Vox Daily The Official Voices.com Blog

Jump Start Audiobook Narration Work with Classics in the Public Domain

By Stephanie Ciccarelli

February 18, 2009

Comments (20)

African woman listening to an audiobookIf you've been watching trends and sales figures, you know that narrating audiobooks is a booming part of the voice over industry.

There is a wealth of opportunity for those who are willing to explore and produce their own audiobooks.

This article focuses on how narrating literature in the public domain, specifically classics, can help you to build your audiobook portfolio without having to pay licensing fees.

Audiobooks Are Smokin'!

Craig Black, President of Blackstone Audio said in the year 2007 that 4,000 audiobooks were being recorded, and over the next four years (2011), that number would increase dramatically to 24,000 audiobooks.

That's great news for authors, recording artists and audiobook consumers, but why is this even better news for publishers and distributors?

Each audiobook sold online at sites such as Audible.com can be downloaded, literally providing virtual inventory for publishers and distributors which costs significantly less to store and doesn't present any additional production fees. An added bonus is that customers are able to purchase these products unassisted.

Why Narrate Classics?

Classics are:

๏ Established in the literature market
๏ Low hanging fruit that have good track records
๏ Potential best sellers
๏ Acknowledged by the academic community
๏ Beloved by generations of people
๏ In many cases easy to get your hands on
๏ Considered public domain works if published before January 1, 1923 in the USA

How Can You Make Money From Audiobooks?

The short answer? Become your own audiobook publisher provided you are:

1. Recording works in the public domain
2. Recording original works that you own the copyright to
3. Or, recording works that you have licensed from the author or copyright holder for resale (* this may cost you money and we'll explore this option in a future article)

Make Some Money, Honey

Here are a few ideas to try that will help you to maximize your opportunities:

1. Sell your audiobooks as products in the Voices.com Store (highly recommended)
2. List them and sell them on your own website
3. Put on some agent boots and see if you can get additional distribution

We highly recommend that you sell your recorded audiobooks at Voices.com as products because you'll be able to:

๏ Market your audiobooks through your very own store located within your profile
๏ Your work will be listed in the main Voices.com Store for more promotion and visibility

Before You Go...

Acknowledge That It Isn't Easy

Take a look at some narration techniques and also prepare for your responsibilities as narrator, one in particular to note is the soon-to-be pact with your audience to suspend their disbelief.

Your audience will only believe the unbelievable, the fantastical and otherwise if you are committed to bringing them the goods and keeping your agreement to journey with them throughout the book.

Get Some Training

One fantastic resource that you'll want to consider is Pat Fraley's Billion $ Read. I have a copy myself and recommend it to anyone who is interested in becoming an audiobook narrator or would like to fine tune their skills. Pat also holds workshops throughout the year for audiobook narration based upon his book.

Listen To Established Narrators

Also, you'll want to do a bit of research and listen to the people who are already making money in this field. Drop by Audible.com, look for titles that you'd like to record and then listen to the voices who are narrating the audiobooks. You'll get a good idea of what you can expect competition wise and also pick up some pointers from some of the best voices out there.

Don't expect to become the next Scott Brick, Marc Cashman, or Hillary Huber on your first day.

Just as audiobook narration is voice over's equivalent to long distance running, honing your narrative and artistic skills will test your endurance as well.

Looking forward to hearing about your new audiobook projects!

Best wishes,

Stephanie

P.S. If you have any other questions about getting into narrating audiobooks, please leave a comment or contact me directly at stephanie@voices.com.

©iStockphoto.com/Lise Gagne

Related Topics: audiobook narration, Audiobooks, industry, narrators, portfolio


Comments


    Stephanie -

    Another great post as usual, with insight that never would have crossed my mind. With a personal studio, why not produce audiobooks myself?!

    Good stuff!! Thanks

    stu

    Posted by:

      This is great, but how do you protect your work against copying? Back in 2005 I recorded a Yoda-impersonation voice that works on TomTom GPS systems. I sold a couple of them. Then someone started selling copies of them on eBay without my permission and some time later you could download my voices (and some other people's voices) for free all over ... Read More on the Internet. Last year I read in an article that 4000 people in the UK alone use my Yoda-impersonation for navigation. I didn't even make Euro 50.00 with it. So if you narrate an entire audiobook, how do you protect it from being copied?

      Posted by:

        Hi Philippe,

        We're looking into that for you :)

        Best,

        Stephanie

        Posted by:

          Stephanie, these are all great ideas. A cogent, practical article for all those interested in narrating audiobooks. Keep 'em comin'!

          Posted by:

            Thank you Marc! That means a lot coming from you :)

            Best,

            Stephanie

            Posted by:

              Hi Phillippe. I read your post. I have some questions about that. Who did you record the Yoda impersonation for?? Did you record it for TomTom? Did you do an entire GPS system in the Yoda voice?? How the heck did someone get the file from you and start selling it behind your back??

              This is actually a very good question, and NOW, you know what the RECORD COMPANIES felt like in the NAPSTER AGE! It is VERY difficult to protect intellectual property from being stolen and sold in the "black market" in the age of the net.

              First of all, don't beat yourself up too badly because you may not have had rights to record that Yoda voice for profit in the FIRST PLACE as that voice CERTAINLY belongs to the creators of Star Wars. Impersonations of fictional characters for generating profits, and not for parody, violate the copyrights of the creators of those characters.

              However, assuming you weren't violating copyright laws yourself, the first step in protecting yourself would have been by registering the files that you created with the US Copyright office. Your file is automatically "copyrighted" upon completion, but unless it is registered, you cannot sue to enforce an infringement in a case such as yours. By registering, you have right under the Copyright Act to sue for willful infringement of the work where you can, among other things, asks for statutory penalties, which can be up in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

              For original characters, you can both copyright them, and trademark them in certain circumstances, to protect them from theft like you describe.

              For audiobooks, same thing applies. You can register the sound files that you create, even for a public domain work, so people can't sell your work on the "black market" without a remedy by you. Of course, this remedy is cumbersome and it takes a lot of leg work on your part to make sure people aren't in fact stealing your work, and if you need to hire an attorney, it, of course, can also become expensive as well. So, unfortunately, there is no easy solution to this potential problem in the internet age. Just ask those record companies!

              Posted by:

                Thanks for looking into it Rob. I'll give you some answers.

                1: I made that voice as a test, just to see if A, there would be a market for such things and B, to see if I was gifted. I don't regret what happened next because that's how I was able to enter the voice-over market.

                2: Yes, I did an entire system-voice in a Yoda impersonation.

                3: I did make the stupid mistake to post the voice on a message board in order to get some feedback.

                4: I didn't call it "Yoda" and I think it was different enough from the voice of Frank Oz. That the character speaks backward, help it I cannot.

                5: Isn't a funny voice for a GPS system always a parody if it sounds like a known voice?

                6: Registering with the US Copyright office is no option since I am neither a US citizen, nor living on US soil. But yes, my country has an equivalent of the US Copyright office but it is impractical to enforce copyright infringement across international borders.

                7: As I said before, I don't regret what happened with my "Yoda" voice. It gave me confidence that I could do this work and with that confidence found, I started making demo showreels, I mailed them to production companies and I have voiced many commercials and infomercials for nation-wide TV since.

                But thanks for the advise. I'm sure it's helpful for a lot of people.

                Posted by:

                  Thank you so much Stephanie. I LOVE your article. I was asking this very question a few weeks ago but didn't know where to get answers from about recording your own audiobooks. I used to teach in an elementary school and one of my old colleagues asked if I would record some bedtime stories for her PreK class for nap time. I hated to say no because of copyright issues but I had to because I was worried I might get into trouble if the discs got into the wrong hands. I will DEFINITELY look into reading the classics. I guess I could record nursery rhymes or something like that for my friend. You've made my day. Thanks!!

                  Pearl

                  Posted by:
                  • Pearl Hewitt
                  • February 18, 2009 1:26 PM

                    Hi Pearl,

                    Thank you very much for your comment and compliments! I'm glad that the article has answered your questions and inspired you to take a look at recording nursery rhymes for your friend's class. I'm certain the children will love it!

                    Best,

                    Stephanie

                    Posted by:

                      Hi Philippe! I understand better now. Let me address your questions one by one.

                      First of all, it is GREAT that something good came out of your ordeal. It sounds like that is worth its weight in gold.

                      1: I made that voice as a test, just to see if A, there would be a market for such things and B, to see if I was gifted. I don't regret what happened next because that's how I was able to enter the voice-over market.

                      Doing "test" voices is excellent, and what many voice talent do. Just be sure to take steps to PROTECT your voices so that it doesn't end up in the next PIXAR film. (I have actually heard of at least one talent where that happened!)

                      2: Yes, I did an entire system-voice in a Yoda impersonation.
                      AWESOME! Very impressive!

                      3: I did make the stupid mistake to post the voice on a message board in order to get some feedback.
                      OK, you admitted it, that wasn't smart. I tell voice over talent (and anyone for that matter) that when you post something on the internet that is not properly protected, you might as well put it up on a billboard on the side of a highway. (This is exactly how the talent got their character voices stolen as I mentioned above).

                      4: I didn't call it "Yoda" and I think it was different enough from the voice of Frank Oz. That the character speaks backward, help it I cannot.
                      GOTCHA! If the character is different enough so we wouldn't think "Hey that's Yoda" when we hear it, then you are NOT infringing Star Wars' copyright. If that is what a "reasonable person" says when they hear your voice, then you ARE infringing the copyright.

                      5: Isn't a funny voice for a GPS system always a parody if it sounds like a known voice?
                      NO!!!! This is a COMMON MISCONCEPTION!!!! A Parody is something that is done in a skit, like in Saturday Night Live and is a "fair use" under the Copyright Act. It's purpose is comedy and not profit. If the purpose of the voice for the GPS is to SELL IT and MAKE MONEY FROM IT, it is an UNPERMITTED COMMERCIAL USE and an infringement of the copyright. Clearly since the voice has been sold on ebay and is in widespread use in Europe, it is a commercial use.

                      6: Registering with the US Copyright office is no option since I am neither a US citizen, nor living on US soil. But yes, my country has an equivalent of the US Copyright office but it is impractical to enforce copyright infringement across international borders.

                      Fair enough, but you CAN register with your local Copyright office and afford yourself of the remedies available under your local Copyright Act (which may be similar to the provisions of the US Act), AND you would be protected by the terms of the Berne Convention for international protection of Copyrights.

                      7: As I said before, I don't regret what happened with my "Yoda" voice. It gave me confidence that I could do this work and with that confidence found, I started making demo showreels, I mailed them to production companies and I have voiced many commercials and infomercials for nation-wide TV since.

                      This is excellent! This reminds me of the way many recording artists got their start. It was very common in the record business where a new recording artist made hardly any money on their first albums where they made a "name" for themselves and then they made up for it in their second and subsequent albums. So, I would say you're in pretty good company!

                      Posted by:

                        Hi Rob,

                        Thank you very much for answering Philippe's question and also for going into so much detail! Greatly appreciated :)

                        Best,

                        Stephanie

                        Posted by:
                        • Stephanie Ciccarelli
                        • February 18, 2009 2:07 PM

                          S,

                          Thanks so much for your wonderful article.

                          I have always wanted to do this kind of thing more. With my theater training and voice type, it is a natural fit. You are so succinct and informative.

                          Let's continue to network and advise one another in this very weird time in our biz.

                          Truly inspiring.

                          Thanks,

                          Ellen

                          Posted by:
                          • Ellen Dubin
                          • February 18, 2009 2:29 PM

                            Hi Ellen,

                            Pleased to be on the journey with you :) Let me know when you take a chance on this!

                            Best,

                            Stephanie

                            Posted by:

                              4: I didn't call it "Yoda" and I think it was different enough from the voice of Frank Oz. That the character speaks backward, help it I cannot.

                              > GOTCHA! If the character is different enough so we wouldn't think "Hey that's Yoda" when we hear it, then you are NOT infringing Star Wars' copyright. If that is what a "reasonable person" says when they hear your voice, then you ARE infringing the copyright.

                              >> Then how come every time I hear Yoda, I think of Fozzy Bear? OK, both characters were originally voiced by Frank Oz, but Yoda is the property of Lucasfilm and Fuzzy is the property of Jim Henson's group. This is like saying that Pierce Brosnan would be infringing copyright laws if he plays a secret agent wearing a tux and holding a gun in a non-Bond movie.

                              5: Isn't a funny voice for a GPS system always a parody if it sounds like a known voice?

                              > NO!!!! This is a COMMON MISCONCEPTION!!!! A Parody is something that is done in a skit, like in Saturday Night Live and is a "fair use" under the Copyright Act. It's purpose is comedy and not profit. If the purpose of the voice for the GPS is to SELL IT and MAKE MONEY FROM IT, it is an UNPERMITTED COMMERCIAL USE and an infringement of the copyright. Clearly since the voice has been sold on ebay and is in widespread use in Europe, it is a commercial use.

                              >> So what you're telling is that the people of Saturday Night Live are not paid to perform there? That no money is made from Saturday Night Live? And that advertisers don't pay to have their commercial aired during Saturday Night Live?

                              7: As I said before, I don't regret what happened with my "Yoda" voice. It gave me confidence that I could do this work and with that confidence found, I started making demo showreels, I mailed them to production companies and I have voiced many commercials and infomercials for nation-wide TV since.

                              > This is excellent! This reminds me of the way many recording artists got their start. It was very common in the record business where a new recording artist made hardly any money on their first albums where they made a "name" for themselves and then they made up for it in their second and subsequent albums. So, I would say you're in pretty good company!

                              >> That's alright momma. ;-)

                              I have a friend in my country who is a lawyer too. And I just love the conversations I've had with him over the years. They were all conversations like this one. So I love this conversation too. But I think the one thing that must be said about the law is that unlike mathematics, law is NOT an exact science. Wouldn't you agree?

                              Posted by:

                                Nice work, Stephanie.

                                BTW.. Pat's 2 day audiobook master class is AMAZING. I know it's pricey ($1400?) but it's TOTALLY worth every single cent!

                                Posted by:

                                  Stephanie...

                                  As always this article is right on the money. But you forgot one very important fact...that excerpts of some of these very classics are available in the voiceover royalty free scripts that you offer here on Voices. I have already taken advantage of Mary Shelley's "Frankenstein", Ray Bradbury's "The Illustrated Man" along with a passage from the Holy Bible. Now there's a classic!

                                  Posted by:

                                    Thanks for this fab article Stephanie. You are really a star. And thanks for your great advice Rob -- you gave me a lot of things for which I can be on the alert.

                                    I'm editing an audiobook now....what a great idea that my shop can be one of my venues. cool!

                                    Oh, I'm not in the area to study with Pat, but I do have his Billion $ Read CD and book, and have studied religiously with that, as well as with teachers here in England. Pat rocks! :D

                                    Cheers all...

                                    Posted by:

                                      Excellent ideas! I've done voice over work for several audio book publishers and love it. They take a lot of time to do, but long term and ongoing work is always great for a voice talent!

                                      -Jason

                                      Posted by:

                                        This was exceptionally good. I have been trying to get my voice out there and this looks like the way that might work the best for me. I am a trained actor and I love to do cold readings. Thanks for the article and thanks to all the remarkably generous VO talent that are so willing to share their knowledge. Amazing!
                                        Michael

                                        Posted by:
                                        • Michael Maurice
                                        • February 21, 2009 5:33 PM

                                          Great piece and excellent info.... and also very timely for me to read this today. I am registered here at Voices but have not been able to pursue it any further until recently. I am in the process of narrating a number of my own novels and short stories with the aim of selling them as MP3 downloads... so it was timely to know about your store here and I will be contacting you guys in the near future with a few questions.
                                          Thanks for posting this.

                                          Posted by:

Leave a Comment



Recent Articles

Clear Channel Rebranding Reshapes Radio's Future

Apple App Store Video Preview Is A Gamechanger

Don't Ignore Your Vocal Health

Microsoft Buying Minecraft Creator Will Drive Mobile Voice

The 3 Things Voice Pros Can Learn From Sir Jony Ive

Don Pardo's Final Voice Lesson

iPhone 6, 6 Plus & Apple Watch: Studio On The Go for Voice Pros

Apple iWatch Could Drive Voice Over Market

How Localization Unlocks Business Growth Potential

Are You a Self-Made Voice Over Actor?

   

Translation Services

Professional Translation Services

Looking for professional translation? Voices.com Translations is provides language services including translation and localization to help you expand into new markets

Get a quote on translation services

Subscribe by Email

About Vox Daily

Vox Daily offers a daily dose of voice acting news, articles, tutorials, interviews, intelligent conversation and business ideas for voice talent and voice actors.


Follow Us

   

Our feed & social options update you with special offers and news as it happens.

New YouTube Video

Watch videos on YouTube