A Staff of One

If I could clone myself, I would be better able to handle the workload I need to manage to make a go of audiobook narration.

The dilemma for narrators who who take this work seriously is that sometimes there are too many projects with too many deadlines that are too close to each other. And only one person to perform all of the functions connected with getting an audiobook from print to a recorded product ready to sell.

For example, when I began doing this eight months ago, I submitted two auditions for projects listed on the ACX site, thinking that I might get one of them if I was lucky. I was offered both of them. Then I received another offer for a project that came through someone finding my profile in a search of the site by an author looking for a narrator.

With a marathon effort (these were all long projects that required hours of recording, editing and processing), I completed them all by their specified deadlines. I was off and running, but after that I became a bit more circumspect, submitting auditions in a way that avoids this clustering of work.

Currently however, I have run into another aspect of the clustering effect in doing projects. Here’s how that can happen.

I auditioned for a work of western fiction offered by a company that produces book projects for writers. These companies coordinate the print and electronic aspects of book publishing for their authors, and at the appropriate time in the life of the projects offer the book for auditions on ACX. Then they shepherd the audiobook projects through the steps that ultimately see it posted for sale on Audible and other platforms.

As I signed on for the western book I auditioned for, the producer offered me a second western by the same author. When I completed the first western, the book producer praised my work and asked if I’d be interested in other projects the company was handling. I answered in the affirmative and the producer sent me a list of about 25 books that he hoped I would consider.

I was still working on the second western, so we left it at that until I finished that one. Meanwhile, I had begun working on a long non-fiction project that I received while working on the westerns. Having no commitment about the additional books I was asked to consider by the western producer, I decided to back myself up by auditioning for another western listed on ACX, this one a four-book boxed set of classic westerns.

Turns out I immediately got an offer for that project. In addition, the producer for that project liked my audition enough to ask me to consider another boxed set project when I finished the one I just accepted, and indicated that there would be a lot of other work beyond that if I wanted it.

Suddenly I am faced with the possibility that I could be lining up work that would comprise some 40 books with deadlines to be determined.

Because all of these projects are paid on the basis of a percentage of royalties, I need high volume to make the work worthwhile. The royalties continue over months and years, so for any given project they tend to be modest to say the least. With a good number of modest royalties paid monthly over years, a narrator can compile reasonable compensation only by pumping out books regularly and in fairly large numbers. (Top narrators, which I aspire to be, can command per hour rates, or other stipend-based compensation, but I’m not there yet.)

So I am inclined to accept all of these projects if and when they are offered. But how to manage them without going into hibernation in my little padded room of a studio for the foreseeable future?

I don’t know the answer to that. Of course there are no guarantees that all of the projects I have been asked to consider will be offered. Things change in this business as in all others and there are no guarantees that offers made informally will actually come to pass when push comes to shove.

I have decided, however, that I need to consider a way to streamline my operations. At present I do everything: narration, recording, editing (a surprisingly time consuming activity), and audio processing and mastering.

One can hire out many of these activities, but with the low potential for profits, that can be financially counterproductive to say the least.

So where can I turn for help? My grandson likes playing with technology. He’s 10, though, and for some reason has to spend a lot of his time in grade school.

Wait, my wife was a broadcasting major in college! Don’t say anything to her. I want to find the right time to try to sell her on the idea of sitting in front of a screen all day listening to me drone on about cattle drives and feuding drovers while she manipulates representations of audio waves on a computer screen.