Tag Archive for Audiobooks

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.

APAC Write Up

Hey guys! So I didn’t get to make it to APAC this year unfortunately, but I thought I’d take a moment and publish the write-up I created last year when the conference was in Chicago that unfortunately never made it to the blog. Hope you enjoy!

So for those who know me, I’m sometimes called the Herald of Faffcon. But 2016 was the first year I ventured outside of my usual bailiwick and attended APAC. I do a lot of work editing audiobooks, and I knew that it would be a great opportunity to meet and connect with more people in the upper echelons of that industry. It didn’t hurt, of course that this year’s convention was in my native city, Chicago. I have plenty of friends and family there, so I was able to bundle a family visit in with my trip. My friend and narrator, Jen Reilly was kind enough to let me stay with her.

Now, for those who know Faffcon, it’s a small, and fairly intimate conference. We’re pretty casual-professional, but casual-and enjoy ourselves as well as learning and growing with one another. There is plenty to learn at APAC, but it is a far more formal and serious conference. The convention was held at the McCormick Place, an utterly enormous convention center in the city. There were a few hundred attendees, everything from publishers to narrators and audiobook bloggers. I’ll freely admit to feeling rather overwhelmed, but I’m glad that the people I do know were kind enough to introduce me around. It was very nice to meet quite a few people I only knew online face to face.

Most of the class content didn’t apply to me, but there were some interesting tidbits. Hearing from “famous people” was a very different experience. I respect the history and experience of the big name narrators and it was interesting to hear their input and more about where they all came from. Where the value really was for me though, was the hallways. Even during most sessions, there were a good number of people walking around and talking, and I was able to shake hands and have conversations with quite a few people. (I know I keep saying the very generic ‘people’, but there were so many that it’s difficult to mention specific names without leaving a lot of folks out!) When I go again, I know I’ll spend more time roaming the halls and looking for good conversation.

Visiting some of Chicago’s many fine places to eat was enjoyable, and although they were deafeningly loud, the tasty food and drinks were a great part of the visit. (Although I’m a vegetarian, I really wanted to try a Chicago style hot dog-and I’ve heard they have vegan ones! Next time for sure!) It was nice to go from the conference center environment to a more relaxed one, where people could circulate and chat.

APAC was my first ‘normal’ conference, and I’m really glad that I went. It was a whirlwind of handshakes, booze, and plenty of content, and I’m looking forward to next year, now that I know what to expect! I learned a great deal about another segment of our industry and a lot about how regular conferences operate. Major kudos to the organizers and creators of the conference, your hard work and dedication created a great experience. 

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!).

It’s Been a Year

Polar Bear Poking Credit Dailmail UKA few days ago, I was given the Facebook notification that my last blog post has been posted a year ago. That caught me by surprise, to say the least. I feel like both I’ve been stopped a lot longer, and a lot shorter periods of time. So I thought I’d poke my head in here and tell you all what I’ve been up to! I’ve been writing–I want to start a newsletter, so that I can still regularly write to people, but there’s not the pressure of a weekly blog. I know that I often have things to say, but my creative well tends to run dry if I feel like I’ve exhausted a topic.

I’m also wanting to do more with the idea of organization, time management, and goal setting. I’ve often had VO’s come to me and look for plans or tactics to help get themselves more together, and I figure-if people keep asking for it, why not right? I know as well as all of your how hard it can be to maintain and set a schedule and stay organized in our world. Not to mention, people’s circumstances differ so much, there really isn’t a ‘one size fits all plan’. Plus, I know that it’s something that can do a lot of genuine good in people’s lives. That has always been one of the huge benefits to my work, and one of the reason I keep doing what I’m doing–I get to make people’s lives better and easier! Anyways, I’ll be around with more news on that soon.

And lastly, I of course have been editing, proofing, and virtual assisting all over the place. This year I was able to  go to the annual audiobook conference, APAC in May in Chicago, and I had a great time, as well as learning a lot about the upper echelons of that very interesting and individual segment of our industry. I met lots of famous folks, and was greeted as ‘the famous Karen Souer’ which was not only very flattering, but also completely hilarious. Next month (ack! so soon?) I’ll be heading to Minnesota for the 8th edition of the voiceover unconference, Faffcon, and I am working on a session idea for that fine space.

So I’m still here, learning, growing, and working my tail off like usual. As always, I’d love to hear from anyone–feel free to email me at [email protected] If you’ve read this far, thanks so much for staying with me, and I am proud and grateful to continue to serve the voiceover industry, for the past 5 years!

#Listen2aBook today!

Hello everyone! I want to depart from my usual schedule of posts and stop to highlight the amazing voiceover community once again, specifically audiobook narrators.

In my reading of social media groups, I came across a thread where Steven Jay Cohen suggested a twitter campaign to promote ‘favorite’ royalty share books on twitter and other platforms. I watched the thread unfold as people came together, and created a campaign that could benefit everyone, and drive sales to books that are under-appreciated.

I think this is an awesome idea-and it show how truly amazing the voiceover community can be. In what other industry can people come together independently to devise and agree to a mutually beneficial project? And moreover, by basing it around ‘favorite’ books, you’re not just trying to get money, but trying to share stories that you enjoyed telling. That’s another thing that makes this so interesting. We’re all bathed and steeped in sales campaigns of every kind every minute of the day, how wonderful is it to see people choosing to create something mutually beneficial?

So if you’re on twitter, check out the #Listen2aBook hashtag today for some audiobook hidden gems, and RT if you please!

A Blast of Audiobook Innovation

LogoJeff Kafer is a well known audiobook narrator and VO. He’s done hundreds of books, and is an often sought source of advice in that arena. Now he’s developed a new resource for him and his fellow narrators. Audiobook Blast is a site where listeners can sign up to receive notice of free or discounted audiobook titles. This is a great place for the free codes narrators receive, and a great place for promotion any time your titles go on sale. It has the potential to carve a pretty good niche in the audiobook world.

Now, I know all of my readers don’t do audiobooks, but I think this is an interesting thing to highlight regardless. Innovation in our industry is a constant thing, and the valuable insight to Mr. Kafer’s new endeavor is the need for constant adaptation. I’ve met hundreds of voice talent in the relatively few years I’ve been doing this, and there is a pretty fair portion who are set in their ways. Although it’s not a bad thing to have a proven system, it’s wise to be careful that you’re not missing something that could really help your career. Better things often lie just outside of our comfort zone or established way of doing things.

What could you do better today?

Voiceover Vocabulary

Wordle-vocabulary-1p1s4xhWhen I first started to write this article, and I wanted to sit down and come up with some examples of different vocabulary in areas of voice over, one of my problems was that I didn’t know where to begin! Think of things like demo and reel. They mean the same thing, but one is a term that for anyone younger than about 25 would be very confusing.

So many people use so many different words for different things. And even when the language is the same, sometimes the intended meaning is different based on how someone hears something. Voice talent come from all walks of life. Audio is very subjective in some ways. A breath or mouth noise that one person thinks of as ‘horrible’ may be barely audible to another. A ‘short’ pause to one person could mean a quarter second, and to another mean a full second. We all develop different meanings to things based on how and whom we work with, and I’ve found in my work it’s very important to coordinate with the talent I’m working with to make sure that we both mean the same thing in as many details as possible.

Although talent to talent interactions are less common, I’ve seen lots of people doing some casting or referrals, so it’s important to check and make sure everything is the same on those occasions. And it’s also important to check with your clients to make sure that you and they understand everything-particularly in the audiobook world as rights holders can come from very diverse areas indeed.

In summary, it’s important when working in the voiceover world to not assume that the person you’re talking to will be meaning the same things you do, so be sure that everyone’s on the same page!

Interviewing Two Audiobook Pros

So if there’s one thing that I’ve found as true in this business is you really never know what will happen next! I got invited to interview two fantastic audiobook narrators, Carrington MacDuffie and Ilyana Kadushin. Both ladies have had impressive careers, garnered awards, and have a wonderful store of experience to discuss. We went through a few questions on the topic of work/life balance, and I hope you enjoy what these ladies have to say! Before I get to the questions, I’ve included mini bios for both ladies so you can see the chops before reading the thoughts! 😉

Carrington MacDuffie is a recording artist, writer, and voice actor who has narrated over 200 audiobooks and received numerous AudioFile Earphones awards and 8 Audie finalists. She has narrated everything from Words Will Break Cement:The Passion of Pussy Riot by Masha Gessen to Conquered by a Highlander  by Paula Quinn. Her original audiobook of poetry and music, Many Things Invisible, was published by Blackstone Audio, and was a finalist for an Audie in two categories. Her recent release of Only an Angel, which has been in the top 25 on the Americana charts for the past couple of months.

Find her at: http://lunacydewpoint.com/audiographycarringtonmacduffie.com

Ilyana Kadushin is a recording artist in the band Lythion and she is the voice of over 60 audio books for various publishers including the entire Twilight series (which has brought her cult-like fame in certain circles). She was a finalist for a 2014 Audie Award, for multicast audio book of short stories called “Rip Off,” and a winner  for “Dune” by Frank Herbert, which won best Sci-fi Multi-cast audio.  She co-produced and scored 2011 HBO Documentary “Separate, But Equal”.

Find her at: http://www.ilyanakadushin.com

png;base64dc32a695b07528821. Do you feel that coming to voice over after having started out as a singer/performer helped your narration work? Do you feel like it gave you more to draw on?

Ilyana Kadushin: It did indeed! I remember being at an audition for a national commercial voice-over and the casting person asking if I was a singer. She said she could always tell the voice-over actors who were singers, because of our tone, breath control, phrasing and stamina with longer copy. So clearly, when I started narrating audiobooks, those skills helped even more!

Carrington MacDuffie: I absolutely feel that having a background as a singer and performer png;base64dc7f1b8b7da2b29fhelped my narration work. Most voice actors have a background in theatre, and are trained as actors, which is what the job really is: an acting job.  And so they are very well prepared.  I have no theatre background, so I draw on a different skill set from most voice actors.  I wouldn’t say I have more to draw on, I’m just coming from a different angle.

2. Have there been any major changes for you in voice over since you started?

Ilyana Kadushin: Over the years doing voice-over and narration, my understanding of how to use my voice as an instrument and how to bring who I am into what I am working on, has developed greatly. Being that I started out doing commercial VO and then expanding out to promos, video games, animation and audio books; those varied projects brought different qualities out in my voice.

Carrington MacDuffie: When I first started auditioning for commercial voiceover I more often landed industrials.  When I first got cast for audiobooks that constituted a significant change. I’m not a very good salesman, but I can tell a story.

3. Do you find it difficult to balance all of your passions and careers?

Ilyana Kadushin: I love the variety. I love creating for my music production company one day and then the next day narrating a book, or producing a film or event. All my passions feed each other and I just find that I have to stay really mindful so I can stay present with each project I am in at that time. Balance comes from being present in each career and surrounding myself with creative, brave and inspiring people.

Carrington MacDuffie: I certainly do!  There simply isn’t time for everything I want to do—there isn’t even time for what I have to do!  The lesser passions have to take a back seat. And I would be a better businesswoman if I weren’t also writing music and poetry, making video, doing visual art, etc.

4. Can you give any advice to voice actors who, like you, follow more than one creative muse?

Ilyana Kadushin: Experiment with integrating your different creative paths and see what happens. They can influence each other and show you your work in a different light. And do things that feed your soul and take care of YOU; like exercise, mediation, cooking, sharing what you do with those you love! All these things can help you find your creative muse.

Carrington MacDuffie: You must of course take care of the most pressing business always, meet your obligations and deadlines, but also be sure not to ignore any seriously strong creative urges. It’s natural to be drawn into the thousand little things that keep your business afloat every day. But you ignore your strong creative urges at your own peril.

5. Does ‘real life’ fit in easily for you? (Household, loved ones, bill paying, etc?) How do you manage to integrate that part of your life?

Ilyana Kadushin: I have heard it said in many ways and different wording, but if we approach all aspects of our life like home, family, bills etc like a part of our “creative process”, we can find that balance and energy to do it all!

Carrington MacDuffie: I wouldn’t call it easy, but I do stay on top of my household because if things are in order I’m much more efficient, and I need a clear space to work in.  I find time to pay my bills, because it would be too stressful and distracting to have that hanging over me.  But I don’t pursue a social life.  As the poet Kenneth Koch put it best,

“There isn’t time enough, my friends—
Though dawn begins, yet midnight ends—
To find the time to have love, work, and friends.
Michelangelo had feeling
For Vittoria and the Ceiling
But did he go to parties at day’s end?

Homer nightly went to banquets
Wrote all day but had no lockets
Bright with pictures of his Girl.
I know one who loves and parties
And has done so since his thirties
But writes hardly anything at all.”

6. How did you get started as a coach in addition to your other work?

Ilyana Kadushin: I had already been a teaching artist leading workshops, but I got started in voice performance coaching from people approaching me and asking me if I would do it and referring me clients. I am really passionate about “the art of public speaking” and helping people “communicate and pitch their content and ideas” and it built out from there.

Carrington MacDuffie: I was invited to be a guest instructor in one of Pat Fraley’s workshops.  Pat is a very well known and fabulous voice teacher whose workshops and instruction you shouldn’t miss if you have the chance to attend.  It was so much fun that I decided to continue coaching on a one-on-one basis.  Assisting in and witnessing the building and blossoming of natural talent is terrifically satisfying.

7. What’s one piece of advice you wish someone had told you when you started in voice over?

Ilyana Kadushin: I do tell most people starting out that you need to find your niche and place in this business, where you and your voice can shine. And also realize that there is an ebb and flow to the work, so over the years you need to expand and diversify what you do.

Carrington MacDuffie: I was lucky enough to receive valuable advice when first starting out. “Know your limitations, and then seek out ways to surpass them.”

Amy Goalen Interview

Amy GoalenAmy Goalen is not as widely known as her husband, George Whittam, (who I interviewed here!) but her reputation in the audiobook world continues to grow. She has recently launched a new website, NarratorHelper, to better promote what she does and put everything all in one place. I decided to interview her, as I’ve heard a lot of great things about her work and wanted to share her new site and skills with all my readers! I hope you enjoy our conversation.
1. Tell us about your background. What did you do before you landed in the audio world?
My background is in photography. I’ve been working in the photography industry since I graduated from Brooks Institute of Photography in 2003. I’ve always been very computer savvy, I learn programs easily, I’m an avid reader and grammar nerd, and since my daughter was born 5 years ago I haven’t been able to work the long hours on photography sets.
2. Do you have any interesting or funny stories about your experiences working with narrators?
Hmmm…not really any “funny” stories! 😉 But something interesting, One of the first books I edited was “Sleeping in Flame” by Jonathan Carroll. It was narrated by Mark Turetsky. I REALLY liked that book and ended up reading more titles from the author and now he’s one of my favorites. Mark did some incredible voices for the book. He’s a very talented narrator. The weird part is that the title is not available on Audible. Mark recently told me that there’s a rights issue with the book that never got sorted out with the producer. One of the best books I’ve done and it’s not even out there. It also turned me into a huge fan of Jonathan Carroll.
I also did 2 books with almost the same title from two different authors and two different narrators and I worked on the books back to back…both about baseball!

3. I know you’ve been doing this sort of thing with George for a while, what motivated you to make the NarratorHelper Website?

I’ve been working on audio books for a few years now because it allows me to work from home and still take care of my daughter. I’ve mostly worked via referral, but recently more and more narrators have been finding out what I do and wanting more information about my rates, services, and workflow. It seemed like it was finally time to put up an official website.
4. How do you feel about outsourcing? Do you feel it’s a significant benefit to the busy voice talent?
I think outsourcing can be a valuable asset for working voice talent. I’m a meticulous proofer when listening for errors, but I also listen for consistency of characters from chapter to chapter. I work quickly and turn around finished files always on deadline. Narrators don’t have be engineers when they work with me. Narrators can do what they do best and leave the technical stuff to me.
5. Obviously George is Really Awesome and a great resource, but how do you feel your own background helps you in working with talent?
I’ve worked as a digital tech for commercial photographers for many years which required me to be technically savvy as well as a problem solver. I also know how to break down simply what needs done for people who are not technically savvy.

Your Client’s Ears

earYou’re probably wondering why I’m writing about something like a part of your client’s anatomy. But your client’s ears are something important for you to keep in mind, and one that I’ve found recently my clients tend to misunderstand or not take into account all too often.

Most voice talent I know are perfectionists of one kind or another. They want everything to be ‘just so’ and are particular about how things get to be that way. I can understand this as I am the same way in many areas, but it’s also important to learn how to let go. It’s very easy to get caught up in the picky details of our work and to waste time and energy that could be more productively spent elsewhere worrying about things.

This particularly applies to editing work. I’ve heard moaned from many a talent, some new, some old in the game, that they obsess over every mouth click, every sibilant, every plosive, and want the audio to be at it’s best, shiniest, and cleanest before they send it on to their client. They spend hours slaving over a few minutes of waveform and give themselves both headaches and a case of being heartily sick of the sound of their own voice. This phenomena can be particularly deadly with long form narration.

But I have news for you. Remember that in order to do what you do, you’ve had to develop a set of professional equipment. Your recording space, your microphone, your software, website, and your voice training are all part of this. There’s a part of you you’re forgetting when you run through this list in your head, however.

Your ears.

Whether it’s conscious or not, you’ve trained your ears to a certain extent. You hear everything about your voice, the defects both perceived and actual, the noise, the fact that you shouldn’t have had that soda or latte before you turned on the mic, everything. Here’s the important thing to remember, though.

Most of the time, your client hears none of this.

There are exceptions, there are people who notice and want that sort of thing cleaned up, and if there’s something particularly noisy, of course it should be cleaned up. But the soft sounds, the little things, the medium sounds? You really can let them go by. Remember your client’s ears. Remember that they’re lacking that crucial piece of professional equipment before you spend more time worrying over the fact that you forgot your green apples this morning.


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