ACX - Narrator Sienna Beckman - Guest Blogger

Guest Post by Sienna Beckman
Posted by Elysabeth Eldering

Since I've been posting my progress with the audio book side of things, I thought I'd let my narrator for Finally Home show you her side of things.  I have received the files but haven't had a chance to go through it yet as work has been rather hectic.  I'm shooting to go through the audio files this weekend and possibly the first part of next week.  For the release of the audio book, I've put Finally Home back in the KDP select program.  I'm offering it as a free download Monday and Tuesday, so if you haven't already purchased a copy or would like to gift a young girl who enjoys Nancy Drew mysteries my book (which is similar to a Nancy Drew mystery), next week will be the time to do so.


My name is Sienna Beckman and I’m an actor based in Los Angeles, California. I’ve been recording audio books for about 4 months and have loved all the learning experiences. Both of my parents read aloud to my brother and me when we were growing up, so telling stories has always been a big part of my life. I studied music (piano and trumpet) and played soccer growing up and was very focused on those activities. When I was required to be a part of my 8th grade operetta, Guys and Dolls, I discovered my love for being on stage. I was in several plays in high school and my passion only increased. I attended Occidental College in Los Angeles and earned my Bachelor’s Degree in Theater Arts.

Becoming a narrator through ACX was very easy. They make all of the audition files and contracts very accessible and straightforward. When I’m looking for a new project, I will search through available titles for books that fit my voice type. It’s especially exciting when I find one that requires an accent, because I love accents and it always adds an extra challenge for me. Then I will record an audition file and send it in to the author via the ACX website.  (Audition files are submitted by the author and are usually a few pages or a chapter to get a feel how the narrator will read the characters and the story itself.)

(Of note, Sienna does read the books first before she starts recording.)  When I hunker down with each new book I’m going to record, the process is always slightly different. Depending on the amount of time I have, how long the book is, and how many characters, my process always begins with notes. I make a list of all of the major characters, some minor ones too, and decide how I’m going to shape their voice. Because audio books have no visual aid, it is up to me to create a very distinct line between characters, so the listeners don’t get confused as to who is talking. In my notes I also make notes of pronunciation questions I might have. My voice is best suited for young adult fiction and some fantasy novels.  If there are unusual names or countries or worlds that I don’t know how to pronounce. I always like to check with the author beforehand, if I have any questions.

When I actually get to recording, the chapter breaks are perfect break markers for me. I will record each chapter and then be able to take a break and rest my voice for a few minutes before continuing. There are several techniques to recording audio books, but my method is as follows: if I misspeak or make a mistake, I allow the software to keep recording and simply back up to the beginning of the sentence, or to the last logical point where I can easily make an editing cut, and begin again. This way I can keep my rhythm and continue along with telling the story. If I were to stop the recording and delete the outtake right then, I would lose momentum and the story telling would suffer.

After all of the tracks are recorded, then comes the editing and mastering process. This is the most time consuming part of being an ACX narrator by far. As the narrator, I am also the producer and editor, and must be responsible for making the completed files sound professional and ready to be sold online. I have to go back, listen to all of the tracks, and delete all of the outtakes. Or if I say a sentence or a phrase two different ways, I have to decide which way I like best. Then I have to go through the tracks and take out any background noise there might be, soften any speech plosives or mouth sounds I might have inadvertently made, and make it all sound seamless. Then I export the files as mp3s, and they are ready to be uploaded to ACX.

Along with audio books, I also write, produce, and record my own audio podcast, called “At the Beep.” It is a passion project that I began in the New Year that is about environmental and social awareness. Each week I highlight a different individual who has dedicated his or her life to making the world a better place. There is so much negativity and selfishness and greed corrupting the world in this time, and the premise of my podcast is that, on the flip side of that, there is also so much love, conscientiousness, and dedication to peace, health, and happiness. There are so many people out there who are so passionate about finding innovative, intelligent, and accessible ways for the general public to learn to live a green, healthy, clean, and un-wasteful life. A few of my highlights have been the Straus Family of Straus Family Dairy and Creamery, Medea Benjamin of the women’s anti-war organization Code Pink, Father Gregory Boyle of Homeboy Industries, and Joel Salatin of Polyface Farms.

Please subscribe to my podcast by searching “At the Beep” on iTunes. I aim to spread happiness, helpfulness, and awareness in the most accessible way possible.

Please visit my website for more information or if you would like to contact me.  You can also follow me on Twitter @siennagrace89

Posted by Elysabeth Eldering
Author of Finally Home, a middle grade/YA mystery


Magdalena Ball said...

A fascinating insite into the making of an audio book from a perspective we rarely get. Thanks for this Sienna. I've just subscribed to At the Beep and looking forward to listening to the podcasts

Unknown said...

Hi Magdalena,
Thanks so much! I hope you enjoy it. Please don't hesitate to send me feedback. I'm always welcome to thoughts and comments on my podcast episodes.

Karen Cioffi said...

Wow, what an interesting process - it certainly is involved. Thanks for sharing with us. Being concerned about the environment, I will also subscribe to At the Beep.

Anne Duguid Knol said...

So interesting to find out how much is involved with narrating audiobooks and I shall be signing up to At the Beep which sounds inspirational.

D. Jean Quarles said...

That was a great idea. Love hearing from the narrator. So interesting.

Tips for Creating Subplots in Middle Grade Novels

by Suzanne Lieurance   If you’re writing a middle grade novel, you want to include at least one or two subplots. Subplots in fiction are sec...