I’m thrilled to have my mystery and romantic suspense novel Twenty-Five Years Ago Today available as an audiobook from Audible, Amazon and iTunes. Not only does the book have an excellent narrator in Erin Moon, but thanks to my producers at Brick Shop Audio, the recording, editing, and overall production is top notch. Below is my interview with Rob Granniss of Brick Shop. I’m sure you’ll find this a fascinating glimpse into the behind-the-scenes world of audiobook production.
Could you tell us a little about the history behind Brick Shop – how it was founded and how it has grown?
Chris Lee and I worked together at Recorded Books (I started in 2005, he got hired in 2010). We enjoyed working with one another and did some larger scale projects for them and realized we complemented each other’s skill sets well. At this time we were both doing radio work, I was at WNYC mixing On The Media, and he was hosting a show on Indie Darkroom called Cheap And Easy. We collaborated on pieces for his show and recorded some of his band’s music. Part of our work at Recorded Books was dealing with home recordings made by narrators, and we had both seen the home recording studio replace the commercial studio in the music industry, and realized this is probably the path audiobook production will take. Since we love doing this and working work with the actors, we knew there would be a niche market between the larger facility and the closet of a home studio. We started with using Chris’s rehearsal space part-time producing 1-5 titles a month to our current setup at a dedicated facility with 2 recording booths, 3 editing stations and producing 20-30 titles a month.
What is a typical week like at Brick Shop Audiobooks?
We’re able to run sessions 7 days a week with our awesome staff, Jennifer O’Donnell, Theresa Buchheister, Stephen Powell, and Stirling Krusing. Sessions run from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. some days (different narrators – a long session may run 6 hours, but actors and actresses with that type of stamina aren’t common). Our mornings start around 8 a.m. with correspondence, coffee brewing, quality checking any new books started the previous day (our engineers are terrific, but an extra set of ears is always a good idea), and making sure all the Kindles are synced with the recordings. We get the narrators settled in and properly caffeinated, and then do editing and mastering of books that are no longer in session. Then we make more coffee!
About how many books has Brick Shop produced so far? Are there any titles that you want to note?
We’ve just broken the 100 mark recently and are looking to try and double that this year! Of course, I need to mention Erin Moon’s recording of your book as we all love her here and get excited when we get to work with her. We also just produced Somebody Killed His Editor by Josh Lanyon, narrated by Kevin R. Free. The book is funny and clever and Kevin is even more so. And in some truly shameless self-promotion, Avogadro Corp by William Hertling narrated by Rob Granniss! We’re doing the sequel now (AI Apocalypse with Justin Badger) and these are the best sci-fi books I’ve read in a long time and we had fun doing some special effects which aren’t quite radio-play-ish but are fun touches to an audiobook.
One thing that makes Brick Shop unique is your list of talented narrators that authors and publishers can sample. What type of qualities and training do you look for in a narrator?
Well, this being NY, it’s difficult to go 5 feet without tripping over an actor/actress. That said, this type of work takes a different approach to theater and film, or even to other voiceover work for that matter. In radio, you can spend an hour just producing the credits on a show that only play for 30-45 seconds, and even longer on commercials. In audiobooks, you need to be prepared to get an hour on tape for every 2 hours you spend in the recording booth. Some stage productions involve months of rehearsal time and can really get you into a character. Sadly, that luxury isn’t there for our type of work. Thankfully, we know quite a few good narrators already and they can get into character quickly and convincingly. Also, a good attitude is key! You can definitely hear when a narrator is having fun or not, the energy is very different and it makes a better product as well as being much easier to produce.
I saw on your website that you were offering a class to potential narrators. Can you tell us about the class?
Because of the unique aspects of narrating a book, we thought it would be good to start offering a class to get actors familiar with those differences from their theater training. The class gives us a chance to connect with people interested in the industry who may not be ready to dive right into auditions. Or if they are, they’ll be able to pick up pointers from our teachers, including Erin Moon and Jennifer O’Donnell (who narrate and direct), as well as any questions they have about the business aspect from Chris Lee. We’ll also be providing an edited and mastered reel that will be helpful in expanding anyone’s resume/portfolio.
There are many narrators who do their own recording and editing for audiobook productions, but at Brick Shop, your narrators seem to focus on narrating while the studio handles the production and editing duties. What do you think are the advantages for authors in having this kind of arrangement?
You seemed to have answered that question yourself! There are some great narrators who pull off recording at home very well. Nicole Poole comes to mind in the regard. She can focus and deliver a great performance while handling the recording aspect with aplomb. I’ve heard others, who are great when under direction, fail miserably (they’ll remain nameless). Focus during recording is certainly the most crucial part, and then there’s objectivity. When you stress a particular word or phrase in a sentence, it can lose nuance that would enhance the plot, or be out of character, or even miss a very important clue in a mystery novel! (This is a great aspect of ACX in that the rights holder tends to be the author and they can catch this better than the actor or director). A lot of the time, we’ll know what we mean or meant to say and will miss these auditory cues when listening back to ourselves. Even with direction and then editing and proofing there are missed words and meanings. These mistakes becomes exponential when it’s only the narrator working on their own material. Or, the reverse happens, and you end up re-recording the whole book! (The most difficult thing about audio or any other media creation is that whatever you’re creating, it can ALWAYS be better). And, from personal experience, it is EXCRUCIATING, to edit your own voice! I don’t think I’ll ever even listen back to a voicemail I leave from now on.
What advice do you have for authors as far as working with narrators and/or production companies on their audiobooks?
I think preparing a character sheet that has accents and voice descriptions would be a good idea. We work with one actor who writes down actors and particular films they were in and then he channels them when performing. I always thought that was a good idea, and do that myself when I narrate. Also, local color is very important and can be difficult to research. A general ability to write some simple phonetics or have a decent source for what names of streets and rivers should be (forvo.com is a good site for this type of work). Also, just as we give an objective ear to the performer when directing, I think it’s good to bounce opinions off a friend or publisher before requesting a totally different approach to a book. Sometimes, being too close to a work and having a very particular expectation can be detrimental to a performance. The voices in our heads aren’t always the same, and that can be a good thing!
Brick Shop Around the Web:
Listen to a sample on Audible.
Don’t miss my interview with Twenty-Five Years Ago Today narrator Erin Moon.