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. 🙂
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.