As an interview this week, I thought I’d bring in an old friend who is involved in a different facet of book publishing: the audio book. I gave away a copy of one of the cookbooks she narrated here on the blog some time ago; she is one busy lady!
Diane Davis and I go back many more years than either of us care to admit! Suffice it to say that we were best friends when we were in fifth and sixth grades. (Darn! They didn’t have to stamp the year on it!)
After quite a few years out of touch, we picked up where we left off more than a decade ago.
In the meantime we both had married, had sons and got on with life. Diane had continued the songwriting that she began when we were kids. She also became an accomplished musician, singer, and actress; you may have seen her in ads, in movies and in TV series. She was into epublishing and asked me to do an article for the ezine she was attempting to revive. She is a blogger of many subjects, including gambling and casinos.
Diane is an accomplished needleworker and she sells her pieces on Etsy.
As if that is not anywhere near enough, Diane is a computer specialist, has been a successful realtor, an ecommerce dealer of big-ticket items, (think boast, etc.), and now works in vacation/travel planning… did I miss anything, D?
No, I think that’s about it, LoL. [Actually, we forgot to mention your past radio shows!-T]
Diane resides outside of Nashville, (hence her work in several episodes of “Nashville” and in the movie “The Identical”), with her grown son. Her incredible mother is a spry lady who has a boyfriend and goes out dancing. She lives near Diane and is a big part of her life.
(Diane as a townswoman made up over the years in the feature film,”The Identical”. Quote from Diane:When they were doing my big hair they said, “Get ready, sister, were gonna jack your hair to Jesus!”)
I brought Diane in today to discuss several topics, but first, the books.
Welcome, Old Longtime Friend!
It was unfortunate timing that you just started in a new field and do not have the time to do the books a friend of The Hound and mine needs a narrator to voice. Please tell us how you got involved in audio books.
First off, thank you for inviting me to participate in your blog! I really appreciate it. I got involved in audiobook production quite by accident. An author who knew of my voiceover work asked if I was interested in narrating and producing the audiobook for her latest self-help book. Never being one to shy away from a challenge, I said I’d give it a go and see how it works out. That was almost 2 years ago, and since then I’ve produced 7 audiobooks in different genres.
Please explain how one would find work doing narrations, if they wanted to give it a try. (I found it surprisingly open.)
I connect with most of my authors through ACX.com, the Audiobook Creation Exchange, which is a part of Amazon.com. It’s a very valuable source of information for anyone involved in audiobook production or wanting to get into the field. Authors post information about books for which they are seeking narrators, and producers and narrators can post samples of their work and see what books are available for auditions. ACX also provides tracking of your sales and royalties as well as some very helpful webinars about all phases of production, so I would encourage anyone who has an interest in the field to check it out.
What never ceases to amaze me about making shows, movies or recording is the vast amounts of time it takes. I was blown-away when you told me how long it took to finish a piece of audio work. Can you explain the many hours and the process of narrating books?
First of all, I read the book and make notes about any items I want to discuss with the author before starting production. I’ve found that working on a chapter at a time is the best – for me, anyway. In the event that there is something about my presentation that needs to be fine tuned, it’s best to be able to correct it early on, rather than have 5 chapters recorded and then find out a characterization isn’t working. Because of that, my routine is to record, edit and send each chapter to the author for feedback before I move on to the next one.
Technically speaking, once the recording of a chapter is complete, editing comes next, which is the most time-consuming part. When editing I remove or minimize all of the breath sounds between words and make sure there aren’t any extraneous noises, like a neighbor’s lawn mower or a loud muffler on a passing car. I also edit the volume levels to minimize the “peaks and valleys” and make it all sound consistent before putting it through the mastering process. Finally, I run it through a special analysis app in my audio software to ensure that it meets the criteria ACX requires. For every minute of audio that you record, you can count on several times more than that in editing time. For example, Witches of Denmark by Aiden James was 71,612 words, which equated to 7.7 hours of finished audio. But to produce those 7.7 hours, I actually worked on the project anywhere from 5 to 7 hours a day, 5 days a week for close to 2 months.
The editing sounds technical and complicated. You mentioned software that enabled you. Do you think that most people could do that sort of editing, or does it take real tech skills?
I use Audacity for my editing, which is a free program, but quite good. I would say that one would need to be relatively tech savvy and have a basic understanding of audio editing so the learning curve won’t seem so daunting. A lot of the processing can be automated within the Audacity program, which helps. Even though I have a lot of editing experience, I’m still learning ways to use the software to enhance my work. It’s an ongoing process.
You have done several self-help and cookbooks. I know that you have to stay up-beat for both, but I imagine that straightforward reading is easier than narrating fiction. Is it harder/longer to keep continuity within a novel, between the humor or tension and the characters?
I wouldn’t say it’s really harder, but each type of project presents its own unique challenges. With the non-fiction books, I want to make sure I stay enthusiastic and don’t fall into a monotonous delivery (think Ben Stein: “Beuller…Beuller”). With fiction projects, there’s a lot of creativity involved and it can be a lot of fun, but it also takes a lot of concentration to keep the character voices straight.
I have heard many audio books. Some are simply ‘read’, but some are ‘acted’. Is it up to the author/publisher, or do you have free rein? Do you have directors? Can you also give us an idea of how you work with the authors and who, (if not the authors), generally have the final word for the voices?
As I said before, the first thing I do after I read the book is consult with the author on his or her vision for the audiobook production. What kind of general tone do they want the production to have – lighthearted, serious, friendly? If it’s a novel, I want to determine what kind of accents or other voice characteristics the author is looking for before starting production, and record some samples for them to make sure we’re on the same page. Generally the voices I come up with are a combination of our ideas for the characters.
Witches had a large cast of characters ranging from a 5 year old girl to a 300 year old Romanian warlock and everything in between. Aiden James was active in helping me create and refine the different vocal personalities for each of them. Conversations between characters were a real exercise in maintaining my focus. I had to shift gears constantly, going from one character to the next, making sure I was reading the lines in the right accent. Occasionally you can’t help but get a little out of sync; I think there was more than one occasion where the 5 year old girl sounded like Kevin Spacey or one of the Romanians had a southern accent. Anyone who overheard me while recording probably thought I was suffering from a multiple personality disorder!
Can you explain the difference in pay scales for doing audio books?
Some audiobooks are done on a per-finished-hour basis with no royalties, and those can pay up to $1000 per finished hour of recording, and others are Royalties only, and pay a percentage on each book sold. Some projects pay a stipend to keep you going while you’re in production, then Royalties once the book is released. I’ve found that when an author is high-profile, or when a publisher is involved, the pay rates are often higher, but there is also a lot more competition for those jobs. My advice to anyone who is getting into this line of work, is that if you want experience, doing royalty-only deals are a good way to build up your resume and hone your skills. If you’re going to do a large project on that basis, though, do your homework to make sure there is a good chance the finished product will sell, otherwise you could be spending massive amounts of time on something that will never give you a return on your investment.
All of the Foxes are sewers and many do needlework. A couple of years ago an author acquaintance wanted a pattern for a version of her cat character to publish in her book and I introduced the two of you. I know that she was very pleased with the outcome. Have you seen your pattern in the book?
Yes! Monica Ferris sent me a copy of the book, “Knit Your Own Murder”, when it first came out, and it was a thrill to get it. What was even more fun was walking into Books A Million and seeing it on the shelf. There’s nothing quite like seeing your name and something you’ve created, in print, in a real store for the first time. I must say, that was a real hoot!(I named one of her books but only got credit in a personal inscription, just sayin’! -T)
Several of us are either dealing with aging mothers, have dealt with them or will be in the future. Your mother is a pip! Will you tell our readers about your experiences with her?
(Mrs. Rosalie Davis)
My mother turned 90 earlier this month and I jokingly call her the Energizer Bunny. She’ll call me at 7 a.m., shocked that I’m still asleep at such a “late” hour. She’s always ready to go somewhere; we can be out for 12 hours and the next day she’ll be ready to go again at the crack of dawn…I, on the other hand, need a nap once in a while, LoL. Despite some short term memory issues, she still functions well in every other way and gets around better than a lot of people who are considerably younger. She has a very nice gentleman friend who is 93 and they’ve enjoyed each other’s company for several years now. At this point, she has lived to a greater age than everyone in her family except her aunt, who last I heard is still alive and well over 100. So all things considered, she’s very fortunate, and we’re fortunate to still have her with us.
Your new work in travel looks and sounds so exciting! With everything done online, I imagine you could have clients from all over the world. Give us an idea of this new facet in your life. [PLUG AWAY, D!]
My interest in travel goes back to my childhood – I couldn’t pass a display of travel brochures without coming home with an armload of them! I decided to start working toward a career in travel about 4 years ago – you may not remember, but one of your family members was my first client! As a member of Cruise & Travel Experts, I specialize in planning cruises and all-inclusive resort vacations, and especially enjoy working with the entertainment-related cruises and music festivals at sea, such as the Malt Shop Memories, Outlaw Country, Impractical Jokers and Kiss-themed cruises featuring a wide variety of music and comedy acts. Eventually I hope to branch into Destination Weddings and Honeymoons as well. After spending most of my adult life in real estate and insurance – two very serious fields – I love the idea of helping my clients plan lighthearted, happy and memorable vacations for themselves and their families. But I’ve also come to realize that I’m providing an important service, especially in situations like we faced with Hurricane Irma a few weeks ago, where ground transportation home at the end of the cruise was a very real issue, and communication from ship to shore was spotty at best. I was able to make arrangements to get my clients and several of their onboard friends home safely, and sooner than they expected. They were all so appreciative of my efforts, which is very gratifying and reinforces that I’ve made the right career choice. I love the fun part of the business, and when the unexpected happens and travelers need an advocate to work on their behalf back here on dry land, I’m very happy to be able to do that, too.
[I actually had forgotten! My ex-daughter-in-law needed nice, comfortable, and reasonably priced accommodations close to a medical college hospital in a neighboring state, where she would be undergoing tests. You found the perfect place for her!]
Of all you have done, what, besides the new travel experience, are among your favorites? What creative endeavors will you allow yourself when you have free time? Which of them can you foresee continuing to do professionally?
That’s hard to say! Besides audiobooks, I’ve done several hundred voiceovers for radio, animation and movies over the last few years and I love doing that. That’s something I intend to keep doing no matter what else I’m involved in. As far as my creative and crafty endeavors are concerned, I don’t get much free time, so I try to indulge my crocheting and knitting habits whenever I can!
Diane, let our readers how they can access the books you have narrated, many of them have samples where they can hear you read.
You can find my audiobooks on Amazon here: https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=diane+davis+audiobook&rh=i%3Aaps%2Ck%3Adiane+davis+audiobook
There are samples of each of the books on their product pages. (Just a heads up – there’s some strong language in the two Law of Attraction books by Kelli Cooper.) If you just search “Diane Davis” on Amazon, you’ll also come up with CD called “Saturday Night Hayfever” which is a collection of iconic Disco songs by Bluegrass artists. Yep, that’s me on there, singing “How Deep is Your Love”. I hear Barry Gibb hasn’t forgiven me yet, haha!
Please go ahead, plug your Etsy page, the connection to you at the travel agency and anything else where my friends and readers can see/hear your work; I am proud of you!
I have a relatively new blog focused on Travel and money saving hints, called Diane’s Deals – Cruises and More, which can be found at www.EncantaTravel.com , and my needlework patterns and handmade items are available at www.etsy.com/knitwitzstitchery . I hope your readers will also follow my Facebook pages at www.facebook.com/bookyourvacationnow and www.facebook.com/knitwitzstitchery – and please keep me in mind to help plan that once in a lifetime vacation! (How’s that for shameless self-promotion? LoL! (I asked for it!-T)
Thanks again for giving new insight to a different facet of the book trade, Diane!
My pleasure! Thanks again for giving me the opportunity to share some information about my projects.