DID YOU KNOW...? Vol. 6
This week we're reposting another Did You Know...? written by Karen White, which was originally featured in our handy dandy newsletter in November 2018. This post includes tons of helpful insights about publishing in audio that we thought were worth re-sharing. Check it out below!
The last subject we’re covering in Casting is auditions: how to choose audition text and what to listen for once narrators have submitted samples.
We turned to two veteran romance writers, both of whom have published audio to great success, CD Reiss and Lauren Blakely.
Neither author holds open auditions anymore, preferring instead to seek out narrators and either invite them to audition, as CD does:
I listen to samples on Audible and reach out to who I like with a VERY short text.
Alternatively, Lauren’s approach is to keep an ear out when she’s listening for pleasure. (She only auditions if there’s a specific need, like an accent, that she hasn’t heard the narrator cover in other books.)
I am an avid listener, and listen to about 6-8 books per month. As such I know the general style of many popular and emerging romance narrators. When I'm interested in someone, I look for his or her work on Audible and listen extensively to both samples and full books to get a sense of their overall work. I prefer to listen to a whole book when I'm considering someone - you want to know if he or she can sustain a role, has any vocal tics, hits all the right notes, etc. Usually, I'll then reach out directly and offer a role, like I did for Joe Arden when I first asked him to narrate "Unbreak My Heart." There was no need for him to audition as I knew he could handle the role.
When they do ask for auditions, both offer some useful specifics around choosing text.
Regarding how much text to include, CD says,
The first time I put up audition text it was way, way too much. Now I'd give half a page with a few lines of dialog. I can tell in three seconds if I'm going to listen to the entire thing, so there's no reason to ask for more. If I like them, but feel like I need to hear something different, or differently, I'll ask for another round but out of respect for their time I'd keep it super short.
And as for what to include in the text, Lauren has good advice.
I would recommend an emotional scene, a dialogue-driven scene between hero and heroine, and a bit of narration. If an author hasn't heard the actor narrate a sex scene, that's fine too. I've never included those in my auditions because I'd heard enough to know the narrators could do those fabulously.
I asked if either author includes any sort of direction with the audition text, and both liked to keep it minimal.
I only give 2-3 line notes. I try to include the character's intentions and wants in my notes as that's, in my experience, how you get the best performance from the narrator… I rarely give specific direction other than setting the scene and telling them something like, ‘this is a first date and he wants to impress her.'
I only include the region the person is from and how I expect the delivery. Breathy, snappy, happy. I like to include an actor in a famous role, or a TV character. Narrators are great at listening as well as speaking. So I'll say, "she sounds like Sandra Bullock in "Speed" not "Hope Floats… I like the narrator to do their best with what they have. If I feel like the test tape is not quite there, but has potential, I'll add additional direction.
As for listening to auditions, Lauren has a list of priorities:
If I'm bored, that's a deal breaker.
1. S/he gets your sense of humor: since I write rom-com, this is the most important aspect. Comic timing is everything in my genre!
2. The emotion s/he brings to the narrative - critical
3. The truthfulness or appropriateness of the emotion s/he conveys - yup
4. His/her approach to sex scenes - it better sound intimate!
5. How masculine or feminine s/he sounds (whether playing their own gender or a different gender) - YES!
6. How old s/he sounds - if the actor is wrong age, he or she likely won't be auditioning
7. Appropriate pacing - I can work with actors on tightening pacing
Whereas CD has a few dealbreakers:
Women narrators who utter every word of an erotica audition breathlessly---as if they've just run a four minute mile. The sex should sound sexy...sure. But "pass the peas" shouldn't sound like she's a stroke away from orgasm.
Male narrators who sound like they're reporting the news. If I can't feel your presence inside a scene I can't imagine you as the character.
Many thanks to CD Reiss and Lauren Blakely for their time and expertise. Please check out their audiobooks!