s the way to search for a whole list of terms at one time.  There are also prebuilt search links for you to go find an obscure pronunciation.  For example, a lot of proper names and places aren’t in standard dictionary databases, so I’ve included links to a search in YouGlish.com or YouTube interviews.  If you’re looking for how to pronounce Richard Cytowic’s last name, for example, clicking a link will take you to a YouTube search for “Richard Cytowic interview.”
The other cool component will be exporting just the phonetics you need back to you source PDF or manuscript.  I know all narrators work differently, and my hope is that the tool is flexible enough to cover many different types of workflows. I’ve always kept my research in a spreadsheet as it’s easy for a proof listener to follow along, but that’s meant I’ve had to cut and paste by hand every set of phonetics back into the appropriate page of the PDF for seamless narrating. Pronounceology will do that for me, though I may want or need to go back through the script to adjust the placing of the text.
As far as the name goes, “ology” means “the study of,” and I often find narrating challenging titles is almost like a study of pronunciation.  Other times, it’s like a Sherlock Holmesian tracking down of elusive vocabulary!
2. Where did you get the idea to create Pronounceology
Basically, I’m a total dork.  But really, I love words, automation, and optimization.  If there’s any way for me to save keystrokes and time and get back to what my true passion is – narrating books – I go for it.  I’m always writing macros on my computer to automate invoicing or perform repetitive tasks.  I’ve longed for something like this to exist for years, and finally decided I should just build it!  There are plenty of great resources out there for pronunciation, but as far as I could tell, no tool that allows you to import in bulk, or multiple terms at a time.  For some titles I would be spending hours and hours tracking down pronunciations, and not every publisher pays you for that time or helps you with it.
3. Are you running the back end yourself? 
No, I’m working with a great developer, formerly with HP.  After interviewing many, many different freelance programmers and full development firms I finally found a great fit, someone who “gets it,” and brings his own ideas to the table.  As of now we’re running in Node.js and totally boosting the runtime environment with a flux capacitor.
4. From what you’ve posted, I see that it’s primarily intended for audiobook narrators, but have you ever thought about elearning pronunciation?
Oh yes indeed!  I’m starting with the audio book industry since that’s my full time job and the community I know the best, but this tool could be useful for literally anyone that needs pronunciations.  eLearning, other voice over, and most importantly, the ESL and language learners market are next on the list.  I’m even hoping to partner with schools or universities to provide “enterprise” accounts for any students learning English.
5. Do you have a place where people can check back or sign up for updates about the site? 
I’m so glad you asked!  Check out the teaser video on Pronounceology.com and sign up for the email list to be notified of updates.  I’ll be releasing more videos with more details in the months to come, and I hope to launch later this year.  You can also contact me at [email protected] with questions or feature requests!  In addition, I’ll be at APAC (audio book conference) in New York City this week and can do live demonstrations if anyone is interested (assuming the pesky WiFi cooperates!).

The Deets on Faff 9

Have you ever wished you could learn things that are directly applicable to your life as a pro-VO? Are you tired of the famous talking heads that although they’re awesome, don’t always have the down and dirty for the daily grind?

You need to go to Faffcon.

What is Faffcon? From the website: “FaffCon: the voiceover unconference, is a participant-driven professional development event for working voiceover industry pros. Its highly-interactive, peer-to-peer learning environment is consistently credited with helping establish VO-industry pros take their careers to the next level. Prospective participants must meet certain criteria and apply to attend. FaffCon sells out very fast, every time. To be sure to get the registration alert, please join our low-volume email list! We’ve committed to producing a total of 10 FaffCon unconferences.”

Personally, I’ve been to every Faffcon since 2, and every experience has been both valuable in a career and a personal sense. I’ve made incredible business connections and amazing friendships over the last 5 years, and I’ve written about it in my blog a lot. I strongly believe it can and will be valuable to any talent that approaches it with an open mind. There is diverse content, ranging from performance based classes, to business classes, and ‘techie’ content as well. Plus, you’re welcome to ask questions, and even lead a session yourself!

The atmosphere is as singular as any event I’ve been to in my lifetime, and one of the best benefits to the conference. People are open, eager to learn, and it’s a cardinal rule to leave egos at the door. You can come and go from sessions as you need to, so that you can maximize your learning time amongst everything there is on offer. Plus there is always time with other VO’s after hours, and plenty of meal and break opportunities to get to know people-and trust me, they are a very welcoming bunch!

Faffcon 9 is a great opportunity to jump in and join our Faff-family. There will only be 10 events total, and this event will allow first or second time Faffers to register early. The event has sold out in literal seconds, so this registration has some new rules to make life easier for everyone. You can find all the info, and join the mailing list here on the website.

How to Outsource?

When I started my outsourcing series, I knew I wanted to touch on the mechanics of how and why things could work. The classic ‘5 W’ questions appealed to me, because of both the structure, and also the fact that it was a simple way to cover everything I wanted to say.

Karen Commins and I met several years ago at Faffcon 2 in Atlanta Georgia. I remember being impressed with her interesting and very positive take on things, and since then have been continually impressed by the amount of useful, clever information that she collates and creates for the audiobook world. (Go read her blog, you’ll see what I mean.) Karen sent me a message when she saw one of my series entries and suggested, as she learned in Journalism school, to add a 6th question, ‘How’. How to Outsource? You can read her side of the equation in a blog post here. 

So, how do you outsource? As I’ve covered in other entries, it’s important to know what you’re looking for when you approach an outsourcing person. For me, the more information and solid ideas someone has about what they need, the simpler my job becomes. File names, formats, timelines, what do I need to look for in my proofing?

I also want to stress that I’d rather receive an email, and have to say no I can’t work on that than have someone assume I’m too busy and not send the email at all. I can often recommend another editor, or someone else who can possibly help you. (And I rarely say no anyway!) You can also see what projects I’m currently working on at my public google work calendar here.

There’s also rarely a project too strange or unusual for me. There are some things I can’t do (like graphic design) but I’m always willing to try anything within my skillset, or that can be explained to me. Unusual projects always teach me something new, or provide a welcome break in routine. And as above, if I don’t do it, I probably know someone who does. You can see a list of the services I offer here, or if there’s something you don’t see, shoot me an email at [email protected] and I’d love to talk about it with you.

Overall, I think the most important thing to remember is there are very few limits on what you can and can’t do with outsourcing. Yes, it does cost money, but with proper preparation and forethought, you can leverage the (tax deductible) expense as another tool to shape your business, and your future success.

What Should You Outsource?

This is the third installment in my series on outsourcing. Previously I’ve covered why and who you should outsource to.

When it comes to things like editing and proofing, when you reach that very individual quantity of ‘enough’, most people want to take the work off their plate. Some people prefer to do it themselves, and others are a bit too self conscious to share their flubs with others. (I’m sure I’m not the only editor who can tell you, we’ve heard it all before. It’s okay, I promise.) And of course there’s those who do mostly or all shorter work, and so therefore choose to keep it to themselves. I’m of the opinion that if you can afford the rate, there’s very little you shouldn’t send out. In freelance, there’s always something else you can be doing to improve your business!

But there’s the clerical things, the harder-to-define things that most people would love to send out, but aren’t sure where to begin. I’ve often talked people through defining their project enough that I’m able to help them. For example, I’ve had more than one person want me to help them find ‘new clients.’ I have to ask them questions like what kind of clients? Where do you want me to look? How much are you prepared to spend? The more parameters you’re able to come up with, the quicker and better I’ll be able to help. And, the more you’ll be able to know what things will cost!

Sitting down and having a brainstorming session will help you define the kind of work that you’re looking for, and give you some ideas of what you need. If you’d like to expand your social media presence, what types of accounts do you want to focus on? Or do you need help to figure out where your posts could have the most impact? Do you want someone to write posts for you? What exactly do you want to say? (Inspirational pictures? Links to projects? Blog post ideas? A consistent message will help you achieve your goals more than a scattershot effort.)

Overall, unless there are elements you’d prefer to handle on your own, in my opinion much of the work that goes into maintaining a business like ours can be outsourced. Yes, money is always a concern, but the benefits can make up the initial ROI, and over time, the financial ROI will follow as you have more ability to record and reach out to new clients. The more you automate, the more time you have for not only the recording that makes you money, but the at-home things that can give you energy and renewal for the next session behind the mic.

The previous post in this series, Who to Outsource to?, is here.

Who to Outsource to?

Welcome to my second installment about outsourcing! Last week, I covered why you should outsource in the first place. Now, I’d like to talk about how to find someone, who you should outsource to, as well as what to look for.

When looking for someone specific, many people consider family members. They’re right there, they already have at least some basic familiarity, as they’re aware of your career, and you may not have to pay them professional rates. The major downside is that they are family. It can be difficult to separate work needs from a personal relationship, and it can cause stress and upset if you’re not very careful. Insisting that your child or spouse finish work on the same type of schedule that we freelancers sometimes take is not always easy or wise. I’m not saying it’s impossible–some of you may know my Dad, Bob Souer has and does work with family members–it’s just best to be aware of the challenges involved.

Once you’re ready to get out there and find someone to work with, there’s a very important consideration to start with. Do you want someone local, or virtual? Some people are far more comfortable with an assistant they can meet with regularly, face to face, and can oversee on a personal level. Others don’t mind distance and time zones in between, but it’s a good idea to be aware of which you’d prefer before you begin. If you’re looking local, there are many ways to find someone, and I plan on covering that in a future post. Looking online, word of mouth is a great way to find connections that are already known to others in our industry, and to hear exactly how and what someone did for another voice talent.

Lastly, here are some things you should look for when you first begin work. The first and most important thing to remember when looking for someone to outsource to is the need for trust. Regardless of the project type, you have to at least have that basic bond of trust with your outsource person, whatever level of which you need to feel comfortable. If you don’t feel comfortable, it’s important to ask yourself where it’s coming from. Is this a temporary thing, because you’re new to outsourcing and you’re not used to the feeling of letting go yet? Or is it a deeper reaction, arising from your gut that is possibly responding to some kind of warning signal? One of the easiest methods to use when evaluating someone is to match their words and actions. If they say something, do they follow through? If they don’t, how do they communicate about it, and is something then taken care of in a reasonable amount of time? Considering this can help you make a clear eyed decision, should you need to do so. Firing someone is never pleasant, but if you’re not getting what you’ve paid for, it can be needed to do so.

Another vital thing to decide on is exactly what you need. I know this sounds obvious, but I’ve had more than one person approach me with very amorphous projects in mind. Sometimes I can help them, but the more details they have, the easier we can get moving.

The previous post in this series, Why Outsource?, is here, and the next, What to Outsource?, is here.

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