This is a really interesting article about the relationship that can (sometimes) be present between narrators and authors when creating audio books. While I'm certainly still in the beginning stages of this career, coming up on two years, I've already experienced quite a wide variety of partnerships.
One publisher simply assigns books to you. There's no audition, and never any contact with the author. You simply prep the book yourself, and interpret the best you can. You send the files, they get processed, and that's it.
Most of the time, there are auditions you can participate in. Usually, anywhere from three to five minutes is plenty, as authors and rights holders receive many dozens of submissions. I tend to send a short introductory message to let them know that if there are questions relating to the performance in terms of pace, or anything like that, they can let me know, and I can make any number of adjustments.
I feel it helps, because imagine you're looking for just the right person to take something you've crafted, no matter what medium, and present it to the world in a new way. You have to be careful with your choice, yet, if you have too many choices, you get to a point where you just need to cut it out and make a decision. So, in the case of an author, if they hear a voice they like, yet something is off, perhaps that little note assuring them of flexibility, helps nudge them.
If they like you, you'll get a contract offer and that's when I start to ask more detailed questions. I'll already have a rough idea of the plot, some main characters, but will still not have actually read the book. So I invite the author to tell me about them. Is the main protagonist a tough-but-weary guy with a dark, weathered voice (I offer this example because, well, that's typically what attracts the attention of the authors)? What about ancillary characters, like the best friend, the wife, the boss, the sheriff, evil mastermind, etc? The more I can pull from the author early on, the better.
This is because, once delivery dates are agreed on, the manuscript is sent over, I begin prepping it. I use an app called iAnnotate, which allows for easy markups on PDF and other documents. I'll read the book, making notes here and there on particular phrases or words that need something specific done to them that isn't very obvious from a quick read. I don't do much with that but the biggie is pronunciations. There are often words we need to look up and in the case of sci-fi and paranormal stories, there's always plenty of made-up names and places that the author has to provide exact pronunciations for. I can add those to the text, so when I'm narrating later on, I can easily see it and not have to break up my flow.
I'll often talk along with the read here and there, to work out exactly how my general tone and pace will be. Since I typically only work on one book at a time, this is useful, because as soon as I'm done prepping, I get right to work on narrating.
In most cases, publishers ask for the first 15 minutes of the book to be delivered. Yes, the author has selected you based on your audition, but this gives them a bigger chunk of your work, a better idea of the flow. At that point, they can make suggestions, or just approve it. With that, it's go time.
I'll get into more detail on the actual recording and production in another post.
So, most of the time, there is a business relationship with the author. Some can be very simple, others downright exhausting. I've had some who gave little direction in the beginning, I produced the book, and they approved it right away. In fact, the last book I produced, which is selling very well, was done this way. On the other end, one author asked me to send a few chapters at a time so he could review and approve or request changes. That was a bit tedious, and there were a lot of short chapters. Still, having that engagement with the author was beneficial.
The above article details close friendships that have been forged through this process. I haven't met any of my authors personally, though I have had conversations with some outside the realm of audio books. And, just this week, I was approached by the author of the Zion series I produced in 2017. She's written a new novel, and asked me to produce it. it's a good feeling to know that you can be depended upon to produce work that someone appreciates and values.
At the time of this writing, I'm wrapping up a new romance book (under my pseudonym), and have another pair of similar books to begin immediately after. After that, I'd like to work on some titles that Rick Barr's name can be on, because many of you have been asking for new material. Soon!