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Interview with Julia Farmer, Narrator for Treasure

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Available now on Audible, coming soon to Amazon & iTunes!

Today it is my pleasure to introduce you to Julia Farmer, the narrator for Treasure’s audiobook. Julia is based in Chicago and has narrated over twenty audiobooks through Actors Audio and Publishing / Cerny American Creative. She also lends her voice to television and radio commercials and is the voice of Sarita in the Walking Dead: Season 2 video game.

 Q: Julia, I’m very excited to have you be the voice for Treasure. How did you get started as a voice artist?

A:  Thank you, Sandy!  I grew up doing theater and writing, and have always been an avid video game fan as it brings both cinema and storytelling together in a truly immersive experience for the player/audience.  Looking into the video game industry, I had an inkling that voice over might be for me, so I took a few workshops in Chicago.  It was in one of these workshops that I met the owner of the studio we were using, JoBe Cerny, best known as the voice of the Pillsbury Doughboy.  He saw potential in me, helped me produce a demo, and walked me into an agency where I was signed right away.  I couldn’t have imagined that things would happen so quickly — and a couple years later my big dream came true when I got an actual video game role, as Sarita in The Walking Dead: Season 2.

Q: That’s so exciting! Of the projects you do–voice over, video characters, audiobooks–which do you find most challenging?

A:  Each type of gig has its own challenges.  With commercials, you’re most often working within a very limited time frame – 15, 30, or 60 seconds – for maximal effect.  The clients are extremely particular about wording and nuance, and getting all of the copy to fit within the length of the commercial.  You have to be able to take direction and adjust on the fly.  In the case of video games, where scripts are closely guarded, you are usually only allowed to see your own lines and maybe a few others before or after for context – it’s like driving through a fog – and it’s up to the director to describe the situation and get the best performance out of you.  Then there are the long sessions recording various sound effects – running, fighting, crying, even screaming, which can be very taxing, vocally.
Speaking of long vocal sessions – how about them audiobooks?  Reading aloud for hours upon hours a day definitely requires vocal endurance.  At the same time, you have to make sure that you’re keeping your read fresh so that the listeners stay engaged, and that you keep all of your character voices distinct and consistent, across ages, accents, and genders (having to do multiple male voices within one book is particularly a challenge).

Q: Speaking of multiple characters, how do you decide the way to make each voice distinct, or is it that important? How do you keep the voices straight?

A: My producers and I have talked about this often.  With sound effects and ensemble casts, any novel can be turned into a theatrical radio drama – but when an audiobook is 7-plus hours long, it can be exhausting for the listener to keep up (compare that to epic films stretching to 3 or 4 hours, or watching a film trilogy or tv show in a marathon – even if you break it up into sessions, it’s still a bit of an ordeal).  It’s my belief that audiobooks are more pleasant to listen to when the narration and characters are modulated in order to give the listener’s imagination room to stretch and breathe.  Also, if they’ve already read the book, they’re sure to have their own ideas of what the characters sound like, so I do my best not to push too hard in any one direction.  I’ll try to make each character distinct to a certain degree in tone, but it’s mostly a matter of attitude.  Keeping the voices straight *can* be difficult, but so long as I can hook into the right attitude for each character, it’s easier to switch between them.

Q: The attitude; very interesting.

I found you through the audition process on ACX. Was it you or your producer who saw and responded to the audition script for Treasure? What made you (or them) choose to audition for Treasure?

A:  My producers and I are always keeping track of ACX for any projects that look fun and interesting.  One of the producers spotted Treasure and brought it to my attention.  Young adult fiction is a favorite of mine, but what makes Treasure extra special is the educational focus.  I’m a foodie who lives in the city, and I know how removed we can get from the food we eat – where it comes from and how it’s produced.  We’ve got an area in our local zoo dedicated to farm animals and farm life because so many urban kids, during their youth, may otherwise have no way of obtaining any tangible experience of farm life.  That’s a very curious thing to me.  I also work with a volunteer organization that partners with our local organic city farm, allowing folks to come in and help with weeding, harvesting, and bundling crops, and tending to egg-laying chickens.  The produce is sold to various restaurants in the area, and at an on-site market stand to members of the community who may not be able to purchase fresh organic produce (or at such a variety) through other stores.  It’s been a wonderful experience for me and I’ve become keenly interested in the idea of urban agriculture.  Long story short: Treasure has an important story to tell, and tells it in a way that is exciting and empowering to young people — I was (and am) very excited about the series!

Q: Thanks, Julia! You’ve done a fantastic job. I’m sure it helps when the narrator feels a connection to the book they’re narrating. Aside from YA fiction being a favorite, what other genres do you enjoy narrating? Is there something you look for?

A:  I am a huge mystery and espionage buff!  Sherlock Holmes, Hercule Poirot (Agatha Christie’s anti-Sherlock), anything by John Le Carre…  I wish there were more great female detectives available to narrate.  Other than that, I’m all about sci-fi, fantasy, and young adult books with complex characters striving to become more than who they are at the outset.  I want to read about everyday people becoming heroes!

Q: What is your advice for someone who wants to become an audiobook narrator?

A:  Read out loud!  Whatever you’re reading: a web article, the news, a novel, etc. — read it out loud, pay attention to when your energy starts to flag or your tone goes flat or you slur words or stumble over the tongue-twisters.  Build up your vocal endurance.  Record yourself and listen at another time when your ears are fresh.  Look for workshops in your area, or perhaps online, so you can get feedback from others.  Beyond that, build relationships with local audio engineers and studios who can record you with high-quality equipment.  It will give you a professional edge that a lot of narrators starting from home just won’t have.  Oh, and get some good sleep and stay hydrated!  As much as I love my coffee with cream – I have to advise keeping away from the caffeine and dairy when you’re going on-mic because it mucks up your voice.

Q: That’s great advice. Do you have advice for authors seeking narrators?

A:  With the internet, it’s so easy for anyone to get out there – as narrators and as authors.  With such an in-flux of people, it can be difficult to find real quality.  A narrator should be able to offer numerous samples of their work to showcase their strengths and their versatility.  I also support professional sound – the greatest voice in the world still won’t cut it if the book is recorded in a noisy environment, at inconsistent or inadequate sound levels, with sloppy editing.  It should be seamless, so the focus remains anchored firmly in the story being told.  Make sure the narrator has acting chops, and access to professional-level audio mastering.

*Bonus Question: What is your favorite flavor of ice cream?

A: Can I claim spumoni even though it’s a three-in-one?  I am always on the look-out for a true pistachio custard, along with great real cherry and chocolate scoops.  It’s such a luxury!

 That does sound like a luxury! Yum!

 Julia and I have recently finished working together on Treasure. For me, at least, it’s been a great experience. Treasure received many terrific auditions. I chose Julia because of her youthful voice, excellent pacing, backlog of work, and what I believed would be her ability for versatility. Also because the recording studio offered quality sound.

 Thanks, Julia!

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Julia Farmer, Voice Artist

DON’T FORGET TO DOWNLOAD YOUR COPY OF TREASURE, THE AUDIOBOOK HERE! 🙂

S. Smith is the author of the awesome and award-winning middle grade/YA series, Seed Savers. Visit her Facebook and Pinterest pages. Follow her on TwitterSign up for the newsletter!

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#EarthDay Matters

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Today is Earth Day. Established in 1970 and paid tribute to in some way each year since, never before has it seemed as important as now. For the first time, scientists are banding together to “March for Science” on Earth Day. One wonders how, in the year 2017, we got to a place where scientists feel threatened, but that’s another post.

Today, as I see pictures of people gathering around the country and the globe, I can’t help but think of the little book series I’ve been working on since 2010. Two days ago I returned from a week in the woods spent working on the final book of the series.

In Seed Savers, ordinary people have lost their right to garden. They’ve lost access to real food; instead, the government takes care of everyone with their highly efficient, manufactured Food Groups. The EPA has ceased to exist as corporate agriculture and government have merged. Communication in the new technological age is restricted in order to keep people safe.

But the resistance is growing. In the fourth book, Keeper, what begin as Earth Day rallies, soon turn into protests about the food laws. State governments are beginning to pass their own bills allowing the freedom to plant gardens. A sleeping public is demanding more.

I hope, in fact, that the future in my books never takes place. I hope we all stand up and make our voices heard before it’s too late.

There are a lot of things that constitute earth care. The water, the trees, the atmosphere, the soil. My thing happens to be our food supply. So if you can, get out there and garden. Garden like you mean it.

HAPPY EARTH DAY 2017! I think our planet is great. 🙂

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S. Smith is the author of the awesome and award-winning middle grade/YA series, Seed Savers. Visit her Facebook and Pinterest pages. Follow her on TwitterSign up for the newsletter!

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Expect the Unexpected

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The doll she made to match the character in her book.

This weekend my hubby and I took the train up to spend time with family for Easter. After the weekend I’m taking a few days off to get back to my writing. Which means I shouldn’t be thinking about social media now, just writing the book.

But I had the most extraordinary experience on the short ride up here. And it’s not like similar things haven’t happened before…but I tend to forget. I tend to forget to expect the unexpected.

I tell myself a lot of things, and then I ignore them. What I mean is, I have ideas, inspirations, thoughts of things I should do. Then when the time comes to carry through, I shrug it off. “Nah, that was dumb; Or, too much trouble; Or, there are more important things to focus on.” Case in point: Before the train trip I was thinking of what I could do as an AUTHOR on the train. If you read my last post you know I recently returned from a wonderful writing/publishing conference and am on fire about it. I am also reading a terrific book by Brooke Warner called Green-Light Your Book: How Writers Can Succeed in the New Era of Publishing. I’m trying to have confidence in myself as a writer and publisher. Own it, as Brooke says.

So a day or so before we left on the train, I had this idea to take my first Seed Savers book and put a sticker on it letting people know they were free to read the book and pass it on, and then I’d  leave the book on the train. Maybe put some hashtag on it like #bookonthetrain and encourage whoever reads it to let me know. Something along those lines.

Then I wigged out. I didn’t bring even one of my books with me. Sigh.

So what happened? I ended up sharing a table in the lounge car with a girl who was an avid reader. She had at least three print books stuffed in her backpack. We talked about our favorite books and our love of writing. Our affinity for print books over ebooks. We talked about our urban chickens and our cats. About Star Wars. She was in 8th grade, the same as the characters in my books.

I could have kicked myself for not listening to that voice to bring one of my books along. I really wanted to give her one right then and there.

The train ride passed swiftly because of our enjoyable conversation. And here’s the thing: We were both shy people. But I pushed a little beyond my normal shy limits and it opened up a magical interaction that could easily have been missed. Unfortunately, I didn’t even leave her my card, but I hope she remembers my website. I hope I will hear from her again.

So, reach out, people.

Listen to your inspirations.

And expect the unexpected.

S. Smith is the author of the awesome and award-winning middle grade/YA series, Seed Savers. Visit her Facebook and Pinterest pages. Follow her on TwitterSign up for the newsletter!

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IBPA Publishing University: A Great Conference Experience

The 2017 IBPA Publishing University (PubU) just concluded and I’m already looking forward to next year! For those of you who don’t know what I’m talking about, I’ll do my best to explain. (A couple of months ago I didn’t know anything about it, either.)

IBPA stands for the Independent Book Publishers Association. Although I’ve been a member of ALLi  (The Alliance of Independent Authors) for a couple of years, somehow I missed IBPA! I was fortunate to discover IBPA just before their national PubU event in Portland, Oregon, only 40 miles north of where I live.

PubU is billed as “The Premier Educational Event for Indie Publishers and Self-Published Authors.” That’s me! I joined the organization and signed up for the Publishing University (conference) in one fell swoop.

I went to PubU with two main goals. Initially, the sessions promising to teach new ways to sell my books intrigued me. But as the conference date grew nearer, I was becoming more and more convinced that I needed to change my book covers. Since Treasure is middle grade, I had always wanted the cover to be an illustration but never thought I could afford it. And now that I will soon have five books in the series, I will need five new covers. As I researched online about covers and artists and book designers, I became increasingly confused as to how to bring it all together.

As it turns out, PubU has sessions called “Ask the Experts” where you can sign up for 15 minute segments to talk to industry professionals about whatever questions you have. I signed up for two of these sessions and went loaded with questions. There were also sponsor tables set up, mostly printers, some small publishers, etc., and we were encouraged to visit each of these. Soon I was learning things I didn’t even know I hadn’t known!

Then there were the sessions. For each hour block there were four sessions from which to choose, each with a particular theme or focus such as Editorial & Design, the Business of Publishing, Marketing & Social Media, Production & Distribution, Sales, etc. For example, I went to a session on how to market and sell to schools since my  Seed Savers series is great for schools. I also went to one titled “Who You Gonna Call–A Publisher, Designer, or Printer” to help answer my growing question about how to go about getting new covers.

But really, I can’t sum up in one little post two very full days. So let me just say this: the atmosphere was warm and encouraging. Everyone was kind, helpful, and friendly. We wore name tags with our names in GIANT letters. You literally could not sit down at a table without someone greeting you by name and introducing themselves.

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The snack and drink tables overflowed with root beer and m & m’s. The Benjamin Franklin Book Awards/Dinner was superb and inspiring.

Everyone at Pub/U was there to help each other no matter where you were on the journey of publishing or authoring. There was humor, songs, poetry, and plenty of chocolate.

The IBPA Publishing University will be in Austin next year. I’m already making plans… Hope to see you there!!!

S. Smith is the author of the awesome and award-winning middle grade/YA series, Seed Savers. Visit her Facebook and Pinterest pages. Follow her on TwitterSign up for the newsletter!

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Update on All Things #SeedSavers

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Today’s post is strictly informational and time sensitive. I’ve been busy with a lot of things and want to keep you up-to-date.

First, I am currently giving away the short book, The Lunchroom, with a sign-up to my email newsletter. The Lunchroom consists of several chapter-length stories giving more background to characters in the Seed Savers series. Find out more about Clare, Lily, Rose and Jason by downloading The Lunchroom here. Also included in The Lunchroom are instructions on seed saving, tea making, and the poems Clare wrote for her 8th grade writing project.

Additionally, by following the above link you can learn about a dozen more middle grade/YA books! This special is good through March 25, 2017, only.

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Second, many of you are wondering when book 5 in the Seed Savers series will be available. See the recent review left on Amazon in regard to book 4, Keeper:

My 10 yr old daughter says this series is the best she has ever read. She hopes volume 5 will be out soon. She said when she was finished reading this last book she felt like throwing a fit because she couldn’t read another in the series. My daughter is an avid reader and has never thrown a fit or said she had ever wanted to until she finished this book. Hope there are more to come in this series.

Yes, there is a book 5. Yes, I am working on it now. Yes, I have fallen off the wagon again and have stopped writing for awhile. I will try to pick it up again soon! I do want to finish it this year.

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Treasure Audiobook

Third, some of the reasons I’ve fallen off the writing wagon… Treasure is finally being made into an audiobook!! In fact, it will be available in April! I will keep you posted. Also, I am busy setting things up for some big events coming later this year and as always, setting up promotions for Seed Savers so that more people can hear about the series.

If you are already a fan, please tell everyone who would be interested about the Seed Savers series!!

These are the big events for Seed Savers this year: the International Master Gardener Conference will be held in Portland in July. I will be in booth 101 to meet you and sell and sign books!

On the heels of the MG conference is the National Children & Youth Garden Symposium, also in the Vancouver, WA & Portland, OR area. I’ll be presenting about the Seed Savers series at this awesome gathering of garden educators and program coordinators.

I will also, most likely, return to the Heirloom Expo in Santa Rosa, CA in September. This will be my fourth year at this fun and informative event.

For those of you who have read all the way to the end of this post: If you haven’t yet read Treasure or Lily, both ebooks will be on sale for 99 cents starting on March 26 and running through April 9! Be sure to download for spring vacation reading. 🙂

S.

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S. Smith is the author of the awesome and award-winning middle grade/YA series, Seed Savers. Visit her Facebook and Pinterest pages. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram Sign up for the newsletter!

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ACX Auditions – Audiobook First-timer

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I finally jumped on the audiobook wagon. 

As an indie author and publisher there are always many things to do, many things to learn and consider. Do I write more books? Do I spend my time marketing? Do learn about Facebook ads… Like anyone else, I am subject to run down a lot of rabbit holes. I’ll lay it on the line: I’m not very consistent. I don’t always follow through. I burn myself out.

But then the New Year starts and it’s a fresh beginning; I vow to do better. For various reasons I decided now was the time to get going on an audiobook for the first book in my series, Treasure.

The following is my two cents on one part of the process of making an audiobook with ACX –the auditions. There are plenty of step-by-step blog posts on the entire process. And even though I thought I had read them all and was ready to go, once I started the ACX ball rolling I felt like I wasn’t prepared enough. I found the ACX website not at all intuitive and lacking in many of the areas for which I had questions. I probably should have just phoned somebody, but I didn’t. I tried to find my answers online. 

I’ll share my experience, and maybe it will help someone else on the journey. If nothing else, a good rant. 🙂

My mistakes:

#1 I should have been more specific in filling out my profile. It didn’t occur to me to put “American” accent in the accent section, for example.

#2 My audition piece was too long. It ran 5-6 minutes. That’s a lot to listen to when you receive many auditions. Just copy and paste together the parts you really need to hear from your auditioner (“producer”); for example, all the main characters, narration, etc. It will save everyone involved a lot of time.

#3 My biggest problem was that I thought there should be a “pause” button where you could stop receiving auditions but not absolutely take down your book from the site. Where you could take a break and listen to all of the auditions, but not necessarily be ready to make a choice yet. I mean, this is a HUGE decision. At least I felt like it was. 

I wanted to yell “PAUSE!” but didn’t know how. Meanwhile, I kept getting emails from potential producers who asked if I would keep the audition open until I received theirs. So I would keep it open and then receive ten more, and over and over.

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I finally discovered that I could take my title down without losing all of my information. So that is what I did. However, apparently when I did that, some of my auditioners got an automatic email saying they had not been chosen. WHICH WASN’T TRUE! I simply needed time to narrow down the auditions.

I had already taken notes on several of the first auditions that came in. When I went looking for those auditions again on my title’s page I noticed that several had disappeared. Since I had written down the people’s names in my notes, I messaged them,  telling them their audition had “disappeared” from the list of my title’s profile and asked if they were still interested. That’s how I learned about the automatic message that went out.

Every one of them was still interested and sent me their audition via email, since they could no longer upload it because I had taken my book down. One of them also helpfully suggested that I should probably have put an audition deadline on my initial listing. AHA. MISTAKE #4, which goes back to #1. Put it right there in the initial profile and hope people stick to it.

After finally deciding on the producer I wanted to send an offer to, I discovered you can’t make an offer (through the ACX site) unless your title is UP. So I finally changed my initial profile (something I should have done much earlier but was afraid to do; I feared I would somehow lose all my beautiful auditions). At the beginning of the description and then again in the Rights Holder comments, I put in big letters NO LONGER RECEIVING AUDITIONS. And I didn’t receive any. Having my title up allowed me to make an offer to the producer I had finally decided on.

The Takeaway:

  • When you first sent up your title, be very careful about everything. Specify accent, gender, age, etc. of the narrator you have in mind. And don’t be afraid to go back in and change it! 
  • For the audition manuscript, include the voices you really need to hear but still making it as short and succinct as possible.
  • Put an audition end date right up front! Put it at the beginning of the description or in the Additional Comments section. You can always go back and extend it if you don’t receive enough auditions. This way you won’t have to take it down and automatic emails won’t go out to your applicants.
  • I found that it was good for me to put time in between listening to auditions. I took about 2 weeks before deciding.

I also went back and sent personal messages (some were part copy and paste, some were totally unique, depending on on the personal messages the applicants had sent with their auditions) to each person who auditioned, letting them know that I had made my decision and thanking them for their audition. They were very appreciative. Yes, it took all afternoon, but they did, after all, put time into auditioning.

Well, that’s enough for now. 

Have you created an audiobook yet? Leave questions or comments in comment section below.

Over and out,

S.

S. Smith is the author of the awesome and award-winning middle grade/YA series, Seed Savers. Visit her Facebook and Pinterest pages. Follow her on TwitterSign up for the newsletter!

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Ana of Seed Savers

November 7 is a very special day at our house. It’s the day I gave birth to my daughter, Anastasia.

Often on or around this date I publish a new book. This is not one of those years. However, in honor of my daughter’s birthday I’m putting the first two books of Seed Savers on sale for 99 cents.

What’s the connection between Ana and Seed Savers? Those who have read the first two books know that Ana is the name of the wise and knowledgeable elderly woman who teaches the children about seeds and gardening in a future where such actions are illegal. It is a future where food is manufactured and distributed and has no resemblance to plant life.

I like to think this might be my Ana.

When I  wrote Treasure (Seed Savers 1) back in 2010, Ana was very supportive. She was in high school and living at home. She loved the idea of the book before I ever wrote it down and her enthusiasm helped me put pen to paper.

What is the real Ana like? The real Ana plants and tends a garden all on her own. She loves good food and is an awesome cook. As a teen, she spent her summers working with children at camp. She was part of an award-winning Envirothon team in high school. She has sold apples at farmers market and harvested Marionberries on a night picking machine. Ana loves reading and devours books at an amazing speed. She is smart, stubborn, and opinionated. 

Does this sound like elderly Ana of Seed Savers? Maybe so :).

If you haven’t read Seed Savers yet, now is a great opportunity to get the series (ebooks) at a discount! Four books of the five book series are currently available, and the first two  are only 99 cents for a limited time,  a savings of five dollars!! Available on Amazon, iBooks, Kobo, Smashwords, and Nook.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, ANA!

S. Smith is the author of the awesome and award-winning middle grade/YA series, Seed Savers. Visit her Facebook and Pinterest pages. Follow her on TwitterSign up for the newsletter!

 

 

 

 

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