Guest Post from Trista Shaye about Reading Your Own Audiobook
I know this is off topic, but I recently asked Trista Shaye to do a guest post on my blog about voice acting, specifically if she had any advice for Indie Authors who wanted to, or are in the process of self publishing their own audiobooks. This is what she had to say.
Hello! I’m Trista Shaye – voiceover artist and YA and MG author.
Super thankful for the opportunity to share with you a little about
myself and hopefully answer the question: what makes an author a great
person to work with on the audio version of their book. I’m here to
say, this process isn’t hard and if you keep a few simple things in
mind as you go into the audiobook production world, things should go
fairly smoothly for you.
A little bit about me: I’ve always loved books. I used to have my
library card number memorized and would order heaps of Barbie and
fantasy books each week to read through. When we had sleepovers, my
best friend and I would discuss the current book we were reading
together and how we each pronounced the character’s names. I had lists
of book titles I’d made up written on random pieces of paper and also
wrote some songs for a few of them – none of these old writings have
ever made it further than that.
My childhood set me up to enjoy the written word and I always dreamed
of becoming an author. At sixteen I published my first full-length
novel and the year after I published my second. And quite honestly, I
believe that being an author myself helps me to better understand
where some of the authors I work with in the audio world are coming
Growing up, my parents would read to us quite often. Both of them
would always read each character with their own specific voice – and
my mother often had a phrase she would say for specific accents, if
there got to be too many characters at once and she couldn’t remember
how the accent went off the top of her head.
As I grew older, and as I read more on my own, I would pick a
character at the beginning of a book or series as “my” character and –
either in my head, or aloud – I would read their lines like it was
actually me in the story. I also believe this, as well as my history
in theater and indie film, helped prepare me for the work of
People ask me all the time, “How do you even get started in narration
or voiceover?”. I usually direct them to Audible’s ACX, where it’s
free to set up a narrator profile and you can audition for any titles
you want, and you can usually land a project quite easily. However, I
didn’t begin there.
My first book, though in the end it was published through ACX, started
out on Facebook in a writers group. I believe it was God’s handiwork
that I saw the post asking for auditions for the book, that I already
had a nice microphone and knew how to use it, and that I was somehow
the exact voice they were looking for to bring the book to life. I
never once thought about being a narrator up until that point, but I
had always wanted to try voice acting, and the opportunity was dropped
into my lap.
My first audiobook was … a learning curve, we’ll say. I learned so
much from it. But once I had finished it, I was hooked on this thing
called voiceover and found I really enjoyed heading into “my office”
each day for work. I loved bringing each character to life with their
own unique voice, I enjoyed the challenge of changing from one accent
to another and learning how to put sound effects to kid’s books. But
my favorite thing as a voiceover artist and specifically as a narrator
– which can also be the most frustrating part, as well – is all the
people you get to meet, all the authors you form relationships with as
you work on a story that’s written from their heart.
I’ve had the opportunity to produce over eighty audiobooks on ACX, and
I’ve worked with about twenty-plus different authors. My experience
has been mixed, as I’ve had to learn how to ask the right questions
about aspects of each book, and even then, I’ve had authors lie to me.
But the majority of the projects I’ve produced and the people I’ve
worked with have been good, and even the bad experiences have taught
me valuable lessons.
So, you’re wondering, what makes an author the best person to work for
and with, or the worst? The one-word answer: communication.
That’s a pretty broad topic though, so I’ll narrow it down into
several bullet points.
*Always send a reply. If a narrator contacts you prior to the audition
with questions – even if they seem obvious to you – answer them with a
message, even if it’s days later and you forgot; do it! I hardly ever
audition for a title if I don’t get a message in response to my query,
and I always send a message prior to my auditions. Answer all their
questions before and during – it’s helpful to know you’re as invested
in this project as we are.
*Explain the best you can about what you’re looking for. You can only
explain so much about the type of voice you want and then it all comes
down to hearing each audition. Post YouTube video links, or audiobook
links, if you have certain voices in mind for a narrator or for
characters – being able to hear what you want is much easier for a
narrator to grasp than just saying, “You know, James Earl Johns, but
also a bit of Delia Owens”. Can I hear what you mean when you say
*Post a range of characters for the audition and keep them short. Try
to post a large range of characters – if your book has a large range
of characters – for the audition. Also, keep the audition as short as
you can – usually up to five minutes is the max. We understand you
want to hear our voices but you’ll usually be able to tell if the
narrator is right for you or not within the first twenty to thirty
seconds and long auditions – anything above ten minutes – are
unnecessary. If you like a narrator, however, you can ask them to
audition again with another section of the manuscript that they either
didn’t get to or you haven’t posted but you want to see if it works
with their voice. Don’t ask for more than one of these extra
auditions, though, unless they offer.
*Understand everyone’s voice is different. Everyone’s voice is
different, and someone who might be good at voicing the little girl in
your story might not have the same range to voice the deep male who
comes in later on. And someone else might be able to voice both pretty
well. If a narrator’s voice is generally on the higher end, don’t
expect for them to strain their vocals to try and get that deep
rumbling voice you might have pictured for a character. Choose what’s
more important to you – which characters you absolutely want a certain
way, and which can come under the narrator’s vocal range.
*Give us space to do our thing. I love it when an author gives me free
rein to decided how to voice the characters – it’s (sometimes) easier
and a lot more enjoyable. That being said, if you have a certain voice
in mind for certain characters, please state that to begin with; but
if for other’s you don’t really care as much, just let us know and cut
us loose. A good narrator is an actor/actress as well and they know
how to bring out voices you might not have even thought of – and
sometimes, they might not have even known they were able to do. If,
generally speaking, the narrator doesn’t have enough emotion in their
voice – which you should have been able to tell by the audition – you
can mention this. But try to refrain from “This needs to sound more
sad”, “This isn’t happy enough”. Again, a good narrator is an
actor/actress and they should get those cues from the writing.
*Corrections. Hey, we all make mistakes. If you notice a correction
that needs to be made in the narration or a character’s line, tell us!
Don’t feel shy or like you might make us feel bad, just tell us. We
appreciate it, really. We’ll be more than happy to fix it, it’s
probably something that takes a few seconds to do and it makes your
book sound better in the end. As to full chapter revisions, that’s
something you need to be careful with. You chose this narrator based
on their audition and you can’t expect for them to do anything
different than like in the audition. I had an author ask for me to
revise several character’s voices in a chapter three different times –
all the lines. Once you get into that water, you need to understand
you’re likely going to have to start paying more to make up for the
time you’re asking them to put into it. Also, please don’t expect for
the character’s voice to always sound 100% the same through the whole
book, either. Day to day your voice will sound a little different
because of what you drink, how you slept, how early in the morning it
is, so on. Obviously glaringly different changes in a character’s
voice would need to be addressed, but something minor is best left
alone. Even when I’m talking normally to someone, my voice can rise
and fall in pitch depending on what’s being said. It’s honestly,
*Let those who auditioned but didn’t make the cut know. It’s always so
nice to me, and rare, when I’ve auditioned for a title but not gotten
it, that then the author will send me a little message and say they’ve
chosen someone else but they appreciated my time. Do this, it sets you
above the norm.
*Don’t lie and be nice. These go without saying but it has to be said
because I’ve dealt with both. Please don’t lie about the content of
your book if a narrator asks, we will find out your lying if we’re
narrating it, after all, and then you have to deal with it. Not the
best way to go. Also, be as nice as possible. Narrators/voiceover
artists and actors/actresses in general deal with rejection constantly
and are in contact with many people, just be graceful with all
*Pay your narrator. You wouldn’t ask a plumber or a cover artist to do
what they do professionally for free – I mean, you may but you would
get some looks. Same goes for any narrator. This is their job, for me
it’s my full-time job right now, and royalty share split basically
means you’re asking the talent to produce your book for free trusting
they’ll get a return later down the road that they may never see – for
me, I record, edit and master your files; that’s a lot to do for
“free” and bills don’t get paid for free. Going into getting your
audiobook produced, prepare for the fact that you’re asking someone to
spend countless hours bringing your words to life and prepare by
saving up for it. It’s worth it to pay them.
-I do several royalty share books per year, but normally I just can’t
afford to. Most authors who want audio can’t afford to pay me and they
know they can find someone else who will do it for free. This is
hurting the voiceover, and specifically, the audiobook narrator
industry, as it forces those of us who should be getting paid – which
is everyone of us – into having to look further and wider for actual
-Royalty share plus is amazing, it’s the best of both worlds. It means
a lower hourly rate is needed for you to pay the narrator, and you
also split the royalties, allowing you not to break the bank, and
allowing the producer to actually get paid some of what is promised up
*Don’t expect your narrator to be your promotional agent. I do usually
post my latest projects when they’re completed to my social medias,
but that’s about it. We get paid to read your book, not to promote it.
Some authors think if they choose royalty share they can get their
narrator to promote the book all the more because it benefits them.
Truth is, I post once for all books, paid or royalty. This may sound
harsh, and you can always ask if we’re willing to post or share
promotional links, and usually, we’ll say yes, but don’t just expect
*Review your narrator and encourage them. Tell other people about your
narrator. At the end of a project, it’s always nice to know how you
did, no matter who you are and what you’re doing. Like I said, we deal
with a lot of rejection and knowing you appreciated our work means a
lot. A review – that you can just send via message to the narrator –
can be posted to our profiles and websites and can help us get future
work, as well. Tell your author friends who might be interested in
audio about your narrator – networking is such a great way to get us
more work and we’ll always appreciate a mention even if nothing comes
I hope these bullet points made sense, and more importantly, I hoped
they helped you think about a few things you might not have considered
before if you’re considering getting your book produced into an
audiobook. I could say a heap more about all of this, but I tried not
to be long-winded and just sum up some of the most important things.
I’m always open to answer any questions you might have about the
process of audiobooks and you’re more than welcome to email me:
Visit me on ACX, my Website (the link for my website can also be found
on my ACX profile), Instagram, or Facebook.
All the best in your writing and audio endeavors!
Link to ACX profile: https://www.acx.com/narrator?p=A2B9XGW94CY924
Link to Website: http://tristashayeofficia.wixsite.com/voiceover