Monday, February 17, 2014

Please Join Me on My New Blog

I'm happy that you've found this Blog.  There are many posts here that pertain to new voice over talent, starting with Voice Talent Advice #1 For The Beginner.  And if you are new to the world of voice over, I'd suggest starting from the earliest posts and working your way forward.

Through the years, I've posted what I hope have been useful information and comments on the business of voice over.  This blog will remain here, and I may still post here now and then, but most of my blogging will occur on my new website: http://www.melaniehaynes.com/blog/

In addition to catching up on this blog, please join me on the new site for more information and observations about life, acting, and the world of voiceover!

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Audiobook Narration Insight

Although my posts have been few and far between lately, I plan to change that soon.  I'll be moving both my completely redesigned site and blog to Word Press in the next month or so.  In the meantime, I wanted to share some  information regarding Audiobook Narration that I have either experienced personally or have learned from other successful audiobook narrators.

Audiobooks have never been more popular, and accordingly, there's never been as much work for audiobook narrators as there is now.  There are a number of ways to connect with audiobook narration projects:  direct contact with an author,  working via production houses whose business is  hiring narrators for their roster to work on multiple projects at a set hourly rate, or connecting with authors and/or publishers via ACX, Audiobook Creation Exchange.

While some narrators, even "stars",  earn large salaries for narrating best selling titles, the reality is that most audiobook production pays relatively little compared to normal voice over rates in commercials, documentary, and corporate narration. Payment models cover everything from an amount paid per hour worked (fairly rare), to pay per finished hour (common), to royalty share only or in combination with a lower pay per finished hourly rate, which are often found on ACX.

To do royalty share or not is a debate among many audiobook narrators.  Some have had great success with royalties coming in steadily from multiple books.  Others have basically just narrated a book for free because royalties do not materialize due to lack of sales of the particular audio book/s.  Apparently, the key to the difference is to do your research before accepting an offer of a royalty share only project.  By  asking the author or producer the level of sales of the book in all other formats, it is easier to predict the possible sales for the audiobook.  Then, you can decide if it is worth the risk of spending your time and talents narrating and most likely producing a 10-14 hour book, which, by the way, will take you 3 to 4 times that amount of time.  Some narrators, myself included, agreed to take on royalty share projects without knowing or in spite of the numbers, simply to acquire some audiobook narration experience and to build audiobook credits.

If you're thinking of working as an audiobook narrator, these are all considerations as you approach the craft and the business of audiobook narration.  All the best to you!


Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Are You an Actor as Well as Voiceover Talent?



I’m sure many of you are actors in addition to being voice-over talent.  The two can go hand in hand.  Your acting abilities affect your voice over work by helping you to “get into character” for a 30 or 60 second radio or television commercial, vignettes for e-learning or corporate narrations, and as the voice of authority or guy or gal next door in narrations of all kinds.  Have you ever thought of how your experience with voice over work can actually help your acting – especially, your audition skills?

You have to be a great reader to do voice over work, especially, long form narration.  You’re constantly “reading ahead” in order to keep from being caught off guard as to where that sentence is actually going.  You don’t usually have time to study your script and would never have time to memorize it in order to “make it your own.”  At most, you may just have time at the beginning of a session to quickly read through, get a sense of who you are – with a little help from your director, if you’re lucky - and take off!  Yes, you can stop or just restart if you make a mistake while recording, but you have to maintain your character, your momentum, and stay present in the scene.

In the best case (and most cases) with on camera auditioning for film, you are given a side or sides to prepare for an audition and access to the whole script if you are very lucky!  You usually have at least some time to prepare your character’s point of view, relationships, intentions, etc.   However, often times, you might be given another scene to read or even another character to read during an audition which cuts down dramatically on the time you have to prepare.  In these cases, your voice over experience of creating “instant characters” can help immensely.  As a voice over talent, your ability to read unfamiliar material and make sense of it, or even paraphrase it almost immediately can make a huge difference between floundering and taking charge in an audition.

I recently had an audition experience which made me realize how my voice over work helped smooth out a potentially excruciating audition.  A week before the audition, I was told by the director which role to prepare and told to read the entire script if possible.  However, when I asked if there were particular sides/scenes to prepare for the audition, I was told, no, they’d be provided only at the audition, but that I should be familiar with a 2 page scene in particular.  I read the script and pulled all of the scenes for my character and prepared them thoroughly, especially the scene he had mentioned.  Upon my arrival (early) to the audition, I found that there were no sides provided in the waiting room.  Thankfully, I had mine, at least, so I continued preparing while I waited.  However, when I was brought in to the audition room, the director handed me a completely different scene for a different character.  Fortunately, I knew the script and who this character was.  I had not, however, prepared this scene.  I was to read with another actor who, to my knowledge, had not prepared this scene, either.  We were to do the scene immediately, without preparation, and be placed on video. I found that my eyes quickly scanned the script as the director was setting up the scene for us.  I placed myself in the scene from what I remembered from my previous reading and I was able to read/paraphrase the dialogue without having to keep my nose buried in the script. I’m not sure why the director chose to deal with the actors in this way for this audition.  His reasons are not clear to me, but I’m sure he had some.  I could have balked and asked to be given time to go out to review the scene, which is usually the case in a situations such as this, but I got the feeling that’s not what he wanted even though he was friendly and kind.  He seemed to like what I did, and I really didn’t feel particularly stressed over it.  I believe that all the voice-over work with last minute scripts and creating “instant characters” helped keep this from being a disaster or at the very least, extremely uncomfortable.  It just gave me another reason to say, “Thank goodness for voice over!”

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

4 Reasons Why Voice Actors Lose Clients


As professional voice over talent, we certainly want to create and maintain our great client relationships.  There are many things we can and must do to grow our voice over business.  When we lose a long term client or simply don’t get repeat business from a new client, there can be many reasons. Some of those reasons are out of our control:  the client doesn’t really hire talent often, they lose THEIR client, their client wants to change the gender, age, style of the voices they use, etc.  However, sometimes, we might lose a client due to something we have or have not done.

The following is an article written by Edge Studio addressing four common and likely culprits that might cause us to lose clients.   Do you see yourself neglecting any of these areas?  Have you let some things slide due to keeping busy with other matters or just letting yourself get off track?

Read the article, and double check yourself to make sure you’re doing all you can to remain marketable and employable!

4 Reasons Why Voice Actors Lose Clients

The fact is, the voice over industry is continually evolving. So if you don't evolve along with it, YOU'LL LOSE CLIENTS.
Voice talent continually ask for our help. They say, "I'm getting less work than I used to." We ask why. They're either not sure, or they guess it's because they've been battling allergies, their clients must have wanted a new voice, there must be more competition, their demo may be getting old, a new agent opened up in town,....... On and on.
There Are 4 Reasons Why Voice Talent Start Losing Work. Read the sections that pertain to you
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Vocal Delivery: ARE YOU NO LONGER TRAINING?
Story: A while ago, one of our clients hired a student we had just trained to narrate a large series of videos. They loved his voice.
Recently we hired him back to narrate another large project. This time, he no longer sounded good. He lost a good client. I asked if he'd been practicing. He said no.
There are 3 reasons why CONTINUED TRAINING IS SO IMPORTANT:
You can fall into bad habits (no one tells you why you lose auditions!) Other voice talent will get better than you (watch out!) Clients always need new styles (new styles for podcasts, self-guided tours,...)
Solution: At minimum, work with a coach every other month to ensure you maintain. Preferably, work with a coach every month to become better and offer more clients more styles! Remember: your vocal delivery is your livelihood!
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Home Studio Quality: ARE YOU RESISTANT TO TECHNOLOGY CHANGE?
Story: A voice talent sent me an audition recording. Their voice was PERFECT. But their home studio quality wasn't. The client did not like them. (Note that some clients CANNOT DIFFERENTIATE between poor home studio recording and poor vocal performance.) After telling the talent this, she replied, "But this used to be fine." Yes, 5 years ago, her quality was considered good for a home studio. Today, however, clients are used to better quality.
Here are a few other examples of not keeping up with technology: Talent ask if they can fed-ex a CD to me. "Huh?" Why can't they FTP it to me? Or oftentimes we hear slight noises in recordings. Why? I guarantee the talent will lose some work. Fall behind in technology, and your clients may leave you behind.
Here are technology items to stay current with: equipment (editing on old software is slower, so you charge more, and bid too high) editing software / file type knowledge (unfamiliar with the new file extensions for flash? this scares clients) delivery methods (still have "fed-ex" on your rate card? you look outdated)
Solution: Hire someone to visit your studio once every 6 months for a tune-up. Have them update your software, show you new editing features, check sound quality, and set you up for new file types.
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Marketing: ARE YOU COMPLACENT?
Story: At a recent voice over event, I was re-acquainted with a lot of old-timers who told me, "I'm not getting the amount of work I used to get!" Funny, I thought they hadn't marketed to me in years and subsequently I had forgotten about them and how talented they are.
Trust me: there is a reason why major retailers (Honda, Sears, McDonalds,...) continue to promote themselves. If they don't, competitors will eventually take over. IT'S THE SAME THING IN VOICE OVER.
Many old-times got all their work from a few clients and/or agents. But things change. Sometimes suddenly. Are you prepared? Or do you rely on a few select clients (who could suddenly go out of business), and meanwhile you're not prepared to market?
Here are marketing to stay current with:
marketing frequency (do you think single marketing efforts are still enough?) marketing types (do you think business cards are still all you need?) marketing messages (still trying to be a jack of all trades?) marketing quality (perforated edged, matrix printed business cards don't work today)
Solution: hire someone who knows voice over marketing to review your business plan (do you even have one? if you want to grow, you should have one). take a workshop at edge or even at a local college.
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Professionalism: ARE YOU BUSINESS-LIKE?
Story: One of our clients got VERY upset with a voice talent who we hired recently. So upset, they chose to replace him with another talent! Obviously we won't hire that talent anymore. But the weird thing is that the voice talent didn't even realize what they did wrong!
Face it: our little industry has grown up. It's now a big, professional industry complete with a set of do's and don't's. And sure, as with anything, as time goes by, there are more and more changes. So for those of you who are beginning your voice over career, you MUST LOOK PROFESSIONAL from the start. And for those of you already immersed in the industry, you MUST CONTINUE looking professional. If you don't, you chance losing clients.
You MUST always stay on top of: appearing professional (the jargon, the sequence of events,...) dealing with corporate types: knowing when to ask which questions the general in's and out's of the industry the ever-changing politics of the industry (unions, agents,....)
Solution: Study the industry. Speak with folks who are in it. Read books. DO WHAT YOU CAN to come across business-like. This makes a BIG difference in the amount of work you get.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Voice Over Coaching

While I am not currently coaching voice over (never say never!), I do hear from many prospective voice over performers who want information about how to get into voice over.  I always direct them to the How To Pages on my web site.  In those pages, I have tried to give a thorough, general overview of the voice over business, what you need to know, and what you need to do.   You can scroll down to the bottom of that page for links to specific information on my site such as:
In addition to this information, there are blog posts numbered 1-10 scattered throughout my blog that discuss these items, including a discussion of why it's important to work with a voice over coach.

Today, I was asked  how one should go about finding a good coach.  Word of mouth and referrals from working voice over talent are the best means of locating those coaches who can truly give you what you need to succeed. Then, you need to talk with the coaches, which may require paying for an evaluation session in order to determine where you are, your potential, whether personality types mesh, and to see what kind of a feeling you get for how this coach works and how they plan to help you reach your goals. This is an important investment in your career and not something to be taken lightly. 

Some top notch voice over coaches that I have experience with are:  Nancy Wolfson, James Alburger & Penny AbshireMarc CashmanRodney SaulsberryJim Conlan, and Edge Studio.  All of these coaches work in person or remotely, if you do not live in their locale.

Explore their web sites, get in touch with them, and find out who seems to be the best fit for you.  And who knows, one of these days, I just may add my name to this list!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

The Audiobook Challenge

There are a great many wonderful audiobook narrators out there with tons of experience.  I am fortunate to have begun connecting with more and more of them via the APA and  Audiobook Community, and I'm learning a great deal just following their discussions and posts.  Although I've been a working professional voice over talent for over 20 years, I'm new to this area of voice over.  So, here, I feel almost like any new voice over talent. Granted, I already have the pro home studio.  I've been recording and editing my own tracks for about 10 years - hard to believe it's been that long!  I already know mic technique, have a good acoustical environment, and of course, know how to use my voice.  I do have an acting background.  In fact, I was an actress long before I ever thought of doing any voice over work, and as far as narrating books, in addition to reading constantly to my sons when they were little, I always volunteered to be the "mom reader" in all three of the boys' classes all through elementary school.   It was such fun reading to the children, visiting their classes each week, and yes, even being made to feel like a celebrity by the adoring "fans" - students and teachers alike. :)

Now that I've decided to broaden my horizons by getting into narrating audiobooks, it would seem like just a natural next step after the years of commercials, corporate narrations, e-learning course narration, etc.  I'm no stranger to long form narration, but it is not an easy transition to fiction, and at times it can be downright scary!  There is so much more prep time involved.  A narrator needs to read the book and determine the tone, mood, etc.  In addition, I must note all the characters and determine the type of voice I will use while recording their dialogue, and I must sustain all this through the entire book.  I must know and follow the recording and editing specs required by the client in addition to any and all deadlines.

While all of the extra preparation does take time, the real difficulty for me is finding the long stretches of time to actually record.  I really need to be able to devote several hours at a time to get and stay in the mood and rhythm of the book.  And then, of course, it all has to be edited which takes 3-4 times as long as the recording!  This can be tricky while keeping up with a busy schedule of other types of recordings and often, last minute in person or ISDN sessions.

All that being said, it is very creatively rewarding to record an audiobook.  My first audiobook was The Call of the Wild by Jack London for Cherry Hill Publishing last year.  I am currently working on The Four Window Girl or, How to Make More Money Than Men by Shepherd Mead (How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying) which is a fun "vintage" romp, circa 1959.   Next, I'll be recording the classic, Little Women by Louisa May Alcott.

I'm not sure that I see a constant string of audiobook recordings in my immediate future, but I do believe it is something that I'd like to continue pursuing as my schedule permits.  

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

PBS Series Narration: A Nuclear Family

It's been an incredibly busy start to 2012!  I apologize for not blogging in months (!) and I promise to really make an effort to keep up on a more regular basis.  One of the voice over projects that I found most interesting over the past few months was a documentary series I narrated for PBS titled "A Nuclear Family".  This series chronicles the beginnings and transformation of Y-12 National Security Complex at Oak Ridge, Tennessee from World War II until today.  After airing on PBS, the episodes reside on the Y-12 website in their video library.   This is the promo for the 4th episode:
video

I found this documentary narration assignment particularly interesting because my grandfather helped to build the complex. He left his home in Kansas to temporarily live in the area and work on the facility.  He was a steamfitter and, as everyone else working on and in the facility, he had no idea what he was working on until after it was finished.  Narrating an important part of history that a family member shared in was particularly interesting and poignant for me.  If you are at all interested in the era and the events of that time, I encourage you to visit the website and watch those particular videos.

I've also recently launched the newest version of my website, including a brand new mobile version, as well as a new look for this blog!  To me, the updates were long overdue, and I'm very happy with the results! Kudos to my talented son, Josh Petryk, for his creativity and especially his technical expertise!  Watch for a link to his new website coming soon!  In the meantime, if you are in need of a mobile version of your site or a complete new website, just let me know, and I'll put you in touch with him.

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