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Successful authors have to perform their work — whether that's reading at a book launch or literary festival, on a podcast or radio show, or even with audiobook narration. In today's show, Sean Pratt gives some tips for giving your best performance at every stage of your author journey.
In the introduction, I talk about my own challenges with health in the last week, based on overdoing it at the computer and ignoring persistent pain for too long. Don't do that!
Today's show is sponsored by my own audiobooks for authors. If you love audio, take your author career to the next level with How to Write Non-Fiction, How to Make a Living with your Writing, The Successful Author Mindset, Successful Self-Publishing, The Healthy Writer, and more. Search ‘joanna penn' on your favorite audiobook app, or request at your local library.
For samples and links, go to TheCreativePenn.com/audio
Sean Pratt has been a professional actor in theatre, film, TV, and voiceovers for 30 years and has narrated over 1000 audiobooks. He's also the author of To Be or Wanna Be: The Top Ten Differences Between a Successful Actor and a Starving Artist.
You can listen above or on iTunes or your favorite podcast app or read the notes and links below. Here are the highlights and full transcript below.
- How the audiobook industry has changed since Sean started, particularly recently
- Tips for authors who want to narrate their books or read aloud at live events
- Why writing for performance is different than writing for reading silently
- Three steps for preparing to narrate a book
- Why practicing is the best teacher of all when it comes to narration
- Thoughts on AI audio narration
- Why being flexible and adaptable is so important for freelancers
You can find Sean Pratt at SeanPrattPresents.com and on Twitter @SPPresents
Transcript of Interview with Sean Pratt
Joanna: Sean Pratt has been a professional actor in theatre, film, TV, and voiceovers for 30 years and has narrated over 1000 audiobooks.
He's also the author of To Be or Wanna Be: The Top Ten Differences Between a Successful Actor and a Starving Artist.
Sean: Thank you very much for having me. I'm excited to be here.
Joanna: It's great to have you on the show.
Tell us more about you and your journey into writing an audio book narration.
Sean: Let's start with the audiobooks. I grew up as an actor and actually started acting when I was 10 in Oklahoma City Oklahoma where I'm from. I went off to college I got my acting degree and went off to New York to become a classical theater actor.
Along the way I ran into audiobooks, I'd say around 1994. I met an actor who did them professionally when he wasn't doing theater. And one thing led to another and by 1996 I'd started narrating
Very quickly after that I almost went full-time immediately and that was 22, 23 years ago and 1000 books and I've loved it ever since. And as far as the audio books in the industry I started out narrating fiction like most narrators do. But after a while, I began to ask for more and more non-fiction, though I enjoy performing fiction as a reader, just as my own personal predilection I like to read non-fiction. I like to learn something all the time.
That's one of the key draws to nonfiction for me as a performer. That and the fact that nonfiction narration, for my money, is more difficult to do as a performer. It's more difficult to make it entertaining, which is one of the key things I teach my students, because now on top of narrating audiobooks I teach audiobook narration technique, from nonfiction as a basis, to narrators and authors pretty much around the globe.
I have students all over the world, practically. As a writer, I started teaching classes in the business of show business. Very soon after I graduated from college, when I got out of school and got to New York, I realized there was a tremendous amount of information that no one had taught me in school and frankly I was a little put off by that.
I made it my business to learn the business of show business and then I turned around and began to teach it at colleges and universities, during workshops with actor groups around the country and writing articles online. Out of that, I kept getting asked do you have any materials you can send us or show us or give us?
The seed was planted, the fire in the belly was planted to write some kind of book on getting into show business. And from my perspective, as a performer and I wanted my angle as a writer on this particular topic to be the fact that it's not talent that is the ultimate arbiter of your success, it's talent and type and tenacity. And in fact, in my book To Be or Wanna Be, I do not talk about talent as one of the top 10 differences. I don't believe it is.
And so that was the driving force behind sitting down and working my way through and writing my book.
Joanna: That's really cool. I feel like we have a lot in common then because when I came into writing back in 2006, 2007. I came from a business background and I was like Where's the information on business with authors? So I ended up writing a book called Business for Authors.
It's so funny because, like you, the craft side is full of resources and then the business side, the actual making a living, there wasn't much.
I want to ask you, after 22 years of audio narration; what are the big changes?
What’s the biggest shift you've seen between when you got started and now?
Sean: The seminal moment came with downloadable audiobooks because before then, when I first started back in the stone age, it feels like we recorded on tape and the books were put out on cassettes. Then they transitioned into CDs, but that's still a physical medium. You had to have them in your car, you can scratch them, put them in one at the time.
But when downloadable audiobooks began to happen in the early 2000s, I'm guessing if I can get my dates right, that was the moment that technology caught up with demand and it just lit a fire under everything. The number of books that have been produced on a yearly basis since then has been growing on a geometric curve to the point that I think last year, I'm going to ballpark it, something around 55 to 60,000 audiobooks were created just for the U.S. market, not counting the UK market.
And it's a three billion dollar industry now domestically in the United States. So it was that piece of it that you could put it on your phone or in your car on your iPad or on your iPod on your whatever device you have, and go for a walk or to the gym go for a drive. That accessibility changed everything.
Joanna: I think it was around 2007 when the iPhone came out, but obviously there was streaming audio before that. I remember 2007 certainly I was still downloading MP3s, synching them to my device with a cable, and then in my car, I would put a cassette in the cassette deck with a little adapter to my iPod. Do you remember that?
Sean: But it felt like magic. Didn't it didn't feel like magic?
Joanna: Yes, and then once you got the phone that became that changed things. Around 2014, podcasting really starts to take off, which is when downloadable audio on your phone became mass market.
We’re kind of at the beginning really, aren't we, when you think about how long tapes were around or people listening to stories.
This is quite a new industry.
Sean: Absolutely. When I started in ‘96 the rocket was at the launchpad getting ready to take off because there was a groundswell. They were shifting from cassettes, which only held 90 minutes of material, to CDs, which were smaller and the packaging got smaller. That was key.
And also the demand was beginning to really grow. Up until the early 90s, audiobooks as a general statement, audio was more of a marketing gimmick than what they've become now, which is a real resource for people with lots of different needs. Whether it's educational needs, learning needs or just entertainment.
Before around 1990 the publishers viewed audiobooks in the main as a marketing gimmick. So they would hire a Hollywood actor, say like Meryl Streep or somebody, to read a two-hour or four-hour version of a 12-hour book and to promote the book itself, the latest Tom Clancy or a romance novel or whatever you name it.
But then the groundswell began to happen. The demand was really starting to take off. And so I just happened to be in the right place at the right time. Suddenly, my very first clients were books on tape and Blackstone audio and now, of course, the industry has changed fundamentally there are far more audio publishers. The volume has increased exponentially. The genres they're willing to invest money in have diversified. So it's really it's just exploded from that point on.
Joanna: A couple of things after that. First of all Meryl Streep reading Tom Clancy!
Sean: That was an example. There was a book she narrative that was a romance novel or something. And I couldn't think of it at the moment.
Joanna: I was going to say I think that would be great. She’s an actor after all. She can do whatever she likes.
I did want to ask you, I feel like my own behavior has changed over the last couple of years in that I now read – and I believe it is reading is just a brain interface right now – I mainly read nonfiction in audio and I read it on 1.5x and sometimes even 2x speed.
I wondered like what your thoughts were as a narrator because obviously speed changes your performance. What you performed is not what hits my brain.
What do you think about that with nonfiction in particular?
Sean: Well, you have two issues at play here. First, it depends on what the listener wants to get out of the material. If they just want the information, like the top 10 investment strategies for 2019 or whatever, then perhaps they want to crank it up to 1.5x or 2x just to get the information okay.
Joanna: That's mainly what I do with nonfiction.
Sean: But then you have other kinds of nonfiction, whether it might be a self-help book or a memoir or a piece of history, where you actually want that performance. And so then you'll have people who will go out and listen to it at tempo or slightly faster.
One of the things that I harp on with my students’ performance all the time is this issue of tempo. A lot of narrators operate under this misguided idea that if they go a little too fast they're going to lose the listener. I disagree. Listen to you and I talking back and forth. Both really animated and into what we're talking about and the listeners will be able to follow every nuance of what we're saying. We don't have to slow down and say everything at a sort of a moderate tempo and put them to sleep.
And that's one of the reasons why they turn it up to get the speed.
I don't blame the listener. Coming from a theater background, it was beaten into us quite literally that tempo is everything. And if you don't pick up the pace of the scene and you lose the audience that's your fault as the performer for not driving the scene with energy and verve and the idea of being enthusiastic and engaging and entertaining. That's on the performer.
So I don't have any problems with it. If someone wants to turn the speed up because they don't feel they're being entertained, they want it coming in faster, that's their call. That's a part of the narration in my opinion.
Joanna: You mentioned performance there, the word performance, and you have on your book or your website, you have, “It's not reading, it's a performance.” And that to me is something that I learned from people like yourself about performance and narration.
A lot of authors and writers are petrified of this: that they might be asked at a literary festival to read from their book or whether they're narrating for actual production value. But even if it's just at a launch or something.
What are your tips for authors around reading their own material?
Sean: Do you mean live or when they work?
Joanna: Let’s say live because probably more people listening will read live than will read for audiobook narration.
Sean: I know this may sound counterintuitive, but they would do well, in all seriousness, to either take a public speaking class or an improv acting class. Something to get them on their feet and to start to perform.
The challenge is for a lot of writers, the writers that I know, tend to be introverts. So the notion of getting up in front of people, to begin with, is terrifying. So getting on your feet and taking a public speaking course or classes like Toastmasters in the United States or even something like an improvisational acting class will get them on their feet we'll get them used to expressing themselves and feeling safe doing it.
I think that's the first step is if you're just terrified of standing up in front of people to begin with, you're not going to be able to access your emotions to then perform them for that piece. That’s the first piece of advice.
Then the next step would be working with a coach. If you're going on a book launch this is really important to your career. And don't think that standing in your living room or in front of your spouse or your partner reading aloud is going to cut it. There is a certain panache to doing this. There's a certain flair.
I'm sure you've been to many readings where the one that sticks in my mind was years ago in 1992 my first wife Karen, who was an aspiring writer, took me to a series of readings in Central Park during that summer and they were four authors who were getting up to read their material. And the first three were just terrible.
They were frightened. They hadn't prepared. They thought they can get through by mumbling their way.
And then the fourth writer who came out that evening was the star of the evening it was Tom Robbins, the writer of Skinny Legs and All and Jitterbug Perfume, these wonderful pieces of fiction. Out steps this courtly southern gentleman. He had presence and he had style and he had obviously practiced that piece with someone. He knew how to perform it.
It is a performance. Writing a piece of material and performing and are mutually exclusive skills. They do not translate to each other. And unfortunately for many authors part of their selling process of marketing their product they have to become a performer.
So really those basic ideas; they need to be thinking I need to become a performer now on a very basic level. So I guess that it starts with public speaking, perhaps getting up in an improv class, working with a coach. And then finally, practicing recording themselves, not only on audio, but videotaping themselves.
How are they coming across to the viewer? The people in that bookstore or at that convention or wherever you are? Is their head straight down in the material? Are they mumbling? What does their body posture like?
All those things communicate something to the audience. I'm sure you've experienced this as an audience member, where all you're doing while the person is reading is going, “oh God I feel so sorry for that person. Please don’t fall apart, please don't start crying because I’ll get really embarrassed if you start crying.”
Joanna: I'm laughing because this is why I think this is so important. Like you said, this is important to your career. I so agree.
I don't know why publishers persist in asking authors to read. A Q&A is usually fine because the author knows their stuff. As you say, it's a completely different skill and the words that they sound a certain way in your own head the minute you try and read them out loud, it seems completely different. It's so weird.
Sean: One of the things that I do is I coach authors who have made a decision that they are going to narrate their own nonfiction. So usually it's because they are their persona. They tend to be entrepreneurs of some kind or thought leaders in their industry.
Malcolm Gladwell narrates his own material. He is Malcolm Gladwell. He's part and parcel of what he writes and what he presents. So it makes sense for him to narrate his own material. Neil deGrasse Tyson, the physicist.
But the problem that beginning authors can fall into a trap, especially in nonfiction if they're not careful, if they don't have a public speaking background, it's been my experience that the author has been writing the way they think and not the way they speak. Which is one more barrier they've thrown up into the challenge of turning it into an audiobook.
Does that make sense?
Joanna: Oh yeah.
Sean: If you go back and look at old nonfiction writing prior to say 1920, 1930, when the prevalent mode of non-fiction writing was this kind of professorial, presentational style. And it's still around but not nearly as much as it used to.
But I find it a lot with new authors or authors who have never been public speakers or have not done TED talks or whatever. If you speak about what you do for a living and then put it on paper, the odds are the flow of that piece is going to be so much easier to narrate it to begin with. But if you're writing from a cerebral point of view, from the way you think, the sentence structure is more complex and the words are longer. There's not really a rhythm to the text itself.
I know a lot of authors read their work aloud but they're just reading it for comprehension. They're not reading it for flow. Or for presentation. So that's a really big issue.
It's one of the biggest things I would suggest to the authors who hear this podcast is go back and read it aloud one more time as if you are presenting it and the areas where they keep stumbling tend to be areas that they've latched together a bunch of very complex words and ideas.
Whereas if they just rewrote that section in a more conversational way to get the idea across it'll flow better and then, therefore, their reading of it aloud or their performance of it will be better.
Joanna: I totally agree and this is something I think about a lot, which is editing for audio because at the moment I feel like most traditionally published authors will or editors will remove commas, for example. So many authors will put in more commas and editors may remove them or move them for grammatical reasons.
Whereas I feel like now I'm narrating my own work, I'll often read phrases, as you say, for better speaking rhythm but also put more commas in where I feel like that's where I'm breathing. It feels like commas should be for breathing for audio but they're not in a grammatical sense.
What your thoughts on writing for performance?
Sean: I teach my students how to score the text, like you need to breathe here and breathe here. You need to lift this with air quotations. We call it ‘marquis’ in voiceover. It's where you take air quotes around a phrase.
The first time you introduce an idea you put air quotes around it. Or you underline one or only two words per sentence to hit because one of the traps you can fall into as an author reading your material is you start hitting everything. You start banging away at every single word in the sentence and then of course when everything is important then nothing sounds important.
So you have to be judicious about what you want to emphasize.
Beyond that is a technique that gets back into breathing and phrasing and just skill. Ultimately in nonfiction, you don't actually narrate in sentences, you narrate in ideas.
Let's say I'm reading a paragraph in a piece and I launch in and usually an author will always introduce their new idea at the beginning first sentence of the paragraph. Here's the thing I want to talk about and they're going to go through a portion of that idea within a few sentences. I'll drive through those sentences to get finally to the point.
That might take one sentence to three or four. But as a narrator it's a skill you learn over time, you read slightly ahead of what you're narrating so you can see where the author taking me to the point of the idea.
The easiest example would be an anecdote. When we start an anecdote, there's always a drive to get to the final button on the anecdote. What's the point of the little story? When we tell an anecdote there is a sense of drive. You're not really telling it sentence by sentence, you're going and going and going until you get to the point.
That just takes practice and in the end, it's their writing so they should know where they're going with the idea.
So you're right. Punctuation is for the reader’s sake, just like things like abbreviations or acronyms we have to flip that around when we're narrating. So we expand acronyms, we expand abbreviations. But to me, punctuation is nominal if I sense that the author is driving right into the next sentence. That's where I'm going to go. I'll take a quick breath and launch right into the next sentence because I'm driving to the point of the idea.
Joanna: That's a really good tip. And it's funny because just this morning I've been re-editing a book for narration and it's my book and I've read it a lot. I wrote it and I should know it.
And yet, as you say, preparing a book for narration, I feel like people don't realize how much work goes into the prep. I hear authors and I understand now when people say oh it's 200 or 300 dollars or 500 dollars or whatever per finished hour that seems expensive. And I'm like well no, you don't understand the amount of work.
Could you outline what is the work of a narrator?
Sean: Like what my preparation is before I do a nonfiction piece?
Joanna: Yes. You don't get handed the book at the studio and start talking.
Sean: Oh no. Although after a thousand books, I can if I have to. And there have been moments when I've had to take over a book very quickly but I have a method I teach my students where I go through three steps.
The first step is when I do a general background on the author. What is the topic of the book? Who is the intended audience? Some general questions so I'm really thinking like an audio publisher and producer. I do a biographical sketch of the author. What the point of the book is.
The middle step is research. So I put on my director’s hat. How do you say that phrase in French? How do you say this mathematical formula or chemical equation or whatever? You need to know how to pronounce that.
That’s one of the challenges of being a narrator is we're generalists because we're performers we read for a living. But every book demands that we become a specialist in that topic to a certain degree because the easier the words and nomenclature and phrases roll off my tongue, the smarter the author sounds to the listener.
If I'm doing a book on physics or medicine I have to let those phrases roll off my tongue that are really strange to me, because if I stumble through them it makes the author sound stupid. My job is to make them sound smart. So it sounds like the nomenclature they use just rolls off my tongue. So there's that kind of research.
I have to research the acronyms. I always explain an acronym the first time I use it. I expand all my abbreviations. I look at the different text issues like do we want to include this breakout box of additional material, these graphs and charts? That's a conversation you have with the author or rights holder. Oftentimes if they're complex illustrations they're added as a PDF download to the audiobook which frees me up to say as you can see from table three point six blah blah blah.
And then the listener can go to that last track on the audiobook which is usually the PDF download and open it up and see the graph. I can't explain a very complex graph or a picture or something, you just need to see it.
The last step I do as a narrator is where I try to parse the minutia of the writing to find the author's voice. Writing is like acting; it's all about choices. So what I try to teach my students is there are clues in every single paragraph about how the author feels about the topic they're discussing.
They're going to give you a hint, they're going to use a word, an adjective or an adverb, or catchphrase or a metaphor so that you can go, “Oh I see, they're really angry about this part of this topic” or they're being reflective here or they're being apathetic or they're being aggressive. It literally can change paragraph by paragraph.
Or the clues are all in the text. It's that old chestnut about playing Shakespeare. All the clues you need to know how to play a scene are in the text itself. Once you learn to see them.
I look for their main idea for every paragraph because I know that's the most important thing to get across. And then I highlight any other issues that might come up that I want to discuss with the author or with the publisher I'm working with. And then I’m ready to roll.
I warm up every time before I get into the booth. I do a little yoga, a little vocal scales, all those silly factory things you learn in school that really do pay off in the long run.
And also, I think the last thing is knowing when to narrate. Obviously, you might have constraints if you have a studio at home like I do. When the kids were little I couldn't narrate when they were around, they had to go to school. But if you have the luxury of narrating whenever you want to, everybody has a biorhythm, when you're up or down in and in a given time of day.
What I try to teach the authors is to practice during that time so all the pistons are firing so that they can get the most out of their own practice session. But that's the biggest thing. I try to get across to them is practice. This is like running a marathon and they've only been running sprints.
If there’s the one thing I harp on when I work with authors, I'll have a session with them and I'll say I'll see you in a week. And you have to read two to three hours a day, out-loud in your closet. I can tell you, to a man and woman they've come back and said that piece, beyond the scoring and learning the scoring of the text and some other technique issues actually sitting there but down in that little space and reading aloud and recording themselves just to listen back taught them more than anything I could teach them or a 15 minute session could. That kind of grind is where it happens.
Joanna: I totally agree. I feel the same way. I feel like it podcasting. I did professional speaking training and I've been podcasting for years and yet I still felt those initial narration sessions and still I learn so much every time. So this preparation is I think what definitely marks out a top-level narrative performance.
Now, I wish we could talk forever, but I want to move into the more business side. I'm fascinated by artificial intelligence. Those who listen to this podcast know that I did a show and talked about A.I. for voice and voice synth. And companies like Deepzen.io that are going to put out books that are A.I. narrated.
From what you've said it seems almost impossible that A.I. could narrate in the same way as you're talking about. And yet I have heard some of the samples and they seem pretty amazing.
What do you think about the changes in technology around this? Would you ever consider licensing your own voice for A.I. audio narration?
Sean: It's a brave new world out there. Last month in New York City we had a meeting with AFTRA, which is the television and radio union, and I remember us talking about this very issue. What's going to happen with audiobooks? No one really knew.
We are waiting to hear what the first generations are going to sound like. Would it be better to license your voice? How how do you contractually handle that?
There is a discussion about what happens if somebody pirates your voice and not just your voice. Let's say that they combined your voice, Joanna, and my voice and a third voice to create a brand new voice that doesn't sound like any of us but it has pieces.
How do we track that down so that we're not being ripped off like musicians I suppose. Back in the days when people could download music for free.
It's one of those things that eventually I'm sure the algorithms will get sophisticated enough to come pretty close to mimicking the human voice and like you were saying before that just takes a certain number of hours for the computer to pick up enough algorithm samples of my voice to create its own unique algorithm.
But I am always curious about the one thing that I am not sure if it'll ever get which is that sense of spontaneity, that sense of chaos that makes me want to choose this choice over that choice.
I have no other point of reference. I'm interested in it. And yes if there was a way to say license my voice for an audiobook production that I felt was contractually safe, as it were, and that the end product was of a certain quality, a certain standard, I'd be very interested to see what it was going to do.
I think it's the new world we're about to jump into, whether we like it or not and if there's one thing that I've learned as a freelancer my entire life is the only way you can stay secure as a freelancer is to always be changing. That's the only permanent thing about being a freelancer is to always be changing.
Always be looking for the newest opportunity. I'm going to be very interested to see how it plays out.
I'm really interested in your book. I'm not kidding. I'm very interested to see how what does it sound like. How natural does it sound and are the nuances there?
Joanna: Coming back to what we said originally, it's about the audience. How much do they care?
If as a listener, I am listening at 2X the Audible app now goes up to 3.5X and someone actually emailed me and said that they don't speed up but they do remove pauses. There's an app that removes pauses or silences in between things so that it actually does speed up the performance. And so I totally agree with you. I haven't done this yet.
Coming back to piracy, I had a big evening discussing if I try and license my voice, if I put my voice into the A.I. machine, whatever that may be, then what are the dangers? When I thought about it for you and I both there's enough of our voice out there in the world that anyone could pirate us right now. You could do a deep fake on either of us because there is enough of our voice data on the internet already.
So that's why I'm interested in licensing because someone could do it anyway so why not try and capture at least a piece of potential revenue of a future market.
And I'm with you. I don't think we're not going to see mainstream A.I. audio in 2020 but I'm pretty sure 2021 we're going to see this. I think it's already starting to change. So I'm really glad you said you're open to it because I feel like it unless people are open to it it's going to get quite difficult.
Sean: It's going to be interesting to see how it all plays out.
I'm going back to that thing about pauses though. It's funny you should say that; once again this gets back to tempo and performance. I understand why they've come up with that app because a lot of people in nonfiction…well, it's one of the first things I teach my students is that it is a performance.
There's acting involved in nonfiction. Who are you? Where are you? Who are you speaking to? It's acting 101. And if you can buy into that and develop the skill.
Reading aloud is not an easy task to do at tempo. You have to learn to think faster and then read faster and then take the information in and you actually start to read ahead of yourself ever so slightly. And it's that gap of time between when you take the information in and when you speak that you make your acting choices but there is a sense of drive to the narration and nonfiction.
Which is why they have those apps that take out lots of pauses. But one of the things that I do in my performance, in what I teach, is that if we go with the concept that when an author is writing and they write a paragraph that paragraph is a meditation on one little tiny idea, one iota. And they're going to explore that thing through the paragraph. They're going to talk about this and that and this and that and they finally come to the end of the paragraph. And now they're going to start the next paragraph.
It's that little beat between that we absolutely must have. Because all it takes is a momentary lapse – and maybe you've experienced this – a momentary lapse of concentration on your part as a listener when you've got a cranked up to say two times speed and suddenly you're like oh wait a minute they've moved on to a new topic and what was the topic we were at?
All it takes is a momentary lapse of concentration from the listener’s point of view. If there are no pauses between paragraphs, they're going to get lost and the moment the listener goes “huh?” then we've failed because the sense of just throwing the information at them like a machine gun. Some pauses have to be earned but they are necessary in the overall performance of a piece.
Just like when you watch a movie, there have to be pauses between scenes so we can say OK we're done with that scene now. Now we're going to see this new piece of action. It's a subtle technique but cognitively speaking it's important.
Have you experienced that as a listener?
Joanna: Yes, but in my mind, I'm feeling that there's a tension between – you're an actor, you're a performer – there's the tension between your performance and you as a craftsman and you've been paid for 20 plus years as a craftsman. As a writer obviously I get paid for my writing, but I'm now I find myself as an audiobook listener. I care less about that. I can use the back button which is 30 seconds back.
I feel that there's this tension and that's where the A.I. comes in. I had lunch with a friend of mine who is a busy mom. She has a busy job and she does all her reading by audio. And she said the biggest frustration for her is not everything is in audio.
She’s just a normal person, she's not a writer or a creator or an actor, and I said would you listen to slightly less good audio narration in order to just get it in audio. So an A.I. that was cheaper, for example, but you got it. And she was like absolutely, give it to me now. I want it now.
So because we're missing so much in audio, I feel like normal listeners are just wanting more.
We're almost out of time, so if the final question is about this tension between art and business, which writers feel, actors feel, narrators feel. Your book, To Be or Wannabe, which is such a great title, is for actors but the principles apply to all creatives.
You talked about adaptation to new technologies, but any other tips for escaping that starving artist mindset?
Sean: Let’s go from the premise that they have their nine to five. Picking the right day job is vastly important. You're going to have to keep making decisions that take you away from your comfort zone.
Most creatives do well in their day job because they're creative. They can do the job in less time, they show flair, they show initiative and suddenly your boss will be saying we can give you some more hours and a little raise if you'll stay with us here and suddenly those are hours that you could use writing or performing.
So you have to constantly be making tradeoffs away from security to give yourself time to work.
Money management is another big issue that I found again and again with my students. If you don't manage your money well it doesn't all ultimately matter what kind of day job you have. If you're always broke, you never have money to invest on the business.
There are also things like networking and do you do the ability to be charming of all things. A lot of people I run into not only within the audiobook world but generally, there is the notion of networking of being on social media, going to networking events, rubbing elbows with people both literally and figuratively scares the daylights out of them. And like it or not you have to learn it. I'm an introvert but I've become an extroverted introvert because I had to be.
And then lastly, thinking like a CEO. This is a company. You are career Inc. And one of the most successful things I ever did for myself, a piece of advice I turned into something that changed everything for me the way I looked at my career, was I thought of it as I was the boss. I was the CEO.
I know it seems a bit schizophrenic but I had to have meetings with myself as the marketing director and the publication's director and the money manager and so on. But the physical thing I created that made all the difference was I built myself a board of mentors a board of directors. There are people that I check in with regularly. People who have marketing and business savvy. Everything that I need to know about how to run my career.
They are people I pay for their time or they become friends of mine. But their advice has been absolutely invaluable because it gives me a sounding board. I'm asking marketing questions of a woman who is a marketing director. I'm talking to someone about time management who coaches other CEOs on time management. That kind of feedback is invaluable.
It's beyond the books you might read. And also if nothing else it makes you have the mentality of, Yes I'm taking this venture I'm doing seriously.
Joanna: Fantastic. If people want to invest in themselves some more by taking your voice coaching or anything like that or checking out your book, where can they find you and everything you do online?
Sean: That would be SeanPrattPresents.com. It has all of the information and links to my book and the audiobook version that I did, and also information about my coaching and where I'll be next as far as doing workshops and so on.
Joanna: Brilliant. Thanks so much for your time Sean, that was great.
Sean: Thank you, Joanna, I appreciate it.
Judy Baker says
Excellent and invaluable information for authors and presenters.
The one small thing that I wanted to add to this conversation, especially in regards to audio and AI …. In the United States, almost every one of my ebooks form Amazon for the last (year? years?) will read to you if you press a button (and highlight it, even without the audiobook purchase), although it definitely does not sound like a person. If you download articles to PDF, there are similarly programs that will read the article to you, too, with a similar sound.
I’m also a reader who speeds up the nonficition (plus many nonfiction books have a lot of fluff and filler and can be sped up several times beyond that) – so to me, it is a better use of my time and $ to just use the default setting on the ebook and skip finding an ebook.
But if the concern (per the discussion in the podcast) is that this might be replaced by AI – I’d wonder if looking at that particular feature of ebooks (i.e., how many people use that already or have fewer people bought audiobooks and cited that feature) – I don’t think Amazon would part with that data – but maybe other companies would – as an early indicator. I *suspect* that it won’t hurt audiobook readers, however – especially if people get to know and like a voice the same way they like the look and sound of a particular actor, for example.