Monday, December 9, 2013

A Principal Challenge of Modern Story-telling

This a reposting of my first entry as a guest blogger for the blog ON THE PLUM TREE.

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A Principal Challenge of Modern Story-telling
by Daniel Vimont

I'm very grateful to Niamh for the invitation to take part in these wonderful Plum Tree conversations, which seem to me to be something of a 21st century version of the stimulating and enlightening French salons of centuries past.

Since Niamh's invitation was in the context of my work (and works) as an audiobook narrator, I'd better begin my part of the conversation at least somewhere in the neighborhood of that topic. (Who knows where things might veer from there? But that's where I'll start.)

Let's talk first about challenges. (That's like skipping the pleasantries and getting straight to the car chase.) It may be a bit masochistic of me, but I love the fact that as an audiobook narrator/producer, I face a broad array of challenges every day: artistic and technical challenges, as well as marketing and financial challenges. And all of these challenges are overhung by the fairly relentless meta-challenge of not losing faith in my ability to effectively take on any of these challenges. (That last one probably sounds very familiar to you, even if you're not an audiobook narrator.)

In adhering to what I perceive to be the belles-lettres nature of these Plum Tree conversations, I'll take on the artistic issues here and leave discussion of the others to some other blog.

It will come as no surprise to you if I say that during every moment that I am recording an audiobook, I am reading words off of a page. However, at any moment in which you are listening to an audiobook of mine, if it ever sounds like I am reading to you then I have failed (and failed rather abysmally), to meet one of the fundamental challenges that I set for myself. When I am reading to you (and of course, every second you are engaged in one of my audiobooks I am, in fact, reading to you), it must never ever sound like I am "reading to you".

When your favorite musician plays or sings for you, does it sound like they are reading notes off of a page? Hell no!! They are just making beautiful music for you to enjoy, and any notation that may or may not be in front of them while they are doing it does not in any way come into your conscious experience as a listener.

Likewise, if I come across sounding as if I have printed words in front of me that I am reading to you, then the magic (that I feel must be there) has been lost. Even though my voice is physically coming through your earbuds or emanating from your car or living room speakers, it must feel as if I am having a very intimate conversation with you (just you), with a spontaneity that distinguishes a natural conversation from a recitation.

Do I succeed at this? Do I come across as someone who is simply reading something aloud to you, or do I come across as someone who is telling you a story? That is for you to decide. It is up to you to be the judge and jury (and, if necessary, the executioner -- let's hope it doesn't come to that).

Do I think other audiobook narrators succeed at this? Honestly, very few. But it also seems that not many of them are even trying to get beyond sounding like they’re "reading". Which leads me to tentatively conclude that audiobook narration as an art form is in its very early stages of development.

So if each of us is on our own Joseph Campbell "hero's journey", then this is mine:  hacking through  the underbrush in unexplored, unmapped territory, working to give birth to a new art form.

Monday, November 11, 2013

My audiobook version of Poe's THE TELL-TALE HEART -- controversial??

In preparation for producing my audio book reading of THE TELL-TALE HEART, I simply sat down on my living room couch and started reading through it aloud. I was of course already familiar with the text and knew that the narrator is completely insane. But there is something particularly striking in the opening lines, in which the narrator takes an argumentative and angry stance toward the reader, like, "How DARE you presume that I am insane?"

I didn't honestly think through it too much; I simply let the words explain to me how they should be read. And almost immediately the voice that came out reminded me of Norman Bates in his "mother" mode, with a touch of Dana Carvey's church lady thrown in.

Then, when I recorded it, I found myself taking a quite different approach from that which I normally do. Rather than using my standard routine of recording approximately one paragraph at a time, I instead recorded the entire short story in two or three very long takes. And in the subsequent editing process I was much more hands-off than usual, leaving in some of the nastier, guttural sound effects that emanated from my throat as I passionately frothed my way through the story, in character. I generally consider myself much more of a storyteller than a voice actor, but in the case of this story -- it is as close to "acting" as I've ever gotten in my audiobook career.

Later on I added some visuals to create a video that I posted on YouTube and on Facebook. It was then that I got a nasty surprise in the form of a couple of curious gay-bashing comments from strangers (apparently kids with Facebook accounts). I of course immediately deleted the offensive comments, but it left me with a question: Had I created a work of art that might prove offensive to some people? When I first started recording the story I wasn't honestly sure of the narrator's gender, much less the narrator's sexuality. But here it was being interpreted by some listeners -- negatively interpreted -- as the voice of a gay male. The specific questions that came to mind were -- Could this be interpreted as a kind of gay-bashing artwork in itself? Or, might it be a work that would encourage gay-bashing?

I tend to think and fervently hope that the answer to all of these questions is NO, but I'm curious: What do you think?

Have a listen to the story here and let me know.

The complete audiobook, CLASSIC TALES OF HORROR FOR HALLOWEEN, is available here:

Sunday, September 22, 2013

My first experiment with a Facebook promotion for one of my audiobooks

Prior to its release on Amazon/Audible/iTunes, I'm giving away promotional copies of my newest audiobook, CLASSIC TALES OF HORROR FOR HALLOWEEN, over on my audiobook promotions FB page.

Here's the link:

Please click on over and download a copy, if you'd like. Any feedback on the download experience, and especially of the listening experience, would be greatly appreciated!

Sunday, August 25, 2013

New video - audiobook trailer for CLASSIC TALES OF CHRISTMAS

I recently completed the following video trailer for my recent audiobook publication, CLASSIC TALES OF CHRISTMAS. I'll be using it in the weeks to come (particularly in the lead-up to the Christmas season) in a video campaign with Google Adwords. We'll see how it goes!

Saturday, August 24, 2013

"Voiceover" does NOT equal "audiobook narration"

A newly posted article on The Atlantic website backs me up on one of my pet peeves: the conflation of "voiceover" with "audiobook narration". The two are leagues apart, yet so many "reliable sources" on the Internet treat the two as if they were the same thing.

Here's a pointed quote from the article (written by an author who was considering options for the creation of an audiobook version of one of her works):
"The voices of the performers the audiobook company asked me to choose from sounded, if not robotic exactly, more like the Hertz NeverLost lady than Meryl Streep."
This quote hits it on the head: Somebody who can provide the voiceover for a 30-second blurb to sell Big Gulps at Seven-Eleven does not necessarily have any idea how to narrate and produce a long-form narrative work in audiobook format. (An athlete gifted in the 100-meter dash would not necessarily be able to credibly compete in a marathon without properly training for it.)

I am NOT saying that a "voiceover artist" could not do a good job with audiobook narration, but experience with one does not automatically transfer to the other.

BTW, another standard conflation is this: the powers-that-be also seem to think that anyone with a Screen Actors Guild membership card can automatically narrate audiobooks. Some no doubt can, but one does not automatically give the other.


Edit Sept. 7, 2013: It appears the folks at Brilliance Audio (who have obviously been in the audiobook business a LONG time) agree with drawing a clear distinction between "audiobook narration" and "voiceover". On their "Careers at Brilliance Audio" webpage, they give this succinct instruction to those who would send them audiobook narration audition materials:
We are not interested whatsoever in voice over or commercial work examples.
I'm supposing theirs to be the voice of experience, to which I defer.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

My latest doings in the audiobook realm

Anyone curious about my current entertainment-oriented offerings on can usually see two or three of them "advertised" on the right-hand side of this blog.  But for a complete listing of my current offerings on, simply click here to go to my narrator page on the Audible site (and yes, please do consider making a purchase!).

Monday, February 4, 2013


We'll see where this goes...

This last weekend, I went into my GoDaddy account and registered the domain "".  I haven't set up anything with it yet, so if you try to go there at the moment (February 4, 2013), you'll just get a generic godaddy homepage in your face.

But here's the deal:  I plan to use this domain as the home base for the creation and distribution of a number of audiobooks/podcasts based upon notable books from the Creative Commons ecosystem.  (Books that are licensed to universally allow derivative works are immediately available; those that don't will require me to get approval from the rights-holder to make an audiobook version.)

My reasoning is as follows:

The creation of audiobooks in the public domain is being handled very nicely by LibriVox.  I have nothing but good things to say about LibriVox (in contrast to some of the other "noble cause" oriented organizations that I've lent my efforts to over the decades).  What makes me such a fanboy?  I think it's got something to do with the fact that we (I get to say "we" here, because LibriVox is a "we" thing) have a simple, straightforward mission (to provide public domain audiobooks based upon public domain writings), and we go about it directly, without a lot of fuss.  And since EVERYONE in the organization, including all the admin folks, are volunteers, the sense of egalitarianism and extreme civility within the LibriVox forums is palpable, and a welcome relief from the puerile flame-throwing and foolishness that infests much of the wide-open Internet.

The distribution of audiobooks in the traditional copyright domain appears to effectively be in the hands of a single monopoly:  That's pretty much all there is to say:  You want a for-pay audiobook of a copyrighted work?  You go to Audible (or its parent company Amazon; or iTunes, which seems to offer most of the Audible line).

But the creation and distribution of some notable works published under Creative Commons licenses seems to not be getting any concerted attention.  In my own small way, I aim to change that.

At this very moment, I am in action producing my first work under the “CommonVox” umbrella.  Late last week (before I had even registered the "" domain) I got in touch with an author of (considerable) note, whose most recent very important work is not yet available in audiobook format.  I produced (in format and quality acceptable for publication on Audible) the first chapter of the work and sent the author a private link to it, stating my desire to produce the complete audiobook and make it as widely available as possible.  Within a few hours I received a brief reply (the author looks to be a very very busy person) to the effect of "go for it".

So I am going for it, and the audiobook should be completed and ready for distribution shortly -- mode of distribution (  podcast?  all the above?) yet to be determined.

What comes after this first project?  I'm bursting with ideas, but we'll have to wait and see what this month might bring, first...