Interview with an audiobook narrator: TJ Clark

Sunwielder on Audible (see offer below) & on Amazon (global link)

I did it again.  I jumped in feet first and then asked questions later. Thank goodness I had an audiobook narrator who held my virtual hand.

Rather than share my newbie inexperience, I thought you might be interested in hearing from a pro.

Meet TJ!  His voice brought my book Sunwielder to life, and this week the audiobook went live!

1. Tell us a little about you, your professional background, and why you decided to begin narrating audiobooks.

I’m a trained actor with a BFA in theater from Syracuse University. My family was always big on audiobooks (back when they were “books on tape”) during long road trips. I have a pretty vivid memory of listening to James and the Giant Peach on a trip from Connecticut to South Carolina. Somewhere along that road there is a giant water tower in the shape of a peach and it made the whole thing really magical to me. I realized I wanted to do them myself when I was a teenager and my sister was reading Lamb by Christopher Moore during a cruise vacation. She got seasick and couldn’t keep reading so I picked it up and read aloud to her on the beach while she tried to keep from throwing up. After a while, mom came over and told me I need to keep my voice down. I looked around and a little gathering had amassed. Everyone said “no, no, keep going. This is great!”

 

2. What do you look for in a book when choosing to audition for a project?

A lot goes into picking a project, but first and foremost, I have to want to read it. If the audition script is good, that’s step one.  But this is a lot of work for a narrator so I do have to consider “Is it going to be worth my time?”  Royalty Share Plus is definitely the best way to get a quality narrator’s attention. It shows you believe in the project and will respect my time. If you can’t invest the money and are hoping to find someone good willing to take a risk on royalty share with you, you need to let people know you have a great marketing plan. No book sells on good writing alone. There is just too much out there.  Oh, and the cover matters. Make it a good one.

 

3. What kind of preparation do you do before starting to record? How do you get a feel for the characters and tone of a story?

Total honesty: I don’t read the books before I start.  For me, it just takes too much time. This goes back to the last question – if I can’t hear the book in my head from the audition sample I won’t do it.  The tone, main character, style, and pace are usually all right there, and if I book the job, that means we are simpatico and I am ready to roll.  As I go, picking new character voices sometimes requires pausing the recording to read ahead a bit, but other than that, I just try and stay alive in the story and have fun.

 

4. How do you come up with different voices and keep them all straight?

Voices come from all over. People I know in life, celebrity impressions, facial expressions I feel like the characters would fall into a lot. I take notes in a journal as I go. Sometimes I have to back to double-check the recording. Some characters are gone for a long time, and I’ll look in my notebook, and it will say something like “slow James Dean” and I am like, “Ok, gotta hear that again.” Haha.

 

5. How can an author best prepare for the audiobook process?

Authors should understand 2 things: narrators aren’t perfect, and this takes a lot of work. I’ll elaborate, you are going to need to listen to these carefully. It’s your book and you want it to be without mistakes. So be ready to double-check your narrator’s work and help them get it right. However, we auditioned and you picked us. So that means you like what we do and have to trust us.  Every change takes us a lot of time so don’t expect to be able to ask for different takes and nitpicking. So you have to come to terms with protecting your baby and letting it go at the same time.  Beyond that, if there is something you care about (voices, accents, pace) you have to communicate that up front. So have it all planned. Having a “dream cast” that you can show your narrator is very helpful. And if your book has made-up words and names a pronunciation guide is essential. My favorite way anyone has done this for me is chapter by chapter. So before I record chapter 5, I can look at chapter 5 notes and see what weird words or new characters are about to come my way.

 

6. What is the greatest challenge(s) in recording an audiobook?

Time. Haha. Editing these takes a while and parts of it are very repetitive. But it literally takes 100% focus to get it right so it can be very mentally draining.

 

7. How would you describe your recording process? How long did it take to record Sunwielder?

I’m a working actor and I am on set a lot. So I record on days off or nights or weekends. Then I bring my laptop to set and edit during my downtime between takes. It took me about 6 weeks to do Sunwielder and that was pretty breakneck for me. I have found a good pace for me is 2 complete hours a week. Obviously, I can do more and there are faster narrators than me. But that’s about what works best for my brain.

 

8. Any marketing tips that you’ve seen authors use successfully in the past? I had to ask!

Get reviews. All the reviews you can. Find people on twitter. There’s a great writing community there. Instagram is pretty good for audiobook reviews too. Goodreads is an amazing resource. Get the book in as many hands as you can and ask everyone to post a review on audible, amazon, facebook. Everywhere.
Note from Diana to blog buds:
Are you an audiobook reader? Do you want to be?
I have Audible credits to share in the US and UK. 
Leave a note in the comments, and I’ll send you one.
And please make TJ’s smile even brighter with an honest review. ❤

 

9. Any other behind the scenes advice for authors?

My best advice to self-published authors is this: just because there is no publisher doesn’t mean any of the jobs of a publisher can be ignored. You just elected to take them all on yourself. So you have to find an editor (it can’t be you), you have to find a PROOFREADER (yes, editors and proofreaders are different and the proofreader DEFINITELY can’t be you), your cover has to be professional, you have to buy ads, you have to get reviews, you have to go to conventions and meet people. You wrote a book!  That’s amazing!  There’s a lot of work left.

 

10. Can you share a short teaser of your work on Sunwielder?

Chapter 42 is my favorite. I think it’s some of the best work I have done so far in my career. So get ready for that.

 

Thanks so much, TJ, for your wonderful interpretation, for guiding me through the process, and sharing your expertise. 🙂

 

Sunwielder Review

A recent kindle review from Jacqui Murray at WordDreams. Thank you, Jacqui, for your wonderful support.

Jacqui Murray reviewed Sunwielder: An Epic Time Travel Adventure

 What wouldn’t you do to save your family? October 18, 2019

In Sunwielder (2016), D. Wallace Peach’s fantasy world is not unlike Earth’s medieval world of hardworking commoners, feudal lords, and warring kingdoms. The hero Gryff wants only to be a farmer and raise horses when his entire family is wiped out by a man who hates him for no apparent reason. When he has the opportunity to change his past with the time traveling Sunwielder, given to him by a timekeeper from a neighboring land, he takes it without questioning the cost. Even though it means he must leave the pastoral beauty of his farm, the loving warmth of his family, and spend the next years as a soldier, fighting a battle his farmer self barely cares about, he takes it. His one promise to his wife when he married her was that he’d keep her safe. He doesn’t intend to break that promise. From the moment he dons the Sunwielder, his life is controlled by a future he isn’t sure of. All he knows is when the present doesn’t work out ‘right’, he dies and gets to try again.

This is a fast-paced story of undying love, baseless hate, and how a family’s life becomes the pawn between those two. One of the most beautiful parts of this story is simply the way Peach links her words. Read this:

“Nearly three hundred men in the great hall dropped to one knee, right knuckles to the floor, heads bowed.”

”Black oaks, dark with summer leaves, swathed the trail in shifting shadow. Shafts of sunlight speared the forest floor, altered only by the sway of branches in the heated wind.”

Peach has a way of picking exactly the right word to evoke so much more than the meaning would promise. Few are better at world building. This is highly recommended not only for those who love fantasies but those who enjoy a good military thriller.

158 thoughts on “Interview with an audiobook narrator: TJ Clark

  1. kevin cooper says:

    Good interview, Diana. Thanks for the insight. I have thought about possibly having Miedo narrated but am still unsure about it or if it’s worth the investment.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Great interview and review… and yes love audio books.. 🙂

    Like

  3. What a fun job this would be! Lucky him, doing what he loves and is good at. I’ve seen that giant peach water tower on a drive south, have a picture standing under it, but from afar. Kind of funny. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Norah says:

    I really enjoyed this interview. I love listening to audiobooks and some narrators are definitely better than others. I’ll have to listen to this one to find out how good TJ is. I often wonder, as I listen, how much of the text is changed (unintentionally) by the reader – we all do it, but it never seems to matter. And it all seems so flawless and continual, it just flows of the tongue, that it seems it’s done in one session. This was very informative. Thank you for sharing.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Adele Marie says:

    Reblogged this on firefly465 and commented:
    A must-read for anyone interested in turning their novel into an audiobook. Thank you, Diana xxx

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Adele Marie says:

    This was a fascinating look into a world I want to try. So much information which I wouldn’t have thought about, thank you, Diana, and T J Clark, xxx

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m glad this was helpful, Adele. With ACX, the process is actually quite easy. The most stressful part is picking a narrator, but once that’s done the rest flowed (for me anyway). TJ was great at helping me too. And if you go straight Royalty Share, there’s no cost to you. That’s kind of nice. 😀

      Like

  7. acflory says:

    Fabulous interview with TJ. I don’t read audible books myself, but I know they’re huge…and very daunting! The whole things feels a little less terrifying now. 🙂

    Awesome review from Jacqui too. So glad Sunwielder is going places. Definitely one of my favourites.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Interesting and very informative, TJ and Diana. Congratulations all around! 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  9. How exciting, Diana! Congratulations!

    Liked by 2 people

  10. Hi Diana, I’m back and have read the interview. Congratulations again for your new adventure of doing audio book.

    I enjoyed listening to audio book back in the days of cassette tapes. In my teaching days, I played the tapes to the students with the front of the books facing them and paid attention to them. I read aloud to the students regularly. I was good in reading a new book and read with intonation and expression. So I understand when TJ said he didn’t read the book before recording.

    I like his answer for question 5 – the author’s preparation. I’ve written some children’s stories more than 10 years ago and considered finding an illustrator. The recommendation for the illustrator to do closely to what the author wants is to provide notes for the pages. As TJ noted that it helped the narrator to do what the author wants when the notes for each chapter are there.

    I did radio broadcasting in my younger days. When recording stories, we had a team playing different roles. It was easier than having one person playing both male and female roles. I can understand the audio book is done by one narrator.

    Your interview questions are great. Did you talk about how you found TJ?

    Liked by 2 people

  11. Diana, this is all so exciting! Congrats on launching the audio version of one of my favorites among your novels. I very much enjoyed your interview with TJ Clark. I’d like to do something like that, but first I need to either have money or through some miracle sell books. Also congratulations on this terrific review by Jacqui Murray​. I’m thrilled by your success. ❤ Hugs on the wing!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks for the enthusiasm, Teagan. 🙂 You can make an ACX audio book through a straight royalty share if you’re inclined. The only thing you need in that case is time. Ha ha. So when you’re ready, don’t let a lack of funds hold you back. ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  12. Teri Polen says:

    This was interesting and educational, Diana. Sarah is an audiobook, but my publisher took care of getting a narrator. I was only asked to give him examples of actors that may resemble my characters. When I was sent a clip of the recording, he’d used a deep southern accent for the characters – which wasn’t right for them at all. To my knowledge, he nixed the accent, but I’ve never had the heart to listen to the audiobook.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Wow. What a surprise that must have been. Getting the right narrator is by far the most important (and therefore the most stressful) part of the process. And we have to allow the narrator his own interpretations, since they’ll never match the ones in our head. But an accent choice seems like a big decision to make without running it by you. I hope it turned out well. 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

  13. How cool Diana. I need to finish reading the rest of your books. ❤

    Liked by 2 people

  14. dgkaye says:

    This was fantastic and informative. Thanks Diana and TJ for this wonderful advice. And congrats for diving in Diana! 🙂 xx

    Liked by 2 people

  15. D.L. Finn, Author says:

    I found this interview so interesting. I know nothing about the audio process. Congrats on going to next next step with recording the words.

    Liked by 2 people

  16. Absolutely fascinating Diana and so useful for any author considering taking their books into audio.. thank you for sharing.

    Liked by 2 people

  17. Jay says:

    My brother in law listens to a lot of audiobooks and he starts to recognize narrators from book to book and have his favourites.

    Liked by 2 people

    • It’s so important to get the right narrator. And really, it’s the most stressful part of the entire process. I have heard that people get attached to narrators and I can totally see that happening. Thanks for the visit, Jay. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  18. Damyanti Biswas says:

    Congratulations on the audiobooks!

    Liked by 1 person

  19. What a unique and cool perspective.

    Liked by 1 person

  20. Mae Clair says:

    Wow, congratulations on going the audio book route, Diana (and also for that excellent review on Jacqui’s blog).

    This was an interesting interview. I admit I don’t listen to audio books, but it was still fascinating to learn about. And it seems they are becoming hugely popular. Wishing you and TJ all the best!

    Liked by 2 people

  21. Jan Sikes says:

    Firstly, congratulations on the audiobook, Diana! Secondly, what an interesting insight into what a narrator looks for before taking on a script. It all goes back to the writing, but I also found it interesting that he mentions a marketing plan. That too is super important. Thank you for sharing this!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Yeah. Polished writing makes the whole process easier (another reason we should read our work aloud as part of our editing process). Marketing is really important since that’s how the narrator is paid, at least partly. An author has to step it up since we’re “responsible” for making that happen. Thus the post! Ha ha. Thanks for the visit, my friend. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  22. Congratulations, Diana. I thought of doing audio book from the beginning but haven’t contacted anyone yet.

    It’s 3am, I’ll read your interview in the morning and comment some more.

    Liked by 2 people

  23. Annika Perry says:

    Diana, congratulations on this audiobook and thank you for sharing this superb interview with TJ. He’s incredibly knowledgeable, eloquent and tells the home truths about self-publishing. The onus is on the author as a publisher to do all the work of a publisher regarding promotion, and to know how to find good editors, proofreaders and cover designers. I was fascinated to learn how he prepares for the recording and wow! What praise for chapter 42 … I’ll read that most carefully. As I’ve had some requests for an audio book of The Storyteller Speaks I looked into this earlier in the year and met up with someone. I realised however that they were new to this and had no recording equipment even. I’m so glad this has worked out so well for you and I may well pick your brains about this in the near future! Well done and best luck to the audiobook. I’m sure it will do brilliantly!😀

    Liked by 2 people

    • Oh how exciting for you, Annika. Pick my brain anytime you want. Lol. A clean polished read (which you have) is critical since all the challenges of the book show up in the reading. I also went with Royalty Share Plus, paying a bit extra to make sure I had a professional narrator with other books to his credit. It’s not like you get to edit it down the road as you can a written book, so the narrator decision is the most important one you’ll make. I hope you take the leap. It’s fun. Have an awesome day, my friend. ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  24. jomz says:

    So that’s how an audio book is made! Quite interesting!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I really had no idea what I was doing when I jumped in. But the process is fairly straightforward in the end, and the narrator does the bulk of the work. TJ made it easy for me. Thanks for taking a peek at the post, Jomz. Have an awesome day. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  25. Thêa says:

    Quite mindblowing, I would say! 👍😃

    Liked by 1 person

  26. balroop2013 says:

    Congratulations Diana! Going audio is another father in your cap and your narrator seems to be quite focused. How did you meet him?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for the visit, Balroop. I hear so much about how people are listening to books these days, it seemed like a natural step. I went through ACX and posted an audition script. TJ auditioned and I liked his interpretation of the main character, made an offer, and he accepted. Then we were off and running (or recording). 🙂 BTW, I finished your latest book – review on its way. ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  27. Look at you kicking goals! You’re such an inspiraiton Ms Peach 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  28. Fantastic review, Diana! TJ gave some great tips in his interview. I especially liked finding famous voices that fit as examples of what you’re looking for- excellent advice!

    Liked by 2 people

  29. Solitaire says:

    This is wonderful Diana! I enjoy audiobooks, however if the voice is not a match for the story never want to hear it again. I enjoy the monotonous tone of Alexa- she reads all my regular books, she doesn’t try to make men voices or accents, that’s the worst in an audio books.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I can understand that, Solitaire, since Siri reads to me, and her drone doesn’t misinterpret anything, she just drones. Lol. Geeting used to a man’s voice doing a woman’s voice was the hardest adjustment, but I did get used to it, and the intonation and personality behind the words are nice. 🙂 A great experience over all.

      Liked by 1 person

  30. cath says:

    A fascinating interview TJ and Diana.
    And, how exciting. Diana, to have your words interpreted. Congratulations.

    Liked by 1 person

    • The hardest part for me was adjusting to the inescapable fact that the voice(s) of a narrator will never match the voices in my head. Ha ha. The whole process though was pretty easy. Now that I have the hang of it, I’m looking forward to doing another. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  31. I enjoyed the interview between you and TJ. Fantastic answers, TJ. I’m curious though… Diana, what do you send to a narrator? What is TJ talking about when he says “audition script”? Is this something you prepare or what TJ prepares as, like it says, an audition for you to choose your narrator? Thanks. Lovely review from Jacqui by the way.

    Liked by 2 people

  32. GP Cox says:

    I put this book on my reading list – guess I’d best get over to my listening list, eh?!! (I blame this on old age – can I use that excuse here?)

    Liked by 1 person

  33. Congrats Diana for getting your book on Audible. And what a fantastic insight into the making of an audio book! Thank you so much for the feature, I learned something today. And as for Jacqui’s sterling review…*sigh, what’s a book nerd to do? 😀

    Liked by 2 people

  34. This was great. Always wondered about the process and efforts that go into audio books.
    Thank you for giving us a peek into the process.

    Liked by 2 people

  35. This is a great interview, Diana. I was most interested to read about the narrator’s point of view when creating an audio book. I have been toying with the idea of doing an audio book too but it does sound like a lot of work.

    Liked by 1 person

  36. Thank you both for a great interview. It was very helpful, as I have creating an audio book on my “to do” list.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It wasn’t that hard, Brigid (for me anyway. Lol). But it is time consuming and you want to keep up with the narrator since they’ve committed to a time frame. ACX made it really easy, and they’re set up to guide you through the process. I’ll definitely do more of them. Well worth it. 🙂 I’m glad this was helpful.

      Liked by 1 person

  37. Class finds class, Diana! A great post.

    Liked by 2 people

  38. What a great interview. Thanks for introducing us to TJ, Diana. Being a lover of journals, I love that he keeps a journal of the voices.

    Liked by 2 people

  39. What an interesting interview, TJ and Diana. I’ve never talked with an audio book artist before. You make the process sound so credible.

    Liked by 2 people

    • It was quite easy for me, though time consuming. I listened to and read along with each take on each chapter twice and occasionally 3 times to make sure I caught the glitches. It’s a process to be sure. I’ll definitely do another after I save up for a bit. Thanks for stopping by!

      Like

  40. You must have been glowing like mad when you first read that Kindle review. 😀

    I really enjoyed this interview. It was interesting to read how a narrator goes through his process, especially with choosing different voices.

    Liked by 2 people

  41. What a great interview and insight into the nuances of being an audiobook reader. Who knew?

    Liked by 3 people

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