I am so very pleased to introduce Mr. Dawson McBride! Dawson narrated Sawyer’s Rose and Wyatt’s Bounty and I couldn’t be more pleased with his melodic deep voice and his ability to make my cowboys come to life, all with unique voices. I did a poll to find out what kind of questions people have for narrators so that maybe Dawson can enlighten us all on just how the process happens. Welcome Dawson, and tell us about you and how you got into narrating books? How long have you been narrating? Do you have a website for people to find your books?
Kim, I’ve been narrating for about 4 years. I’ve been telling stories since about the age of 6 when my father caught me breaking into our home because I had, once again, lost my key.
I’ve always been drawn to narration and the art of telling a story. My first memory of a great storyteller is Rex Allen narrating “Charlie the Lonesome Cougar”. Like many voice actors, I began doing research into voice acting when I recognized that people made comments on my voice and how they enjoyed listening to it – and getting paid for that, was something that I thought would be a really great idea.
Once you begin researching the art of audiobook narration, you discover that it’s much more than simply “reading out loud”. It is, in every aspect, the art of acting. So, after a few classes and some coaching I began searching for work.
I have been fortunate enough to complete over 75 books at this moment in time. Dawson McBride, however, has just begun his career in romance narration. Thus far, Dawson has completed 4 books, of which 3 are available through Audible and one is pending release. I am also currently in production on 5 others, all in various stages of the production process. All of my books as Dawson McBride may be found on Audible simply by searching my name – Dawson McBride.
What makes you choose a story and how do you know it is a fit for you?
First is the issue of my voice. It doesn’t and won’t fit any and every genre. I began with mostly traditional western historical titles or those titles mostly set in the post Civil War 1800”s. I have been asked, and I have completed, some mystery thriller and some horror titles. Mostly I’ve been chosen by authors and publisher due to either the depth of my voice or the natural southern accent that my parent’s worked so hard to provide for me.
What made you choose to narrate romance stories? What other genres do you narrate?
This is a very good question. I’ve been asked for over two years to begin producing romance titles. But I was a bit skeptical, not because of the level of spice or the issues one may typically associate with shying away from romance. My concerns were for being able to properly and effectively perform the spicy parts so that I didn’t sound like a giggling 9 year old looking at his first Playboy Magazine. (yes, and I wasn’t looking at the articles). After being encouraged by more than one of my female peer narrators I decided that a rebranding effort would be necessary so that my romance work could stand apart from my other, non-romance work.
The level of spice is not an issue for me. What is an issue for me, and it is the line I draw for myself is when and if sexual activity within the title is non-consensual – unless it is a part of outlining the characters past or for creating a picture of why the character is who they are.
Some may assume that pseudonyms are used to “hide”, but for me, it’s a branding effort. Much like the large auto manufacturers, it’s the same company, but a different brand. I explain Dawson McBride is the Lincoln Continental and my other name is the Ford F-150.
My other guy narrates historical fiction, contemporary fiction, mystery / thrillers, and some horror / fantasy. Dawson will always narrate romance, and the sub-genres he is most suited for are Historical Romance with a Western or Southern flavor, MC Romance, and Military Romance.
When you are narrating a story is it done in order?
If by, in order, you mean from Chapter 1 to the Epilogue, yes that’s exactly how it’s done.
Is there a certain time of day that works better for you?
I’m an early bird, and in an effort to better balance my work life with my family life I choose to work fairly early in the morning (as I answer these questions it’s 4:15 am on a Saturday morning – and I’ve already made corrections to three chapter for an author and posted them for her review, auditioned for two commercials, and responded to a handful of email messages from publishers and clients)
Once the family is off to work and school, I’m back in the booth where I try to limit my narration to 3 finished hours per day (more than this causes me voice to weaken) and then I work on Social Media, Marketing and other business related issues associated with voice acting.
How many takes happen to complete a story, or what is the timeline on completing a work?
I narrate and edit each chapter, one chapter at a time. I then listen to it for quality issues comparing it to the manuscript I’ve been provided. Once I’m satisfied, for ACX I post it to the production site where the Rights Holder has access to it and can choose to listen or not. If they listen and find errors I may have missed, I make those corrections and then post the corrected chapter for review. I don’t like to move forward until I’m sure my author or Right’s Holder is completely satisfied with how their story is being told. I work on more than one title at a time so depending on the length of the title it could take anywhere from 4 days to 2-3 weeks to complete production.
How many times do you read a story before beginning the narrations?
I read every manuscript through once. Making notes while reading on characters, their mannerisms and attitudes and how they should be played. I keep those notes with me while narrating and I record a snippet of each voice to keep in a file so if that character appears in Chapter 1, but disappears until Chapter 43, I can go back and listen to how he or she was portrayed in order to be consistent.
And yes, you must read the entire story first!
What kind of equipment do you use and what is the set-up like?
I use an IMac within my home built booth, and I have an audio interface that connects my microphone to my IMac. I use mostly free software for recording, again, in a booth I built at the end of a long walk-in closet in my home.
What are you favorite works to narrate?
I love great stories and I love happy endings – where the protagonists finally come together and the antagonists get what they so richly deserve. A twist or two in the plot are always fun, as well.
What is the best thing about being a narrator?
The best thing is working from home where I get to be accessible to my family when needed and I can be flexible with my work schedule.
What is the worst thing about being a narrator?
This one changes for me as my career has progressed – First it was about finding work. Then it became finding profitable work. And I have always had a dislike for marketing and sales, but it’s what we need to do if we want to take care of business. So, I imagine the worst thing is the necessity to have to always be looking for more work – because you never know when a great run of work is going to suddenly dry up.
Do you have trouble deciding voices for characters?
Not really. I try to not make my production about me and my ability to do character voices. If that was my focus I’d probably be pursuing a career in animation or video games….the “performance” can never take away from the author’s words – it must be about the author’s words because I’m simply the one telling the story. My work needs to be a compliment to the author’s work, not a distraction.
And a sidebar, what do you like to read? Any other hobbies?
I grew up on Zane Grey and Louis L’Amour – and dad always took me to the most recent John Wayne or Clint Eastwood movie, so that’s where I gravitate to. I do like to read autobiographical works of people who have had an impact on history – and not always a positive impact.
What advice do you have for authors working with a narrator?
Be honest about the work. Don’t surprise them. If there is a character with an Irish accent in book three that appears in book one, make sure they know that they have an Irish accent – or book three is going to be a surprise to your listener.
If you can afford it, always choose per finished hour (PFH) work. You’ll get the quality production you want and need and then you will reap all of the benefits of the royalties without having to share. You’ll always have a higher caliber of narrator pool to choose from when you can afford to pay between $250 - $400 per finished hour, or more. Many narrators who accept Royalty Share (RS) work do so with the understanding that PFH work comes before RS work. Many of these same narrators may not be agreeable to do the additional titles in your series if the sale of the first title in the series is not allowing them to make the same living they could under a PFH arrangement.
Also, if you’re not able to afford the full PFH method, consider a “Hybrid” arrangement. Assisting the narrator with the cost of his or her editing, proofing, and mastering at around $100 PFH plus the added benefit of Royalty Share will often allow you access to that “better narrator” pool.
Be as responsive as you’re able to be. If your narrator communicates with you, respond. They have deadlines and are likely handling more than one client at a time so they need to always be moving forward. If you are too busy to respond in a timely manner then that backs the process up and you may get lost between the cracks. If you know you’ll be too busy to timely respond, then let your narrator know upfront that it may take some time for you to get back to them. Most full time narrators started out as part time narrators so they understand the need to balance what they WANT to be doing with that “survival” job that pays the bills and keeps the lights on. Always be as professional as you expect your narrator to be. They will respond in kind. I promise!
Market, Market, Market especially Royalty Share titles. Narrators and their voices do not move the sales needle for titles. We are happy to assist, but most listeners don’t follow titles for the narrator, they follow the titles of the author. The more effective your marketing plan and the more involved you can be within your social media network, the more successful your titles will sell.
What advice do you have for those aspiring to become narrators?
Here’s the best advice I’ve ever heard for someone wanting to know if they’d like to be a narrator and it comes from the most prolific non-ficition narrator on the planet, Sean Pratt.
YouTube link and follow his advice: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NPzPi-_0Xi8
….and that’s the most honest advice I can provide to anyone who is considering narration.