Nina's Blog Follow Nina's blog
7/12/2016 11:10:47 PM
Audiobook Narration Interview with Susannah Jones
*Note: To learn more about Susannah and her road to becoming a noteworthy narrator, you can go to the first part of our interview.
Because I'd had so much trouble finding narrators who could do both comedy and the various accents in my stories, I was thrilled to discover Susannah Jones narrating a series of audiobooks I was listening to.
Now that she's narrated several books for me, I asked her if she'd let me interview her, both for the enjoyment of readers and to shed a little light on what she does for authors. Check the bottom of this post, after the interview, for a bit more information about audiobooks.
Thanks for answering more questions so my writer friends who are considering making audiobooks can understand a bit more about what you do, Susannah.
Sure, Nina, I'm happy to do it!
I guess my first narration-specific question is about your process. You seem so well-prepared and consistant in your characterizations. What is your process? Do you read through the book once and just know all the characters?
Thank you! I’m thrilled you feel that way. I do indeed read the whole book before I begin. It gives me a great sense of what the characters will sound like. If there are lots of different characters, I like to test out how each one sounds before getting into the studio where yes, there is an engineer there to guide me and help me remember what people sound like. And to stop me when I make mistakes!
How long can you work at one sitting? How do you keep track of each
character's voice and ensure it remains consistent? Do you ever get
embarrassed narrating love scenes while there are others in the studio?
Haha!! I DEFINITELY felt embarrassed the first time I recorded a romance. I collapsed into giggles one time with my engineer. And even now, having recorded about fifty romances, there are times when a certain phrase will catch me off guard and I’ll have
to pause to laugh. But mostly now I’m able to keep it together and tell the story, however sexy it might be. As far as keeping track of voices, the engineer will mark when a new character speaks so we can reference that sound clip later. And I record for about 5-6 hours at a time.
Wow, I'm impressed. I couldn't keep my brain or my voice long enough to read aloud for 5-6 hours, much less in the correct character voices. I noticed you have a really good ear for dialogue emphasis, too, as well as an understanding of comedy. What do you attribute that to?
Shakespeare training! In school we took a class in “verse and text”. My teacher taught us all about antithesis, ladders, scansion (which doesn’t necessarily apply to prose, but can still give you an excellent understanding of the way people speak), etc. And I think comedy just emerges when you understand the rhythm of what people are saying.
If it’s supposed to be comedic and you’re observing the correct phrasing of the line, then it’s funny!
It is funny. When you sent me the first book you recorded for me, No More Mr. Nice Girl, I thought, "Clearly I wrote an even better book than I thought!" Haha!
So, in a perfect scenario, what do you like to get from the author that will help
you perform the story and characters to the best of your ability?
You were by far the most thorough author I’ve worked with...
Actually, I'm a control freak, but "thorough" does sound a lot nicer. You should be a writer.
Well, I’ve never gotten sound samples before!
For those of you reading this, I bombarded Susannah with short recordings of Spanish word pronunciations (since she'd never taken Spanish, but I suspected, rightly, that she was a good mimic). I also sent her a paragraph about who each main character was, where they were from, etc. and a sentence or two about many of the lesser characters. In other words, more than she probably ever wanted to know.
But those helped a lot in informing me about how people sound in your head. Some authors just let me go with my instincts; others have specific ideas of how people should sound. I like both ways, honestly. I have fun when I have the freedom to decide everything, but I also like having more insight into how the writer perceives his or her own characters!
Well, it was clear that you read my notes and listened to the recordings, and I appreciated it. I also appreciated how accurate you were so there weren't a lot of sound edits.
Thanks, Nina. I appreciate you appreciating me.
And I appreciate you appreciating me appreciating you, Susannah. (You should give up now. I can do this all night.)
Ha! I give.
So, how can authors who want to contact you about your service do so?
Thanks again for the information, Susannah. I'm sure I'll be contacting you again soon!
Just a little more information for authors:
I have now gone about this process 3 different ways under my 2 pen names. I worked with a narrator who had her own sound set-up (as many do), who worked alone. Later, I hired a studio run by a couple in New York. They found the talent who came to their studio with a sound engineer.
The narrator working on her own was least expensive ($200 per finished hour), but the sound quality wasn't quite as good.
The studio who found the narrator for two of my other books (under a different pen name) was very expensive, at the top of the ACX range at $1,000 per finished hour. Luckily, those two novellas sold very well and I got my money back quickly, but one of them had been on the NY Times bestselling ebook list and they were connected to each other, so I wouldn't assume that would be the case with other books.
The thing that bothered me the most in both situations were the large number of misspeaks throughout the book and other issues that needed to be fixed. This meant I had to spend a lot of time listening closely and marking down the chapter, time within the chapter, the incorrect wording and what it should be. I felt like I'd had to do so much work, I put off recording more audiobooks for a while just to avoid the hassle.
This problem doesn't have as much to do with which type of setup you go with as it does how accurate and perfectionistic your narrator and/or sound engineer are. I found Susannah Jones to be both reasonably priced and accurate, so I only had to mark down a few edits and email the information to her.
Regardless, you should expect a novella or novel to be in the thousands of dollars to record. So far, both the ACX calculator and the producers have been pretty accurate in using my word count to predict how many hours the finished recording would be and how much it should cost, total.
You can hear samples of Susannah Jones narration by going to my book page and clicking on Not Dreaming of You, Always Dreaming of You or No More Mr. Nice Girl then click "Audio Book Sample." Or you can go to ACX.com and search her name.