If I were new to and in lust with this business, and I was like, ‘Okay, let’s cut the crap, what’s it going to take do this for real,’ here is the first thing I would want someone to explain.
- There are these big, huge publishing companies, called the Top Five. They are: Hachette, Penguin Random House, Harper Collins, MacMillan, and Simon + Schuster. Narrating for these folks is where the money is. They pay big bucks for narrating, and once you’re in with one, you can branch into the others.
But you can’t get there right now. They are busy and filled to the brim with folks. So how do we get there?
- There are these other, really big publishing companies: Tantor, Blackstone, Brilliance, and other folks:
And ha ha HA HA HA , they won’t take you, either. And no, you don’t need an agent, because God is being awesome and narrators don’t need agents. So what do you need?
- There are other, more indie companies, like Dreamscape, Blunderwoman, and new ones popping up all the time.
THEY WON’T TAKE YOU, EITHER. FORGET IT.
- One thing works to get you sustainable, and only one thing, and a lot of it, and it sucks because it’s totally expensive: coaching with a real coach who’s already in with the top five. NOW SHUSH. Swat down the demons in your head and shush.
There’s no way around it, people. You can audition your little buttcheeks off on ACX, you can make a shiny happy profile on Findaway Voices, you can narrate 36 audiobooks and voice robocalls until you call yourself, but ain’t nothin’ gonna budge until you have a coach who is a big name in the industry and that coach writes a note to their big five contacts saying how awesome you are and gets your little tiny foot in that great big door.
I don’t care if you are the incarnation of Julia Roberts. I don’t care if you’re broke. I don’t care if you got knocked up after a hockey game and wound up a single mother of hungry twins—oh wait, that’s me. You need coaching and you need to pay for it. Get a credit card, get a loan, get a grant, get an investor. This is a real job, and a real job takes investment.
There are many great coaches. Just to name a few: Johnny Heller, Hillary Huber, Jeffrey Kafer, Pat Fraley, Carol Monda, Paul Reuben, Steven Jay Cohen, Karen Commins, J Michael Collins, Sean Allen Pratt. Some of them are more for audiobooks, some more for commercial work, for animation—shout out to Lisa Biggs, for example. You scrape up the money, learn about these folks in social media or conferences and get yourself a coach. You can meet on Skype or Zoom or FaceTime or whatever.
This brings up the location issue. You don’t have to be in New York City or Los Angeles. But it helps. That’s where many agents are, a ton of the conferences, networking, and the big studios. For animation—unfortunately—you kinda need to live in Los Angeles. People live without it, but it’s hard. Basically for animation they need all of the actors to be in the same room. As audiobooks do more “full cast” work, uggers—us little Midwesterners have to tread more to keep up. But cream rises to the top…if cream works very hard.
Now in the meantime, there are all kinds of things you can do to get the wheels turning. And I know, because I’ve spent the last 2.5 years doing them. And I’ll share those triumphs and skidmarks to the face next time. Love you.