By Johnny Heller

So you’re wondering how you can make money, become famous and not work too hard. You hop in your car, hit play on your audiobook and go for a drive. Suddenly, it hits you—Audiobooks! Those people are famous. They probably make lots of money and all they do is read a book! Hell! That’s it! You can read out loud! You should narrate books! WooHoo! What a great car ride.
Since I’ve been inundated of late with pleas from people I don’t even know about how to get into this audiobook business “because it seems so easy” and “anybody can do it,” I’ve decided to devote today’s blog to helping clear the air.
Let me tell you a short story about 3 famous audiobook narrators – Scott Brick, Peter Berkrot and Robert Fass. I think it’s a story that will help you make the call regarding your own future in the business.
(AUTHOR’S NOTE: I have taken what is known as “Literary License” in the following story and not all the facts are actually factual. Certain names and characters have been added for dramatic effect and some of the dialogue comes from the author’s imagination based on the needs of the story. Otherwise, the story is true.)
(EDITOR’S NOTE: There is not a single shred of truth in this story and it is completely fabricated and in no way should anyone be fooled by this nonsense for even a second. I can’t believe you’re reading this at all.)
Houston, TX …Every Tuesday night, Scott Brick, Peter Berkrot and Robert Fass would gather at Angry Jeffrey Kafer’s Bar Lounge and Bait Shop to take advantage of the Tuesday night beer and wing special and shoot the bull with “Angry” Jeffrey Kafer – who owned the place and poured the beer. Angry Jeff wasn’t always angry but you could get him riled up pretty easy – just go there sometime and tell him that you think 6-Flags is better than Disneyland – you’ll see the angry pretty quick.
Anyway, our heroes always started their evening feeling pretty good about themselves. They were reasonably good looking – provided you weren’t comparing them to movie stars like Gary Busey or Jar Jar Binks – but still. They were affable. And most of all, they all had decent paying jobs that they were certain would make them irresistible to women.
Scott Brick had the best job. He had wanted to be on the Geek Squad at Best Buy but they already had too many geeks so he lucked into an even better gig. He’d saunter over to a table of lovely female occupational therapists and say – with a fake drawl (being new to Houston): “Howdy. I’m Brick. Scott Brick. How do you do?”
“Fine,” would say a winsome sweetie. “What do you do for a living, Brick? Scott Brick?” (Occupational Therapists and most other women want a man who has a sexy and steady job. Maybe MI5 hit man or hedge fund manager).
“I,” Scott Brick would say disarmingly, “am an automobile insurance claim adjuster! How about that?!!” And he would smile from ear to ear knowing how irresistible he looked and how wonderful his job was – for who could resist a tall, thin as a sewing needle all American boy with an exciting profession like that?
Sadly, everyone could resist him and his job.
Peter Berkrot had the same luck – all bad. Peter was gainfully employed as a door to door headstone salesman. His sample case was really heavy but he had created a fool proof sales technique – he’d stop by a house, ingratiate his way in and stay there until the home owners bought a head stone. His longest stay was 2-weeks but by God, they finally caved just to get him out of the house. Sometimes, he’d go ahead and engrave a person’s name on a stone –unasked – and bring it by the house and he’d be so excited when he showed his art work, the person would just have to go ahead and shell out a few hundred dollars or Peter would scrunch up his face like he was about to cry.
He had never thought about it before, but this Tuesday he was beginning to wonder if: “Peter Berkrot – Headstone Engraving and Sales- wanna date?” was the best pick up line.
Robert Fass worked for a greeting card company. He was in charge of Bereavements, Condolences and Belateds. At first he loved his job. He settled on a decent pick up line of: “I’m Robert Fass. I’m a writer.” Which may have been okay but he’d invariably follow it up by getting nervous and blathering something silly or unseemly.
For example, on this night, he introduced himself to a table of winsome brunettes who worked at a local J. Crew store and they were all wearing the new line of pastel sweaters with puppies on them. They were intrigued and asked him what sort of writing he did.
“Well,” said Robert, “today I wrote ‘Sorry about the loss of your husband in the wood chipper. He seemed like an okay guy.”
The girls were not impressed.
“I also wrote – ‘I missed your birthday! If you don’t die, I can be early next year!’”
This too failed to impress causing Robert to get nervous and shout out – “I like your sweater puppies!”
This brought over Scott and Peter to the rescue. They apologized for their friend and explained that they should try to forgive him as he was an idiot.
The three sat together and despaired.
“I thought sure chicks would dig a graveyard guy – death is sexy – isn’t it?” Berkrot asked.
“I can take an insurance claim and adjust it!!” Brick cried. “That’s power. That’s sexy – yes?”
“My printer is out of toner,” Robert added.
“Guys, we couldn’t help but overhear you,” said a fetching brunette with a wonderful voice.
“Yeah. And watch you screw everything up,” said her equally alluring friend.
“You guys are cute enough, you just need better jobs,” said the impossibly swell looking third girl.
“My name is Jo Anna Perrin”, said the first.
“I’m Hilary Huber,” said the next.
“And I’m Tavia Gilbert,” said the last.
“humminna humminna ….” Said our heroes.
“We’re audiobook narrators. That’s what you should be!” said the girls.
“What do you have to do? “ asked Berkrot
“Nothing much,” answered Hillary. “You can read English can’t you?”
“You can read out loud- can’t you?” asked Jo Anna.
“You like money and fame, don’t you?” added Tavia.
“Yes!” the boys said.
“Well then, there you are! Stop doing what you’re doing and go become audiobook narrators,” Jo Anna said.
“How much money can you make doing this?” asked Scott.
“Well it starts out kinda low – like $15,000 a book but we’ve each done 2 kid stories, 1 memoir and 10 dirty books so we make about 4 gazillion samoleans an hour!” Tavia answered.
“Wow! That’s a lot of samoleans!” Berkrot shouted.
“It is!” said Jo Anna. “And if you teach it to people, you can make even more! It’s so easy and you get to be famous!”
So the boys decided then and there to quit their jobs and become rich famous audiobook narrators! And they did too! Cuz all you have to do is read out loud from a book!
“And Peter?” Tavia added, “I bet you’d be even more famous if you start posting every single thought you have or little thing you do on Facebook!”
And so he did.
And the rest is history. Look it up. These guys are big time audiobook narrators so you should be one too. I realize that I am no hottie like Jo Anna Perrin or Tavia Gilbert or Hillary Huber or even Jeffrey Kafer but c’mon!!! We’re talking gazillions of samoleans here!
The End.
So what’s the takeaway from our story today? If you think that the lesson is that anyone can be an audiobook narrator as it’s amazingly easy than you need to ask yourself – “how did I get elected to Congress?”, “Where did I leave my house?” and “Am I wearing pants?” You are, my dear friend, a moron.
As this wonderful art of audiobook narration grows by leaps and strides, I am continually beset by wannabes who wish for the rewards without being willing to put forth the effort.
If people tell you that you have a good voice, thank them. Don’t use it as your “entrance card” to the voice over business. A good voice is an arbitrary attribute and it doesn’t mean that you can act.
Audiobook narration – and I know I may have mentioned this in the past – is acting. You must be able to tell a story. You must be able to stay constantly connected to the author’s truth and share that truth without judgement.
If you can do that – if that is something that moves you, then come see what it’s all about. Remember it’s a lot of work and not always the most financially rewarding part of the acting profession. I will try, in upcoming For the Hell of Its, to outline a reasonable path to study and eventual success in this industry. But Lesson One is – it’s acting.
Lesson Two – it’s not easy and not for everyone.
Stay tuned for further lessons!
REVIEW BITS! Where we feature excerpts from audiobook reviews from the web and Narrator responses.
“Mr. Hill has taken words and phrases from old Jack Reacher stories and cut and pasted them into this new tale in which Reacher arrives in some strange place, beats up bad guys and then leaves. I think Dick Hill is amazing! This book shows that Hill doesn’t even need Lee Child to write a book.”
DICK HILL: “I like to paint and to cook stuff and to post it all on Facebook. I hate to work so if I can put out a few Reacher stories without having to actually record anything – that’s fantastic! And it’s so easy – Reacher does the exact same thing in every book so me and Lee Child can just sit back and collect loot while we eat lamb chops.”
“I am posting my review as I listen via my smart phone. I can’t wait to listen to all 24 hours of this book! Grover is my favorite narrator. Oh boy!
“Chapter One”! Weeeeeee!
Oh wait. My audio player is stuck. He keeps saying: “The chapters which immediately follow….” over and over. Damn.
It’s been an hour and a half and I can’t stop it. The same sentence in a never-ending loop! I’m going crazy. I’m driving to Pensacola from Buffalo – Oh My God! My radio won’t work! I can’t stop this sentence!
It’s been 5 hours and I think I hate this Gardner guy.
Hour 7. Enough!!! No more! I don’t care about Mark Twain! I don’t care about anything! I’m gonna break this damn thing with my shoe! Oh no! I’ve lost control! I’M GOING OFF THE ROAD!!
(sound of metal twisting and huge bangs as a late model Ford bounces off trees)
I’m trapped. Bleeding. And …and…
Wait…what am I hearing?
“Chapter Two.” It’s fixed? All I needed to do was to crash? Sonuvabitch! Dammit.”
GROVER GARNDER: “I’m glad you enjoy my work.”
BALLOON DOWN!…Aberdeen, MD…A U.S. Army blimp escaped its moorings and had to be shot to death in Pennsylvania last week. The 182 million-dollar blimp is loaded with sophisticated radar and surveillance equipment designed to protect Americans from cruise missiles.
The blimp left 14,000 people without power and the US Army with a lot of ‘splainin’ to do.
The slow moving blimps are part of a much criticized 2.7 billion-dollar project that is supported solely by lobbyists and blimp enthusiasts.
Pennsylvania police forced the partially deflated blimp down with shotgun fire. Police spokesmen were surprised to be asked to gun down the fleeing blimp.
“It’s 2015,” said one. “We use blimps for surveillance? It’s not very secret. You could see the thing from miles away.”
“Whoopsie! Our bad,” said US Army officials who then jumped into their horse drawn wagons and headed back to Ft. Sumter.
MARATHON ENDED…New York City, Sunday Nov. 1…Stanley Biwott of Kenya was the leading male finisher in the in 45th running of the New York City Marathon with a time 2 hours, 10 minutes and 34 seconds. Mary Keitany, also of Kenya won the women’s division with a time of 2 hours, 25 minutes and 25 seconds.
The other 50,000 finishers all said: “man, people in Kenya are really fast.”
Other finishers added: “Ow! Ouch! Holy Crap! What was I thinking? I can’t feel my feet! Oh jeez. Oww! Damn! 26 miles!!! Owwwwww.”