DID YOU KNOW...? Vol. 4
This week we're reposting another Did You Know...? written by Karen White, which was originally featured in our handy dandy newsletter in July 2018. This post includes tons of helpful insights about publishing in audio that we thought were worth re-sharing. Check it out below!
As promised, this (multi-part) edition of “Did You Know” will focus on casting.
Most authors, whether they’re already published in audio or have simply asked colleagues about the experience would probably believe the following:
1) If your books are put in audio by a traditional audiobook publisher, you will have no say in casting.
2) If you’re self-publishing in audio, the only way to find narrators is by posting an audition on ACX.
Both of these statements were true about five years ago, but oh, how the marketplace has changed!
These days, however your books are getting into audio, you can and should have a say in who is narrating them. However, we here at Romance Narrators strongly recommend that you do your research first.
In the next few newsletters, we will go over how to do the research that will help you find and book the best narrator(s) for your book (or series – and if you’re going to switch narrators mid-series, you’d better have a good reason – more on that later). We’ll also go over specific decisions you’ll have to make, including gender and number of narrators, audition text selection, what to listen for in auditions and what to look for on social media.
We’ll also go over where to find narrators. Of course, we recommend checking out the Artist List at Romance Narrators, or simply post an audition via our casting notice form. All Romance Narrators are specialists in the genre and are happy to answer your questions about publishing in audio. Not only do each of us market our own books, but authors who choose narrators through our site have the benefit of exponential cross-posting via our group and individual social media accounts.
If you’re in a hurry, hop on over to Artist’s Page and get started.
If you’ve got some time, let’s start with the research phase.
This may seem obvious, but the first thing you need to do is listen to audiobooks. If you’re trying to save money, trot on down to your local library where you can usually check out both physical (CD’s) and digital copies of audiobooks. Most librarians are happy to help with figuring out how to search for and download digital audiobooks, which usually involves an app like Overdrive or Hoopla. If you’re a brand new listener, you can also take advantage of the free book that comes with joining digital audio distributors, like Audible, Audiobooks.com, Kobo, and Scribd.
Once you’ve figured out where you’re going to get your research audiobooks, you’ll need a list of books to listen to. Hopefully, as part of your own pitching and marketing prep, you’ve assembled a list of comps: the books that yours would be shelved with and/or be included alongside in a “You Make Also Like” algorithm. If you haven’t done so, make that list!
Then, check out or buy 5 - 10 audiobooks from that list, making sure you’ve got a selection of narrators, and take a listen. You don’t have to listen to the entire book, especially if you have a negative reaction to a narrator. There are objective and subjective elements to this research, and you’re allowed to simply dislike a voice. It’s one you (and your readers) might have to live with for some time.
For at least part of your listen for each book, be in a situation where you can completely focus and take notes. (Most people multi-task when they listen, but you’ve got an assignment to complete.)
Here’s what you’re listening for:
Does the gender of the narrator seem appropriate to the story? Why?
How many narrators does the book have? Does it work for you? Should there have been only one, or more than one? Why? (NOTE – though it’s a new trend, hiring more than two narrators to voice your book, or even two to record it in a way that it’s more like a radio play where the actors must work together simultaneously, will be a lot more expensive, so keep that in mind!)
Do the narrator’s vocal choices for the main characters seem true to the text? Do they make sense? Are they pleasing to listen to?
Do the narrator’s vocal choices for the supporting characters fit the world of the book? Do they help create that world for you? Or do they take you out of the story?
Does the recording of the narrative keep you engaged? Does the narrator pace the narrative in a way that adds to the experience (especially in a romantic suspense)? Is there an emotional connection during the reading of the narrative that fits the POV of the book? That is, if it’s a close 3rd person or 1st person POV, does the actor pull you in to the experience emotionally? Whereas, if it’s a more distant 3rd person narrative, does the actor find a tone that feels like an appropriate overview?
Are there any distractions? These might include changes in volume, unnecessary sounds, excessive breath or mouth noises, incorrect pronunciations, or inconsistent character voices. (Note that some of these issues may be due to post-production errors rather than the narrator’s performance, but they are issues you can bring up with your producer or publisher if you like a narrator otherwise.)
Once you’ve made your notes, use them to create a list of narrators that you like and think might work for your book. The list could include both males and females. This process may have made it clear that a male or female voice, or both, will work best for your book, but for some books it may still be up in the air. It’s useful to choose in terms of narrowing things down, but not necessary.
(Note that if any of these narrators are celebrities and you don’t have a large trust fund, then you will probably have a difficult time hiring them. However, it’s good to have even celebrity voices as references, where you can say “I like how he handles the narrative/paces the book/has a smile in her voice”, etc.)
Next month, we’ll address the gender question more specifically as well as how to research the list of narrators you’ve found. Here’s an assignment to get you started. Google the names on your list with the words “audiobook” and/or “narrator” and/or “review”. Find out how many audiobooks they’ve recorded (as well as how many in romance or in your sub-genre), where they’re getting reviewed and what kind of social media presence they have as audiobook narrators. These will all be important considerations if you want a narrator with a wealth of experience and/or if you want help marketing your audiobooks.