Yes, it’s February, but I wanted to take a moment and look back at 2013. What a year! I thought I’d take a moment (or several) to look back on 2013, pause and reflect on my first year as a full-time voice talent.
Setting the Stage
Before January 1, 2013 I was a software developer in my “real life”. I was really good at it and even a year after leaving that behind I get daily emails and calls from recruiters, as the skills I built up in that field were not the most common. Voice acting was my passion, but it was something I did on the side, in the evenings and on the weekends. I’d been doing it for a couple of years, and had several audiobooks to my credit, as well as a few small gigs here and there for commercials, corporate narrations and the like. I really wanted to make the jump to full-time but never really had the right confluence of circumstances, until the end of 2012.
In December of 2012, I was incredibly fortunate to be approached by Tantor Audio to do a couple of audiobooks. It was a serendipitous moment, as I had been contemplating how I could pull off such a move for some time. My wife has complications from a stroke and requires some assistance in her day-to-day life, and although I’d left my job at Microsoft for one closer to home (the commute was murderous) to give her that assistance, it was becoming clear that the best solution for us would be for me to be able to work out of the house.
My career in software was coming to a close, and a new one was opening up.
Of course, I was aware that changing careers in such a dramatic fashion at age 43 was going to be a challenge. I was leaving two decades of skills and experience behind to become an actor, for cryin’ out loud. Who does that? And on top of that I was going into audiobook narration, not just VO.
It was a crazy choice, but it was the right one ultimately. I ventured into a new world of running my own business and all that comes with it, but I was very lucky to have a lot of great people to rely on for their assistance and advice. I can tell you that it was simultaneously the most frustrating, stressful and exciting year of my life. I’m glad I did it, but I’m glad it’s over, and I’m looking forward to 2014 with great anticipation.
The Year in Review
In 2013, I recorded thirty audiobooks- you can find them on Audible. Several of them are in post-production, but I’m counting them because the recording was done in 2013. I feel like that was a pretty good number for a year’s work by a new narrator- I don’t have any statistics on how many books most narrators do when starting out, but I’m pretty sure that thirty is a solid outing.
For 2014, my goal is sixty. During the middle of 2013 there was a bit of a slump where I had few books to work on, and I’ve streamlined my production processes to the point where I can produce about twice as much audio per day as I did at the beginning of the year. New tools and software have helped out there too. Between all of these things I would be comfortable saying I could get to that goal (although when I consider it, I should perhaps frame it in terms of time instead of number of titles because books vary in length so wildly).
For now, sixty is a good target, taking the assumption that most will be of similar length to what I’ve done previously. We’ll see how I do by the end of 2014!
This year has had some truly amazing experiences associated with it for me.
First on the list is being featured on the Audiobook Creation Exchange Blog as a finalist for Guy Kawasaki’s book APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur (I did a couple of blog entries on it). While I didn’t get the job, my audition landed me in a small group of finalists, who were all featured on the ACX blog. What an incredible honor that was!
I was also fortunate to be able to attend the Audio Publisher’s Association conference in New York during 2013. That was an amazing experience and one I will not soon forget. It was incredible to be able to meet and talk with so many top-flight narrators and producers in one place. Not to mention being in New York and able to play tourist a little!
A few of the books I narrated this year stand out as projects I’m extremely proud of. Here’s a short list of some of my favorites from 2013.
- Black Hearts: One Platoon’s Descent Into Madness in Iraq’s Triangle of Death, by Jim Frederick (Link). This was the first book I narrated in what would become one of my specialties- military history. It was quite a challenge for me in some ways, because in my time in the military, I served in a unit almost identical to the one chronicled in the book, and it brought up a lot of memories. I’m grateful to the wonderful people at Tantor Audio for choosing me to narrate this important book.
- Thunder Below!: The USS Barb Revolutionizes Submarine Warfare in World War II, by Admiral Eugene B. Fluckey (Link). Another military history book, this is one of my best-reviewed and selling titles. I had a lot of fun recording this one. I mean, a grown man standing in a room making dive klaxon sounds and shouting “CLEAR THE BRIDGE! BATTLE STATIONS TORPEDOES!” and “DIVE! DIVE!”, and so forth- it was like being in a movie. I felt like a kid, but the story was true!
- 1940: FDR, Willikie, Lindbergh, Hitler- The Election Amid the Storm, by Susan Dunn (Link). Another history title, this one was a remarkable foray into a part of US history I wasn’t very familiar with- the turmoil in the country in the late 1930s to 1940, culminating in the last election before the Pearl Harbor attack. Many people are familiar with what happened after Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, but not as many (myself included) knew what went on before that time, and 1940 was quite a watershed year. This was a really wonderful book to be able to narrate.
2014 Is Looking Good!
Although we’re into February already, 2014 is shaping up to be a great year for me, and I’m incredibly excited to see what happens this year. My goals include expanding the number of publishers I work with and doing at least sixty books this year, up from 2013′s thirty books.
Here’s to 2014!