I’m an audiobook narrator (among other voice over pursuits). I’ve narrated just over 100 books. I’ve produced another 25-30 more. After years of training, going to conferences and trade shows, I have a pretty good idea of what it takes to create a good audiobook. I also know when it’s time to let go.
Last week I got an email from an author with whom I completed a book in mid January. They asked me if I could change the first sentence of the audiobook because they didn’t like the tone the character had.
Now, I did this book on ACX, which has very clear language in all the contracts between rights holders and narrators. They say that the author (in this case also the rights holder) has the right to request any changes, prior to the First 15 minutes being approved. This is a checkpoint that ACX has in place so a narrator can record a portion of the book and send to the rights holder so they can get a feel for how the book will sound. It doesn’t NEED to be the first chronological 15 minutes of the book. In fact, often it’s a good idea for a narrator to record several scenes that include a lot of the character voices. This way the rights holder gets to sign off on the choices the narrator makes. In the case of this book, I did bounce around a bit with the first 15 minutes content. However, the sentence in question was sent to the rights holder, because it’s the very first line in the book. I’ll add that it was also part of the audition!
After the first 15 minutes is approved, the audiobook character choices, style, etc, are largely in the hands, solely, of the narrator. When the book is completed and uploaded for the rights holder to approve, they can request “reasonable changes”. For this book, that was also the case. I re-recorded several lines for the rights holder/author. One that was NOT requested, however, was the first line of the book.
The book was approved, and has been on sale since 1/19/22.
So what did I say to the request to update the book? NO. There was ample time for any changes to that ONE sentence. The first 15 minutes, prior to the final approval, heck even the audition! At this point, it’s WAY too late for me to honor that request. I’m extremely busy with other projects, including this blog! Plus, as I told the author, I LIKED the way I did that line. It was an acting choice I made, and I’m not willing to change it now.
Could I have reasonably made that change? Sure. I really do think it would be a bad idea, both for me, and the author. At some point the author needs to trust the narrator. After all, that’s what the audition process is all about. Finding someone you like that can bring your story and characters to life. After that, it’s time to let go.
Curiously, this author has another book up for audition on ACX. Do you think they will hire me?