Tag Archives: voice acting

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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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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Fascination: A Voice Talent Necessity

When you hear an ad on the radio, do you change the station, or do you listen and evaluate?

  • Believable or fake?
  • Interesting use of technique?
  • The talent’s voice quality, emotional choice, use or pitch?
  • Unusual accent or character?
Fascination is a Key

Fascination is a Key

If you listen actively, and – even better – if you then imitate what you heard to observe how the sounds come out of your instrument – then you probably have the voice-over bug, and you’ve got it bad – and that’s a good thing, if you want to succeed. The quality that keeps us learning, keeps us going, is fascination.   Sure, it takes more than that. The wonderful Maxine Dunn just summed up a lot of the qualities you need to succeed in this issue of her Creative Biz newsletter – beautifully done, so I won’t try to recreate all the qualities she mentions, like commitment, optimism, tenacity, focus (definitely sign up for her newsletter, by the way – she is awesome!) But I will add this quality to the list: fascination. It’s a great quality to have in life, in general. Instead of judgment, try fascination.  Instead of “that’s too hard!” or “that’s just stupid”, what if we asked:

  • “I wonder how that works?”
  • “I wonder why/how he/she did that?”
  • “Isn’t that interesting? I’d like to know more”

Okay, so at a party you’ll make a lot more friends by asking sincere questions about others than by bragging “me, me, I, me.” But this is a voiceover blog – so – huh? So here’s what I’m talking about: Continue reading

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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


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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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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Ask, Show Up, Follow Up: Old-Fashioned Marketing Still Works

Take a look at your last ten voice-over jobs – or, if you are just starting out, think about another business venture you had that was successful, or even your solid friendships.

You may find that the “secret” to that success is as simple as ASF:

  • Ask

  • Show Up

  • Follow Up

business card

Step One?

Sales experts talk frequently about “5-7 Points of Contact”  before we “make a sale” – ooh how I hate that term – so why whine when after one contact we are not hired, especially in a business where the need for our particular service, with our unique sound, has to match at the right time?

Sure, there is a delicate balance between contacting and pestering…but stay helpful, respectful and patient — and then have faith in the process and in what you have to offer.

Here is an example:

A month ago, I received an e-mail from a local chapter of Ladies Who Launch.

Cool name, right?  I looked up the concept, and re-read the e-mail. It was an invite to go to the home of the local chapter Managing Director Kathy McShane  for a “Pot Luck” evening.

ASK: Who? What? But I wrote back to Kathy asking for more info. It Ladies-Who-Launchsounded really interesting: a gathering of local female entrepreneurs, solidifying goals for 2013. So I said yes. Risk? Sure! I knew none of these people. But for $15 and an entree contribution, I asked myself another important question: Why Not?

SHOW UP:  Chicken dish in hand, I went to the event. What a great group of women! After way too much food, we gathered to share what our businesses were about and what our goals were for 2013. Who was there? Realtors, garden designers, hot-dog-truck entrepreneurs, Mary Kay managers, insurance salespeople, interior designers…and not one other Voice Artist.  When it came time to share what I did, I simply told them all that “It’s my business to make your business sound better” – and went on to explain what that meant. Sometimes I play a demo from my SmartPhone, but it didn’t feel right here, so I didn’t. Still – lots of oohs and ahs, as if they’d never heard of a voice talent before. So I was really glad that I showed up.

FOLLOW UP:  Still, that was only one point of contact. Later that week Kathy sent a thank-you note to us all, and (with permissions) shared e-mail addresses. I waited a few days, and followed up with the group to re-introduce myself, share website info (demos)  and offer to help their businesses  make that “sound first impression.” Of the 35 women I contacted, three wrote back to me express interest –  and admiration.  I said thanks, and asked for permission to add them to my contact/mailing list.  They said yes, and now when I follow up with my client/prospect list with an update or newsletter, there will be more points of contact.

And there you go.  Any bookings out of this yet? No. But there might be. and meanwhile I met a really cool group of women!

As I write this, I am sitting in the broadcast booth at WSHU, an NPR affiliate where I get my occasional radio fix as understudy for the classical music hosts, newscasters, and talk-show announcers. How did I get this gig?

  • I asked for a tour after leaving my full-time commercial radio job
  • I showed up for the appointment, on-time and enthusiastic about the opportunity
  • I followed up with a big thank-you, and willingness to learn as many gigs here as possible.

So – how about those last ten bookings? Here’s how mine played out:

  • 1 agent booking
  • 2 from roster listings or P2P (new, but slightly different process)
  • 2 clients who use me monthly – telephone messages, radio imaging
  • 4  repeat clients – the backbone of any business!
  • 1 word-of-mouth referral
faffcon 4

Networking works great too – thanks, Faffy!

In this case, there were no brand-new clients – but all of them were, at one time, new to me. The relationship began with ASF, and continues with the addition of quality work.  Cultivate  your new clients – take that risk! So worth it.

And by the way, the formula works in friendship too 🙂


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Voice-Over Customers: Always Right?

Are your voice over clients always “right”?  If they direct you (in-studio, on phone-patch, via e-mail),  is the sound they want always right for the copy in your eyes (ears)? Have you ever had a client give you a line-reading, which you mimic perfectly, only to hear, “that’s not what I meant!”.


The answer is – well, there is no clear answer.

This much I do know.The client has the right to ask you to voice the project

customer service

Leads to Happy – and often Repeat – Clients

any way they want. It is their baby, their vision. Sometimes they ask for our input – and many of my regular clients love that collaboration once they know and trust me – but sometimes, especially at first, our job is to deliver whatever it is they think they want.

Trouble is: sometimes the communication issue comes into play. How to say, in words, what it is the ear wants to hear, the heart wants to feel, in playback?

That’s part of the challenge of voice-over. And, often, part of the fun! And, sometimes, part of the frustration. But when you nail it so that everyone (especially the client) is happy, then it feels like sweet victory. Even if you don’t always agree with the client’s choice. We, the talent, are not always right either. Continue reading

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The Five-Second Voice-Over Billboard: How Hard Can it Be?

My first billboard for NBC! What a pleasure to be directed and produced by the fabulous Bill Rock, who has been one of the voices of NBC for years and is one of the voice-over greats. I pinned his studio on Pinterest on my “Great Places to Record Audio” Board.

Bill and I were talking about why it can take so long – well, let’s just say more than 5 seconds – to record “short, easy” pieces like this.
What do you need? When to market yourself to this work?

  • First of all, you need to be able to deliver variety – so the client has choice and can pick the one they want.
  • Secondly, timing is of the essence, down to the hundredth of a second.
    voice over brain

    technique plus imagination...

    As in many shorter reads, to really deliver the tone the actor in you wants to perform, you’d need a little more time. You don’t have it! It helps to have a master producer/director like Bill, who can make an extra tenth of a second go away without adjusting speed.

  • Third, techniques like articulation, pitch, coloring words, phrasing, tempo changes are all vital here. Some of the variety will come from these “left-brain” techniques, some will come from your “right-brain” sense of play and imagination. And be willing and able to take direction, especially from a pro like Bill.

Fascinating, too, to hear the listening expertise of the client from NBC – one listen to all 7 takes, and she knew: “let me hear 3,4, and 7”. Then “Let me hear 4 and 7” Then, number 7 it is. Whew! And I can’t even decide which pair of jeans to put on in the morning (and, um, they all pretty much look the same).

So – it didn’t really take that long (I mean, way under an hour) to come up with seven reads to play for the client, all under 5 seconds – but, as Bill said, “People think this is easy; it’s not! It’s hard work.” Indeed. Okay, maybe not compared to, say, police officers, construction workers, and middle school teachers. (not delusional…I know voice-over is cushy compared to that!)  But, harder than the average person might expect.

Thanks again to Bill – and if you want to hear the 5-second result it’ll be part of “Fashion Star” on April 24 and it’s about Maybelline.  Yeah, I’m taping it. It’s my first one.  Guilty!


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Best Ever Voice Talent, Actor, Creative, You!

One of the best things about 2011 was getting to be the intro/outro voice for Elizabeth Hamilton Guarino’s Best Ever You radio show, and also for the

Online VO friends meet in person!

Motivation Marathon created by Elizabeth, and Deb Scott. Today the tables were kinda turned sideways as I became the interviewee – and we talked about voice acting, creative journeys, voice and diction, the value of improv in creating characters, connecting threads in the eclectic work life, what we wanna be when we grow up, life balance in “Acts”, using the gifts we seem to have born with, the value of virtual friendships- and, eventually, my book Ben behind His Voices. Got in some mentions for Dave Courvoisier, Edge Studio, my voiceover credits, and O’Connor communications.

The hour went fast! I think it’ll be fun to listen to…hope so! Feedback always welcome 🙂

link: http://www.blogtalkradio.com/besteveryou/2012/02/21/randye-kaye

Listen to internet radio with Best Ever You on Blog Talk Radio

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