This week I interviewed Jeff Kafer, audiobook narrator extraordinaire and mastering/proofing wizard of SpringBrook Audio. He is the first person to have to have referred me an audiobook narrator, and a truly knowledgeable person in the industry. I hope you enjoy our discussion!
1. We all know you’re a voice talent, which came first the mastering/proofing or the talking?
The talking. After doing about 30 audiobooks, I realized that I’d taught myself how to master. And with the advent of home studios and ACX, I’ve been able to offer that service to others who only want to focus on the talking. For them, it really makes sense to outsource that and move onto other projects. So while my narration is still my main job, It’s nice to offer this service to others in the community. At current count, I’ve mastered over 300 audiobooks, in addition to the 80+ I’ve narrated.
2. What led you to create SpringBrook Audio?
SpringBrook Audio was at first, a publishing company. Authors often came to me asking to narrate their books and the number one question they always asked was “What do I do with it once it’s done?” Before ACX, you had to approach Audible as a publisher, and to do that, you had to have 10-12 finished titles or they wouldn’t consider you. So this was a real problem for the author who spent a few thousand bucks to produce it, but only had one title. Audible wouldn’t even talk to them. So I got together with another fledgling publisher, CrossRoad Press, and we combined catalogs to get a publishing contract with Audible. Once that was done, I was then able to add distribution to Audible, Amazon, and iTunes as a very appealing add-on to my narration services. Adding distribution was only intended to bolster my appeal as a narrator!
2010 came along and ACX pretty much killed that. No longer did the author need distribution. Anyone could get their book made. Contrary to what you might think, this didn’t bother me in the least, as SpringBrook Audio the distributor was never designed to make hordes of money on royalties. We were simply an avenue to the big dog, Audible. With ACX, I could now focus back on narration for all these authors who suddenly were able to get into Audible on their own.
Or so I thought. As I began producing books on ACX, I realized that most narrators only wanted to narrate. Most had no idea what mastering was or how to do it. And yet, the ACX deal is that producers must also master and QC (proof). So I took what I learned and re-branded SpringBrook Audio as a proofing/mastering service. After doing my own titles, I had a crew of proofers lined up. So I figured I should rent them out. 🙂 And that’s where we are today.
3. You’ve recently revamped your site, what kind of changes did you make?
SpringBrookAudio.com used to be an online store where people could buy audiobooks direct from us. Holy cow, was that ever a colossal undertaking and a huge failure. I’m totally OK admitting that to discourage anyone from trying it. Now I understand the appeal of Audible! I thought it would be as simple as throwing up an online store and adding a paypal checkout. It is infintely more complex than that, especially when dealing with large file downloads and multiple file format requirements and devices. ugh. Never again.
I stopped trying to sell audiobooks direct in January 2012, and the site languished with just a blog announcing new titles from 9 months ago (again, the distribution had pretty much ended). Since I owned the domain and hosting, and was actively doing proofing and mastering (getting clients only through word of mouth), I should probably have a web presence. I can hear Doug Turkel saying “DUH!” right now. So I nuked the old SpringBrookaudio.com, slapped up WordPress and a nice theme and got about to writing all about the services and what we offer.
No idea why it took me so long to get that together. 🙂
4. Do you have a favorite project or type of thing to work on?
We only do audiobooks. I narrate all manner of things, but proofing and mastering audiobooks is our sole focus right now. There’s such a huge need for it, and it’s easy to price based on the finished hour, so we really have no interest in expanding beyond audiobooks.
5. Do you feel that more talent could benefit from outsourcing their proofing/mastering?
Heavens yes. I do the mastering for CrossRoad Press, and a lot of the stuff we get is in desperate need of mastering. Every title has a different volume, different EQ needs, different level of room tone. All of that needs to be fixed as much as possible (though there’s NO substitute for a clean recording from the beginning ). And not only do most narrators not have the time/interest/know-how to do it, they shouldn’t be wasting their time! All they have to do is narrate 2 hours or so at their normal rate to pay for the cost of having an entire book mastered by me. It’s crazy not to do it. As I mentioned at Faffcon over and over again, why are narrators spending 10 hours proofing and mastering their book when they could be paying someone $50 per finished hour to do it, when they could be narrating for 5,6,7 times that!
When you factor time commitments, you can’t afford NOT to outsource the grunt work.
As a post script, if you know anyone who you think would fit in to my ‘techie’ interview series please email me at [email protected] Also, you can check out previous interviews with Morgan Barhart of SociableBoost.com here, and Dan Friedman here.
Next week I’ll be keeping it all in the family, interviewing my brother Eric Souer.