FOR THE HELL OF IT
JUNE 22, 2021
ON SIMPLE TRUTHS – by Johnny Heller
This is Audiobook month. Every June is Audiobook month – what happens is that narrators promote the industry. Publishers promote it as well. Apparently, the APA has “Infuencers” promoting the industry this year. Since I don’t know any influencers, I don’t have high hopes for their efforts.
The general idea is that in celebrating our special craft and our special place in the entertainment/education world, we will bring more folks into the audiobook universe. And that’s grand. It is an important place. And the more people we can reach with literature and knowledge and joy, the better.
In this blog, I want to tackle some simple truths. Things you’ve thought about but not said; things you’ve heard about but not embraced; things that you have been told but aren’t doing. There are exceptions to every rule, black and white is more often grey and there is more than one way to skin a cat – which is the most revolting thing I have ever heard to describe options. Still, there are some things that I think we should come to agreement about. Here are a few:
- A lovely voice is better than a horrible screeching voice but being able to tell a story well is the most important thing in the world of audiobooks. This is due to the fact that audiobooks are stories told aloud by actors and being good at that is all that matters.
- If you ask for advice on Facebook, you will get some free advice from experienced successful narrators. Attacking those narrators because their advice doesn’t validate your opinion is an excellent way to show everyone that you are a doofus. Don’t be a doofus.
- While number 2 is true, there are always exceptions to rules. Always. And your path and mine can be different as long as both paths lead to telling the story well and sharing the author’s truth.
- You do not need to take on crappy low-paying projects because you are “new” and inexperienced. You will get better but when you take money for a gig, you are a pro. Let’s say you wanted a career – albeit a short one -as a crack junkie (because, let’s face it, crack sure looks like great fun, doesn’t it? Living as a dumpster-diving-disheveled-foul-smelling-miscreant until your system shuts down and you die certainly has its own appeal, yes?).
Wouldn’t you expect to be paid as much as the other crack junkies? Just because you’re new at it, doesn’t make you any less a crack junkie-right? In this way, crack junkies and audiobook narrators and certified public accountants are all the same. If you get paid for a gig, you are a pro.
- If you take less than you are worth, you aren’t worth as much as you thought.
- You need a website so talent buyers can find you.
- Your website should have demos on it that are easy to find. Don’t make clients click to find your demos – send them to the page where the demos live. If they want to hang around your site because they are dying to know what your favorite color is and why you were nicknamed “sheep dip” in high school, swell. But that stuff isn’t why they are on your site.
- If your demos suck, then clients will think you suck. What does this mean? It means you need professionally produced demos that demonstrate your skills. If you have no skills, then just listen to audiobooks, and get out of our way. Find a coach and see if you can develop skills.
- This is not an easy job and, NO, everybody cannot do it.
10. There are many coaches in this industry who do not have the experience or skills to coach. Make sure you do your research. If I have done 10 books and you have done none, I may know more than you but that doesn’t make me a coach.
11. If you are walking and texting, cut it out. Stand to the side so people who are interacting with the real world can get by you. If you’re driving and texting, you’re dangerous and stupid. Those are adjectives that should only apply to GOP members of Congress. I think you can do better.
- You notice how in action movies and TV shows, the bad guy the detectives want to talk to always runs and leaps fences and goes through backyards and alleys only to dash out onto a street and get crushed by a bus? I don’t think that happens as much in real life.
13. If you want to be active on social media and have nothing to say, cute pictures of cats or dogs are fine.
- I’ve heard and read a great deal about using the “right” email address. I asked 10 publisher friends if they cared about what email an actor used and not a single one gave a crap. They all said: “As long as the email can reach you, we don’t care.” People telling you to change your email to the ones they approve of are not correct. They are absolute about it, but that doesn’t make it so.
- When people suggest you watch a TV show and you watch it and it blows, and you tell them so, they say: “It takes a while to get into it.” Then that’s a bad show. It took me no time at all to enjoy ice cream. Why do I have to watch 3 terrible shows so I can maybe enjoy the 4th one?
- The APA is a Producers Association.
- Awards are lovely gewgaws, and everybody likes them, but you still need to go get the next job based on your skills as an actor and your business savvy. Get both of those things. I suggest you chat with Jeffrey Kafer at audiobookmentor.com and Tom Dheere at www.tomdheere.com.
- If you post about how you’re booked until the next ice age to impress us, you might not get called by publishers with more work for you because they just read your post about how busy you are.
- You can make money on ACX, and you can do some good titles. Stop treating yourself or anybody else on ACX as though they are in the minor leagues. And avoid the ACX scams. Do your research.
- When there is a question for scientists, medical experts, and educated professionals, listen to the answers of the scientists, medical experts, and educated professionals instead of listening to politicians, quacks, and pillow salesmen.
- When you are certain you can’t do a thing, you certainly can’t do it. If you believe you can, it’s highly likely that you actually can (Unless your belief system involves accepting Marvel Studios films as historical fact. Then, you’re totally screwed.)
- “I’m sorry” doesn’t always mean what you think it does. Canadians say “I’m sorry” all the time because they are empathetic and polite. In fact, there is an Apology Act in Canada that says when a Canadian says “I’m sorry”, it can’t be used against them as an admission of guilt in a court of law.
- A book isn’t easier or harder to narrate due to its length. It just takes longer to narrate a book that has lots of words than a book that doesn’t. Incidentally, there is a sentence in Hugo’s Les Miserable that is 823 words long. I promise you – that will be the sentence you will have retakes on.
- Speaking of retakes, even if you are proud to be a one-person shop, you must have someone else do your proofing. If you say a word incorrectly, it’s because you don’t know how to say it correctly. If you did, you would’ve said it the right way. Outsource as much as you can. It costs money initially, but it saves money in the long run -allowing you to make your money acting and allowing proofers/editors to make their money proofing/editing.
- Never ever -under any circumstances- tell a publisher that you have been recommended by someone if you haven’t been recommended by them. If you study with someone, you can list them on your resume – learning (or not learning) from a coach is not the same as a recommendation. This has happened numerous times to me, and the publishers do check. And they get really pissed if they’ve been lied to. Do you want to make a good impression on a publisher? Of course! So don’t lie to them. Interestingly, they consider that a bad thing.
- No characters in an audiobook have the slightest notion that they are characters in an audiobook. Don’t force them to conform to your notions of the real world as you know it. It’s their story – you are just sharing it.
- When I was a kid, my parents would take us to someone’s house, and they’d pull out a projector and show us their family vacation shots or they’d bring out their photo albums and show us all their 3rd cousins twice removed and everyone thought it was worse than a long flight in middle seat surrounded by two fat insurance salesmen. And now we have Instagram, and I just don’t get it.
- We’ve learned a lot this year about how to behave and how to dress for on-line conferences and zoom chats. And now I wonder if, when we all meet again in person, people will remember to wear pants.
- Throat coat tea is supposed to be great. But it will never replace Bourbon.
- Doing an “adequate” job means you’ve done the least you can do. Do better.
Two last points: 1. Congratulations to Michael Crouch, Cassandra Campbell and Soneela Nankani for joining the Golden Voice club! Welcome!
2. We still have room in our New England Retreat in our off-site hotel. You participate in all events, you sleep about 10-15 minutes away. The dates are October 18-21 and you can sign up on this very website!