100 auditions later. . .

When I began trying to break into the business of voice acting (or maybe that’s “voice-acting”) in early 2018, after getting my basic equipment set up (that will be another blog post) I started auditioning for titles that interested me on the Audiobook Creation Exchange website (ACX.com). ACX is where the rights-holders of books—typically the authors—look for someone to narrate their audiobooks.

The book’s title and author are listed, followed by the basics a prospective narrator needs to know: Estimated Length, Project Budget (more about this in a later post), Word Count, Language, Distribution, and Territories (US or World). There’s usually a short paragraph or two describing the book, then its
Genre (Fiction, Non-fiction, Biography, Memoir, etc.), Gender (Male or Female narrator, if there’s a preference), Character Age, Accent (if any), Vocal Style. There are sometimes links to the book’s page on Amazon, and an Amazon rating.

The title’s Audition page will typically post a short audition script. This is usually either the beginning of the book, or selected pages that represent different qualities they want a narrator to be able to bring to the project. It’s the audiobook equivalent of being asked for “your best 16 bars” for a music theatre audition, except that in this case, it’s expected that you’ll sing something “from the show.” ACX asks that these audition audio files be no more than five minutes in length; sometimes an author uploads the entire manuscript, and I’m on my own to pick five minutes I think will give them what they want to hear from a narrator.

So into the “recording studio” I go. At first, I used the guest room in our house, where I had deconstructed some moving boxes and stapled egg-carton foam onto them to make a portable, sound-proofed “fort” for myself. Inside it was my MacBook Pro and a Blue Yeti USB microphone.

Recording and editing one of these 5-minute auditions takes probably 10-15 minutes, at most. Let’s assume (for a laugh) that I read it perfectly the first time. That’s 5 minutes, plus another 5 minutes to listen to it. If it wasn’t perfect, add maybe 5 minutes for selected re-takes of a few sentences, and editing out any barking dogs, throat clearings, etc., and then converting it from the original *.WAV format to *.MP3, the format typically requested for audiobooks.

Then I attach the audio file to an email to the rights-holder and wait. My 9th audition through ACX resulted in my first contract, the short story, “The Handlers” by Maria K. So far I have auditioned for 42 titles; 5
resulted in offers and 1 is still pending.

About a year into this, encouraged by my 5 projects with ACX, I signed up with Voices.com, a website that finds voice actors for a variety of projects, mostly not audiobooks. They can be practically anything: public service announcements, commercial voice-overs (both online and broadcast), telephone help menus, characters for video games. The biggest difference between these jobs and audiobooks is that these tend to be a much
shorter commitment—perhaps a 50-word, 30-second spot, or a 2-minute commercial—and a much higher rate of pay. (Again, more about that in a later post.)

As of yesterday I have auditioned for 60 of these jobs and been offered none. All told, I have auditioned for just over 100 jobs and been awarded 5 of them. While I am fairly certain that I have not auditioned for that many
singing/acting gigs in my entire performing career, it’s also true that these 100+ auditions were significantly easier than getting dressed nicely and driving to a rehearsal room or auditorium or theatre or church basement somewhere and singing for a handful of people who are sitting at a cafeteria table looking interested or disinterested.

The last time I was looking for full-time employment, 1991-1992, I think I sent out perhaps 25-30 résumés, and had a handful of auditions—I mean interviews. (The job I eventually got, at which I worked for almost 25 years, I found listed in the print version of the Washington Post. But then, I’m dating myself!) In the current economy, I have read about people sending out literally hundreds of résumés and getting 1 or 2 interviews.

I am interested in hearing about your experiences, whether in the “traditional” job market or the performing arts. Please leave a comment below.

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