Taking Control | NogginLabs, Inc.

My friends and clients at NogginLabs have an interesting blog post today about how they use behavioral science to create more compelling and memorable e-learning courses.

Taking Control | E Learning Development | E-Learning Software | ELearning Design | NogginLabs, Inc..

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8 Reasons for Hiring a Professional Audio book Narrator

Being an independent author is a mostly do-it-yourself venture. While I generally applaud the DIY mentality especially as it comes to things like mowing your own lawn or building a deck, I wonder how much better people’s books would be received if they had a professional quality narration, as opposed to doing themselves or hiring their uncle bill with a headset microphone.

In my humble opinion, here’s why you should consider hiring a professional narrator:

1. Savings

I can hear it now: “But Jeff, your services are EXPENSIVE!! How can paying you to read my book save me money??” Quite easily, actually. First of all, my rate is very affordable at around $.03 per word. The average 80,000 word books comes out to $2400. Now, for the unpublished writer with a day-job, this may seem horribly expensive. But what the naysayers are not factoring in is time. Let’s break it down.

80,000 words = 500 minutes = about an 8 hour book
Average time investment per finished hour = 5-6 hours on a  good day.
Total time to produce = 40-50 hours

That’s an 8-hour-a-day work week, folks. Suddenly $2400 for 1-2 weeks worth of work doesn’t seem like such and unreasonable salary, does it? This is, after all, my job. And what could you be doing with that time?

Marketing! PR! Networking! Marketing! Marketing!

Why in the world would you want to spend your time sitting behind a microphone when you could be out there drumming up business for the release? Isn’t your time better spent building the business aspect of your book and leaving the narration part to an expert?

2. Professional Quality

You’ve got a professional quality book. You’ve got professional quality business cards. You’ve got a professional quality website. You’ve got a professional quality cover design.

Then why wouldn’t you want the centerpiece of the release, the very product you’re putting out there to be professional as well? Grabbing a $50 podcasting mic and recording in your den is not professional. Why would you represent your work in such a mediocre way?

I don’t listen to amateur audiobooks. Why? Because I’m spoiled to the likes of Scott Brick and Grover Gardner, people who know how to narrate books. And with the proliferation of audio books, I can’t be the only one who gets turned off by a dull reader creating subpar recordings? Your book needs to have the same level of professional narration that you put into writing it.

3. Bringing your book to Life

If you’re one of those authors who’s so married to their debut novel that you figure you’re the only one who can truly capture the voice of Treenok the Terrible, then you’ve got a problem. Because if that is indeed true, your audience won’t be able to capture it in their minds either.

Thankfully, most writers who feel that way are incorrect. Most good voice talent are actors, plain and simple. It is their job to find the characters and bring them to life. If you think you’re as good as classically-trained Shakespearean actor Scott Brick, then, power to you. I’m certainly no Scott Brick, but I do have 20 years of theater experience. It’s my passion and job to have these characters possess my voice and make them alive. Narrating a book is not reading a book. Narrating a book is putting on a performance with a single actor playing all the roles. If you don’t honestly have those acting chops, outsource it to someone who does. Doesn’t your work deserve it?

4. Technical aptitude

OK, perhaps you’re a podcaster. Sorry, it’s not the same thing. While your audio book may be in podcast format, you really should think of it as an audio book. And audio books are different from podcasts. If you think that recording in Audacity and dropping your files into Levelator and sending them off is going to give you the best sound, then think again.  Will it be good enough? Perhaps. But do you really want your work represented in a way that’s just “good enough”?

You need to properly compress and EQ your voice for optimal quality. Failure to do so will cause fatigue with your audience. I use professional software in which I’ve fine-tuned the compression and EQ to best fit my voice and give professional results. As well, such publishers as Audible have fairly strict guidelines about how their audio is to be produced. I’ve narrated for Audible. I know how to do it.

5. Stamina

Narrating an audio book is hard work. Seriously. If you think sitting in front of a mic for several days reading a book is easy, I urge you to give it a try. There’s a reason why the folks at Podiobooks request 5 episodes up front. Not only is it to hook the reader, but to assure that you or your narrator have the stamina to pull off the whole thing. Because you’ll realize a few chapters in after you’ve spent the good part of a day just to record one single hour, that vocal stamina plays a huge role in this.

After recording dozens of audio books, I’ve built up stamina and patience for the process. I’ve also learned how to pace myself to get the most bang for my vocal buck.

6. Avoiding the “read by the author” Stigma

Go to Audible.com right now. Do it. Note how many novel writers narrate their own books?Very few. And they usually suck for a myriad of reasons, the primary one being that they are authors, not narrators.

Longtime audio book listeners often avoid listening to books read by the author. I learned my lesson with Harlan Coben. His book, Promise Me, gets absolutely slaughtered in the listener comments simply due to his narration. It’s bad. But honestly, I’ve heard worse. John Nance insists on reading his own books, and he has a pronounced lisp, for goodness sake.

Now, you may not have a speech impediment, but think about how it looks to a potential listener that you took the time to seek out someone else to narrate your book. You love your work so much, that you wanted to make sure it was in the right hands. You avoided the stigma of “read by the author” that turns off so many listeners. Plus, unlike most podiobooks, there’s a certain coolness to working with a pro. It’s a step above the rest of the pile.

7. Tax write-off

First of all, I have to say that I’m not an accountant or lawyer and this shouldn’t be taken as actual legal tax advice. However, if your book-writing is a business, you should be able to write off this expense on your taxes as a legitimate marketing expense. Consult your accountant about this, as tax laws vary from state to state.

8. Distribution

So once you record this book, what do you do? Where do you sell it? If you simply have one book, I guarantee you that distributors won’t give you the time of day and probably won’t even return your emails. There’s no point in making an audiobook if you can’t recoup your expenses.

I have your solution. With my partner company, SpringBrook Digital, I’ve got distribution channels and can offer higher commissions than anyone I know of in the industry. I can get your audiobook on Audible.com, iTunes, and Amazon.

Still not sold on the idea? Head over to my website for a FREE sample reading of your writing. I know you will be thrilled with what you hear.

As usual, Bob Souer has some sage advice

As usual, Bob Souer has some sage advice for when things go wrong. And things will go wrong. Read about a recent experience of his and how he handled it.

When disaster strikes » The Voiceover Boblog http://ow.ly/2d0nH


Honoring audiobook cover artists

Grover Gardner has a blog post today showing off some of the in-house cover art made for audio books at Blackstone audio. It’s nice to give some attention to others that are so integral to the product. And some of these covers are truly works of art.


5 Business Presentation Tips from a Professional Voice Over Artist

You may be looking at the above headline and wondering what the business person can learn from a voice over artist. After all, the voice over artist is a person who sits in a booth and does funny voices, right?

There’s actually a lot more than you think. Without going into the details of my job as a professional voice talent, my primary purpose is to make a genuine connection with the audience. When I put it that way, it sounds more relevant to what you do, doesn’t it?

That’s because it is. And if it isn’t, then you’ve probably been missing something in the way you’ve been delivering your corporate or business presentations. So whether you’re pitching a new project to your boss, presenting a proposal to a large room, or showing off the latest tech at SXSW, here are some tips to help you connect with your audience.

Tip #1 – Slow Down

This is the single biggest thing I see and hear in business that makes you fail to connect with your audience. Most people who get up in front of an audience are not professional speakers. They are business people. Take someone out of their comfort zone and they’ll finish up as quickly as possible so they can return to that comfort zone. And rushing through your script will achieve that. But it won’t achieve the goal of having a dynamic presentation that connects with the audience.

If you’ve ever watched a baseball game, you’ll often see batters warming up by swinging two or three bats. This is to train their muscle memory to get used to swinging multiple bats at once, so that when they swing a single bat, it will seem much easier. You can do something similar. Take your script and read it achingly slow, slower than you’d ever actually give it. Don’t lower your pitch like you’re imitating a slow record player, just read the words much, much slower, as if there’s an imaginary comma between the words. Once you’ve done that, read your script again without intentionally slowing down. You’ll find your brain has retained some of the muscle memory and your reading is slower.

Tip #2 – Learn to love the Whitespace

Script analyzers will tell you to pause in key places to let the audience clap or to build some sort of suspense. Actually, they can look at a script and tell you precisely where to pause for clapping at your amazing list of newly announced product features. But that’s not the kind of pausing I’m talking about. I’m referring to the pause in your narrative. Take this for example:

Jim went to the store to buy some milk and he never came back.

Sort of dramatic because of what’s being said, but not off the charts. Compare it to this:

Jim went to the store.

And he never came back.

Big difference, right? The drama is in the pause. Respect the whitespace. Use it to build drama, to leave your audience hanging on your words, wondering what you will say next or how you will complete your thought. How do you know where the dramatic moments are? Here’s a silly exercise that works: Pretend you’re the late, great Don LaFontaine, the movie trailer voice artist. This will sound ridiculous to anyone around, so it’s best to do it in the privacy of your office. Read the first few lines or paragraphs of your script in the over-the-top movie trailer style (“In a world…. Where magic was real….”). If you do it right, you’ll naturally hit the dramatic pauses in the script. Make note of them, then try the speech in your natural delivery. Some of the pauses will remain, others won’t. But you will have a more dramatic speech.

Tip #3 – Make the script your own

If that sounds like some soft of Method actor-y thing, that’s because it is. And it’s what you need to learn to do if you want to have any kind of real believability and connection. So how does one achieve this heightened state of credibility? In your prep, toss the script and do a practice run or two off-book. Don’t even have it in your hands. You know the product. You know the gist of the presentation. Just talk about the product in your own words and highlight the features. Talk about the call-to-action and why it’s important. In your Own Words. Now do the whole thing again off-book, but pretend your audience is different with different needs, say a group of grandmothers. Again, in your own words. Just talk to them. How have the bullet points changed? Did you speak differently? Now go back to your script and give the written speech. It will be different because you’ve processed the ideas of the script in different ways and have internalized them.

The point of this exercise is to make you connect with the script so that you can better connect with the audience and simply tell them a story. The idea is to be conversational and the only way to do that naturally is for the script to be a part of who you are.

Tip #4 – Believe what you’re saying

This is often the hardest thing to really nail, especially if your product is, perhaps, a version 1…. But if you want to get to version 2, you’ve got to sell version 1. Which means you need to believe in the product. Again, this can be done in the prep stage. Do a little whiteboard work as your prep. Write down the highlights of the product from your script. Then detail why they are so great. Skip the corporate speak. There’s no “synergy” or any of that nonsense. Simply write down what people will get out of your product or service. How will it honestly make their lives easier/better/faster/whatever. Find the good.

Once that’s internalized, your presentation will take on new believability because you’ve analyzed the good and believe it yourself.

Tip #5 – Handle lists with finesse

Bullet points or lists are often the most important parts of any speech. After all, the are the digestible bits of info that listeners will take with them. And they need to be hit with style. There are two ways voice talent attack lists:

Stair Step

This tactic starts low and then builds from item to item in pitch or enthusiasm, like a series of stairs. Then it ends on the high note, with the best item in the list capping it all off. Using the other tips above of making the script your own and loving the whitespace, you can create a sense of escalating drama by building your list until the grand finale of bullet points. Boom, you’ve taken it home in grand style and credibility.

Random

This is a great way to provide a list if there’s no obvious pattern of escalation. The tone, pitch, and enthusiasm in your voice changes randomly, but always ends on a high note. Like stair-stepping, this is done to build drama, and is achieved by making the audience wonder what’s coming next. Instead of expecting an escalating build up, they feel the pattern of randomness. I know, that sounds really esoteric and touchy-feely. But think of it like a bingo game. The game wouldn’t be very dramatic if the balls came out in sequential order. The very randomness of the ball draw is what makes the game exciting. You can achieve a similar excitement, by randomly mixing the way you give the items in your list. Keep them on their toes, hanging on your words.

Conclusion

Building a connection with your script and your audience is what every presenter attempts to achieve. It’s also what every actor must do to build trust with the audience. Think about it. If you’re a presenter giving a speech written by someone else to an audience who you hope will believe what you’re saying, you’re acting! So take some lessons from an experienced voice actor. You can take your presentation to the next level. Find the truth in the script, make it dramatic. You have it within you.


Press release:Laid-off Microsoft Worker Enjoys New Career as Voice Over Artist

Professional award-winning Voice over artist Jeffrey Kafer find success months after being laid off from a 10 year career at Microsoft.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

PRLog (Press Release)
Jun 22, 2009 – After a successful 10 year career as a video game test engineer at Microsoft, Jeffrey Kafer’s position was eliminated in January of 2009. Since then, he has successfully transitioned into a full-time professional voice over artist, a hobby he pursued while at Microsoft. In 2008, he won the acclaimed Voicey Award for Best New Voice.

Kafer, has performed voice overs for such companies as Capital One and America Online, as well as Monster.com and Answerstv.com. Most recently he has recorded commercials for Penguin Windows, The Portland Area Radio Council, and the Billy Graham Evangelical Association.

Recently, Kafer (http://jeffreykafer.com) was signed on as a featured audio book narrator for Books in Motion, a Washington-based audio book publisher. He has narrated 5 books in the past 4 months including the audio book version of Kronos, by Jeremy Robinson which was nominated for a prestigious PARSEC award, given to excellence in podcasting.

“Nothing kick-starts the transition of a hobby into a career like not having a steady paycheck. Thankfully, I can record all manner of voice-overs from my home studio and deliver to clients all across the world”, said Kafer. “I’ve done commercials, video games, messaging on hold, audio books, real estate tours, and e-learning module narration since my position at Microsoft was eliminated. I certainly miss aspects of my previous job, but I find it incredibly satisfying to be fully in charge of my career. And scary at times, too. Not only can I be proud of the successes I’ve had, but if I fail, then the blame lies squarely with me as well.”

# # #

About Jeffrey Kafer Voice Overs: Jeffrey Kafer (http://jeffreykafer.com) is a voiceover artist, actor, and audio producer based in the Seattle suburb of Monroe, WA. He has been heard on numerous TV and radio commercials, and also performs voiceovers for animation, corporate narration, documentaries, audio books, podcasts and messaging on-hold (MOH).

Companies like Noggin Labs, AnswersTV.com and Bright House Networks have chosen Jeffrey Kafer Voice overs to be the voice of their projects.


memorize your rate card

You never know where you’ll be when a client calls you and needs a quote. Do not be pithy and quote from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade: “I worte it down so I don’t have to remember!”

I was in the grocery store the other day when a potential client called. I knew my rates including session fees, length of run, etc. I had the info in my mental Rolodex and gave him the quote right away, no delays. There was no “Let me call you back when I’m done trying to decide between Count Chocula and Cocoa Puffs”. Count Chocula every time, BTW.

Professional and always ready to give the client what they need, right away.


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