Filed under: Opinions
I recently finished my first audiobook with Bee Audio, and it was a different experience for me from the thirty-some others I’ve done. It seems like an audiobook with Bee is a four person task: narrator, proofer, editor, and QC-er. The narrator records, the proofer listens and takes notes on what needs to be re-recorded or edited, the narrator does pickups, the editor cuts in pickups, makes other edits, and takes care of mastering, and the QC-er listens to it all at the end before uploading.
The merits of that final QC listen could be argued, I suppose. But I believe the other three jobs are more streamlined by condensing them down to two people. Narrator records, proofer/editor listens while editing out the things he can fix and marking pickups on things he can’t for the narrator to then re-record and either cut back in himself or send to the proofer/editor to take care of before one of them masters and sends it off to the presses.
Having a separate editor seems like paying somebody to do a job that should be done earlier in the pipeline to me, and actually creates more work for the narrator, because the proofer will inevitably take notes for him that could be fixed in editing. The narrator not cutting in his own pickups also has the potential for causing problems, as he may not realize he’s not matching the original read, and he’ll have to take another swing when the editor catches it.
This four person team is actually a recent development for Bee, too. They used to assign a researcher to a project, as well, to assist the narrator with pronunciation and definition prep work. Now, they have a list of researchers they give to all their narrators and say, “Use these people if you want, but you pay them out of pocket.” Again, I think a third-party researcher over-complicates things. A narrator needs to pre-read the whole book, anyway, unless it’s non-narrative non-fiction, and then you might be able to get away with recording cold. It just makes sense to take note of unfamiliar words during the pre-read. Besides, no third party can possibly know what your vocabulary is, so they’re inevitably going to miss some things you need help on, and offer help when it isn’t necessary. On those rare titles that you are sneaking by with a cold record, you can simply pause to look up words you’ve never seen before. You don’t need somebody else to do this for you. It’s part of your job as a narrator.
I liked working with Bee on my first title; they’re a nice bunch of people. But it was very different because it was a much more collaborative process than I’m used to. And comparing it to the way I’m used to working, I do feel like it’s a case of too-many-cooks-in-the-kitchen. How many people does it really take to make an audiobook? In my opinion, while one can do it, two is the most efficient formula. More people may seem like it saves time, but I think at best it’s an unnecessary expenditure, and at worst, it’s creating busy-work for everybody else.
October 16, 2013
I recently attended an Audible-hosted networking/mixer event for “new” voices in the audiobook industry to chat with publishers and others that are more firmly entrenched than the likes of myself. I say “new” in quotation marks like that because that was the term in the event name, in spite of the fact that myself, and I’m sure at least a few others on my side of the table, have been doing this for a couple years now, but I won’t pick points.
One tidbit of information I received from the Audible/ACX representative, though, is the reason for my making this post today. Apparently, an intentional design element on the ACX website is that all narrator demos are listed in order of most recently uploaded. So a good practice for you to get yourself into if you’re a narrator relying on ACX jobs for income is to delete your demos and re-post them on a regular basis. I finally took the time to do this for the first time today and saw my name all over the first three pages of narrator results. Granted, ACX is just one small piece of the puzzle that is my career, but as this takes all of an hour max (and that’s if you have a LOT of demos), it seems like it may be worthwhile to take the time to do it every month or so.
August 20, 2013
Hey, fellow audiobook narrators! I’ve just learned of a nifty little trick with Audible. If you haven’t heard of the Audible Affiliate Program, listen up!
When you link your friends, family, and website visitors to your audiobooks, do you just send them a link and say “Listen to this”? Have you ever wanted to make a little extra cash when somebody buys one of those audiobooks? Well, guess what? You can! By signing up for the Audible Affiliate Program and running that link through a quick generator, you can earn a commission on the purchases your link-ees make.
Here are the basics of how it works. You sign up for the program and are assigned a Publisher ID number. You run that ID number and the link of any page on the Audible website you want to link to (a search for your name, any of your titles, etc.) through the generator, and you’re given a new link to send to people. You post it on your Facebook, on your Twitter, on your website, you email it to your mailing list, and anyone who clicks on it goes to the page you initially ran through the generator. In addition, a cookie is created on their computer that lasts for 60 days. If at any point during those 60 days, they purchase a title on Audible, you get a cut. Specifically, 10% of all individual “a la carte” sales, or $25 if they sign up for a membership. In fact, you’ll get $10 if all they do is sign up for the one week trial.
So what are you waiting for? Time to go update all the links you’ve got on your site and start earning a little extra cash!
July 20, 2013
If anybody who happens across this blog is a member of one of my favorite LinkedIn groups, Audiobook Voices Network, you may recall a hot button discussion that cropped up a couple of months ago pertaining to a company called Bee Audio. The union had recently issued a Do-Not-Work notice to its members because it believed Bee wasn’t paying its narrators what they were worth. I didn’t tell anybody around here about it, because… frankly, what would be the point? But Bee found my profile on ACX and contacted me regarding narration around the time this discussion popped up. I was quite surprised at how little they were getting away with paying their narrators, and chimed in on the discussion, joining the union’s bandwagon in declaring their rates unacceptable.
Also around this time, I contacted a friend of mine who I would argue is a far more successful voice over actor than myself (so far) for some advice. He told me he got most of his audiobook work from… you guessed it: Bee Audio, and recommended I give them a shout. Him vouching for them and explaining that they handle the QC portion of the work (meaning the narrator just has to record the book using the punch-and-roll method and they’re done) caused me to reconsider my dismissal of the company. But shortly thereafter, Tantor responded to an old submission of mine and offered to pay a significantly higher rate, as well as take care of the QC. So I decided to pass on Bee at the time. Shortly thereafter, Tantor signed an agreement with the union, giving me an even better rate, plus benefits, and a doorway to union membership should I ever so desire to take it. All was well.
Tantor has since stopped calling on me with the frequency they did when I first signed on with them. I still love to work with them, and jump at the opportunity when it arises, but they don’t seem to need me as much as I originally believed they would. Fast forward to yesterday. After months of not-so-pleasant words between the two, followed by a little healthy debate, SAG-AFTRA and Bee Audio have come to terms. Their rates have increased quite a bit, and although the low end of their range, apparently intended for narrators new to their roster, is a bit lower than other publishers, it’s not grotesquely low considering the QC is taken care of and there is, apparently, room for advancement to higher pay grades.
Needless to say, my opinion of Bee has changed immensely since they first contacted me on ACX. I’ve already sent them a note letting them know that in light of these recent events, I’m interested in working with them now. My contact there indicated I should be hearing from their casting director soon, so if all goes well, I should have a new client soon. But the real moral of this story is to let any current or aspiring audiobook narrators who might be reading it know: Bee Audio is fair game now. Best of luck to any who submit!
July 13, 2013
UPDATE: A new post on VOX Daily at Voices.com indicates they’ve revised their new policy because of the outcry of VOs like myself and those in the comments section below. They’ve always been good at listening, and I’m extremely happy that my fellow VOs were willing to make the noise we needed to. Thanks to David and Stephanie Ciccarelli and the whole Voices.com team for always keeping our best interests at heart. — 08/03/2012, 12:19PM PDT
Voices.com has been a major part of my voice over business ever since I started my career. It’s been my favorite pay-to-play site because of its hands-off approach that allows its users to make decisions for themselves on what’s best for their career, without imposing a lot of restrictions and policies that have a tendency to get in the way (Footnote: Voice123 recently removed the “you-audition-too-much” restriction part of SmartCast’s algorithm, making the system a lot easier to swallow than it was at the time of my writing that article). However, after years of using the site the way that works best for me, my delicate ecosystem has been shaken. I received a message on my first audition proposal of the day telling me I couldn’t submit until I removed my contact information from the cover letter.
Not wanting to let something like this get in the way of my productivity for the day, I finished my auditions sans-email address and phone number, then did a little digging to see where this message came from. I found this page on the Voices.com FAQ, last updated today (July 31, 2012). Essentially, this page indicates that Voices.com will be enforcing what I call a “No Contact Policy” more effectively than they have in the past (apparently it’s always been in their Terms of Service) in an effort to keep more business on the site. They say they’re doing this to “improve their service” and “provide greater value to their customers” (voice over actors), but really, they’re doing it for the money.
I’ll save my reasoning for why the ability to share contact information is essential for the letter attached at the bottom of the article, but if you’re feeling like you need it now, you can remind yourself of my arguments against VoiceBunny and come back to finish this read a little later. For those who don’t know, Voices.com offers a service it calls “SurePay,” which allows clients to deposit funds into an escrow account as soon as a voice over actor accepts their job offer. The VO then records and uploads the job to the site, and once the client signs off on the finished files, the funds are released from escrow and sent to the VO–minus a 10% service charge that goes to Voices.com. SurePay is a great security blanket for both clients and voices alike. Nobody has to worry about getting stiffed because an impartial third-party is handling the money. It also provides an easy way to transfer files to clients. It’s a service I’ve used many times, and I greatly appreciate its existence.
However, in the past, using SurePay has been an option for my clients and I. Sometimes, we’ll elect to work outside of the SurePay system, because we need a little more flexibility (or, I’ll be honest, because I want to keep that 10%). We come to terms via email conversation, and conduct our business on our own–without the aid of the impartial third-party. Other times, we use the service. I’ve had clients who never even asked to use SurePay. I’ve had clients who thought about it and choose not to. I’ve had clients who thought about not using it and choose to do so instead. I’ve had clients who used SurePay the first time we worked together and then worked directly with me on the next job. And I have clients who use SurePay every single time they have a new line of dialog for an ongoing project. I love having that flexibility in my business plan.
But Voices.com has decided, essentially because they’re getting a little money hungry, to take that flexibility away. SurePay is basically becoming a requirement. And I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one who doesn’t like the change. So, to express my distaste on the matter, I sent the message included below to Voices.com this afternoon. If you’re a Voices.com member and you share my opinion, I strongly suggest you do the same. If enough of us make a stink about it, maybe, just maybe, we can convince them to change their minds.
To Whom It May Concern:
I’m not sure where to lodge this complaint, so I guess I’ll do it here. Today, I received a message I’d never seen before telling me it was against the terms of service to include my contact information in an audition proposal. Upon reviewing the FAQ, I found an article that’s been added today regarding new measures being taken to enforce this policy in an effort to increase job completion on the site.
I have been including my contact information in all of my auditions for years, on this site and others. I strongly believe it is imperative to have open lines of communication with my clients and not be forced to direct conversations through a middle-man. Being prohibited from divulging my contact information to clients on the site has the potential to significantly hinder my personal business. I can no longer showcase my capabilities with my personal website, which is and will always be a far greater asset than any profile on any marketplace featuring thousands of voices who are my competition.
Furthermore, by prohibiting me from sharing my email address with clients, I’m given no opportunity to collect their contact information. When a contact emails me regarding a potential job opportunity, I save their address so that I can send mailers to them in the future reminding them of our existing relationship and encouraging repeat business. Their contact information being made available once they’ve expressed an interest in hiring me is invaluable.
And what about clients who require an ISDN or phone patch connection during the recording session? We’ve got to be able to share phone numbers in order to complete the work. Being able to share contact information with clients is absolutely vital to the success of a voice over actor’s business.
The desire to encourage job completion on the site is one I certainly understand: Voices.com makes money from each transaction, so why wouldn’t you want that to happen as much as possible? But this is the only explanation for prohibiting us from sharing our contact information: money. You’re not helping your users out at all. Bringing clients back to post more jobs on the site (which a significant portion already do on their own) in order to book the same voice over actor they booked last time does nothing to improve the market for that actor’s competition. It acts only as a hindrance to the end-user, even though it may drive up your profits by a small margin.
Were the voice over actors who utilize this site doing so completely free of charge, forcing us to complete every job through the SurePay system would make absolute sense. But we’re not. We pay a substantial subscription fee just to have the chance to audition for these jobs. And having SurePay there as an option is FANTASTIC! It guarantees we get paid by the client, provides us with an easy way to deliver the files, it’s great. But I beg you, allow us to choose whether we want to use it or not. You’re still making plenty of money from those of us who do choose to use it, and from our subscription fees, and we’re not going anywhere just because we’re able to talk to our clients freely.
You guys have been my #1 choice for booking work for three years. I’ve been contacted three times regarding a Platinum membership, and I’ve very seriously considered getting it. But enforcing a policy like this will very swiftly drop you to the bottom of my list, and may very well lead to the cancellation of my membership altogether. Please. Don’t do this.
July 31, 2012
Hi! I'm Kyle McCarley: a voice over actor living in Los Angeles. I'm a graduate of the University of Southern California's School of Theatre, and I've been behind the microphone for podcasts, radio plays, video games, audiobooks, and more since 2005.
My most notable professional voice-over works have included the audiobook for Bunmi Laditan's hilariously funny "parenting" book, The Honest Toddler, with Tantor Audio, numerous major roles in video games such as UnEpic, Dragon Nest, Vindictus, and MapleStory, the voice of the main hero in the web cartoon Space Heroes Universe, and several commercial spots on the online radio network, Pandora, including a national campaign for Kroger. For more information on my previous work, check out my resume.
I started my adventures in voice-over as part of an internet radio station known as WoW Radio, a fansite for World of Warcraft, where I co-created a radio play series called The Chalice of Silvermoon. I wrote, directed, and contributed several voices to the series, which concluded after three seasons; a total of 51 episodes that averaged at 15 minutes in length each.