Thursday, November 21, 2013

Have a Little Pride

I got an email today that vexed me.  It wasn't a huge deal, but with my personality, I could easily have made it a big deal.  After all, a single negative feedback on an eBay transaction can ruin my whole day.*

A month or two back, I did a search for books that were looking for auditions, and a familiar title came up.  It was for a book by a three-named author that I had heard about a couple of years ago, one on the way up, and I had even read a story or two by him in my travels.  This was one of those writers that I've complained about before that require, if you audition to get his narrating gig, that you perform an entire chapter as your audition, which ends up being way too much work for most narrators (and for Audible's rules, by the way, not that they'll do anything about it), and I was hesitant.

Big Anklevich had actually read the book in question, though, so I asked him for his advice.  Should I should audition or not for this thing, and whether the book was even worth the work I'd put into it.  He told me something pretty wonderful: "I think you'd really like it.  It's the sort of book you would write yourself."

So I auditioned.  That entails reading, recording, editing, and cleaning the sound, then sending it to the author or rights holder, and waiting.  I've auditioned for a ton of projects, and while I've certainly gotten more rejections lately than I did when I first started (since I was so much less discriminating in those days, and even auditioned for a couple of textbooks I shudder at the very memory of now), I don't wait with baited breath hoping I nail every part I try out for.**

So today, when I got an email from the writer, it did not surprise me that I didn't get the gig.  Most times, I just get an automatic rejection email that says the part went to someone else.  Every once in a while, the writer or agent will tell me they went in another direction, but thanked me for my audition, and both of those are fine, really.

But this one was different.  This was the first time I've ever got a personalized rejection from a writer that explained why I wasn't good enough to do his or her book.  This was the first time I've ever had a writer insult me in their rejection.

He described the way I deliver all my lines, and I won't copy it here word-for-word, because . . . well, I have no real reason not to, but I will say that he compared my narration voice to a Disney animated character well-known for having a terrible, enjoyment-shattering voice.

That he prefaced it with "I realize you spent a long time creating your audition" was all the worse somehow, because I don't think a lot of the writers out there understand that asking potential narrators to do a fifteen minute sample (or the one from six months ago that actually required the auditioner to record the whole story) is a great deal of work.

In the man's defense, he did add that my voice might be perfect for some other writer's book, just not for his.

So, for about two minutes, my feelings were hurt.  I started to ask myself if he wasn't right, and if I had been delusional to think anybody would want to hear me perform a book or short story, and if maybe I shouldn't consider . . .

But then, an interesting thought went into my head.  A magical phrase, it sounded a little bit like "Buck sim," and it made my shame and disappointment all but disappear.

I have worked hard, since I was eight or nine years old, to do the best readings I can, giving every narration my all, to the best of my ability, even if I'm not fond of the material I've been given.  And I've been doing it for so long, I think I've gotten pretty good.  Oh, eff it, better than good.

Somehow, I've developed a healthy (and out of character) pride in the audiobook work I do, to the point where I try to elevate the material in front of me, if not simply to do it justice.  I'd like to be up there on the short list of the people you'd want performing your story or novel, and wouldn't mind doing voicework here or there for the rest of my life.  It doesn't make any sense, but it's far easier for me to objectively stamp my narrating work as High Grade, than it is to do the same for my writing.  Must be a different portion of my brain or something.

And I think, were he alive, Ray Bradbury would get a kick out of the work I did on his alien invasion short story.  So, there's that.

In the end, I think I actually dodged a bullet.  Regardless of the quality of the man's novel, would I really want to dedicate twenty to forty hours of editing and recording to a book written by a douchebag?

Maybe this is progress.

Rish Outfield, Audiobook Guy

*Since writing this, I discovered that my little sister is very much like me in this regar.  If someone says something unkind to her, or she makes a mistake, or a person in her care dies, she carries it around for a long time, dwelling on it, replaying it in her head, blaming herself or regretting what she did or said or may have contributed to the situation.  That makes me feel for her, since it's no damned fun living your life like that.

**With the exception of the Ray Bradbury story I went after.  Because, hey, that was Ray Bradbury.


Seraph said...

Healthy attitude man. Buck sim indeed !

Jeremy Carter said...

I really like your narration and character voices. It'd be interesting (or not!) to hear how it actually turned out, to see what he wanted. But as you say, if he acts like a dick over the audition, then he'd act like one throughout the recording...