Introducing; Phil Gabriel
As Phil mentions below, we have been friends since the mid-90’s when we were both living and working in Naples, Italy (I know, pretty lucky, right!?). And, as often happens when working in or for the military, once our time in Naples was over we went our separate ways to our next assignments and even though we did correspond periodically at first, we lost touch; to be expected when people live on different sides of the world. Then, as fate would have it, and unbeknownst to one another, we BOTH gravitated toward a second career in publishing, Phil as an author and myself as a narrator for audio books (among other things). Imagine my surprise when Phil reached out to me to see if I was interested in narrating his latest work after seeing one of my earlier blog posts!
Although I was not the right narrator (and knowing it is not a project you can do well is one of the skills a narrator needs to develop), I really loved the book; once Phil gets noticed he is going to be that “big name author” he mentions. After exchanging several emails, and catching up on 25 years of not talking, I asked Phil if he’d mind writing a guest blog post from the author side of the narration fence. He did, and the result is below. Enjoy!
Hi, I’m Phil Gabriel, a friend of Gary’s from way back. We both ended up in the publishing business (after several detours through war zones and government service); Gary on the audio production side and me on the writing side.
Finding the right narrator takes TIME
I recently reconnected with Gary while searching for a voice actor for my next audiobook project (insert shameless plug here—Mages in Manhattan). We exchanged multiple emails about the audiobook business, both finding out that the other had unique insights into the business. Gary asked me to write a guest post for his blog, and here we are.
Producing an Audio Book is like a second (or in my case, third) full time job!
What experience do I bring? I have written over a dozen novels under various pen names as I try to make a second career out of this writing gig. I have completed two audiobook projects, with a third in progress. This new project would be my fourth audiobook.
I have made almost every mistake you could imagine while producing those audiobooks. I have used both Findaway Voices and ACX as production platforms. I have used different voice actors for consecutive books; I have lost audio files; I have missed multiple deadlines. Despite these missteps, I got two audiobook projects completed, with a third coming out soon.
Here are some things I wish I had known before my first production.
- Writing the book was the easy part. Audiobooks take a long time to produce. I spent more time on production than it took to write my latest book. I had to listen to every minute of completed audio, with a notebook in hand, to catch any mistakes. This took hours and hours of time.Let me tell you a secret. Most writers hate hearing their work. I love my books and re-read them for pleasure. But hearing them is another matter. The multiple “he said” and “she said” tags that the eye skips in reading become insanely obvious and distracting when read. Reviewing my first audiobook was torture. I desperately wanted to re-write entire sections to eliminate extra voice tags and clumsy phrases. But that wouldn’t be fair to the narrator. She was reading the book as I wrote it. I gritted my teeth at the clumsy writing and approved her work.On the positive side, I revamped my writing style after hearing my first book. Now I seek to cut down on extra tags.
- Unless you’re a big-name author, no one will want to work on a Royalty Share. Currently, I am a very low-level author, with monthly sales averaging less than $500.00. Why is that important? Because almost no voice actor would consider me for a royalty share deal. It would take years to make any money at my current sales. I wasted time posting my first project as a Royalty Share deal. Once I shifted to a straight PFH (Per Finished Hour) project, I received some great auditions.
- Short projects will not receive any auditions. I tried to post some of my short stories as audiobook projects. Surely, that would be a win-win; I would get a short story narrated I could use as a freebie for my newsletter subscribers, and a narrator would get a payday. Gary let me know that the economics of that scheme won’t work for a narrator. A narrator would have to take the risk of applying for the project, work up the audio sample, which in the case of a short story would be a large percentage of the project, and then wait for approval or rejection. Almost anybody would avoid that type of project in favor of ten- or twelve-hour books where the payoff is much higher.
- The perfect voice may not be the right narrator. Writers are strange. We spend an inordinate amount of time listening to the voices in our heads tell us stories. Each of these voices is unique, and when we find a narrator that sounds like our imaginary friend, we jump on that voice. In my case, I found the perfect voice for my protagonist. The narrator sounded just like I imagined my character. I hired this narrator for the first book. She brought my protagonist to life.However, when she read my male character’s dialog (the love interest of my protagonist), he sounded like an insufferable twit.
- The best audition sample for a book is not the first chapter. With Amazon’s “Look Inside” feature, an author only has a few moments to capture the reader’s attention. So, I spend a lot of time ensuring my books start with a bang to hook the readers. I cram a lot of action into the first few pages.A lot of action, but not much dialog. If I had submitted a different sample, one that included multiple characters, I would have had a much better idea of how the final product would sound.
- The sample should include any foreign characters and accents needed. This was a big error on my part. Sure, it’s easy to describe someone as having a heavy Glasgow accent, or to fire up Google Translate to throw in some Japanese phrases but finding someone who can handle that range of accents is a tough task.My latest project would be a nightmare; an American magician, his apprentice (the ghost of a Japanese schoolgirl), his Japanese girlfriend, a German werewolf, and the ghost of Elvis. That’s a lot to ask of any narrator.
Still, I hold hope that the narrator I need, the man with a four-octave range, pure Japanese and German accents, and a killer Elvis impression, is out there.
Thank you Phil!
I really enjoyed Phil’s insight into an author having his book produced into an audio book; it’s a perspective I wasn’t aware of and frankly never gave much thought to. I’ve always known (or believed) that the author (or rights holder if it is not the author) for a book went through a process of “selection” versus “rejection” when listening to auditions, but it never really occurred to me that they were listening for the person they ALREADY HEARD in their head when writing/reading their books. Knowing it for certain now certainly helps with the feelings of rejection when you get the “Concerning your audition for…” rejection emails from ACX. Thanks Phil, I apprevciae your insight an taking the time out of your busy schedule to write this post for my blog!
If you’d like to read or listen to any of Phil’s work, you can find him on Amazon here: Phil Gabriel on Amazon.
Thanks for reading, see you next week when I geek out on selecting and putting together a travel rig!