Monday, March 11, 2013

Audiobook Narration: Week 8

Well, I got to the end of another piece, reading-wise.  Now I've just got to edit it.  That's the slow, less-than-fun part of my job, but it's gotta be done.

I did have an editor who volunteered to do that part of the work for me, but I'm unable to bring myself to send him files that haven't been at least partially edited.  And so far, I haven't even dared send him that.  Guess I'm too much of a perfectionist.

That reminds me, though, of something that editor said to me.  He owns a publishing house (or he's their content editor or something), and he was talking about how "voice talent," as he puts it, create their art.  He told me that most men try to pitch their voices up to perform female characters (I most certainly do), but that Scott Brick, the greatest audiobook narrator in the world, actually pitches his voice down.  He said there was a video out there somewhere where he explains this, but I haven't tracked it down.

So, for a project with a ton of characters I've been recording, I thought I would do so with one of the female characters.  She didn't seem particularly feminine, so when it came time to read her lines, I pitched my voice down instead of up.  Figured it was worth a try.

I've just now reached the chapters where she appears in my editing.  The character sounds like a three hundred pound black man.  In a conversation with a man and a woman, your ear does not want to accept the voice with the lower register to be the female.  I feel bad about my choice, and I apologize to any listener who hears it and thinks, "the hell?" whenever she speaks. 

But I'm not going to re-voice, not for zero dollars an hour.  I'll just have to chalk it up to experience.

Well, I seem to have lost the rest of my blog post. I don't know how it happened, but I went to spell-check, and the program crashed. When I reopened it, it appears to have reverted to an earlier state of progress. Guess I'll try again.

Not sure what else I was saying, except that I did have another milestone this week: the first contract I've turned down.

I was offered the job of narrating a book of Korean religious poetry translated into English.  The rights owner wanted the book read in either an English or Welsh accent.

To me, that was a no brainer.*  I wrote them a polite note about me not being the right guy for the job, and declined the offer.  What's more, it was not for pay, but for a royalty-share scenario.  Another nail in the coffin, according to me.

And that brings me to something else I initially wrote, but is now gone.  I accepted a couple more contracts for short stories this week, and out of curiosity, I thought I'd check my stats.

I have done twenty-nine audition, and had fourteen offers.  That's a respectably impressive number, pretty much getting half of the jobs I tried out for.  Except that a couple of the offers have been unrelated to my auditions, such as the Korean poetry one. 

Still, it sounds pretty darn great to have that kind of record going.  It makes me sound kick-ass at my job.  But something I have learned in my few weeks of doing this is, only audition for jobs you really want to do.  My first batch of auditions were for whatever was available, or whichever names I recognized.  But now, I try to be more selective.  I read through the description of the piece, scrutinize the word count, and maybe check out reader reviews on Amazon.  There have been a couple auditions that I cut short while recording, or never bothered to submit, either because the subject matter wasn't my cup of tea, or the writing style (or talent) wasn't for me.  If there are typos or grammar errors in the bloody audition piece (which should be especially picked and edited beforehand), you know you're in trouble.

I auditioned for a self-help book when I first started it, and it was reeeeally difficult to perform, mostly because it was written like a textbook.  I thank my lucky stars I didn't get that gig.

Because the thing is: if you're the audiobook narrator (and editor), you will be spending more time with a particular story or book than ANYONE, save the author him/herself.  The amount of work required, even for a short story, can be substantial, and it's probably not good to be married to somebody you don't love. 

That's something I learned working on the Dunesteef, and believe it even stronger now that I'm doing this on my own.

The most enjoyable part of the process is the recording/performance part.  These stories/books are unfamiliar to me as I'm reading them, so it's been fun to discover where they're going.  Of course, I probably should be reading all these pieces beforehand.  If I voice a character in my regular voice, only to find out later on that he's elderly, or dying, or handicapped, or from Texas, well, then I'll either have to do it over, or chalk even more up to experience.  And it is always good to know where you're going, to know if something is going to be significant later, to know if you're building toward something.  I'd hate to read audiobooks the way Mariah Carey sings songs.

But I know what you're saying: "Rish, Mariah Carey has a beautiful voice!  And the Billboard charts say she's more successful than Elvis and the Beatles!  And how dare you put Texas and handicapped in the same sentence!?"

Yeah, she does have a pretty good voice.  But when you start out sing a song at a ten (in a 1 to 10 scale),  eff you as you go along.  As far as the Billboard charts and Texas, eff you on one and it was a joke on the other.

Think I'll continue editing now.

Rish Outfield, Narrator

*It's not like, "Well, Caroline is attractive and friendly and digs horror movies, BUT she also owns a Foster the People album."  It's more like, "Well, not only is Rachael arrogant, frigid, into crystal meditation, believes 'suck' is a profanity, has no sense of humor, despises all creative endeavors, bites her toetails, has an equine face, and watches MTV reality shows, but she told me she would take a crescent wrench to my genitals if I ever spoke to her again."  You know what I mean?

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