Podcasts & Webinars
I have never been overly fond of listening to podcasts or tuning in to webinars; I so often find them frustrating and unsatisfactory and usually lose interest and drop out of the session. But why? My antipathy to podcasts and webinars puzzles me because as an avid 'talk radio' listener (BBC Radio 4) : people talking about what interests them, interviews and radio documentaries are what I listen to most. As far as TV is concerned, I watch far more factual programmes than anything else, so why do I frequently find podcasts and webinars, which are essentially an online version of what I enjoy so much on the radio and television, so singularly unsatisfactory?
Today it suddenly struck me ... a lightbulb moment!
One of the cardinal rules for journalists, interviewers and presenters - it is not about you; it's about your guests.
It is most definitely not the interviewer's role to judge, nor to give an opinion and definitely not to pop in their two penn'orth or their comments - or worse still, to chime in with the dreaded 'Oh yes, that happened to me! I remember when I did .... blah blah blah!' At this point, I (and probably everyone else listening or watching turns off ... literally as well as emotionally! Of course this is not solely the province of webinars and podcasts, it occasionally happens in broadcast interviews as well particularly when the person doing the interviewing is in the same line of work as those they are interviewing when it becomes almost a competition. I can think of several cringe making moments where an interviewer refuses to take the back seat and feels he or she has to 'top' whatever the guest says at every point in the discussion.
Listening to a discussion where the interviewer is following their own agenda is like having a health related discussion with a hypochondriac - every illness, every ache and pain you've experienced, they've had - not only more often, but more seriously!
Only at the end of a podcast lasting for over an hour, did I find out that those doing the interview were actually in the same business as those they were interviewing. Their names are Sean Daeley and Paul Stefano and their podcast series, about all things voiceover and audio related, a series which I thoroughly recommend, is called 'The VO Meter - Measuring your Voiceover Progress'
Narrators and Producers discussing Audiobooks
If you're already a narrator - or would like to be, if you're already working on ACX and wondering how to make it work more successfully, if you're looking for a coach to work on audiobooks with you or if you're thinking of dipping your toe into the water, then this is something you need to listen to.
It takes a while to get going, but has so many insights as to how things work in the US - where it seems that producers and publishers are much more open to being approached directly - and how narrators are increasingly taking control and creating their own opportunities.
The discussion is between Andi Arndt, Scott Brick, Steven J Cohen, Sean Pratt and Debra Deyan. I can't recommend it highly enough: the interviewer asks the right questions of the right people and leaves them to answer in detail, rather than jumping in and taking over. This 'taking over' happens all too often in podcasts and webinars which many interviewers seem to think is about them rather than the people they're talking to. Those are the folk the listener is really interested in.
Just click the link HERE and settle down for a fascinating discussion. (NB. You might want to fast forward to around 17 minutes to get to the nitty-gritty.)
The narrator's view
'Acting ... Audiobook narration is all about acting'
Performing Audiobooks is a whole different ball game from doing any other kind of voice work - and you might think that 'performing' is an odd word to use. Most people use narration or reading - but to my mind - audiobook narrators are performers in exactly the same way as actors, dancers and singers are performers. There is so much more to reading an audiobook than just reading aloud.
'Words mean more than what is set down on paper. It takes the human voice to infuse them with deeper meaning'.
There is absolutely no doubt that performing an audiobook is a huge challenge - and it is little wonder that so many voice over artists balk at the idea of being shut in a padded room for days on end for such small reward - for there is absolutely no doubt that financially at least, audiobook narration is the poor relation. A thirty second network commercial shown across all networks at peak time for a major brand can command a higher fee than a ten hour audiobook ... and the work will be completed in hours rather than days. People do make money in audiobooks - but we generally don't make very much - and we certainly don't make it quickly - and we earn every penny.
In this article, I am going to look at what's involved in creating an audiobook from scratch from the performer's point of view.
I actually narrate more than I listen ... I am very picky when it comes to listening and hypercritical - but when I love a narrator's voice and what he or she brings to a book - then I will look for other works they've read and the narrator often leads me to books that I would never have previously considered.
Anyway back to the article ... Theatre of the Mind! Wow.
Click on this link to read it
February 2018 ... Newsletter
Crikey it’s been cold here in Derbyshire! We’ve been in the grip of ‘The Beast from the East’ and storm Emma – and have had snow! Proper snow and -10C temperatures if you count in the wind chill factor. Fortunately, I have heat and a cosy and toasty recording space.
Here’s my latest news:
Published in February:
Fern Britton’s latest novel, ‘Coming Home’ – reached no 5 in the Sunday Times Best Seller list within four days of being published. The audiobook, read by me and produced in-house by the lovely folk at White House Sound for Harper Collins UK is now available on Audible.
Jung’s Psychology – An Introduction’ by Freda Fordham recorded for Ukemi Audiobooks. Something of a classic this one!
‘The Wicked Wit of Queen Elizabeth II’ by Karen Dolby recorded for W F Howes Ltd
In the Studio:
‘The Allotment Girls’ by Kate Thompson is a WW2 novel woven around the lives of the extraordinary women who worked at the iconic Bryant and May match factory in London’s East End. In production for Lamplight Audiobooks
And in other news . . .
Sun King Media - investigated by Simon Hare on BBC ONE
This organisation has cropped up in various guises - and they're still at it - I recently saw them advertising jobs for Audiobook Narrators recently on LinkedIn - of course they were calling themselves something different, but a little digging revealed it was good old Sun King. And it sounded very appealing ... audiobook narration at a PFH rate of £300 - in the UK? The old adage holds true - it it sounds too good to be true - it probably is!
Reporter Simon Hare of BBC One's Inside Out programme has Sun King Media in their sights ... and his report airs this coming Monday on Inside Out on BBC One at 7.30pm across the Midlands and on BBC One HD - also available on BBC iplayer for thirty days. A must watch (and a warning) to every voice actor, actor, and voice artist in the UK. Watch and Learn.
You can find out more here. HERE
If you're under the impression that Audiobooks are created for people with a visual impairment, think again! Audiobooks are the fastest growing segment of the digital publishing industry with the United States being the biggest marketplace with sales of over $2.5 billion dollars. Michelle Cobb of the Audiobook Publishers Association (APA) said that, “26% of the US population had listened to an audiobook in the last 12 months with an estimated 79,000 new audiobooks, published in the last 12 months, a 29% increase from 2016". Major publishers in the US confirm that the only way that their digital units have consistently been in profit, is due primarily to audiobooks as e-book sales decline. Currently in the UK only 12% of the population listen to audiobooks.
Audiobooks - producton and narration is a huge topic ... a genre of voice work that I spend most of my time working in and which I am passionate about. Because of the amount of information that I want to share, I have split this article into two parts. Firstly ... lets find out more about Audiobook Production. . .
The first crocuses are just poking their heads bravely through the mud after an incredibly wet January here in the UK. We have had snow too – just a sprinkling. Freddy the pup loved it! Some days it feels as though Spring is in the air – at other times, it’s definitely winter, but the days are lengthening which always lifts my heart a little.
December was quiet … January less so … and February is picking up nicely.
‘Christmas with the Bomb Girls’ by Rosie Styles recorded for Lamplight/Whole Story Audiobooks. A rollicking good war time romance set in a Lancashire munitions factory of Lancashire.
‘Jung’s Psychology – An Introduction’ by Freda Fordham recorded for Ukemi Audiobooks. Something of a classic this one!
I am delighted to have been chosen to narrate Fern Britton’s most recent novel, ‘Coming Home’ to be recorded early in February at White House Sound’s Studios in Leicestershire for Harper Collins UK
APAC 2018 is only four months away … my tickets are booked and I am looking forward to connecting with friends and colleagues in New York later in the year.
The Forgotten Age Book 1 - Rise of The Druids
By Wayne M Sefton
'History is not always an accurate record as it was often written by the victor of the events that led up to the here and now. But there is another history, one that is remembered by those who exist only in myth and folklore. A history from the dawn of this world when Man walked with Elves and Dwarfs, a history from the time of magic. But that was long ago and is long forgotten .. Until now.'
I was amazed to find that this is Wayne M Sefton’s first full length book – and that he is a self published author. I have read many books from major publishers that are not nearly as engaging and well-written as this one. He definitely has talent.
The characters are well drawn and engaging and for the most part the dialogue flows naturally and is believable. The author doesn’t fall into the trap of using attribution (he said, she said, said Kelly, said Jason) after every line of speech which is something that a lot of new authors seem to do … he trusts his readers and his character’s unique voice to be recognised as the dialogue progresses and it works.
The fantasy novel is not a genre that I read often, but I found this captivating, even the points where their journey becomes more fantasy than earth bound. – it was imaginative and held me throughout – and I found myself really enjoying the journey - and look forward to reading the next in the series.
Quote from Carl Jung
"At present we educate people only up to the point where they can earn a living and marry; then education ceases altogether, as though a complete mental outfit had been acquired.
Advice on Social Media? - Take it with a pinch of salt!
But hang on a minute - we all know deep down that not all the 'facts' shared on Social Media are well researched, accurate or appropriate ... but when we're looking for answers it's almost as though we throw caution to the wind and believe whatever we read. It's on the internet ... therefore it must be true. One only has to look at all the hoax posts that are continually re-posted to know that the majority of people don't ever check the facts or look beyond the headlines.
Read it all and at best you'll end up confused - just a quick glance at the advice on eating a healthy diet and you'll see confusion at its most chaotic. There is just so much information that is downright misleading and inaccurate. There are folk who have little knowledge and even less experience blithely posting their two penn'orth - not deliberately to mislead - but often because they're trying to sell something and because on Facebook or Twitter everyone can be 'an expert' - though in actual fact, a lot of the information posted is just plain wrong. If you're looking for answers - don't accept what's posted on social media at face value, you need to do a more research - if someone offers advice, look at their profile, are they qualified to give an opinion, what is their experience? There are all kinds of people with all levels of experience selling their services, offering advice and support.
I have noticed that certainly in the field of VO, there are literally hundreds of people offering technical and performance related advice - and even 'coaching' - and of course some of them have a lifetime of experience, and are truly expert ... but this doesn't apply across the board. Some are more expert than others. I spotted some audiobook advice posted online the other day, by someone, who a little research revealed, had recorded three whole audiobooks ... not sure they were really qualified to offer their 'expert' advice.
You know you owe it to yourself to check out the accuracy and validity of advice online. The person posting may have have vast knowledge and experience and may truly be an expert in their particular field ... or maybe not! Buyer beware!
Voice Over Auditions
An invitation to audition for a VO has arrived in your inbox. What do you do? Instructions are minimal. The pay is OK but the deadline is tight. You're not particularly busy but it's not a genre you feel confident in or are particularly interested in - so, do you audition or not? Before rushing to record your submission - bear in mind the wise words of veteran voice actor and coach Johnny Heller
'You only get one chance to make a good first impression ... make it count!'
There are exceptions to this way of working, though not often. However, some audiobook producers and production studios in UK studios still invite actors into their studio to do a sight reading before casting. The drawback of this is obvious ... especially to those of us living outside of London; thankfully there is usually some flexibility and narrators are given the option of recording their sight reading and share it over the internet.
This ability to record remotely and send an audition or a sample read directly via the internet to a client, or agent, or online casting site or producer or publisher has fundamentally change the way we work and look for work. Because it's comparatively quick and easy to record and upload your thirty second read, the temptation is to submit for every job going - a kind of knee jerk reaction - without really thinking about whether you stand a chance of getting it, whether your read is showing you to your best advantage - whether you're playing to your strengths and whether you really WANT the job.
In my opinion ... this kind of auditioning frenzy - pile em high and hope (that simply based on the law of averages) one of those reads will result in a job, is counter-productive and even damaging to your professional reputation.
Don't audition for practice ... practice in order to audition!
A is for AUDITIONS - Face to Face Casting sessions
Auditions - I was at Spotlight studios for a meeting recently and there in reception was a collection of nervous actors clutching their scripts and waiting to be called to the audition studio. Auditions! The bane of an actor's life but a necessary evil.
So what's the big deal? You know you're going to have to audition to get the job, you've had time to prepare, you know that there will be stiff competition- but in fact, the final decision will be made taking all kinds of external factors into consideration and may actually have very little to do with you or your ability.
"You only get one chance to make a good first impression. Make it count"
Johnny Heller - Audiobook narrator & Coach
You'll save yourself a lot of heartache, stress, and feelings of rejection and doubt if you concentrate on always playing to your strengths and if don't waste your time in auditioning for jobs that don't really interest you or that you don't stand a cat in hell's chance of actually getting. Of course you want to stretch yourself, to take on new and challenging projects ... but an audition studio is not the place to try out something new or to experiment with new genres. Really it isn't!
If you follow a lot of the online advice regarding acting, voice acting, auditions, success and applying for jobs, you might get the impression that all you need to do in order to gain success and recognition is just to want it enough. There is a lot of propaganda floating around that seems to imply that all you need to do in order to succeed is:
A: A firm belief that you can do it
B: To register for lots of coaching or classes
C: Record a voice reel (often 'the carrot' offered free that pulls you in and encourages you to enrol on the course) D: To work really really hard,
E: Do lots and lots of auditions and just keep on believing!
No mention of talent or even an interest in a particular job - but I digress.
I've divided this article into two sections - live face to face auditions first, then recorded auditions for voice overs.
Back to auditions . . . firstly ... live, face to face casting and auditions.
Accept & Build
""Rehearsal is not practice....it's FINDING"
Sir Peter Hall.
And you will never 'find' anything if you're trying too hard or are tense and closed to the possibility of something wonderful happening.
Acting requires you to 'Accept and Build' ... to always openly accept what is offered and to truthfully build on it; being open and flexible. Trying to force anything will only push what you're striving for further and further away from you.
With sincere gratitude to my acting and mime teacher from Guildhall, the inspirational and unique Ben Bennison.
The Keeper of Lost Things by Ruth Hogan
Anthony Peardew is the keeper of lost things. Forty years ago, he carelessly lost a keepsake from his beloved fiancee, Therese. That very same day, she died unexpectedly. Brokenhearted, Anthony sought consolation in rescuing lost objects--the things others have dropped, misplaced, or accidently left behind--and writing stories about them. Now, in the twilight of his life, Anthony worries that he has not fully discharged his duty to reconcile all the lost things with their owners. As the end nears, he bequeaths his secret life's mission to his unsuspecting assistant, Laura, leaving her his house and and all its lost treasures, including an irritable ghost.
This is such a gentle and evocative book, beautifully written with so many memorable and well drawn characters.
This book made me realise how much we all have invested in our 'things' and how things carry so many memories of your past, your friends, your family and your life. I have hoarding tendencies myself - so have to be ruthless about what I keep and what I get rid of, but there are some things that I have lost over the years ... the gold fountain pen my husband gave me for my thirtieth birthday, the little flower bead necklace that I had as a child and which slipped down the gap between the mantelpiece and the wall in my mum's old house, lots of bits of jewellery ... nothing intrinsically valuable, but each one came with a memory.
The Keep of Lost Things is also a guardian of memories and when the owner and the lost thing are re-united as they occasionally are, then the moment is magical. A beautiful book that I will re-read ... it made me cry and laugh. One of those books I missed reading as soon as I had finished it.
A Want of Kindness - A Novel of Queen Anne by Joanne Limburg
Who knows anything about Queen Anne? I didn't - other than a certain style of furniture has 'Queen Anne Legs' - This meticulously researched and fascinating history of Queen Anne - the last Stuart Queen gives real insight into the life of a wife, a mother, a political pawn and a Queen.
An extensively researched, beautifully written historical journey of the life of short-sighted shy ten year old Anne - grand-daughter of Charles 11, daughter of the Catholic King James 11, who eventually came to the throne after succeeding William and Mary and whose reign brought to an end the Stuart dynasty. The book contains many of Anne's actual letters to her friends, her family - and most importantly to God giving us an insight into her thoughts and hidden feelings.
My only gripe is that the publishers have chosen an italicised script font for all of the letters and diary entries which is incredibly difficult to read.
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
In essence this book is not a novel … it is a non-fiction book based on horrific and extraordinary real life events in Germany under Hitler and the third Reich, and of how brainwashed, and how inured to the horror of slaughter and death many ordinary people in Germany became and how, almost on the turn of a coin, one person will live and another will die, or be sent to concentration camp, or will escape.
The facts are in themselves fascinating. However, because the author adds some ‘twists’ and says in the epilogue that only 95% of the book is ‘factual’ it is called ‘a novel’ but it really isn’t a work of fiction – neither is it purely fact and therein lies the problem.
It doesn’t work as a novel because it isn’t written as a novel - there are too many bald facts and not enough atmosphere or emotional or imaginative input and it doesn’t completely work as a piece of non-fiction either because I was constantly wondering which bits were true and which were imagined, or exaggerated, or just ‘embroidered’ somehow.
The subject matter is fascinating but I found the writing style rather clunky which got in the way of my connection with the story. It was a little like reading a newspaper article with added dialogue. I got no real sense of the drama, of the era, of the time and place, of the weariness and fear or of the oppressive and desperate atmosphere that must have been pervasive. Perhaps because the author has so much invested in telling her family story truthfully, she held back her emotional response and this apparent lack of empathy or involvement in the character’s emotions prevented me from feeling for them or really caring about what happened to them. They never really came to life. but were kind of ‘once removed’.
I absolutely understand why the author is wedded to the truth of the story, it is an intensely personal one telling as it does the life story of her family whom she obviously loves and cherishes. I found it interesting in a cerebral sense in that I gained knowledge about lots of things I hadn’t known before, but it didn’t engage me. I can see it being of real interest to a reader looking for a serious historical document about Germany in WWII but it didn’t really work for this reader who was expecting an historical novel, albeit one with a basis in fact.
View all my reviews
End of Year Review 2017
- The year's undoubted highlight was attending The APA (The Audio Publisher's Association) Conference in NYC in May. It was such a pleasure to meet so many colleagues and friends from the US, many of whom I have collaborated with on various projects over the past five years and to make many new friends from the Audiobook community. It was great to put names to faces and to catch up with the fellow Brits who were there, and to be inspired by some amazing narrators and performers at Johnny Heller's 4th Splendiferous Workshop. Of course APAC is about networking too and I met many audiobook producers and directors, some of whom I have subsequently worked with or have joined their roster of narrators. APAC (and New York itself) were extraordinary and I shall be returning in May this year - I have already booked my conference tickets, flight and hotel and look forward to making more friends and gaining more knowledge and inspiration later in the year.
- Alongside the jaunt to the US, I also attended The Voice Over Network Audiobook Weekend in London in early December, taking another opportunity to meet colleagues and to make new friends – as well as working in depth with Sean Pratt and Johnny Heller. I look forward to being my continued involvement with VON over the coming year.
- Alongside all this gadding about, I have also been busy recording audiobooks for many major publishing houses and producers in the US and UK including Harper Audio, Audible US, Avon, BeeAudio, Clipper Audio, Lamplight, Quercus Publications, Rosa, Whole Story Audio, W F Howes Ltd., and Blackstone Audio – and received glowing reviews for ‘An Affair with a Notorious Heiress’ by Lorraine Heath recorded for Harper Audio and ‘Lady Osbaldestone’s Christmas Goose’ by Stephanie Laurens, produced by Blackstone Audio in Audiofile Magazine.
- Another memorable moment from 2017 was being interviewed for the Talking Audiobooks Podcast by Casey Trowbridge. If you missed it, or want to listen again, the link to the You Tube version is HERE
Thanks to everyone, producers, publishers, colleagues, coaches, friends - and readers of these blog pages - who helped to make 2017 so memorable.
I wish you all a productive, creative and very happy year in 2018.
New Year Resolutions
In 2018 I will . . .
The only NYR that I have ever succeeded with is stopping smoking. I kicked that habit way back. What was different about that one? How did I make that NYR work, when so many before and since have failed? .
Winding down . . .
Professionally, 2017 has been a wonderful year. I recorded more audiobooks this year than ever before, and made my first ever trip to New York for the Audio Publisher's Association Conference, where, as well as making many new connections with authors, publishers, coaches, narrators and producers; I also met many 'virtual' friends and colleagues face to face for the first time.
I feel so grateful to be able to do all of this - and look forward to narrating more wonderful books; and to sharing my voice-related musings and experience with you all during 2018.
My opinions are mine and my views are my own!