Hiya audiobook curious adult. I've been listening to a lot... and I mean A LOT of narrator samples and auditions lately and - oooooooooooooooooomama, there is some room for research. Hence this quick and dirty how-to on auditions and industry etiquette that will let you land the job...or at least not get lost because you name your files after your mother's middle name.
YAH? YEAH! OKAYYYYYYHEREWEGO!
USE THE AUDITION SCRIPT YO!
I know you're still paying off the loan it took to make that commercial VO demo but I gotta tell ya, it's worth less than toe jam when you're auditioning for an audiobook. Places like ACX, Findaway, AHAB, Casting Directors, and Publishers all want to hear your interpretation of the manuscript. So you're 100% poo-pooing any chance at them hearing ANY of that if you send a blanket demo. Even sending an audiobook sample instead of the manuscript won't get you very far - so know that if the text is given to you, you need to use it or lose it. If no text is offered, ask for clarification. Chances are it might have gotten left off the email attachment or there was an upload error.
INSIDER TIP- In places like ACX, anyone can post a real (or fake) audition so be super wary of anyone that posts the excerpts from the inside or back cover. These are typically scams and if they aren't, it's still going to give you brownie points asking for some meaty text to deliver. Win-win.
READ THE INFORMATION GIVEN WITH THE AUDITION- TWICE.
This covers the gambit of producer/RH notes about production timeline, starting rates, and specifics about submission deadlines. READ IT ALL before you submit. Then, read it again. It's there for a reason and it's going to give you a clear idea of what and who you're potentially going to be working for. It's also going to make sure you are clear on timelines and expectations. This is a job interview. For both of you :) Be thorough.
A lot of times additional information such as character background, pronunciations, and key relationships are given in either the body of the audition request or in the manuscript itself so make sure to read that all, too.
Theme here? You bet! READING is a JOB as well as a JOY!
INSIDER TIP: Occasionally with Independent Publishers and RH who are new to audiobooks, they will post an entire chapter or sometimes, the whole dang book as the audition download. Many narrators have a 5-7 minute audition excerpt limit that they choose to follow so that they don't end up narrating for hours simply to be told they weren't the right fit.
FOR ME (different people, different opinions... but my blog so....) I will go till about the 7-minute mark if I know the text is showing something like a new character or a particular climatic moment. Otherwise, I usually stop around 5.
If they give me a large swath and say I can choose my own, I'll always go for a bit further down the text because most people will start at the top. Anything that makes me stand out in the 100's of potential auditions is good!
DON'T SLATE TO START
I know this vary's from other audition formats like self-tapes or in-person theatrical monologues, but in an audiobook-specific audition - do this next bit and you're golden.
Leave .05 - 1 second of "clean room tone" (just you.. being quiet... in your room... that should also be quiet) and then begin with the text.
After you've finished with the audition excerpt, again, leave 3 to 5 seconds of clean room tone and end it. You're done!
What's that? How will they know it's your audition? Welllllllll that brings us to:
NAME YOUR FILE WITH YOUR NAME!
Seems to make sense when you think about it, yah? You'd be surprised how many people forget this. And then either the wonderful poor CD has to get on the equivalent of a K-Mart loudspeaker and declare they can't find you...via social media channels, OR they shrug at your loss and toss the audition in the trash.
Different places have different submission requests for file naming but they all pretty much have the following in common.
- They want your name
- They want the title you're auditioning for
EXTRAS sometimes include:
-Your pseudonym, if you work with one
- The role you're auditioning for if it's a multicast/duel/duet audition
More than likely, in the audition information they will have laid out EXACTLY how they want you to submit your file because they deal with all the mother's middle names and are tired of slugging through (Love a callback!).
If you're uploading your audition to a platform, like ACX or Findaway, STILL name your file like you expect Scott Brick to see it (If you don't know who Scott Brick is.. also look up Scott Brick.) Lable like a professional - be seen as a professional. If no guidance on file submission is given, use this as a generally accepted format.
YOURNAME_BOOKTITLE_AUDITION.mp3 (or.wav or .flac - you get it)
BECOME A MASTER AT MASTERING YOUR AUDITIONS
Unless otherwise specified, the people listening to your audition want to hear what you will sound like to the paying public. That means they'll want a clean mastered file, just like if you were submitting a fully produced work. For people who outsource their audiobook projects to editors and engineers, this means that they have to figure out how to produce a pro audition. In this case, get your engineer or a coach that specializes in creating mastering stacks to give you a one-and-done mastering suite that you can use to make small projects sound professional. DO THIS. I promise They're worth their weight in gold.
There are rare occasions that a publisher will want to hear a raw tone to your audio to make sure that their editors will be able to work within your home studio's parameters. Those times will be specified and you'll know it because you read all the info with the audition -twice 😊.
LASTLY - SET IT AND FORGET IT
This one is easier said than done, I get it. BUUUUUT turning the table on the hundreds of auditions you will do (yup... hundreds..) and making them into things that are FOR YOU, help. I use them as a step, after my vocal warm-up and before I get zoned into my current project. I'll be doing my scales and perusing the auditions available, find one I want, and record it. If it's got an accent or a read that I like, I'll save it in my sample file for potential use later. Sometimes, it's nothing more than a ritual to get me in the right headspace to record... and that's okay, too.
You don't have to do the above, but you do need to find a way to record and then release. There are a million and one reasons why you might not be chosen for a book - and almost all of them have nothing to do with you. If you are worried that there is something that IS about you - get coaching. Find someone with industry knowledge and the tools to be able to give you constructive feedback on your performance or your technique and then GET BACK IN THERE AND SHOW EM WHAT YOU GOT!
Did I successfully emulate a football coach at a Superbowl halftime? Totally. I see you nodding your head.
ANYWAY - as always I hope this sheds some clarity and calm as you embark on the life of gig work and - friendly friend - I'm always here if you need.
Cheers and hearty Congrats on your next booking!