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Home » Podcast Episodes » The Dogs of Mexico Audiobook |061

The Dogs of Mexico Audiobook |061

by Tommy G. Kendrick

The Dogs of Mexico
(0:44:47)
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From The Novel To The Audiobook

John J AsherFrom the novel to the audiobook. That’s the journey we’re taking in this episode. If you are an actor who wants to explore audiobook narration but don’t know where to start, this episode will hopefully give you some information you can use.

In this episode I’ll be talking with my good friend John Jones. In the interview you’ll hear me refer to him as John J Asher. That is his pen name.

As John J Asher he has written a collection of short stories called Stories From Separation, Texas and the novels A Dignified Exit, Yellow Mesquite and The Dogs of Mexico. All of these works can be found at his website, JohnJAsher.com or on his author’s page on Amazon.

This episode is a bit different in that it was not recorded via a Skype interview, it was recorded in person in John’s home. Other than the intro and outro to this episode, all audio was recorded live on a Zoom H4N portable recorder.

A Little Backstory

John grew up in West Texas, in a town of about three hundred. His earliest artistic inclinations were not toward writing but drawing and painting. John tells me in the interview that he was always drawing and sketching as a youngster, even in the Baptist Hymnal at church. His favorite subjects to draw: Guns. Maybe he was just preparing for some of the action scenes he would much later write in THE DOGS OF MEXICO.

john j asher books

From west Texas, John journeyed to Southeast Texas to the Golden Triangle, though I’m not sure that’s what it was called in those says. He worked at the refinery in the Beaumont-Pt. Arthur area and continued to draw. John met several local artists including Lynn Sweat with whom he remains friends to this day.

With layoffs happening at the refinery, John took the opportunity to take a severance from that job and head to New York. There he worked as an artist and illustrator. After having completed a significant number of paintings, John approached several New York galleries and made some promising connections. While waiting for an upcoming show that would showcase his work, John lost all of his paintings, over 50 in number, and collection of art books in a house fire.

The fire took a toll on John’s aspirations in the art world. He spent the next several years designing and building a new house on the site where his house and all his paintings had burned.

John continued to work as an illustrator for many years in New York and later in Austin, Texas where he now lives and writes.

 The Dogs of Mexico

Audiobook Production at Home

I have talked and written previously about my interest in narrating audiobooks. I believe I’ve also mentioned some of the challenges associated with producing and narrating audiobooks.

The challenges can seem quite daunting. I know that for a fact. It was contemplating these seemingly endless challenges that kept narrating as a ‘bucket list’ item rather than a reality for far too long.

Let me give you an idea of what is required by ACX, the Audiobook Creation Exchange, to produce acceptable audio:

AUDIO SUBMISSION REQUIREMENTS – FROM THE ACX SITE

Audiobooks uploaded to ACX must adhere to the following requirements. The ACX Quality Assurance team may reject titles that do not meet these standards, and their retail release may be delayed. The following requirements help ensure customers get a great listen.

Your submitted audiobook must

    be consistent in overall sound and formatting and be comprised of all mono or all stereo files

    include opening and closing credits and a retail audio sample that is between one and five minutes long

Each uploaded audio file must

    contain only one chapter/section that’s shorter than 120 minutes and the section header must be read aloud

    have room tone at the head and at the tail and be free of extraneous sounds

    measure between -23dB and -18dB RMS and have -3dB peak values and a maximum -60dB noise floor

    be a 192kbps or higher MP3, Constant Bit Rate (CBR) at 44.1 kHz

I have to tell you it was those last two lines that stopped me in my tracks. I don’t have a proper recording studio. I don’t even have a walk-in closet available to convert into a studio like a lot of narrators use in their home recordings.

So I was pretty certain that I could not meet the ACX specifications for recording fidelity. I was so sure of it I didn’t try.

Fortunately, I was able to take a wonderful class that I have written about previously, the ACX Audiobook Master Class taught by Dan O’Day and David H. Lawrence XVII. I won’t go into more about that class here but if you are interested in knowing more, check Actors Talk Podcast Episode 58.

My Home Studio

For all of you who think you can’t record at home and get good audio because you don’t have a sound proof booth or a great walk-in closet to use, take a look at the photos below. These are photos of my ‘studio.’

Yes, The Dogs of Mexico was recorded in its entirety right there in that little space with nothing more than a few moving blankets behind and to the side and a Reflexion Filter-X behind the AT2020 USB Plus microphone plugged into an old Acer netbook I had sitting around unused.

Had I not taken the ACX Audiobook Master Class, I never would’ve had the confidence to give audiobook recording a try in my funky non-studio recording space. I’m glad I took the plunge.

Not only did my audio pass muster with ACX/Audible, it passed through quickly without even one technical glitch to fix. If I can do it, you can do it. Here’s a sample of the audio:

The Home Recording Challenge

While the audio quality I produced was acceptable to ACX, I will tell you that getting there was not easy. Not from an equipment standpoint. The equipment above together cost less than $300. No, it wasn’t the equipment that was the issue it was the lack of sound proofing.

Because I don’t have a sound proof recording space, certain adjustments had to be made.

I had to record mostly between the hours of 9pm – 2am because that’s when everyone else in the house was in bed.

I had to be able to turn off the A/C to eliminate that noise.

I had to have quiet from the neighborhood – no cars passing by. And no birds chirping.

All of those things dictated that I had to record at night. That presents a challenge as well. After working all day, a body gets tired. And a tired voice is not good for narration.

So I would typically take a nap for an hour or so in the early evening so I could be rested enough and have good vocal energy to do my nightly recording.

I was able to do some daytime recording but it was sporadic and wasn’t the greatest experience because of all the additional noise issues. Stopping and starting for cars or kids playing or, did I mention BIRDS?

Those are some of the challenges with recording at home and without a proper sound treated space. But still it is doable. I know it is because I did it.

How Is The Pay

I’ll get back to you on that.

I produced The Dogs of Mexico on what is called a Royalty Share basis. I did it that way because it was my first book and the author is a friend. If the audiobook sells, the author and I will split the royalty after Audible takes their cut. This is not likely to be a significant money-maker unless we get very lucky with sales.

Narration opportunities on ACX come with several types of payment: PFH – Per Finished Hour; RS – Royalty Share; Stipend – A form of PFH pay; and a so-called hybrid method that is part PFH and part RS.

I won’t lie. There is a lot of competition – Go figure – It’s the ACTING BIZ – when is there not a lot of competition. And it takes time to build up some credibility as a narrator. I’ve just completed book one!

I’m now in the hunt for the next “Dogs of Mexico” to add to my experience and grow my ability as a narrator.

Get The Audiobook

If you have an Audible account, check out THE DOGS OF MEXICO and see if it’s your cup of tea.

If you don’t have an Audible account use the banner link below and sign up for a 30 day free trial and get THE DOGS OF MEXICO as a free book. If you do the free trial deal, understand that you must cancel before day 30 or you will be billed $14.95 / month until and unless you cancel your subscription.

Audible Audiobooks

Note: Some links above are affiliate links. That means if you click a link and buy something I get a small commission. You won’t pay any more for the items but a commission flows this way to help support the podcast. Thank you in advance.

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The Authentic Actor with Michael Laskin | 060

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