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Hi there. I graduated from studying a BA in sound design in London this summer and would like to know how to go about becoming a free lance audio book editor? For example, who are the wright people to contact at publishing company's? How to establish a fee for the work carried out and what dose is entail? What are the most useful skill's in audio book editing? And most importantly what are clients looking for that should be in my portfolio?

Any feedback would be greatly appreciated. Thank you.

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I agree with all answers above, made similar experiences editing Audio Books (Hörbücher) here in Germany .

Most studios look for freelance editors that are reliable and deliver their work with consistent quality in the scheduled time. Deadlines are very important because the publishers will only choose studios that can fulfill their schedules. Voice actors and directors are allowed to cause delays but the audio engineers are not!

Editing an Audio Book is a very, hm..., minimalistic task. Most of its challenges are to cut out a hundred little clicks and unwanted noises from the actors mouth. Or to paste together the performance of an inexperienced actor from A LOT of takes.

In my opinion it is also a benefit if you got an interest in literature and the art of reading. If you understand the dynamics and the pace of text, you get a better understanding of the actor's performance. Sometimes you have to choose the best take yourself and correct or create the rythm of speech. Choosing the right lenght for the different pauses is an important part of the job. Sometimes you have to work with a director and most directors apreciate it if you quickly understand their instructions and aid them in their work.

If you have a literary background, (maybe you have, cause you want to edit audio books?) then mention it in your portfolio. This will seperate you from most other audio guys who come from music backgrounds.

Pardon my English and greetings from Berlin!

  • Thank you Max. I appreciate you taking the time to respond to my question. – PatrickJBrady Nov 13 '12 at 16:25
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First of all, you have to be familiar with linear audio editing software, for example Adobe Audition. You have to be experienced with this piece of software, as audiobook editing means loads of content that needs to be listened to and edited to perfection. So if you're familiar with sound design but you cannot edit audio fast enough you will struggle with making deadlines. Not to mention that payment is usually per hour of edited content, so if that takes you 5 hours then your rates go down by a lot.

You can always start editing podcasts first and then graduate to audiobooks. Speaking of which, the right people to contact would be voice actors, narrators and content creators at first. Once you complete a few (e.g many) small projects you can think about contacting large companies or publishers.

As I already said, the fees are usually per hour of edited audio. If the raw audio is extremely bad you can negotiate per source audio rates.

One skill that's definitely required is patience. Audiobook editing isn't as glamorous as sound design for media, or as thrilling as writing music for video games. You just listen to hours of content on end and edit out imperfections until your ears bleed.

Obviously, clients will be looking for before and after excerpts from projects that you've worked on.

For more info and maybe opportunities you can check this out: http://www.acx.com/

  • Many thanks George. How comments have been a great help. – PatrickJBrady Nov 13 '12 at 16:25
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I would assume an audio book editing/producing not to generally be a specific specialism, but something that could be worked out in any audio studio by anyone who otherwise works in audio production for media. It isn't different than other forms of audio production that isn't strictly music production or different from other types of "sound design", even though audio books are a slightly different type of medium from the others. The production process is still similar enough.

I would assume that an internship in a sound or broadcasting studio that produces audio books would be a good call. I doubt book publishers have in-house audio studios, but rather they outsource the production of an audio book to a sound studio or a broadcasting company. It might be also difficult to freelance in just audio books, because I don't know if audio books are produced on an "indie" basis that much, so it could be difficult/impossible to find projects that way.

If an internship is not an option (at least not immediately), then if audio books are your sole interest, then I'd probably try to work out some small demos, for example based on existing books or short stories or even scripts. I.e. just producing some audio book sound by yourself, so you can have something to show to prospective employers/customers/affiliates. That's the current standard procedure in the media and entertainment field anyways, building a portfolio of work that applies to the line of work that you're applying for and getting someone interested about it.

  • Great advice, many thanks for your guidance. – PatrickJBrady Nov 13 '12 at 16:26
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Many studios that specialise in Voice Over services also tend to cover the audiobook market so it may be a good idea to start in that direction. With the right attitude and enough persistence, you should be able to eventually get your foot in the door. Seeing as you've just graduated you may be looking at an internship/runner position. As a starting point, do a google search of all the V.O. studios in London. Have a look at their websites and make a note of who does what. See if you can connect with them on a social network (i.e. LinkedIn or Twitter). Then get in touch. If you can get your foot in the door, you can then build your network and things should take off on their own.

In terms of freelancing on this type of project, you'll find that it works in the same way as with almost every other type of production in our industry. It's all about your network. The majority of audiobook productions have enough of a budget to use established studios and are unlikely to freelance the project out to an individual. So your best bet would be to try and get your way into a studio that develops this type of work. Smaller budget productions may outsource to an individual freelancer but this would normally go to someone with a big enough reputation who has already worked on similar projects. Again, this usually goes hand in hand with having a strong network.

I've said it here before, but your reputation will take you a very long way (or, if you've got the wrong attitude, a very short way). Network as much as possible. Your portfolio should be easily accessible (do you have a website?) and only include high standard work. If you haven't already worked on anything outside of your studies, start picking up some unpaid work on projects that are inline with where you want to go (check Mandy.com for example).

A lot of the SSD community have experience with audiobooks. You might want to get in touch with some of them via twitter. Two people that spring to mind are Utopia (Ryan) and Hubert Campbell (I remember seeing a question from him about audiobooks). And I'm sure more people will chip in with their experiences.

  • Thank you very much Colin. I will certainly look into what you suggested. – PatrickJBrady Nov 13 '12 at 16:27

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