October/November 2012

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AudiOpinion Should Some Writers Be Seen and Not Heard? Voicing their own work may not be the best choice for authors by Tom Alderman Authors like to talk about finding their literary voice—which usu- ally means they haven't sold anything yet. But I'm talking here about writers who actually have sold a book and want to hear their own voices in the audio- book edition. This might be a solution, particularly for a memoir. But for fic- tion? Even the most popular writers can stumble when it comes to narration. Take the experience of Harlan Coben, he of the delightfully enter- taining Myron Bolitar crime-solving series and bestsellers such as Stay Close, Caught, and Hold Tight. His audio publishers have used a variety of talented narrators on Coben's work, among them, Steven Weber, Dylan Baker, Carrington MacDuffie, and the melodramatic Scott Brick. For a while the Bolitar series used Jonathan Marosz, who was spot-on for Coben's cheeky, irreverent Myron. Unfortunately, Marosz was not available for the 2006 recording of Promise Me, so the author stepped in to do the narration at the publisher's urging. Not a good idea. publishers.How do you say no to a bestselling author? read can present a tricky situation for audio Writers who want to Harlan Coben is a talented, expres- sive writer, but he has an unexpressive reading voice that proved to be deadly for Promise Me. Thankfully, someone realized the mistake, and Coben as narrator has not been heard from since. Writers who want to read can present a tricky situation for audio publishers. "Audiobook listeners make their buying decisions based on the narrator," says Ana Maria Allessi, VP at Harper Audio. If that's 12 s AudioFile/ so, how do you tell a bestselling author who may have approval over the narrator, Uh, we don't think you should be the voice for your very own, very personal book?" funny, but I found it hard to tell because of the author's rapid atonal narration. Joel Stein's memoir is probably very clever and When faced with this dilemma, Allessi goes into vivid detail about how the book recording process works and the considerable stamina needed. She tells would-be narrators about being sequestered behind two tightly closed doors in a teeny-tiny room with no air-conditioning—because it's too noisy—and about being on their feet and using their voice for many hours. How many hours? For a profes- sional narrator, the ratio of recording time to finished book is generally about three to one. So if the final edited book is 10 hours in length, a pro might be in the room for 30 hours. But if you're an amateur? Jerry Maybrook of The Media Staff, a Los Angeles production studio, estimates that if you're new at it and doing a 10- hour book, you'll be stuck in a closed box for 50 hours—that's more than six 8-hour days! "And narrators are paid for the final edited length—not for time spent recording." When they hear this, says Harper's Allessi, many writers take a pass. Kay Weiss, of Minneapolis's HighBridge Audio, once had an author start reading a fiction project, and then, after a day or so, decide it was just too difficult. "He ended up backing out of the agreement to read, and we started over with a professional."

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