Guest:Diane Davis, Narrator, Actress

RDiane nowAs 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. RDiane and me(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.

RDiane ID(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!”)RDiane jacked up 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.

RDiane narration

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!RDiane and bookRDiane and inscription(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.Davis(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!

Here’s are links to some of my v.o. work:
Tales of Bingwood trailer – Narrator:
https://youtu.be/o8vibsi7taM
Across All Galaxies – Mom:
https://youtu.be/a8XTwyYRVwQ

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.

About Tonette Joyce

Tonette was a once-fledgling lyricists-bookkeeper, turned cook/baker/restaurateur and is now exploring different writing venues,(with a stage play recently completed). She has had poetry and nonfiction articles published in the last few years. Tonette has been married to her only serious boyfriend for more than thirty years and she is, as one person described her, family-oriented almost to a fault. Never mind how others have described her, she is,(shall we say), a sometime traditionalist of eclectic tastes.She has another blog : "Tonette Joyce:Food,Friends,Family" here at WordPress.She and guests share tips and recipes for easy entertaining and helps people to be ready for almost anything.
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11 Responses to Guest:Diane Davis, Narrator, Actress

  1. Patricia Kiyono says:

    Welcome, Diane! You sound way busier than me! Thanks for all the tips on audio books. If I ever decide to self-publish, I know where to go! It’s gratifying to hear how careful you are to get things right. I have only one book that’s on audio but since it was done through the publisher I had zero input and I’m NOT happy with the result.
    I sympathize with the lack of time for crafts. I have to schedule those times in, usually with friends. And I have my crochet projects next to my recliner for the odd times when my eyes need a break from my laptop’s glare.

    Liked by 2 people

    • You’re probably right, Patty! I always said I didn’t think anyone was busier than you, but Diane may just give you a run for your money!
      I think it depends on your publisher as to how much say you have. The friend I mentioned had not self-published her books.
      I remember now your complaints about your book in audio.I can’t imagine hearing your meanings, words, etc., misinterpreted.

      Liked by 1 person

    • I’m glad you found the information helpful! It’s hard when the important decisions about the final product are handled by someone else whose ideas don’t mesh with yours. I’m such a control freak that if I ever write a book (and I’ve been wanting to for quite a while) I’ll probably have to self-publish just so I can have artistic control!
      I’m glad you find time for your crocheting in between chapters! I’ve always got to be working on something – anything! – while I’m watching tv. I think i must be hyperactive, lol.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. jeff7salter says:

    Welcome to 4F1H, Diane. Gosh, it sounds like you stay so busy with so many different activities that I can’t imagine you actually have time for that nap you mentioned.
    Keeping tabs on my own mom — now 95 — I certainly know how that can significantly impact your time and attention.
    Two of my novels have been turned into audio books … which was arranged by our publisher, so I had no involvement in the selection. I thought both readers were very good, but was far more impressed by the reader for “Rescued By That New Guy In Town.”
    One of them — can’t recall now which one — had tried to contact me … as part of that prep work you noted above, but her FB message went into my spam folder and I was not even aware of it until nearly a year after the fact.
    But anyway, I had no idea how intensive the work was on the READER’s end… particularly for someone like you who chooses to do both the reading AND the studio editing.
    I have a decent voice — or so say some — and might have considered the reading aspect of short pieces… but I would never have the patience or expertise do to the studio editing.
    My hat’s off to you.

    Like

    • Hi Jeff! I didn’t realize your mom is in her 90s too – we’re both lucky to have them. I sometimes wish I could just record the narration and leave the editing to someone else. I’m super critical of my own work and editing can be a painful process! It can be a struggle to keep from recording something “just one more time.” If you want to try your hand at recording your audio books, I’d start with a small project like a short story, just to test the waters and see how you like it. If you don’t feel confident in your technical expertise and you’re working with a publisher, they might just spring for someone to handle the editing for you!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Actually, I asked Diane to talk about her mother because of you and yours,Jeff. Mrs. Davis was always wonderful to me when we were kids.It was so wonderful to get to see her after so many years.I have Diane tell me everything. I always enjoy hearing about yours. Mine has been gone for 15 years now.

        Liked by 1 person

      • jeff7salter says:

        thanks, Diane.
        Many years ago, during the graduate school phase of my 30-year career in librarianship, we were on a tour of the Louisiana State Library and one of the more interesting stops was the little studio where they recorded books onto cassette tapes for use by the division of materials for the blind and physically handicapped.
        The department head conducting that part of the tour noted that many of the local (Baton Rouge) librarians were among the volunteers who came in to read classics and other novels (as well as non-fiction, I believe) … which were recorded, presumably edited to some extent, and then added to the catalog of titles available for distribution to clients who had properly registered throughout the state. [At that time, I believe some doctor certification was required.]
        The “studio” was hardly more than a glorified phone booth (for the reader), with a sound technician somewhere outside operating the taping equipment and monitoring the volume levels.
        I remember thinking that I would LIKE to participate, but soon I completed Library School and we moved from Baton Rouge to my first library.
        The program was pretty popular, as I recall, and there were clients in each of the 64 parishes who regularly received books on tapes (and even earlier, I think they were in the form of photograph records).

        Liked by 2 people

  3. As I remember,there were “Talking Books”, that were free through “Lighthouse For the Blind”, however, the records played at a special speed.The players were only available to those who were certified as blind. I also remember them begging for readers for blind folk. How much easier it must be for them now!

    Liked by 2 people

    • jeff7salter says:

      yes, “talking books” was one of the terms widely used.
      The approved clients also received the loan of a special record player, as I recall.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Jeff, I had to laugh at your description of the recording studio as a glorified phone booth! At one point I turned my bedroom closet into a recording studio because it didn’t have windows or an air duct, and it was the only place in the house where i couldn’t hear my neighbors mowing the lawn. Talk about claustrophobia! Once I finished recording “Witches” I had my desk out of there before the upload to Audible was done, lol. Back in the 70s I looked into learning about transcribing books into Braille through the Library of Congress and Lighthouse for the Blind. The training and books were free, but the equipment was expensive, so I never pursued it. I would have enjoyed reading the talking books too! I’m glad everything is so much more accessible now than it used to be.

        Liked by 2 people

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