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Pronounceology Interview – Rerun

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 Year (I was as sick as a) Dog Part 5

So as I was writing my series here, I got another indicator that my brains are still recovering a bit. See, I forgot to mention the fundraiser when I was telling my story! This was such an important thing to leave out, and something that was so important to this journey.

So, like many people, I’ve had trouble paying the costs of health insurance premiums. As a single woman with a freelance job, it doesn’t always work out for me to be able to hit them every month for a year and sure enough, this year my coverage had lapsed.

At the end of October, when my friends Laura Bealko, Jen Reilly, and Lauren McCullough realized I was doing very poorly, the three of them came to me with the idea of doing a fundraiser for enough money to cover my thyroid surgery. (Remember, this was before I found out it was my heart, not my thyroid.) I was a little reluctant. I was raised in a good old ‘pull yourself up by your bootstraps’ type of household, and I hated the idea of asking for money from people I didn’t know. But I had to face facts. I was declining and just living was getting harder and harder every day. So I said yes, and these three angels put things together for me.

And then the proverbial heavenly choir descended. So, so many people donated, and so quickly! I was funded, and more, in less than a single day. I still don’t have words for how amazing everyone who contributed or passed on info is. I’ve spent the past 7 years serving the community to the best of my ability, trying to be a good smile and creative people connector, but this was the first time I had really seen (other than people who hire me, of course.) just how much people cared for me as a person, and the kind of impact I was able to create.

My friends, when I was a little girl, my mom died at the age of 37. When I turned 30 a few years ago, I took stock of my life and considered than in 8 years, I’d be older than my mother ever would be. That was quite sobering. Then I thought about the fact that despite how long she’s been gone (More than 30 years, she died in 1988) people still remember her, still speak well of her, talk about how much of a delight and a light she was as a person. I decided that was my life goal. Regardless of what you believe, the only real immortality we have in this world is in the memories of others. I wanted to leave memories behind like my mother did. That fundraiser was the first (and quite stunning) indication that I’d proceeded a bit of the way to my goal!

Thank you, thank you, thank you to everyone who participated in the fundraiser, and thank you to everyone who sent me a check, a paypal payment, or by whatever means. You are all angels in my eyes and although I needed it for a different reason, every penny has been more needed than I realized at the time it would be!

Thank you to my parents and brothers, for your love, hospital visits, much gas and parking and gummy bears spent upon. You were more of a comfort than you know.

And last but not least, thank you to my three archangels. You are beautiful people, and I quite literally owe you my life. Thank you for everything.

The Year (I was sick as a) Dog Part 4

Life lessons learned on the cardiology floor, continued!

Don’t take your life or health for granted. Period: This one hit me two ways. I heard so many codes called on that floor at all hours, and saw some seriously shaken nurses when someone didn’t make it. Life and death were all around me, and it’s times like that when you realize how fragile it is. The second way this one hit me was far more personal. Once I had started on my Pee Marathon, I had my eyes opened to just how sick I had been. My head was so much clearer once all the water started to come off that I realized just how much my mental function had suffered along the way and how much that had probably influenced my decision making and everything else. The truth was, I’d been slipping up on project deadlines and many other things for a long time, and it was only the kindness of others that saved me from disaster more than once. I’m going to make next year my year to work on my leg and numerous other issues!

Take Time Off: Some of us in this business are better than others and regularly schedule vacations and weekends. I’ve always tried to give myself nights and weekends off, but as I’m sure you can imagine, it doesn’t always work out that way. I’ve found more than once that if I have only one task during a day, if I’m not careful I can make that task last the whoooooooole day! I (and you, yes, you) need time off to reflect, consider your business and your life, and appreciate where you are. If I could rewind, I’d’ve made myself take more than one pause, and hopefully I would have had time to realize how I was feeling, and how different it was from how I should be!

Gratitude: It’s in every silly meme on Facebook, and is touted all over the place, I know. You’re probably sick of seeing the very word. I know I am sometimes. But it’s also very true if you ignore the gnat cloud of sugary meme nonsense and think about what it really means. People will stand by you in a crisis in ways that you didn’t think were possible, and I think it’s vital to take the time to feel that presence, and what it means for your life. This can be your blood family, or the family that you make for yourself. Yes you could have more, or different, but there’s always something to be grateful for, even the tiniest of things. And when it’s a solid presence when you’re scared and alone, that’s no small thing.

Next post will be my last entry in this series, telling one more story, and shelling out some serious thank yous.

The Year (I was sick as a) Dog Part 3

So what did I learn from being in the hospital at 36 for heart failure? Plenty!

Periodically assess yourself: Many of the changes in my body and health were small things that accumulated over time. In the business and rush of my daily life it was really easy to ignore just how much I had changed, how low my energy had gotten, and how much I was suffering needlessly. I needed to stop, take a long step back, and really consider just where I was and what I was doing, instead of dismissing my own instincts and the words of others. (which leads to-)

Don’t dismiss the things you don’t want to hear: More times than I would like to admit along the way friends and loved ones told me that I was in danger, that my health was starting to spiral, and I needed to take stronger action. I pushed this aside for a lot of reasons, most of them things that didn’t matter in the long run, and certainly didn’t stack up when measured against how close I was to having a far less happy ending to this health saga of mine. Listen to the people who love and know you. You don’t have to do what they say, but if they’re good people, really stop and consider their point of view whether you like it or not. If it twinges, it’s often something that’s uncomfortably true.

Fix it now, not later: This is one I struggle with and have most of my life, as much as I try to fight it. If I’d paid attention and dealt with the problem sooner, it would not have taken me quite so long to beat it, and probably would have been easier to do in the bargain. Don’t let the needed things go, if you can fix it now, do it and get it over with. I can’t tell you the number of things in my life this has applied to, work or otherwise, and I bet many of you can think of the same kind of examples.

Take risks, even at the worst times: It’s a long, complicated personal story, but during this time, I gave my trust to someone close to me who had lost it a long time ago, and was astounded to find out how much that person had matured. They were willing to put aside some things that had kept us apart, and to see and help me as a person who needed it badly. (and not just the physical help of driving places but the emotional support of holy crap hospitals are scary!)

I’ll be delving into some more lessons learned in my next post!

 

The Year (I was sick as a) Dog Part 2

I was 36! Congestive heart failure was something that happened to old people! What on earth could be causing this?

Bewildered, but still very sick, over the next couple days I endured. The local hospital did their best to run some tests and figure out what was going on.

The real cause of my swelling, my exhaustion, and my trouble breathing, and this reality of heart trouble had nothing to do with my thyroid. It was an old, complicated medical condition I’ve had for a very long time called an Arteriovenous Malformation. (I’ve linked an article if you want to find out what it is in more detail.) My AVM is a sizeable growth on my left thigh that has been there for about 25+ years. After some searching and attempts at treatment in my mid 20’s, I had kind of given up doing anything about it, other than enduring the regular pain. My treatments hadn’t been covered, and were expensive and difficult to manage on a grocery store job insurance/paycheck.

But as the local hospital was bundling me up and sending me to the big city hospital, I was discovering that all this time, the bad connections in my growth had been putting strain on my heart, and this was what was sending me into heart failure.

I settled into my new room, with the cascade of doctors and residents that comes from being in a teaching hospital, and began the long road back to some semblance of health. The first thing I had to do was pee.

A lot.

Seriously. Apparently all this swelling on my body was not fat as I had thought, but as often goes along with heart failure, it was water. With lots of medicine, I ended up 64 pounds lighter! And at this slimmer, svelter size I was finally able to undergo the definitive testing that would allow the doctors to take measurements and do scans that would pinpoint what they needed to do and where to go next. The scans and relevant indignities undergone, they sent me home just in time for thanksgiving. (And oh was I thankful.)

But those 13 days in 2 hospitals gave me a lot of time to think, and I wanted to share some of these thoughts with my friends, colleagues, clients, and dear readers in general–you’ll find some of those in the next post!

The Year (I was sick as a) Dog

It began like any other year. 2018 was going to be another great year for my life and my business, and I had so many plans to bring forth of things I wanted to do, words I wanted to write, and conventions to sponsor and go to. I was excited to begin another year and see where it took me and my little business.

My illness didn’t start out in any big ways. Around February I noticed that I felt more tired than normal, and that my throat was kind of swollen. I went to my regular doc, and she told me that I was having thyroid troubles, that there was a growth on my throat. It was kind of an ironic diagnosis, as I have a scar along the base of my throat from a nodule removal 25 years earlier! It seemed that my thyroid had decided enough was enough, and it was time to kick it in.

Over the next few months, I struggled through a mish mash of misdiagnosis, poor choice in doctors, long waits to get in to see the right doctors, and many other errors. What I didn’t notice so much while all this was going on was my continually lowering energy level, and my continually swelling size. When I did become conscious of these things, I dismissed the tired from the thyroid, and my swelling size as being part of an unfortunate natural tendency to gain weight, since I didn’t have the energy for exercise any more either. Once I had finally seen the right doctor, I set up thyroid surgery for the source of all my problems.

Or so I thought. As the weeks went by, my body swelled further, and I began to have a continual cough and significant trouble breathing. I continued to believe it was all my thyroid, but at the urging of my friends and family, I finally went back to my regular doc to get checked out. My hope was that she would clear me for surgery. She took one look at me and sent me to the ER.

At that point, I was too tired to care. My mom drove me to the hospital where my thyroid doc had an office, and I quietly waited through the considerable waiting for anyone who doesn’t have a life threatening injury in the ER.

My initial diagnosis stunned me. Congestive heart failure.

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.

No One Size Fits All Solution

One of the biggest lessons that I’ve learned is that most voice talent love the idea of outsourcing some of their work, but many people aren’t sure how to get from their idea to their goal. When they reach out to me, they are very enthusiastic, and also often rather uncertain. They’re looking for answers, but not sure exactly what the task is. I always feel bad when I get these calls, because I wish I had a one-size-fits all easy solution or system on how to create a project from people’s ideas. 

But here’s the thing–even if I did have a system, chances are, it probably wouldn’t work for you. Why? Because every life is different. Every business is different. I wouldn’t offer the same kind of organizational advice to a single mom with young kids as I would to a mom who has older children and a spouse, even though they have some obvious common points. The shape of Single Mom’s life is going to be different, the needs of her children will be different than Married Mom’s would. Also, Married Mom has the potential of asking for spousal help. Though both have to deal with kid interruptions, Single Mom has likely more, and probably a different level of need than Married Mom.  People learn differently, process information in their own way, so it’s pretty difficult to come up with a single plan for everyone.

I’ve done many research or organizational projects for folks, and I’m always happy to do more. But there is one absolutely vital task you ought to complete BEFORE you seek outside help.

What is it?

Know what you want, as completely as possible.

Sounds simple? It isn’t. Let me give you an example. Let’s say you want to get in touch with ad agencies, to open up a new area of business for yourself. You come to me, and you say that, and I ask exactly how much you want to spend, because I could do that full time for a month, and not be done. Then I start asking questions, do you want to look nationally, or regionally? Do you want smaller or larger agencies? I’m happy to ask all these questions to help you define what you’re looking for, but hopefully you can see my point that what you want requires some refining and digging down to actually find it.

Perhaps a more specific example. You want to, say, be more organized. Organized in what? Your daily routine? Your invoicing? How you record? If it’s your daily routine, the only real way to do it is to tailor it to the facts of your life. If you’re like one of the moms in the examples above, it might be helpful to think of your work in terms of 15 or 30 minute periods. What can you get done in that amount of time? If you’re a single person, obviously you have a different dynamic. It’s more likely that you can work for longer periods of time, yet it’s important that you have time for your non-work life also.

The idea is that in order to know what you want and need, you have to break the problem down, to ask a lot of questions in order to specifically identify where the next steps are, and what the best steps are for you in your particular career.
So if you want to take those further steps in life and career, do some hard thinking first, and you’ll find yourself farther down the path than you might realize! It’s so much easier to take the steps you need to when you know exactly what those steps are!

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.

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