Interview with an Audiobook Producer

I had a chance to ask the producer of the audiobook for The December Protocol some questions and I jumped at the chance! Rhett Samuel Price is a brilliant performer and a skilled voice actor that has a talent for bringing the characters in books to life.

Q: How do you come up with the different voices for the characters?
A: Great question! Character voices are generally determined by the author’s description of the character based on their age, where the character was born, where they grew up, any speech difficulties, etc., etc. Little subtleties can also influence a character’s voice such as the line “He was never afraid of crowds, but when he spoke, it was like his voice came from the shadows”. Well, I’m no writer, but you get the idea. But if a character has no description, then I’m free to use any voice I please, especially a generic one for someone who shows up only once or twice, or crowd scenes.

Q: Do you practice the separate voices?
A: Yes, for a line or two until I get the sound right and hear it played back. Once it sounds right, I’m off to the races. There are times however, for me specifically, when I record a character’s voice and the narration goes off track. That means my mind isn’t comfortable with the voice I’ve recorded, so I’ll take a break, think about it, and usually it comes to me; then I’m back to recording on a roll.

Q: How long does it take to record a chapter (4000 words or so)?
A: Hmmm, well, that depends on a couple of factors. The most important factor is phraseology and the ability for the listener to hear and digest what has been narrated. Even with the same number of words, a medical text outlining the procedures from brain surgery will generally take longer than a sci-fi passage describing an action scene. But on average, a chapter with 4000 words is a 4 to 1 endeavor. Meaning, for every finished hour of audio you hear, it takes 4 hours of time to record, edit and master the file into a listenable format. The best in this field can break it down to either 3 to 1 or 2 to 1. Newer narrators are closer to 6 to 1; there’s just so much to learn. My personal current breakdown is 3 to 1.

Q: How long have you been a voice actor for?
A: When I look back, ironically, all my life 30++ years. I’ve been doing some form of play acting on stage, singing or public speaking from a young age. The majority of audiobook narrators come from some type of an acting, television, radio or public speaking background. As for narrating audiobooks, I have been doing this since 2010.

Q: What made you want to start voice acting?
A: Again, I’ve been voice acting for a long time, enjoying a professional stint for 8 years as a traffic reporter for KABC TV, Channel 7 in Los Angeles and Orange Counties; and for numerous radio stations in both English and Spanish. But the desire to record audiobooks came about from listening to a masterpiece. “The Book Thief” written by Markus Zusak and narrated by Allan Corduner. Allan’s brilliant narration brought the entire book to life and sparked my interest in narrating. After that, a chance encounter with Patrick Fraley and Scott Brick began my journey with the gracious help of Jeffrey Kafer who gave me my first book to narrate.

Q: What kind of recording equipment do you use?
A: In the beginning, I had no idea which microphone to choose, but George Whittam, a brilliant engineer in his own right suggested an E700 Charter Oak microphone. It is a large diaphragm mic powered by a Golden Age Pre 73 mk2, connecting into a MOTU mk3 Ultralite interface, going into my 27 inch iMac, using Adobe Audition CC 2018 as my DAW (Digital Audio Workstation).

Q: Have you ever had to voice a project you didn’t enjoy?
A: Unfortunately, there are times when a narrator receives a project that is less than enjoyable, and I have encountered this dilemma. But my job is to make the read enjoyable for you, the listener. I always remind myself, “That which may not lift my spirit, can still fill someone’s imagination with wonder and excitement.”

Q: What was your favorite project?
A: A favorite project for me is one which transports me directly into the world written by the author. I have had the privilege to work with several talented authors who have achieved this goal, and Devin Hanson certainly did that for me with “The December Protocol”. I am also honored to have been chosen as a narrator of choice for his future projects. I love Devin’s writing style and his gift for creating fantastic worlds and I look forward to working with him in the near future!

Q: Do you have any advice for aspiring voice actors?
A: Yes, definitely. Make sure you take classes with established “trusted” coaches, actors and narrators. Study others who are successful in the field and immolate them, while retaining your own voice. Remember, actors go to plays; singers go to operas; musicians go to concerts; narrators listen to audiobooks. If you are specifically looking at becoming an audiobook narrator, I would suggest you try this test created by Sean Allen Pratt, it is by far, the best advice before you “dive” into the world of narrating audiobooks, or “long form narration” as it’s called. The test begins at 2:15, but the entire video (5:40) is worth listening to. If you pass this test and still want to narrate, feel free to send me an email through my website: www.thevoiceofrhett.com/.