Egad, I Have a Narrator. Now What?
I posted the audition to ACX. The first response came that evening and then one or two a day; some were okay, some were, let’s just say, not so okay. I even got a message from a woman who wanted to submit an audition, but had to finish another audiobook and wouldn’t be available for a few weeks. That cheered me. If she already worked on an audiobook, she couldn’t be awful. She wanted to know when the audition closed. Hmm. Hadn’t thought about that. I figured this would be a long process, so I said July 15. I looked for a way on ACX to post the audition date. Couldn’t find one. Stupid ACX.
Narrations continued to arrive. None of them grabbed me, but I was too unsure to hit the delete button. As I listened to more, the okay ones started to sound the same as if the narrators practiced together; the same tones, the same inflection, the same reading. I began to worry. Maybe the okay auditions were really great, but I couldn’t feel it because I wanted the impossible. When I write, the characters speak in my head as clearly as if they were real people. (Sometime clearer, but let’s not get into my mental health issues.) How can I expect anyone to capture what’s inside me?
Then I discovered a wonderful truth. I can’t, but the right narrator doesn’t need my voice. She has one of her own and can add something different, but equally good, to a book. Less than a week after posting the audition I found Cass, a professional voice actor in California. Her reading was so far above the others, I had no doubt she was the one.
Next came the hard part. I had to reject the other narrators. Writers get plenty of rejections. If I printed out all the ones I received over the years I’d be able to wallpaper every room in my house with enough left over to whip up stylish curtains for the windows. It hurts a little less with a polite rejection because you can delude yourself someone actually read the submission. The worst is the black hole. You slave over a proposal or submission, email it, and then…nothing. The agent or publisher is too busy sipping their lattes to send a canned rejection. They don’t even bother to assign it to the unpaid intern. He’s busy polishing their shoes and wondering if it’s too late to apply for that salesclerk job at Old Navy. I’m sure actors get as many rejections as writers, so I determined all who submitted an audition would get an easy let-down with a kind, but encouraging email from me.
But first, the offer. If Cass didn’t accept, I was back to square one. I sent a message through ACX and told her how much I enjoyed the audition and an offer was coming. I also mentioned terms were negotiable, since I didn’t want a rejection over a minor issue. She was thrilled. I sent it through the ACX site; flat fee, but was fine with split royalties if she wanted to go that route. I also listed the deadline for the first fifteen minutes (the first chapter check), and then the final deadline. She accepted immediately, no changes necessary. Whoo-hoo! I went back to the list of auditions to start the polite rejections.
Curse you, ACX!
As soon as an offer is accepted the site deletes the contact information for other auditioners. Nothing warned me ahead of time. My stomach hurt thinking about those poor people waiting in the black hole. Will ACX notify them I chose another? Will they do it kindly?
Note to narrators who auditioned for Rimrider: Please don’t hate me. I intended to send a heartfelt message of thanks. Don’t let my rejection discourage you. Just because your narration style didn’t suit me, doesn’t mean it won’t suit another.
Fortunately, ACX only deleted those who actually auditioned, so I was still able to send a message to the nice woman who wanted to know the deadline. I explained that I expected to keep auditions opened to the 15th, but found a narrator right away. I wished her luck in future endeavors. She sent me a thank-you note.
- The narrator doesn’t need to copy the author's idea of a character’s voice. A talented narrator will bring her own skill and interpretation and an author may even like her interpretation better. Shut up, voices in my head.
- ACX needs work. Amazon owns the world. Can’t they spend a few extra bucks to hire some techs to get the bugs out of the system and make the site easier to use?
- Offer a narrator both flat fee and split royalty for payment, but be prepared to pay. Voice actors like to eat, too, and I believe most want money up front. If I only offered split royalty, I’d still be waiting for a narrator.
Next up in Part 3: The 15 minute Narration Check.