A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of speaking with the lovely and brilliant Joanna Penn of the Creative Penn podcast. I’ve narrated three of her books as part of her ARKANE series, and it’s always a treat to work with authors who see the writer-narrator relationship as essential to the success of the book. Joanna warned me that after the interview, I should expect an increase in inquiries about voicework opportunities (she was right!) and that I should be clear about how I would want people to contact me regarding work.
Finding a narrator is a challenge, and knowing how to work with a narrator or voice talent can be a challenge. Some of us addressed this at Balticon this past year; I present myself as the “talent to be managed” since I don’t produce fullcasts. At the same time, this might be a good time to talk about how to work with a narrator or a group of voice actors if you’re going the audio route. I’ll stress that your particular situation may be different than mine, and that every voice actor, author, and producer has their personal preferences. Many of these are based on how I like to work… so they could be considered good guidelines if you’re considering approaching me for voicework in the near future.
1. Be Enthusiastic About Your Story
When you approach me for voicework, please give me a synopsis of your story. It’s not important that I love the story or the genre; it’s important that the story is well-written and that you believe in the story. Pitch me the story and the characters. When Joanna described Pentecost and Morgan Sierra as “Dan Brown meets Tomb Raider,” I was hooked. When Justin told me about A Broken Magic and described Skylar, I couldn’t wait to begin. Mind you, I don’t need THE WHOLE STORY if it’s a fullcast, unless it’s important to my character that I’m voicing. Sometimes, it’s better to not know the full context but just the emotion that’s being conveyed in the scene.
2. Narration is Different from Fullcast (but not really)
Full narration of a story takes more time than lines for a fullcast, but both take time. “Can’t you just record a few lines?” when there are multiple projects going on is unfair to those clients to whom I’ve promised work. I know, it’s just a few lines, but those few lines add up. I treat all projects the same when it comes to scheduling, because at the end of the day, they all require that I stand in my studio and hit the record button. The bonus to most fullcast work is that I don’t have to do a lot of post-production, so once it’s recorded, the delivery is very quick.
3. Payment Isn’t Everything, But It Is Important to Consider
A professional rate for voicework is $200 per finished hour. Each finished hour of audio requires about 4 hours of work, from recording to uploading the final file to whatever delivery service the content owner desires. When that professional rate isn’t possible, you might expect to help with the quality control for projects. I’ve worked like this with ACX’s royalty share; authors listen to the chapters as they are finished and note corrections for pronunciations or sentences that need a retake. I’m also willing to trade services for narration; as an author, the services I need the most are editing, layout for epub, and cover design. Rates are always negotiable, and I’m happy to work for royalty share or even for free, but please understand that I can’t narrate for free if you intend to sell the audio. That’s just a but much.
4. Tech Specifications Up Front
Tell me how you want the audio delivered. I will usually record at 44.1kHz, 192kbps, and send in .wav format. Proofs for author listening are in .mp3. If you want something different, please let me know when you send the script.
5. Give Me Deadlines
When is the audio due? Dates are important; it’s how I manage multiple projects and commitments. Narration isn’t my only job, although it’s my favorite one, and deadlines help me schedule and manage my time.
6. Put It In Writing
Use contracts when working with your voice talent, and include deadlines, tech specifications, and payment details. Contracts cover both of us throughout the project and keep things from getting messy.
7. Be Prepared to Guide and Correct, but Don’t Micromanage
It helps to know how you want a character to sound, and pronunciation guides are very helpful. Send me links to actors or audio to help define a character, but I may not be able to get the exact tone. Skype is helpful for consultations, but don’t burn out a voice actor. Feedback is wonderful, but be specific and let me try again. If we’re not working well, then tell me and we can search for another narrator who might better fit your project.
8. Your Project Isn’t the Only One
On any given day, I have two ongoing series as well as three short stories in my queue. I am always busy, and I line up projects so that I stay busy. Please don’t ask me to push your project to the front; it’s not fair to other creatives with whom I’m working. When your project comes to the head of the queue, I will give it the same attention and respect that I give to all of the other projects.
Is there something here that I haven’t covered? Ask in the comments!