Sunday, May 8, 2016

The Secret Chord

Just when you think that things have settled down for Conor McBride… think again! 

Best-selling author Kathryn Guare's next installment in The Virtuosic Spy series is coming out on audiobook soon.

I'll post more details about the project soon.

"He's left a lot of things behind him . . . but they're not far enough back. Conor McBride has lost everything, and if he can't find a way to disappear in a hurry, the next thing he loses could be his life. Running from enemies he's never met and haunted by his own destructive actions, Conor needs a refuge secure enough to hold his secrets. A farmhouse inn tucked amidst the green mountains of Vermont seems ideal, but when his past catches up with him, Conor discovers the beautiful young innkeeper has secrets of her own, and that hers are more likely to get them both killed."

In the meantime, if you haven't checked out the first book in the series: Deceptive Cadence - you can have a listen here.

Friday, April 24, 2015

No Royalty Share Projects?!… Why?

Recently, I was approached by an independent author with some very kind words about my narration skills and tagged on the end of it all, an offer to narrate their "18 hour - 500,000 downloads" best-selling novel under a royalty share agreement via ACX. 

I refused. 

An explanation as to why was requested. Here it is: 

It's a conservative "in and out" picture of the numbers involved and why royalty share has rarely been a good return on investment for me in the past and why I seldom go near it now.

Woe betide the narrator who falls for "million downloads", "movie producer interest" or "thousands of Twitter followers" and goes into a royalty share agreement with a dreamer. 

Bottom line: If your book is as awesome as you claim it to be, then you can afford to pay your narrator up-front. 


Friday, April 10, 2015

What's Your Production Process?

This question is coming up more and more as of late, so I wanted to post something on my blog as a go-to explanation rather than having to keep repeating myself. 

First up: my production process will not work for you perfectly. 

The core reason for the above statement is that my skill-sets, life experience and abilities are vastly different to yours or anyone else's. 
Your own experience and ideas will be critical in getting to a workflow and a production process that you can put your name to. 

This doesn’t mean, however, that you can’t learn something from what I have to offer on here. 
So bearing that in mind, as a timeline, here is what I “usually” do to take a manuscript and turn it into an audiobook. 

Phase 1: Preparation

This is my first serious look at the manuscript outside of my initial browsing of it before signing a contract to narrate it. 
I read it cover to cover while at the same time, taking notes on each character as they arrive chronologically. 
At the same time, I start to think about what this character should sound like and I add in any appropriate notes to guide me on that. 
This is done on a custom-made sheet: 

The content of this may or may not work for you, but it forms part of a system I utilize as part of my self-direction process. Sometimes, if the mood takes me, I might add nothing to those boxes except the name of someone I know from experience whom the character reminds me of. It might be Jack Nicholson or it might be the postman. It doesn't matter. Character inspiration is everywhere. Take the woman you met on the subway yesterday: check out her voice, mannerisms, facial expressions and file those nuggets away for whenever you might need them. 

Phase 2: Recording

With the Character Map above, I'm into the booth to read. The amount of time I spend in there is anywhere from 30 - 90 minutes depending on the length of the chapter or how my voice is holding up. I have my good and bad days. The process of recording, however, stays the same. 

I press record and I read. If I make a mistake and it is a flub on a word, I will kill the line and start over. If I have my doubts about how I have read a line, I will lay down a marker, repeat the line and leave the other one in so that I can get the best of both takes later on in the editing process. 
Once I've done the whole book, I move it from the booth's hard drive to the computer in my main studio and listen back. This takes me a day. During that time I run through the markers and decide on which takes I like from the previous edits I did. 
Once that has all been decided and there are no glaring errors in the audio, it gets filed as "Approved" and sent to the editor. 

Phase 3: Editing

The more in-demand I have been over the past few years, the less and less I have time to get involved in the editing process of my productions. I employ an editor whom I trust implicitly to know where to make adjustments and where not to. (Trust your editor! You can't keep second guessing and an over-thinking mind filled with doubt will interfere with your ability to tell a story.) 
I have my own flow to stories and once there is nothing out of the ordinary, the editor is responsible for running the audio alongside the manuscript to ensure congruency, highlighting any flubs and sending me a pick-up list. 
The more books I do, the less pick-ups are needed. The 10,000 hour rule appears to apply here. 

Phase 4: Mastering

Again, this is outsourced to an awesome engineer in Switzerland, as I simply don't have time to master my own audio. Mastering is known as as one of the industry's "Dark Arts" and I would highly recommend that you choose a mastering engineer wisely. They will have the final say on what you sound like for your listeners. Remember that when you're deciding on how much to pay them! (Obviously, the same goes for your editor.)

Phase 5: Release

Once everything has been deemed correct and to standards, we release the audio files to the publisher for listening and final approval. 
If there is something that they are not happy with, we discuss options and make any amendments if necessary. This happens very rarely as almost everything is agreed before the signing of the contract. Woe betide narrators who do not wrap up everything in the initial negotiations. You will only ever make that mistake once. 

So there you have it. A quick overview of how we get a book turned into audio. 
Take note however, while it might look like a walk in the park having just five steps - knowing where and how to walk, takes years. 
It ain't as easy as it looks! 

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Who's Been A Naughty Girl?

A couple of weeks ago, I got into an exchange of words with a self-proclaimed "marketing and social media expert" whose modus operandi was to use her very large friends list on Facebook and Twitter to drum up interest in authors that pay her to promote their e-books and audiobooks. 

Imagine my surprise when she took it upon herself to decide that my Facebook page needed more likes, and started hounding social media groups to visit my page and click the button! 

First of all, I never hired this individual, who is about as expert at SEO and social media as the jar of mayonnaise in my fridge.

Secondly, from what I saw demonstrated as "social media marketing and promotion", no self-respecting industry professional in their right mind would allow this woman within a donkey's roar of their business. 
She also touts herself as a personal assistant. 
Pick one, missy and for God's sake do it right! 

The only way to end the onslaught of drivel about how much I needed the likes of others was to kill it at the source and contact the individual directly with a request to cease and desist. 

This was received with expected waterworks and tales of woe. The author who hired her was fuming at the extent of this and other liberties taken so "the expert" was dismissed, and we left it at that. 
Onwards! - or so we thought. 

Now, I might not be the greatest narrator on the planet, but I do manage to put out good quality audio, and the authors I work with are pretty capable too - NYT and USA Today bestsellers, Booker Prize nominees, Guardian award winners etc.
I'm also an Audible Approved Producer. 

So, when within a few days of the incident above, we found that negative reviews were coming out for audiobooks that until then were all at the four and five star level, we started to wonder if there was any connection. 
Even more surprising was that the negativity was centred on the audio and narration quality. (Did I mention that I am an Audible Approved Producer?)

This connection seemed all the more real when we discovered that the patterns of speech and the common linguistic tics that "the expert" used were showing up again in these negative reviews. 

Couple that with activity on my website being traced back to the home town of this individual and it's really starting to look suspicious. 

I won't name this person for now but there is one major concern. 
Negative reviews are water off a duck's back for me. But I started to think that if this person is writing bad ones for me, is she also writing good ones for her clients and then fobbing them off as genuine reviews and charging them for it? 
"See how great my marketing is?"

A brief check and we can see big similarities across a few different names of "reviewers" for these authors. That is very worrying indeed, especially when you consider Amazon's stance on this.

I have reported my suspicions to Amazon and Audible in the hopes that they can begin to sort out what is real from what is not. 
When we approached the individual herself with our concerns, we were screamed at, and summarily blocked across all social media platforms.

And that, for me, says a lot. 

As Shakespeare wrote: "The lady doth protest too much, methinks."

Will keep you posted.

Friday, March 13, 2015

"Heroes Of The Sea" - Danelle Harmon

It's been about a year since I met New York Times and USA Today bestselling historical-romance author Danelle Harmon, and what a year it's been! 

Originally, I started out advising her on possible routes to take when putting her highly successful "De Monteforte Brothers" and the "Heroes Of The Sea" series into audiobook format. 

In the end, the former was recorded by the very capable David Stifel who I am sure you know from stellar audiobooks like Douglas Clegg's "Neverland".

One of the books in the latter series had an Irish sailor as the central character which Danelle had hinted at me doing for about three months. 

As I had never narrated a historical romance novel before, I was ambivalent about adding "another string to my bow" as such, and declined. 

In the end, having not found a suitably accented narrator, and with time running on, we came to the agreement that I would do an audition sample and if she liked it, and I liked it, then we would take the plunge and produce an audiobook together. 
A new adventure for Danelle, and a terrifying exploration into a new genre for me! 

Now, several books in and I have to say that if you haven't tried listening to a well-written historical romance novel, then you are missing out on something very special indeed. 

That's as far as I am going to sell this.
I'll let the audiobooks speak for themselves……here!

Monday, March 9, 2015

We've Been Renovating!

Welcome to our new blog! 

It's been a very busy first few months of 2015 and since moving to my new website a few months ago, I ran out of time arranging to have this blog integrated into it all.

Will be blogging regularly here with news of upcoming projects and a photo gallery is on its way too! 

Stay tuned! 

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

"The Thing About December"

Still very busy in the studio with back-to-back titles. But wanted to give you a sample of Donal Ryan's latest book "The Thing About December" which will launch in the US at the end of this month. 
You might remember that Donal was long-listed for the Booker Prize for his debut novel "The Spinning Heart" which I had the privilege to narrate last year. 

Have a listen and I hope you enjoy it! 

"He heard Daddy one time saying he was a grand quiet boy to Mother when he thought Johnsey couldn't hear them talking. Mother must have been giving out about him being a gom and Daddy was defending him. He heard the fondness in Daddy's voice. But you'd have fondness for an auld eejit of a crossbred pup that should have been drowned at birth.'

While the Celtic Tiger rages, and greed becomes the norm, Johnsey Cunliffe desperately tries to hold on to the familiar, even as he loses those who all his life have protected him from a harsh world. Village bullies and scheming land-grabbers stand in his way, no matter where he turns.

Set over the course of one year of Johnsey's life, The Thing About December breathes with his grief, bewilderment, humour and agonizing self-doubt. This is a heart-twisting tale of a lonely man struggling to make sense of a world moving faster than he is.

Donal Ryan's award-winning debut, The Spinning Heart, garnered unprecedented acclaim, and The Thing About December confirms his status as one of the best writers of his generation."