I was fortunate to work with the lovely and talented Teri Schnaubelt, who has produced more than 60 audiobooks and is an accomplished actress, too! I think you’ll love her performance of the book as much as I do. Teri was also generous enough to answer some questions, okay, a lot of questions, about audiobooks and how she does her job.
To celebrate the release of Chasing the Dollar in audio, I’m giving away free download codes from Audible to three commenters! Just comment below and tell me what you like about audiobooks. Or, if you haven’t tried them yet, why you want to listen to Chasing the Dollar. I’ll pick a winner on Saturday, Aug. 8.
And now, let’s talk audiobooks with Teri!
How did you get into this type of work? How long have you been producing audiobooks? How many books have you done, and what are the types of projects you’ve worked on?
I have always listened to audiobooks—dating back to when they were on cassette tapes! And I’m a voice and stage/on-camera actor and knew a couple colleagues who have had some success and really enjoyed audiobook narration, so it was a natural progression for me. I’ve done over 65 books and have worked on everything from Christian fiction to hard-boiled mysteries and erotic romance.
What do you look for in an audiobook project?
I look for a great story, and characters that I can enjoy playing!
Do you have certain genres that you enjoy doing or that you feel your voice and talents are best suited for?
I think I’m still very open to all kinds of genres, but I enjoy romance and mystery a lot.
Is it like acting out a movie, except that you have to play every role? How exhausting is that? How long can you work in one session?
It IS exhausting, and I don’t think a lot of people realize that. We’re often alone in our booths for many hours, too. It’s not quite like acting out parts from a movie, necessarily, because that would be more like an audio drama, but you’re still getting into the skin of your characters and playing all the parts yourself and that calls for a lot of concentration and a commitment to be absolutely present in the story. I typically work 5-6 hours a day, but have done up to 8 hours of recording, but that is really hard on your voice. You have to take a lot of breaks and drink a LOT of water.
What is the process for creating an audiobook?
- Read the story through before you start narrating, to get a sense of the story, characters, etc.
- Ask questions about any accents the author might want, any names you’re unsure how to pronounce, etc. Research accents and pronunciations.
- Narrate entire book
- Edit out mistakes, minimize and remove breaths, mouth noises, swallowing, shifting, stomach grumbles, adjust pacing, etc.
- Proof entire book by listening to each chapter and following along in the script to look for mistakes that weren’t caught while narrating.
- Re-record all mistakes and edit back into each chapter.
- Upload the files for the author to listen and review.
- Complete any requested changes from the author.
- Wrap it all up and get thee to retail!
How do you decide voice changes for different characters? And does the author have a say in it?
Sometimes the author will tell me what some of the characters sound like in their heads, but mostly they leave it up to me. Either way is fine, as long as their main character doesn’t sound like she smokes 2 packs of cigarettes a day, because that would be very taxing on my vocal cords to try that! I generally stick pretty close to my natural voice for the lead female and I have kind of a default voice for the lead male, but the others are formed out of the character descriptions and the dialogue from each one.
How many times do you read the book before beginning?
Do you record in segments, as they do for movies, where you learn only that segment?
I record in about 1 hour increments, so if it’s one chapter or 3, I save that to a file, then let my editor chop it up.
Are there ways to just re-record only small bits or does the whole chapter have to be redone in the actual mechanics if there’s a small reading error?
That would really be time consuming if I had to re-record a whole chapter! No, I actually try to punch in as little as possible, so if I can isolate a phrase within a sentence, that’s best. I’m pretty good at matching what’s already there, so it sounds natural and no one will know I even had a mistake!
Do you meet with the writer first to hear their view of the character’s dialectical patterns?
Sometimes they like to chat over the phone with me first, but more often they just let me run with it!
Regarding the creative side, what advice would you give an author?
Hire a VERY good editor. Read your work out loud as you develop it. It will help you with punctuation, run on sentences, as well as natural dialogue, and also how difficult it is to say “grasped my hand”!! You’ll find tongue twisters in places you hadn’t realized were there.
Anything to keep in mind on the audio front when writing a novel?
You can do with fewer “he said” “she said” moments, especially when there’s an extended exchange of dialogue consisting of short sentences.
What are some things that an author can do to improve their books conversion to audio?
Hire a professional narrator.
How about on the business side? Any advice for an author who is considering having an audiobook made?
Listen to a couple audiobooks from authors or narrators you like.
Do a BookBub ad, at least once. Authors tell me that this has significantly increased sales for both books and audiobooks. Try to find a literary manager who will help you. Have a website!! Have a big social media presence! Attend BEA (Book Expo America). Narrators have an annual conference called APAC and it coincides with BEA every year. In 2016 it will be in Chicago, my hometown!
And, remember that producing and narrating an audiobook takes about 6 hours of work for every hour of finished audio, so a lot of time and effort goes into the process.
What do you wish authors would do (or not do) that would make their books better for audio production?
I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to hire an editor and to also to read your work out loud to yourself or to someone else. I’ve read paragraphs where the same adjective is used 3 times, or where a phrase is used repeatedly throughout a book, like “he looked at me curiously”. Readers will catch these and give you a poor review. Believe in your work enough to invest in a good editor and good audiobook narrator/producer. I’ve had some listeners not like the story, but keep listening because they liked my narration. Don’t let this happen to you—hire a good editor! I’ve seen the reverse happen, where the story was good, but the listener couldn’t get past the poor narration.
Do you listen to audiobooks or is it too much like work?
I’m ALWAYS listening to audiobooks—in the car, while oil painting, even before I nod off to sleep sometimes (thanks to the sleep timer on the Audible iPhone app!). I am constantly trying to improve my storytelling, character development, accents, etc. My favorite narrators right now are Cassandra Campbell, Julia Whelan and Susan Ericksen. I’m also listening to Davina Porter narrate the Outlander series to improve my Scottish dialect!
What to look for in a good narrator and what to expect during the audiobook process:
Look for someone who has some stage or other acting experience. Audiobook narration is very different from other voiceover work, and stage actors seem to “get” characters better than your standard VO actor.
Listen to the narrator’s samples, and, if possible, an entire highly-rated book they’ve done recently that is in the same genre as yours. Pay attention to the quality of the sound, the breathing, any noises that distract you. There shouldn’t be anything that takes you out of the story. The flow should seem natural and you should be able to hear at least slight differences between the characters. Sometimes it’s more a shift in attitude rather than the raising or lowering of pitch, or other techniques.
If you’re working through ACX, look for one who uses a professional editor, is Audible Approved, and one who is working full time is a big plus.
Ask them to give you an outline of their process and what to expect during the production.
Understand that even though it will take 60 hours (or however many) to complete your book, that it will still take several weeks for the process to be completed.
Also, it’s very important to understand that, as actors, this is our interpretation of your work. So our interpretation of your lead character may say some dialogue differently than you imagined in your head. Understand that this is OK because your readers are going to be imagining your characters a little differently too, so there’s no “wrong” or “right” for the most part, it’s just different. It’s creative interpretation.
Here’s a short video from Audible interviewing Colin Firth, who explains this briefly: http://www.karencommins.com/othermedia/ColinFirthInServiceOfText.mov
Also, here’s an article on this topic that might enlighten as well:
Thank you so much, Teri! Remember, comment below about why you love audiobooks, or why you want to try Chasing the Dollar in audio, and I’ll pick three winners to get a free download code from Audible.com. Thanks for stopping by!
Chasing the Dollar is available for sale at these retailers: