8 Reasons Why You’re Not Landing ACX Audiobook Gigs

I’m in a fairly unique position. Not only is my primary job as an audiobook narrator and producer, but I also work with CrossRoad Press in casting and doing the post production on the audiobooks they produce through ACX. As of right now, we have close to 180 books waiting to be cast, 70 or so in production and over 40 already completed. 90% of them are royalty-share. And I get to see both sides of the process.

I reject far more auditions than I accept, even if no one else is auditioning for them. And if you find this true of the auditions you are sending out, here are some possible reasons why you’re not getting cast and what you can do about it. 99% of the time, you’ll never know why you’re not getting cast. So Consider this a gift.

  1.  You are not right for the book. 
    This is the reason you should strive for. Not that you should hope to be rejected, but if you’re going to be rejected, this is the reason you want. We often have a style of narration or vocal quality we’re looking for. And since we get author input, they also may have a certain style in mind. So if this is the reason you’re not being cast, then forget about it. There’s nothing you can do about it. Unfortunately, this reason is also the rarest, in our experience.
    What to do about it:  Nothing. move on to the next audition.
  2. Your acting is bad.
    Sorry, no other way to put this. We get a LOT of standard voice over (or worse, radio) folks trying to branch into audiobooks. And usually the result doesn’t work. Of all voice work, audiobooks are the most act-y of them all. You have to believably capture every single character in the book in a unique way, including the main narrator. If you have no acting experience, we can tell. We don’t care how awesome your voice sounds. We care how well you tell the story.
    What to do about it: Unfortunately, this is the hardest problem to remedy. You need to build up some acting chops. Take some acting classes, get a professional coach (Pat Fraley is very good, as is Marc Cashman). Take improv. Learn to be an actor. And if you’re a radio person, for goodness sake, get the radio out of your voice.
  3. Your sound quality is awful
    I’m not talking about you, I’m talking about your technical stuff. You have 15 decibels of white noise or an electrical hum. Not only should you be able to hear those things in your recordings, you should be able to SEE them in the waveform in whatever sound editor you use. And once the sound gets compressed and normalized by me in post, any sound artifacts are even more pronounced. Plus the more signal noise you have, the more work you create for me to get rid of it. And I just don’t have time to deal with a problem that you shouldn’t have in the first place.
    What to do about it: Get rid of the noise. If it’s a computer fan in the background, move it further away from the mic. If it’s electrical buzz or hum, swap out your cables (especially USB) and try a line conditioner. If you record into a laptop, run off batteries instead of the wall.
  4. Your sound quality is awful (part deux)
    This one warrants it’s own bullet point and it’s not strictly technical. It’s about your setup and mic handling.  One of the worst problems I hear is that I can “hear the room”. If you’re recording in your kitchen, I can hear it. There’s echo, reverb and general room acoustics. And if you’re too far away from the mic, this is exacerbated. Where you record is just as important as what equipment you have. Also, learn proper mic technique. Popping Ps and volume fluctuations are a sure sign of an amateur.
    What to do about it: if you can’t hear your room, its probably because you’re listening in the same room you recorded in. So of course you won’t hear it. Listen to your recording outside and see if it sounds like you’re still in your kitchen. If you have a walk-in closet or some space, fill it with clothes and use that to record in. Or you can hang heavy blankets in your recording space. No matter how you do it, just get rid of the room sounds. Oh and get a dang pop screen, wouldja?
  5.  Your sound quality is awful (Seeing a trend here yet?)
    This one is 100% avoidable. I have heard auditions with TV sounds in the background, rustling papers, chair squeaks, mouth pops and even a train going by. Seriously, people. Do NOT just brush these off as auditions. I will assume your audition is representative of the final product and if I hear your kids playing video games in the background of your audition, I will assume you’ll include that same crap in the final product.
    What to do about it: Listen to your audition and get rid of the crap. It’s called editing and it sucks. But it’s part of the job so suck it up.
  6. Your editing is bad.
    There is so much more to this job than sitting in front of a mic. Editing is a grueling marathon and as much an art as a science. You have to know pacing, how dialogue should be cut, and when its appropriate to have room tone. Poor editing can absolutely destroy an otherwise good audiobook. If your audition doesn’t show decent editing, you’re not getting the job.
    What to do about it: Listen to professional audiobooks with an ear to pacing.
  7.  Unprofessionalism
    Ok let’s be clear. Just because this book is royalty-share and we’re splitting it 50/50, this does not make you a co-publisher. You don’t get to demand things such as specialized credits in the intro, choice of music bumpers or editorial rights to change things you don’t like in the book. That last one was not a hypothetical. After he was hired, we actually had someone ask for the right to change things in the book.  We don’t have time to deal with prima donnas and big egos. If you’re so awesome that you can make those demands, then you probably don’t need to be on ACX.
    What to do about it: Don’t be a diva.
  8. Not following directions
    The biggest one here is people submitting a generic demo, instead of a demo of the script provided. I really don’t need to hear your crappy Aussie accent in the fake Outback Steakhouse ad you (didn’t) voice. I need to hear how you sound reading my book. Why? Because anyone with a few hundred bucks can go into a pro studio with a pro engineer and a pro director and come out with a glorious demo. But unless you’re recording MY book in that same studio with all those people, your generic demo is virtually useless. Not only does the author want to know how you sound reading his/her characters, *I* need to know how your sound quality is from the place you’ll be working (see reasons 3-5 above).
    What to do about it: Read the snippet we provide, please.
So there it is. The most likely reasons you’re not getting hired. You may be wondering why we have such a high bar. After all, these are just royalty-share titles, right? Yep, they are, and the only way for you and everyone else to make their money is for all of us to release a high quality product. And as narrator/producer, that means you, first and foremost. Every piece of work you do is your personal signature. Sign yours with excellence. See you on ACX.
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About Jeffrey Kafer

I am a Seattle-based voice over artist specializing in audiobooks, but also working in corporate narration and commercials. You can find me at http://audiobook-voice-over.com View all posts by Jeffrey Kafer

18 responses to “8 Reasons Why You’re Not Landing ACX Audiobook Gigs

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