That question is about as open ended as a question gets, of course. In this case, the “why” I’m addressing has to do with how I got to this place, 30 plus years later, doing voiceovers for a living.
Why? Because, honestly, I have to.
This work doing voiceovers for audiobooks and documentaries and eLearning and radio imaging and television commercials and lots of other stuff that spins in a myriad of directions is exactly what I was born to do. Since I was a little boy I have enjoyed telling stories. Sometimes they are my own. Most of the time, they come from someone else. But the beauty and the power of the story are just as real, no matter who creates it. The joy, at least for me, is in the telling of the story.
I have tried lots of other pursuits, lots of other occupations. Nothing else, for me, has the soul satisfying “rightness” that doing voiceovers does.
May you find the same kind of satisfaction and delight in your work.
This blog has been quiet for a while. Life and work have both been busy. The summer has been full of family activity. But the main reason I haven’t written is because for some time, I’ve been trying to find a more satisfying way to post that doesn’t involve logging in to my blog and using the built-in editor in WordPress.
Don’t get me wrong. I like WordPress. But I’m not thrilled with the built-in editor. Today I’ve decided to give ScribeFire another chance. It was acting flaky for me a while back, but hopefully it’s back to being stable.
There has been one event in the last week that has also given me pause, but in a good way.
A year ago I drove my son Eric to college for his freshman year at Concordia University Nebraska. It was an experience quite different from a few years earlier when I drove my oldest child, Karen, to her freshman year in Point Park University. When I took Karen to school it was still in the same Pittsburgh area where we live.
But the trip with Eric took over 14 hours each way. He was going to school a long way from home.
And a week ago, I made the same trip with our middle son David. Of course, it was a different experience than my time with Eric. They are each unique individuals. But both trips were a wonderful time to talking and listening to music and sometimes just cruising along in companionable silence.
Both Eric and David have worked for me in the time before they left for school, so along with the bittersweet experience of saying “good-bye” as I drove away from campus each time, there was also the certainty that I would have to find new solutions to the way I work.
Not a problem, really. But something that is now different.
But, it’s all good. I’m so glad to see Karen growing her own business these last several years. And equally glad to see Eric and David starting to make their own way in the world.
Now, it’s time to close this missive and get some rest as I prepare to tackle a couple more audiobooks and whatever else lies in store in the coming weeks and months.
Have a wonderful weekend. I will write again soon, I promise.
I’ve written many times over the last few years about what a transformative experience Faffcon has been and continues to be. As the unconference for working pro voiceover talent, it’s a gathering of people who are serious about their work in voiceover, but who also understand how to have fun. I’ve been to every one and will be there in Tucson, AZ in September for number 7.
The thing is, Faffcon is hard to get in to. There’s a limit of 100 who are allowed to register each time. You have to be working pro voice talent and pass the vetting process. It sells out lightning fast. (Faffcon 7 was full before the pre-registration for those who had all ready reserved their hotel rooms was done.)
About a year and a half ago, the first Faff Camp was held in Charlotte, NC. Unlike Faffcon, Faff Camp has no limit on the number of people who can attend and while working pro voices are encouraged to attend, you can be as new to voiceover as can be and still attend Faff Camp. In fact, there’s a track specifically for those just getting started.
I was there in Charlotte and I will tell you honestly I wasn’t sure beforehand if I would like it. I love the Faffcon experience so much, I wasn’t sure if Faff Camp would reflect the experience I had grown to love so much. But it did. Wonderfully. My expectations were blown away.
However, Faff Camp, as fun as it was, represented a huge risk. Faff Camp needed to have a certain number of people attend the event in order to just break even. It was great fun, an excellent learning experience, but for those in charge it was a significant challenge. So, no one knew if there would ever be a second Faff Camp.
The good news is (as you may have all ready heard) there is going to be a Faff Camp II, this time in San Antonio, TX, March 20 – 22, 2015. The initial Kickstarter-style registration is going on now. If enough people register by Friday of this week (yes, that’s just a couple of days away) then Faff Camp II will happen. If enough don’t register, then everyone gets a refund and Faff Camp II doesn’t happen.
So, here’s the deal. If you would like to get a $25 discount off the initial registration price of $375, use this promo code: VT9071887
When you do, you’ll get $25 off your registration and I will receive a $25 rebate off of mine. Just go to the Faff Camp II site and click the orange “Register!” button. I hope to see you in San Antonio next March!
By the way, as an additional incentive, while this initial registration is $375, that fee will rise to $449 on July 12, 2014. So, click one of the Faff Camp II links above, put in that promo code and I look forward to seeing you there!
June is Audiobook Month and again this year I’m taking part in the Summer Shorts series of blog releases. Spoken Freely, a group of more than 40 professional narrators, has teamed with Going Public and Tantor Media to celebrate June is Audiobook Month (JIAM) by offering Summer Shorts ’14, an audio collection of poetry, short stories and essays. All proceeds from sales of the collection will go to ProLiteracy, a national literacy outreach and advocacy organization.
Throughout June 2014, 1-2 stories, poems and essays will be released online each day via Going Public, as well as on various author and book blogs. As a “Thank you!” to listeners, pieces will be available for free online listening on their day of release. As a bonus for those who purchase the full collection from Tantor Media in support of ProLiteracy, there are over 20 additional tracks only available via the compilation download.
The story tells of a future world where one man regains his hearing after a lifetime of silence. But is he better off? Copyright is held by Jeremy Robinson. Recorded with permission.
Ever since his first play at thirteen (his mother still has the bellhop costume), Jeffrey Kafer has been an avid performer on the stage and in voice-overs. He has narrated over one hundred books spanning all genres and won the 2008 Voicey Award for Best New Voice.
Last night my lovely wife Cinda and I dressed in our finest and headed off to the New York Academy of Music for the 2014 Audies Gala. It was going to be a fun evening no matter what happened, because we don’t often have an excuse to do this sort of event.
We hopped into the cab called for us by the doorman at our New York hotel and rode the several blocks to the site of the gala. All went smoothly on our trip. Actually a little too smoothly. We arrived 20 minutes before we were supposed to. Ah, the trials of trying to out guess rush hour traffic in Manhattan!
The folks at the New York Academy of Music were nice enough to provide Cinda and me with a place to relax while we waited for the registration desk to be set up. 15 minutes or so later they were ready and we checked in at the desk. Yes, our names were on the guest list!
We then joined the crowd going to the pre-Gala reception on the third floor. Lovely and delicious foods of various ethnic origins were provided along with a wide selection of beverages for every taste.
After a very pleasant time of chatting with old friends and making a few new ones, we all went back down to the main floor and the auditorium for the main event.
The president of the Audio Publishers Association, Michele Cobb, introduced the host for the evening, the very talented Libba Bray; who provided plenty of laughs as well as kept things moving from one award announcement to the next.
About 30 minutes into the awards announcements we came to the category where I was nominated, Business/Educational. After reading through the nominees, the winner was announced. I believe I will remember that moment for the rest of my life. My book, Leadership Secrets of the Salvation Army, was the title read as the winner. Here is a list of all of the 2014 Audies winners. You’ll find my entry part way down the page on the left side.
I don’t have a copy of the official award winner photo taken at the close of the Gala yet, but here is a photo of me holding the award with actress and voice talent Pam Tierney.
Pam was kind enough to take time from her schedule to work as my director for this book. Also providing invaluable help were my son Eric Souer as my audio editor and my daughter Karen Souer as proofer.
By the way, you can find detailed coverage of the 2014 Audies Gala on the APA website (link is PDF) and on John Florian’s excellent VoiceOverXtra.
This is an ongoing project of course, since there are a LOT of links in my blogroll; but I’ve removed a few broken links today. I’ve also added one link to my blogroll, that of the voiceover blog from Jason McCoy.
Whether you have seen the news somewhere else your not, I want to be sure to let you know that Faffcon 7 is coming September 18-21, 2014 in Tucson, AZ. All the details are on the Faffcon site. See you in Tucson in September!
My friend Andi Arndt has written a wonderful post called The Sound of Life about wrestling with whether or not to add an isolation booth to her toolkit as a narrator. I think you’ll find it well worth a few minutes of your time.
I have been reading the Monday Morning Memo by Roy H. Williams since 1997. If you don’t get it in your inbox every Monday, I encourage you to sign up. The insights are well worth the few minutes of your week, and then some.
Today’s memo is about the value of failure. As I read it, I started thinking about my long journey from worker bee to full time voice talent in a new way. Yes, it took me 26 years to finally make that transition in 2009. Yes, I had lots of opportunities along the way to make that transition at an earlier point in my life, and each of those times I failed to pull the trigger and ride the bullet.
But, now I realize that each of those failures helped me better prepare for when I made the transition. Everyone, no matter at what level they operate has bumps and bruises along the way. Don’t imagine that your journey is going to smooth out one you hit your stride and start doing voiceover full time.
And of course, in the world of voiceover, there are loads of auditions we don’t book. Plenty of connections and contacts that don’t lead to anywhere. So, are you going to take each of these “failures” in stride and keep moving? Or are they going to derail you?
You may have seen at least one of the free videos that Dan O’Day and David H. Lawrence XVII have done in advance of their ACX Master Class, so you probably know by now if recording audiobooks is appealing to you. Registration closes at midnight, Friday, February 7, 2014. In other words, just a little more than 24 hours after I post this, and probably less than 24 hours from the time you’re reading this.
The first class will be Monday, so if you want to take part, register.
As I’ve mentioned a couple of times now, Dan O’Day and David H. Lawrence, XVII are going to be presenting a Master Class on ACX soon. Before that, however, Dan is releasing some free videos about audiobook narration, of which this is the third. It’s chock full with solid information, much of it from people who are actually successfully narrating audiobooks.
Dan O’Day has released the second of his videos about audiobook narration. As I mentioned a few days ago, Dan will soon be presenting an ACX Master Class for those who want to make better use of the ACX site in building their voiceover business.
In this second video Dan reveals the mystery audiobook expert with whom he is presenting this class. Honestly, I was all ready pretty interested in what Dan would offer in this class, but after watching this video I am even more interested than I all ready was.
A couple of years ago I wrote a post about how building a voiceover business is a lot like farming. You have to cultivate the ground, plant seeds, till the weeds, wait, pray for rain, wait some more and then you get to harvest. And then start all over again. Constantly.
Today, Seth Godin amplifies and clarifies the point of that farming analogy with blog post Gradually and then suddenly. It’s a post well worth a moment of your time to read and several of them to consider.
Oh, one other parallel between farming and voiceover? And this one I know in my bones because I grew up as a farm kid in North Central Minnesota: it’s a lot of hard work.
Yet at the same time voiceover is much better than working for a living.
I enjoy narrating audiobooks a great deal and have had a narrator listing on ACX since the day it went live. Maybe you’ve been thinking about starting to work in the audiobook field or you’ve put your listing up on ACX, but so far nothing is happening for you. Well, my friend Dan O’Day is about to do some teleseminars on audiobooks and he’s releasing a series of free videos to help you get a better handle on exactly what’s involved and to decide if taking part might be right for you.
My friend Philip Banks posted some cogent thoughts on the VO-BB earlier this week. I’ve quoted him here because not everyone will click through on the link and you really do need to see this:
1 -Stop comparing the Neumann U87 with any $150 mic from China and then asking for opinions.
2 – Stop comparing the MKH416 with the Neumann U87
3 – Stop debating whether or not P2P sites work
4 – Stop finding alternatives to ISDN
5 – Stop working on your brand, you don’t know what that means
6 – Stop linking to your blog, post your ill-informed opinions here
7 – Stop looking for yet another agent
8 – Stop trying to sound like the VO you admire
9 – Stop trying to find YET another VO Coach
10 – Stop asking other out of work VOs how to get more work
11- Stop giving advice to other out of work VOs on how to get work
12- Stop arguing with VOs who are at the top of the game
13- Stop believing other VOs who claim to be at the top of their game
14- Stop attending VO mixers until you’ve replaced the batteries in your Bullsh*t detectors
15- Stop telling potential clients how you sound and what you can do and let them decide
16- Stop following and start to lead
17- Stop apologising for your rate
18- Stop competing with others and start selling you; you’ll own the market
19- Stop aiming low
20- Stop giving yourself such a hard time, you’re doing fine.
Now you’ve cleared the decks that leaves you free in 2014 to do all the things you’ve been avoiding which lead to jobs and pay days. You will be amazed how much progress you’ll make in a relatively short period of time.
I wish you all prosperity in heart, body and bank account for 2014.
Thank you for reading, commenting and sharing The Voiceover Boblog. I’ve been writing this blog for nearly 9 years now and I am truly grateful for your kind attention.
The vast majority of the time I try to write about things other than my own voiceover work, because while this blog is about my take on voiceover, it’s not specifically a showcase for my own performances. However, this recent ad from nTelos Wireless is so much fun I just had to share it with you.
Living as I do in the Pittsburgh, PA area I run across things related to Fred Rogers and Mr. Rogers Neighborhood all the time. If you don’t know who he is, click here and you’ll see who I’m talking about. He was truly a wonderful human being and the quote I ran across recently I’m calling my quote of the year, because it so beautifully captures one of my core life principles.
“Love isn’t a state of perfect caring. It is an active noun like “struggle.” To love someone is to strive to accept that person exactly the way he or she is, right here and now – and to go on caring even through times that may bring us pain.” – Fred Rogers
My middle son David was recently one of the performers in his high school talent show. He did a beautiful job singing “You’re A Mean One Mr. Grinch” from the “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” movie.
But while I am very proud of the job my son did, what got this post started rolling around in my head was watching the entire evening and observing the wide range of talent displayed. From a drum duet to a baton twirling act, there was something different happening every few minutes.
One of my observations has to do with the interesting clash between the apparent popularity of a given performer and the quality of the actual performances. For example, one singer who was clearly one of the popular kids based on the way the audience reacted before the song began, was flat about half of the song; meanwhile another singer who garnered a much more tepid reaction from the audience absolutely nailed her performance.
Thinking about the evening, I started with the observation that it’s inevitable any talent show featuring high school students is going to have a wide variety of talent levels demonstrated. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that this isn’t just true about high school talent shows, it applies to the whole of life including our work in voiceover.
Each of us has categories of work where we shine most brightly and others where the light isn’t quite so sharp. Does this mean we should only do the stuff at which we’re best? That’s one way to go for sure, but I would submit it’s not the only one.
From the most polished to the least, each act I saw in my son’s talent show was presented with real passion and a desire to please the audience. And more important, by someone who pushed past his or her fears to get on the stage and perform. So, don’t fence yourself into a pen that’s artificially small. Stretch your wings. Take a chance. And then another.
You might land on your face and end up feeling foolish. So what? You took a risk. And that puts you miles ahead of the masses who never get past their fears. Who never step into the spotlight and let it all hang out.
In the last 150 plus years, there have been a few periods of madness in the USA that were called a “gold rush.” The most famous was the California gold rush in the middle of the 19th century.
As you may or may not know, there were only a relatively few people who actually struck riches during any of these gold rushes. No, the people who most consistently made good money were the merchants who supplied the miners with tools and supplies. And at the time there were no certification bodies for safety or quality. So, when buying a pick or axe or shovel, the miner was on his own to determine if it was of an appropriate quality to do the work and last long enough to actually get some results.
So what does this mini history lesson have to do with voiceover?
In the last few years, there’s been quite a rush into voiceover. I can’t count the number of emails, calls and other messages I’ve received from people who have heard that there’s “good money in voiceover.” Here’s a quick thought on that subject before I continue:
“Voiceover is a great way to make a living, but it’s a terrible way to make a living quickly.” – Bob Souer
Look, voiceover is a business so, yes, you need to pay attention to making money. But, it’s also art. So, if you’re in voiceover just to make money, there are probably a lot better avenues to pursue. It’s a long, hard slog to build your business to the point that you can make a living doing just voiceover work. Only a tiny fraction of all the people who start out to make a career in voiceover ever make any real money at it. A very tiny fraction.
Meanwhile, you’ll find loads of folks with “advice” or seminars or workshops on how to make money in voiceover. I have no fear of being wrong when I advise you to run in the opposite direction from anyone who wants to sell you something or some plan to help you make money in voiceover.
There are many legitimate coaches. But there are a host of people more interested in separating you from your hard-earned money than they are in actually helping you make any real progress toward your goal of working in voiceover. I sincerely wish this were not true, but it is. Be very careful who you start studying with. Ask questions. Here’s one: What are the names of 5 people who have studied with you who are now working full-time in voiceover?
Assuming you get the names, contact these individuals and ask them about their experiences.
The coaches with whom I’ve studied have my explicit permission to use my name and share my contact information. I’m happy to give an honest evaluation about my experiences. And I do.
When you find a coach who is helping people actually make a living in voiceover, and you’ve talked with several students, then go for it. The money you invest (assuming you’re willing to do the work to actually learn and put into practice what you’re learning) will pay substantial returns in the long run.
I’ve had several ideas for blog posts floating around in my head for weeks now, but between one thing and another it’s been way too easy to put off actually writing anything. But today’s blog post by Seth Godin called Not a gift has kicked me off my “stuck” and into action. Seth makes such a solid point about how the attributes we admire and desire in others, which we often describe as being gifts are in fact attitudes and not gifts. People aren’t born generous, honest, or thoughtful. Those and a host of other qualities are attitudes, not gifts. And we can choose to have positive and helpful attitudes or we can choose not to have them.
One of the very best things about Faffcon is the people you get to meet, learn from, and with whom you get to spend some time. At Faffcon 6 in San Antonio almost a month ago, one of the people I got to meet was Melissa Moats. Just today I discovered Melissa has a voiceover blog so I’ve added her to my blogroll.
For a couple of years now, it’s been a delight working with the San Francisco Giants. They’ve just released a terrific documentary called Homegrown Giants. I hope you enjoy watching because the stories of the people involved are terrific whether you’re a baseball fan or not.