Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Audiobooks: How To? Interview With A Narrator

Guys, I'm soooo excited to announce that my YA novel, The Boy Who Loved Fire, is now available in audiobook!

Audiobooks are a fun way to reach readers. If you're interested in creating your own audiobook, or if your publisher is looking for a how-to, check out this great tutorial by Elizabeth Craig.

The narrator of The Boy Who Loved Fire, Neal West (who did an amazing job, by the way), has kindly answered a few questions about how to begin the process and what to look for in a narrator.

Neal, thanks so much for stopping by my blog. What made you decide to narrate audiobooks?

I guess the truth is it was a pretty natural progression. I had done a lot of acting when I was in high school, and I followed that into radio. I began to cut commercials and I did a lot of volunteer work. I was also a big listener of audiobooks, my favorite being Stephen King at the time. I got to a point in my professional broadcast career where I was left a bit unchallenged, so I took on working with audiobooks as a way to expand my skill set, and to make a little side money.

Why should authors work with professional narrators instead of creating their own audio?

The main difference between a professional narrator and an author who would record their own book is that I have spent 16 years developing this talent. To assume what I do when I sit in front of a microphone is the same as what someone who has never done this before will do in front of a microphone is just simply not true. As the saying goes, those who are the best at it make it look the easiest.

And you have to define the word professional. For instance the starting quarterback for the Green Bay Packers makes a heck of a lot more money than a guy who warms the bench for the Bears, although both players are still considered professional. And the same can be true with professional narrators. Some of them work on much bigger projects and demand a lot more money, and others will work with smaller authors on independent projects.

And there are a variety of reasons for that as well. With me, for instance, it's a side job. For others they're just starting out. Generally speaking I think it's better to leave it to the professionals when you want to job done right, and that's why I stopped working on my own cars years ago! A mechanic I am not.

When authors listen to audio auditions, what should they be on the lookout for?

The first has to be technical quality. That's your number one goal, to find a narrator with a professional audio setup that can create sweet audio. You have to remember when you're dealing with an audiobook it's as if I am speaking to you, right in your ear...just you...and me (the narrator)'s a very intimate experience!

The next step should be finding a voice that fits the kind of book that you've written. There are a variety of standards for's pretty much based on what you think is best. When the book is read in your head...who does it? How does it sound? Male? Or female? Young? Old? Accent? Are there characters in your book? How should they be done? 

I would also say that before an author starts the process of hiring the narrator, they should have spent at least some time listening to several different audiobooks. My best advice is get a feel for what you think your book should sound like and then find the narrator who can achieve that.

When authors listen to the final audio, what should they be on the lookout for?

My advice during the quality control process is first make sure that the audio is up to your standards. There should be a very consistent feel to the tone and pace of the read. It should be the same at the beginning as it is at the end.

It's helpful to listen to the book with a notepad and a copy of the manuscript. Make notes as you go along. Pronunciation of names and places, or just screwed up words, rooms noises or noises in the recording should all be noted. 

Generally if you've done a good job of selecting a professional narrator, most of this should not be an issue. But there are almost always some changes to be made. Remember, once it's done, it's done.

If someone is interested in narrating audiobooks, what do they need? Where do they begin?

Well, first they're going to need to invest some money in gear. There are some really good entry-level broadcast microphones that would do well in an audio narration environment. You also need to invest a little bit in some sort of room treatment... believe me if you've ever heard a tape recorded in a room with bare walls, you'll hear the voice and then on a delay of several milliseconds, hear the voice reverberating from the wall back into the microphone on a's very distracting.

A good audio interface and then some recording software should be your next buy. And then practice practice practice. Just find some books and tear into to them. And make sure to listen to yourself.
There are quite a few independent voiceover exchanges on the Internet. is an example of one. Voice 123 or are other examples. Get yourself an account set up at some of these sites (depending on the kind of work you want to do), then audition audition audition! You won't get the job you haven't auditioned for.

Remember, above all it's a craft. Practice, network, grow. And never get to big to listen to advice... You will never hear yourself the way someone else can, so it's always good to incorporate some level of feedback into the process.

Neal, you're a superstar! Thanks so much for giving us the lowdown on narrating audiobooks.

Friends, do you listen to audiobooks? If you're published, is there an audiobook available for your book? Feel free to share your link in the comments!

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Podcasts for Indie Authors

My new favorite thing? Podcasts.

Holy cow, there is so much information available for writers on podcasts. Call me a slow learner, but before reading a post by another blogger, I hadn't considered podcasts as a learning tool for writers. (I wish I could remember the blogger's name who turned me on to podcasts for indie authors. If I ever find out his name, I'll be sure to update this post.)

New to podcasts? Here's what you can do:
  • Go to or download the free Stitcher app from the app store
  • Create a Stitcher account
  • Browse shows based on your interests (publishing, writing children's books, current events, whatever)
  • Sift through the many choices (I typed in "Indie Publishing" and over 500 shows popped up)
  • Add interesting shows to your list
  • When you're ready to listen, download a show and play
The blogger-I-can't-remember had given a few suggestions, and so far I've tried four. I like them all and would highly recommend them. Here they are in the order of my preference:
  1. Joanna Penn from the Creative Penn--Most of us have read Joanna's blog, The Creative Penn. Her podcasts are produced with the same topics in mind. She asks pointed questions in her interviews and boils it down for all authors--the small time and big time. Her podcasts focus on indie publishing, but there's plenty of information for all writers and publishers. Plus she has a cool accent.
  2. Rocking Self Publishing--Simon, a guy who also has a cool British accent, has great interviews with successful indie authors who offer inspiration and nuts and bolts ideas. His style is relaxed and friendly. He has a great way of turning the conversation back to the topic at hand.
  3. Sell More Books Show--This weekly podcast, hosted by Jim Kukral and Bryan Cohen, has a nice back and forth style. They go through the top five publishing news events from the week and offer their opinions. It's interesting to see their take on current publishing news, like Amazon's new preorder option for indies.
  4. Self Publishing Podcast--This podcast, hosted by Johnny, Sean and Dave, is entertaining but packed full of colorful language--just a warning. They do a bit of self promo, but it's done in a way that gives authors ideas of what can work and what's worth trying. These guys are fearless and innovative.
Listening to podcasts is an entertaining and productive thing to do while walking or hiking. I simply download a show before my workout, then learn while I'm on the go.

Do you listen to podcasts? If so, are there any you can add to the list? Do you listen to other podcasts? Please share!

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Writing lessons learned from CAPTURED BY LOVE

Time to share some important writing lessons I've learned from reading great books! This time it's all about Captured by Love, by Jody Hedlund.

It is 1814 and the British have taken hold of Mackinac Island and its fort. American residents were forced to swear an oath of loyalty to the British crown in order to retain their land. Pierre Durant is a voyageur--a fur trader who left his family home to find freedom and adventure. He's been gone five years and when he returns, his family's farm is at the mercy of the British invaders.

Torn between the life he's grown used to and guilt over leaving his brother and mother, he's drawn back into the loyalist fight against the British--and into a relationship with Angelique MacKenzie, a beautiful local girl who's been befriended by the daughter of the British commander. As tensions mount and the threat of violence increases, both Angelique and Pierre must decide where their loyalties rest, how far they will go to find freedom, and how much they will risk to find love.

Warning: if you haven't yet read Captured by Love, and don't want to know any plot points, read no further!

  • Open with intriguing action: The novel opens with Angelique on the run. She's barefoot, at night. The reader is instantly curious. Where is this girl going? Why is she barefoot? Who's chasing her?
  • Reveal character with early action: Angelique is running because she's sneaking coveted food to an ill friend. This shows bravery and kindness from the very beginning.
  • Bring on the love triangle: I'm a sucker for love triangles. In this case, two brothers care for the same childhood friend. If one of them was a bad person, it would be easy to choose sides. But that's not the case. They're all likable. Tough choices are inevitable.
  • Love interest isn't just a pretty face: Too often romance novels feature a hunky love interest who's just eye candy without any depth. Not so in this story. Pierre is a nice person with conflicting loyalties. He's a double agent who's helping the Americans. His good character adds another layer to the love story because it's not just about love. It's also about duty and country.
  • Create an anchor: Pierre is a young man who wishes to come and go as he pleases. But now he has an obligation at home--his ailing mother and her decrepit farm. This binds him to the island long enough to fall in love.
  • Tighten the noose: Hedlund does a great job of creating several ticking clocks for Pierre and Angelique. The oncoming winter, when Pierre must leave to do his work. The threat of an American invasion of the island. The imminent arrival of Pierre's brother, Angelique's fiancee. These multiple ticking clocks add tension throughout the book.
I love Hedlund's books, and Captured by Love was no exception.

What do you think of these writing lessons? Have you tried any of them yourself? Do you like reading historical inspirational romance?

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Grateful for Gratitude #IWSG

Welcome Insecure Writers! Big thanks to Alex J. Cavanaugh and his crew for giving us this awesome group hug called Insecure Writers Support Group. Click here to sign up.

Keeping it short this month. When things get crazy, I like to take a moment and focus on what I'm grateful for.

Besides family and good health, which I'm thankful for every day, I'm grateful for:
  1. Opportunities. I love that we're writers in this day and age. Opportunities and choices abound.
  2. Skill. My writing abilities have come a loooong way, and they still have a looooong way to go. But I'm so thankful for writing skills.
  3. Sales. When even one person buys one of my books, I'm so thankful. I'd write them for free, without ever receiving payment, so I'm extra grateful when someone puts faith in me.
  4. Mentors. I'm thankful for brave writers who try new things and tell others about it. 
  5. Gratitude. Sounds weird to be grateful for gratitude, but I am. It's easy to dwell on all you don't have, but I like to dwell on what I do.
How about you, fellow writers? What are you grateful for today? Please share!