I’m a voice actor, working primarily in narrating audiobooks. I mostly narrate for various publishing houses that cast actors for books, but occasionally take on projects independently.
On the whole, it’s a very fun and creative field of work, but unfortunately, many authors (even experienced ones) have no FREAKING CLUE about what goes into producing an audiobook. It’s a time-consuming, rigorous business that requires lots of stamina and concentration from the actor, and very meticulous editing, mixing, and mastering by the producer. I, like many narrators, often narrate AND produce the book altogether.
One particular author was just so narcissistic and delusional that I just had to share.
Client: I really like your audition – we’ll definitely discuss the fact that the voice for [minor character] was way off-base, but overall, solid work. I’d like you to narrate the book!
I rolled my eyes at the “way off-base” comment, but I shrugged it off and start a dialogue.
Me: Glad you liked it! I typically charge between $XXX and $XXX per finished hour for a book of this word count.
Side note: “per finished hour” refers to the final, edited running time of the book, since raw audio might contain extraneous sounds, such as the narrator taking a sharp breath or swallowing, cough, etc). That final number multiplied by the rate one quotes equals the final pay.
Client: I only offer 70/30 royalty share deals to narrators (that’s 70% for him, 30% for me), which I think is more than reasonable. But it will be lucrative for you – I have a large following and got many good reviews on my last novel.
I checked social media, only to discover that his website domain resulted in a “404 Not Found” error, and he only has 83 Twitter followers and his page was mostly just re-tweets of philosophical quotes. So no following, most likely no sales.
Me: I’m sorry, I unfortunately cannot accept projects on a strictly royalty-share basis. It’s too great a risk for the amount of work that will go into the project. I hope you understand. I really do like the story, so if you’d be at all willing to agree to a flat rate buyout, I will gladly take on the project.
Client: Okay, first of all, there are way too many overly-entitled narrators out there who expect to be paid to just sit in a chair behind a microphone and read a book out loud. I read out loud to my children every night before bed – do I expect someone to pay me to do that? Second, this is probably going to become a movie. I’ve already started drafting a screenplay and will be pitching it to some producers. I can envision Jon Hamm playing the lead role. I was hoping to establish a working relationship with a narrator who would be willing to accept my fair aforementioned royalty share agreement. That is my final offer.
Me: I really am sorry, but I will not be able to commit to the project on those terms. I wish you the best in your endeavors.
I figured that was the end of it. Then, three weeks later:
Client: I have decided on another narrator. Had you accepted the offer, I might have been willing to let you do the opening narration of the movie version when the time came.
Note: This exchange happened 3 years ago. To this day I still haven’t seen the audiobook anywhere online. Hopefully whatever narrator he chose saw the light and bailed.