Old friends who know me well are familiar with my theatrical past. There was a time, in another life, when I majored in Dramatic Arts at Boston University. I studied and worked hard at becoming a professional actor. I’ve been in plays and musicals off and on for many years. I’ve performed in New York City and Boston, albeit not profitably. My interest in theatre makes me keenly appreciative of good work when I see it, both the writing and acting; mostly in watching films or broadcasts, these days.
There’s scant opportunity to perform, though, in part because where I live is such a long drive to anyplace where a scrap of performance is happening. After a day at the hospital, it’s unthinkable to drive almost an hour north or south to keep a rehearsal or performance schedule, so I’ve steered clear of auditions. There has been a bit of “flash theatre” once or twice, when I could participate in a 24 hour play project, most recently in Brunswick a few months ago, but that’s another story.
What I have done to exercise those old actor’s reflexes and skills is to try my hand at auditioning for audiobook narration. A while back a writer friend brought ACX to my attention. ACX is the Audiobook Creation eXchange, a division of Audible.Com, which is, in turn, a subsidiary of Amazon. They are a clearinghouse for Authors, Rights-holders, Narrators, and Producers, and mediate between them to foster the recording and marketing of new audiobooks. It’s really an amazing idea, and has garnered the support and enthusiasm of first rate authors, like Neil Gaiman or Janet Evanovich, and top o’ the line publishing houses, as well.
It works like this: If you think you have what it takes to narrate someone’s book into a finished product, go create a narrator/producer’s account at ACX . You will be encouraged to flesh out your profile, and upload audio samples of your voice, which authors and rights-holders can find and listen to. You can also browse a significant catalogue of projects seeking a narrator. They can be searched with filters leading you to projects that fit your gender, voice-style, and age. You can also filter for fiction vs. non-fiction, or for specific genres, such as mysteries or sci-fi.
The projects will be presented with myriad information; date of publication, length, author’s notes, etc, and an audition script will be attached. I hunted up a number of projects I thought would scratch that old actor’s itch, and recorded a trio of them one Saturday morning. The matter of preparing the tracks so they might present well is a whole other story. There is a learning curve for recording techniques, but I got started with a $2 electotet condensor mic, and free, open-source recording software, called Audacity.
To my total surprise and delight, I had a quick response to one of my first auditions, a light crime genre novel called ‘Headwind’ by Christopher Hudson. Chris liked what I’d done with a lot of my audition, but wanted me to try some different voicings, too. I re-worked the chapter, and re-submitted it. With a bit of back and forth, we’d found a good fit between what he hoped for, and what I could do. With another click or two on the project page at ACX.com , we had a contract to make an audiobook!
At that point, I ordered some pieces of serious recording gear; a better microphone (the Rode NT-1A, which rocks, btw!), a stand, better headphones, and a USB interface to connect the mic to the computer. Which brings me to another great thing about ACX: They have pages full of wonderful tips, pointers, and training videos on how to set up a recording space, how to record, edit, and polish the finished tracks. They really want you to succeed!