Tag Archives: VO

Five Things You Learn While Narrating Non-Fiction Audiobooks

Look out! Instant Expert Unleashed!

I just got booked (thanks, Tantor media!) to narrate another non-fiction book, and my family needs to know its topic – so they can avoid bringing it up during the recording phase. Already I can see them rolling their eyes.

Why? Because sure as shootin’ (sorry, left over from a fiction series narration located at Mustang Ridge…) I’m gonna have an temporarily-well-informed opinion on the subject.  Truth, people. Look out.

So -First lesson you learn while narrating non-fiction:

  1. You may  tend to become an instant expert on whatever topic you’re immersed in while recording. Sooo annoying, I know. But I can’t help it!

Why? Well, as nonficton narrators, we actually “play the author” while reading his/her words. It’s an acting job, too, although that is less obvious than in fiction narration. And – well, yeah – I tend to take on my characters

inhabiting the character

while playing them, whether in theatre, TV/film or in audiobook narration. Don’t ever let me take a role as a bitchy broad. You’ll have to run for the hills. Playing “Lucy” in Charlie Brown was the closest I got to that (and I liked it so much I played the role twice!)

In narration, we really get inside the author’s head as much as possible. And, being the kind of person who is fascinated by pretty much everything, this is fun for me. But – after (1)prepping the book, (2)reading it out loud while making sure to stay present at all times, and then (3) listening back to it at times in the final stages – it tends to get in your head. So, yep, I’m gonna feel like I have earned the right to an opinion on the subject of say, Black Holes, Sexually Addicted Spouses, Chakras, or Financial Savvy. Because I wrote the book! (Didn’t I? Oh, wait. Oops)

It’s one thing to say “I read this book about….” – but somehow “I just narrated this book about…” gives the input more clout. At least it feels that way to me. Dangerous, I know. Warn your friends and families.

So, look out, new-Mom-daughter-of mine. Mom’s going to be an instant (and temporary) expert or Montessori child-rearing in February. Good time to take that trip to Disney, honey!

(No I do try to keep away from the parenting advice. But still.)

 

Lessons  2-4:

Beside the lesson above, there are other things to learn from non-fiction narration work:

2.  Finishing a book gives you the whole picture. Did you know that most Americans only read one or two chapters of a non-fiction book (if that much), and then put it on the shelf to “finish later”? Yeah, we know how that goes. However,  when you narrate it, you gotta finish reading that book (um, yeah) . Good thing, too.  It does tend to round out the authors’ points:)

3. Time management becomes absolutely essential. This is true for fiction as well – and of course for any large project of any kind. Break it into small manageable goals, schedule them , and get started! This ain’t your college paper, where you can start the day before and pull an all-nighter. Yes, I mean you. Or me.

4. The world is full of fascinating things – and people passionate enough about them to benefit the rest of us. Some people devote their lives, quite happily, to things like measuring the exact age of a The Great Commissionskeleton, camping out for months to observe a star, meditating for hours daily, planning finances, researching one breed of dog, learning every detail about digestion, proving or refuting the Black Hole theory…the list goes on. These are not things I personally would want to do, but I am grateful that there are people who do. Specialization of labor, distribution of gifts of strengths from the universe. Not just the authors, but the people they write about – many have chosen a little corner of the world to specialize in, and it’s amazing to me.  You get to learn about all this when you narrate.

5. What the heck happened to the red pen? Okay,  perhaps getting just a bit too close to the authors’ work.  Full disclosure:  I have written a book myself and went through the process of editing (over 100 pages got cut) and publication, so a little bit of “writing hat” stays on my head as I narrate. But, seriously – some of these books need serious editing! There are a few that feel like the authors had to prove their research with quotes and dates, often (to my ears) interrupting the story, and over-explaining the points. Okay, I get it! I believe you!  Was this a doctoral dissertation you turned into book?

 Okay, rant over…but I do wonder if some of these books actually saw an editor. (Of course, if I narrated your book, dear author, I am not talking about you. Definitely that other guy.)

Which brings me to a final point – not a lesson, but a reminder, while we are at it:

God Bless the audio editors, and the proof-listeners. Your precision amazes me. I could not do your job! I hope you enjoy it as much as I enjoy narrating. Thank you.

 

 

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Are There Too Many Voice Talents?

Reality check, with a question:

Do you find it more difficult than you’d thought it would be to get, and keep getting, work as a voice talent in 2015?

I’m not one to wax poetic about the past.  Change is, at best, exciting; at the very least, it’s inevitable. And certainly the voiceover business has changed drastically since I joined it over 25 years ago.

Too Many Voice Talents?

Too Many Voice Talents?

Back then, it was a fairly local, and more personal world. You trained until you knew you could deliver the performance, made a demo based on your suitability to the market, and started marketing your services to recording studios, advertising agencies and (possibly, eventually) casting directors and agents. Marketing, word of mouth and referrals were your golden keys to that first chance, and then you hoped to continue to get hired based on the awesome job you did (and keeping in gentle touch).

So far, sounds pretty much the same, yes? Only, back then, your marketing was to your general geographical location, there were post offices and telephones involved, and most of the time you knew your clients more personally, often got to shake their hands in person.

And – fanfare for the truth – there was less competition. Once you were in that “stable” of voice talents a studio or agency could rely upon, the phone kept ringing. That’s how I built my business. And that part of the business still exists. Most of my work is from word of mouth and repeat clients. Believe me, it’s easier for the client re re-hire someone they trust than to go out and start a brand new search.

But, as you know, things are also very different. Many potential clients have a huge database of voice talents to choose from – and, thanks to the internet, all they have to do is post a project and hundreds of auditions will show up in their mailbox. The work, for the client, is not on the front end (listening to demos, sending invites to those who suit their requirements, then choosing from the handful of hand-chosen candidates) but on the back end – easy to post the project, but harder (I imagine) to sort through the hundreds of auditions that may vary widely in quality.  Casting this way must seem easier, but I suspect it often is not, for the client. However, in this new virtual and pervasive climate, they might not know there are other ways to find voices. Continue reading

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The Voice Actor’s “Down Time” – Ha!

In a recent discussion among members and executive board members of the international pro voice actors’ organization WOVO wovo(World Voices), we were sharing the virtues of various technologies to record remotely: ISDN, ip DTL, Source Connect etc. This question then emerged:” isn’t the real issue how do I get enough work to use these technologies?” The response, so beautifully and simply put by our esteemed president Dustin Ebaugh, was this:

My secret to getting the WORK has been doing at least 100 auditions or marketing contacts per week, every week. The work seems to come when I do that. 🙂

So, yes, that’s the answer to the myth of “downtime ” for voice talents, i.e. between bookings: there is none.  Other than vacations and “personal days” we give ourselves  (such nice bosses we have!), the hours other than what an attorney would call “billable”  are really the times we must be building our business and our skills

This will help me explain “loss of work hours” to a lawyer soon – and serve as a reminder that all work hours, whether billable or not, are important hours when you run your own small business.

arm

half of the body language immobilized!

I write this post with one hand – my non-dominant one – due to a car (with distracted driver) vs. pedestrian (me) incident last month. Long story, and not the point here.  I will, eventually and gratefully, be able to use both hands again – at least that’s the plan, and I’m going to work hard until it’s true. But, in the meantime, I find myself musing about what we voice actors do, and how we must spend our “down time” so that our futures contain possibilities.

As I am discovering, there is much that is difficult even within those billable hours with only one usable hand — editing, for one. Effective body language, for two.  Not to mention working through the pain and energy-sap as bones heal.  I’m proud to say that I haven’t disappointed my clients, and have met my deadlines so far. But  still.  I have had to turn down projects due to the need for a little extra time. And while my main priority is to not hurt my body right now, (the leg was injured as well), I can’t help but think about how this may hurt my future business.

Why? Well. that is what the inquiring minds will want to know when I say I have lost work hours due to this injury. “After all, your voice still works, right?” But you and I both know there is so much more to this business than voicing in the booth, or editing the files.

So – what the heck do we do when not technically “earning money” , as voiceover entrepreneurs? Bearing in mind that some of us have related skills and income streams, your list may be different, but basically we are preparing and growing our businesses.  This is as necessary to our work as recording and editing are.

arm leg rkHere is my partial list. What’s on yours?

  • research and contact (phone, e-mail etc) new potential clients
  • send handwritten thank-you notes and reminders
  • shop for client gifts, and send them
  • invoice clients, do the bookkeeping, send out statements
  • write blogposts and articles (for some of us, books)  to increase visibility and outreach
  • practice new genres
  • respond to inquiries
  • send out demos
  • travel to outside-studio gigs, in-person auditions and networking opportunities
  • enter info into databases
  • practice new genres and studio skills
  • update demos and reload them to rosters/agents

What’s on your down-time to-do list?

(And, hopefully, you have two hands to use while you do it.  Dictated to Siri, with gratitude for technology advances)

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VoiceOver Copy: Your High School Play, on Speed

There are a lot of surprises for aspiring voice talents who cross my path either as a student via Edge Studio, or just at, say, a party. You know, the ones with “such a nice voice” who need to read Dave Courvoisier’s book ( or any of the other amazing resources I blogged about a few months ago).

The first reality check is, of course, the need to treat this like the business it is. There has been a lot written about that, so again I refer you to those who have busted this myth in their amazing blogs and books. (Derek Chappell, our blog curator, and John Florian, Voiceover Xtra guru, are more great places to start).

The second big myth to bust – and equally as important to know – is that this not a business of “reading in a pretty voice.”  This is a business of communication – and, often (or always), a business of acting.  Maybe there is really no difference – but, whatever you call it, you’ve got to know the story you are telling!

Remember that high school play you were in? Or summer camp? College? Community or Professional Theatre? hs playThink back….whatever role you had, there was a process to follow to get the story from page to stage.  Here’s what probably happened, and what it has to do with voiceover reads.

The Theatre Process, and Voiceovers

1 – Casting. yeah, that.

2 – The cast assembled to do a full read-through of the script. This way, everyone knew the whole story, where it was going, what the overall gestalt and tone of the story was. (Voiceover equivalent: Read through the script – or at least skim the longer ones – before you press record. See what it’s about, where it’s going) Continue reading

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The Best Laid Plans…are still a good idea

OK, I will admit it. Here it is, January 23rd, with just about a week left in the month, and my monthly VO goals and plans are far from complete (as you can see in the photo below). So, if you want to gloat, feel free. I hope your list looks a bit more, um, checked off than mine.

The Best Laid Plans...may have to be flexible

The Best Laid Plans…may have to be flexible

See, the VO Plan for this month is supposed to be all about e-learning.  But, hey, life happens. And some of it comes in the form of lovely surprises that we didn’t plan on.  Some stuff we help create, some stuff comes to us unexpectedly because of seeds we have planted in the past, or sometimes just plain luck.

Kayaking on Lake WindermereLife flows. And the truth is – sometimes we have the paddle to speed up the process, steer the canoe. And sometimes, we don’t. But the upside of this is that sometimes, when we have taken a breather from navigating, good stuff happens anyway. It just may not be what we had planned.

I suspect that my to-do list this month may stay a bit unchecked. But, ya know, sometimes you gotta look and see how far you’ve come, and what you did accomplish while you were busy fretting about what didn’t happen. For instance, these obstacles/surprises happened so far in January:

  • the local NPR affiliate radio station needed me to fill in some air-shifts while they wait to hire a new announcer. Bonus: I got to get out of the house and work with a team (in person) for a change.
  • a voice-over pal of mine needed a place to record while she was out-of-town (and right near my house) – and I was able to help her out. Bonus: this cemented our often-virtual friendship
  • I gained one new telephony client, one possible “live announce” client, and a promising regular retainer for internet radio work. Sure, I planned on marketing e-learning this month, but I am happy anyway :). Bonus: well, you know.
  • I replied to a facebook post on a whim and am voicing the audiobook of Peter Pan. I finally get to play Peter! and John…and Wendy…and Hook…Bonus: what a lovely book!
  • I gained a new agent – in Germany!
  • and of course there’s family, and friends, and community…having the freedom to choose those over the to-do list? Your married daughter calls and asks if we can “all go see a movie together and have family time”? Yeah. Priceless.

Yes, there’s a limit to procrastination. Can’t blow it all off. Bills must be paid, we all work hard, and it does feel really good to stick with your plan. And, even though I haven’t done everything on my list, the fact that I made the plan, and keep it handy, makes it easy to fill those rare “unplanned” hours productively.

So, hey. Definitely set goals. Definitely break them down into action steps, and don’t let fear get in your way. But if what does get in the way is other good stuff in your life, let that happen. Put down your paddle and let the flow carry you. And -forgive yourself! Look at what you did get done -both on the checklist and off it. Transfer those “un-done” tasks to the next month – and celebrate what happened instead.

By the way, here’s the famous quote – but I disagree with the second half of it. Sometimes the detours bring you promised joy of their own kind. It just, maybe, wasn’t you had planned.

The best laid schemes of Mice and Men
oft go awry,
And leave us nothing but grief and pain,
For promised joy!

(originally, in case you’re a stickler:

The best laid schemes o’ Mice an’ Men, Gang aft agley,

An’ lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain, For promis’d joy!)

Robert BurnsTo a Mouse (Poem, November, 1785)

Scottish national poet (1759 – 1796)

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Your Voice Over Business: Why Keep Investing?

(Short answer: Because it pays off!)

Is Your VO business a "dead shark"?

Is Your VO business a “dead shark”?

“Alvy Singer”, in the movie Annie Hall, says:

A relationship, I think, is like a shark. You know? It has to constantly move forward or it dies. And I think what we got on our hands is a dead shark.

Don’t let your voice over business be a dead shark. There is always more to learn, always ways to get better. And once

VOVirtual

click here to register!

excellent way to do this is to register for Voice-Over Virtual, coming soon.

No, you do not need to save up for plane fare, or hotel rooms! This is a virtual conference (hence the name). But don’t let that fool you…or think you won’t get anything out of it. You will more than make your investment back.

Okay, listen: I’ve been a successful Voice Talent for many years. Sure, “success” keeps getting redefined as my life and ambitions progress, but still. I do make a living communicating someone else’s words into a microphone and into a listener’s ears. Every once in a while I sit back and remember: This is so cool!

A major reason I still work is that I keep investing in my business, and honing my skills.

Example?:Lately I notice my audition-to-booking ratio is getting better (yay!). Why? I invested in some coaching and classes to hone those skills, especially in sounding more “conversational” – and it has paid off.

Another one?: I was feeling frustrated when first learning Twisted Wave app on my iPad. Hated recording while traveling. Felt stupid. The solution? One webinar with George Whittam. bingo! Now I know what to do, and love the app…therefore more likely to send auditions and projects even while on the road, if I choose to. Investment made the obstacle disappear.

So – what’s in your way? Chances are you will be able to dissolve some of those obstacles by investing time – and, yeah, some reasonable bucks – on your VO future.

Whether you’re just starting out in this amazing biz, or working hard to keep current clients while marketing to new sharkones, this remains true: You must invest in your business to keep it alive, to help it grow, to help you to grow – as an artist, a businessperson, a skilled talent in all the forms that this ever-changing business requires.

This is what makes your business thrive – what makes you thrive. Don’t let your business become a “dead shark”. Move ahead! Voice Over Virtual is the best way to get moving – right now. You’ll be glad you did.

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The Full-Time Eclectic Voice Talent: Many Eggs, Several Baskets

When I created my Voice-Over website with the amazing folks at Artist Upgrade, we wrestled with the age-old question (well, for voice talents, anyway):

“Just” a Voice Talent, or  More?

I opted for the latter.

RandyeKaye.com

RandyeKaye.com

Yes, I am a full-time voice talent. My VO clients are my highest work priority. If you book me, the job will be done on time (well, usually before that deadline), at budget, and to your satisfaction.  This is what I do for a living. The only thing standing in the way of your project is a prior commitment to another job – and you will know about that before you book me for your project.

So – does that leave room for the other things in my life? Can I let my clients know that I also do other things? Stage, on-camera, writing, speaking, teaching, broadcasting — or, for that matter, parenting? rock climbing? (well, I don’t actually do that, but you get the point. Maybe you do it!)

You bet.  At least, that’s what we decided. Because every other skill and experience in life makes us better voice talents. Continue reading

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“All I Need is a Voice-Over Agent” – What??

Maybe that used to be the way, in the “olden days” of voice-over, which now means, maybe, a few months ago. Things are changing fast, and will continue to. Still, a great agent (which means a good match for you, and your skills), can help you get access to opportunities you might never have seen otherwise.

Sure, at the tip of the iceberg of VO success, getting signed with a powerful agency is a real coup. That is still true. But getting to that level- if that’s part of your business plan – means you must take the journey to become a talent the agent feels he/she can make money with!  And, these days, many of us have “an agent in every port” until we put all our eggs in one agency’s basket – if we do. And know this: you are not going to just sit back and wait for the phone to ring (or the e-mails to arrive), even with the best agent ever. You are partners!

Voice Acting for Dummies

Voice Acting – for Dummies?

But – if you are ready – you’ll need some basic info as to how to begin to connect with an agent. So, let’s get some facts – from my Guest Bloggers, Stephanie Ciccarelli and David Ciccarelli,  the founders of Voices.com, from their new book Voice Acting for Dummies.

Is Voice Acting for “Dummies”? Certainly not! Nor is running a business for the faint of heart. But from the brand new VO-dreamer to the most experienced among us, it’s still a good idea to learn, or review, the basics.

But here’s one more tip from me, before you start your search – be worthy of an agent’s time before you contact them!  What does that mean?

  • You are an experienced Voice Talent -you are already making some bucks at this.
  • You know how to deliver what the client wants – and when it’s needed.
  • You have some kind of proven track record.
  • You can take direction.
  • Your demo is awesome – and you can deliver what it promises!

Remember, it will be your job to make your agent look great, not the other way around. Just my two extra cents to the great advice below. So, take it away Stephanie and David!

“What Can an Agent  Do For You?

Before you go looking for an agent, you need to know what an agent does and what an agent expects of his voice actors. An agent manages relationships between voice actors and the end client, including the auditioning process, casting to a degree, and the billing related to the job. An agent’s role is to qualify voice actors for opportunities to reach a successful end. Agents can have relationships with companies they directly work with as well as pursue opportunities through online marketplaces where they can promote their voice actors. Continue reading

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Fruits vs. Laurels:The Balanced VO Life

resting on our laurels?

resting on our laurels?

Running a small business is not for sissies. Nor is it for dreamers who don’t take steps toward the dream.

Yeah, yeah. We know that.

We know we can’t just rest on our laurels…but at times, we do need to enjoy the fruits of our labors.

Most of my voice-over pals get that first part; we don’t let ourselves rest on past success. Yes, we know…”you’re only as successful as your next booking.” In fact, we’re constantly sharing progress on our never-ending to-do lists (finish the project, register for Faffcon or Voice-Over Virtual, send the audition your agent wants) as well as ongoing projects

fruits of our labors...

fruits of our labors…

(organize clients and prospects clients into a database, write that next blog post, revamp the website and demos) – and, often, we feel we come up short when we look at what we still want to accomplish.

Nope, no resting on laurels here. What we forget to do – or sometimes don’t let ourselves do – is to enjoy some of the fruits of those labors.

Voice-Over Talents: Can a Small Business Owner Take a Break? Continue reading

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Voice-Over Envy: Stop the Madness!

Sometimes I just gotta stay away from Facebook these days.  There is a dogbookenvydocumented phenomenon (I know it’s true, ’cause I read about it in Psychology Today) called “Facebook Envy”, and I must admit it hits me when I check my newsfeed and it seems like my VO Peeps are landing more gigs, way more impressive gigs, and making tons of money all the time.

Sigh. And – oh yeah- Yay! I truly am happy for your success. Really. But, sometimes, the old green-eyed monster rears up, and its name is Voice-Over Envy.

And it’s a really stupid monster!

Voice-Over Jealousy – or Admiration?

Yoko Ono is credited with saying: “Turn jealousy into admiration and what you admire will become part of your life.”  Whoever originated that quote (Yoko, really?) , it’s really cool.  I actually used that thought process to go from single Mom to happily re-married Mom/wife, from wanna-be-published author to a published one.  And it’s useful in any life endeavor; it’s the backbone of gatherings like faffcon, of the VO social media groups, of the newly-forming industry association, World Voices.

So – why not just be inspired by the success of others? Continue reading

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