• John Lim

MF 295 : Creating a workflow and agreement with an author for an audiobook

Today, we continue on our discussion of audiobooks with a look at workflow and working with an author. More at www.bemovingforward.com.

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Working with an author

Last week, we took a look at considerations for becoming a voiceover artist for an audiobook. Today, we dive into the next steps in working with an author and establishing an ideal workflow.

I won’t be focusing much on getting hired as a VO talent as I’m hardly an expert. Plus, my opportunity to record my first audiobook came from being friends with the author of the book.

However, if you’re starting out as a voiceover (VO) talent, one way to go about it is to through third-party work for hire sites where you can list yourself as a freelancer for authors. Below are a few you may want to check out.

  1. Audible

  2. Upwork

  3. Fiverr

You can also use your own website or social media channels. Be aware that the voiceover talent field is extremely crowded. Standing out may be tough if you’re a first time narrator. Take a look at the different sites and make sure you have a good demo of your VO talents. This may involve uploading a sound file or a link to an external site such as YouTube or a podcast that showcases your work.

Obviously, if you’re friends or acquaintances with an author of a book or have written a book yourself, that can be a great starter opportunity to cut your teeth for recording an audiobook.

Finally keep in mind, you may not be working with the author directly. Often, VO talent is hired by the publisher of a book, so you may be working with someone in the publishing company that is managing the book.

Once you’ve landed your first audiobook gig, the next important step is to establish a formal agreement between you, the VO talent, and the author (or publisher). Below are some factors to include in an agreement. You may need to hire an attorney to help you draft one or find a template form that adequately covers everything you and the author need to agree to. If you’re using a third-party service like the ones mentioned above, many of the terms may be incorporated or baked. Be sure to check any such terms carefully and amend or add to this as needed. Note: the following is not a full or comprehensive list of conditions and factors, nor is this meant to provide any formal legal advice. Reminder: you are always advised to seek legal counsel if you need to formulate an agreement that fully covers your best interests.

  1. Read the book. Get a sense for how long it is, the tone and topic. Even if you’re not an expert on the material, you may still be a good fit for the book.

  2. Test drive. Do a test recording of a chapter or two (see also last week’s episode where I talk about testing the waters). This will give you a rough estimate of how much time it will take you to complete a chapter, from which you can come up with a schedule that works within your time constraints.

  3. Schedule. Once you’ve done your test drive, work with the author to set a realistic schedule that involves deadlines, time for edits and review, and final polish. We’ll go over the technical aspects in the next episodes so don’t worry if you’re not sure about this yet.

  4. VO copy. Get a copy of the book that is work-friendly for recording the narration. This can either be a looseleaf print version that you can tack onto a clipboard or wall or an e-copy, which you can have open next on your computer as you record.

  5. Formalize this. Have a contract that spells out the terms and conditions, including those listed above and other considerations such as compensation, scheduling and deadlines, a copyright release, choice of law provisions, and conflict resolution provisions. If you are a freelance talent on a work-for-hire site this may be baked into the platform. If you’re working directly with an author, you may need legal counsel to help you draft a standard agreement you can use.

Ideal author-voiceover artist workflow

Once you have landed your gig and formalized an agreement, with the author, come up with a workflow. This may or may not be spelled out in the contract itself. Based on my experience working with Angelo, here are what I think goes into an ideal workflow.

  1. Review process. This will depend on the individual author (or publisher) but I highly recommend that you establish a workflow that gets the author involved in the process as you complete chapters and sections. If you’re hired by a publisher directly, they’ll often have you go to a recording studio and work with sound engineer professionals that will give you directions and help you craft the right sound. For independently published books, which is my experience thus far, you’ll be working directly with the author. The more you can involve the author in the process, the more you’ll ensure that your work fits with the author’s vision. Ideally, he or she will listen and give you feedback so you can rework to his or her satisfaction.

  2. Feedback. If you’re working directly with the author, especially for independently published books, establish a feedback system. If you’re hired by a publishing company as a VO talent, you’ll be working with them directly or a recording studio retained by the publisher that will guide you in the process. For my first VO gig, I worked with the author, Angelo and we used a shared cloud folder where I would upload sound files as I completed them. Angelo would then go in and listen to them to give specific feedback to make sure I was capturing the right tone and as a spot check the pronunciation for band names and specific terms of art. Use a feedback system where the author provides time signatures in the file cross-referenced to page and line locations within the book to address edits, redos, or corrections. If you’re a work-for-hire for a publisher and recording this at a studio, you’ll get direct feedback as you record.

Over the next couple of weeks, we look at the technical requirements for recording an audiobook and best practices for doing narration that’s expressive, clear, and fits with the theme and tone of the book.

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