Narrator Red Flags: What are they and how to avoid them

Hello there and welcome to the beginning of your new career or part time job/secondary income as an audio book narrator! We are so glad that you have decided to jump into this enriching experience with the hundreds of thousands of others doing this as well. But before you go ahead and accept your first or next book (depending upon what stage you are in) or even before auditioning, there is a couple of things that we want to go over with you so as to help you avoid the pitfalls of being a "newbie"
  • If you ever get a message which has been poorly written in English with what is usually an Italian pen name, automatically this a sure first sign that the person you are dealing with is a head hunter and is looking for newbies like you to take advantage.

  • Within the message itself, if there is any mention of payment lower than $50 PFH, "multiple books to work with" and or any mention of "payment once you send me codes" then AVOID AT ALL COSTS. Not only is anything at or bellow $50 PFH under minimum wage, but sending the codes is a way that they end up creating false reviews for that book, while also netting $2-$5 per redeemed code which they put through a generator to "redeem" those codes and makes it look like somebody "bought" the book (which means you can potentially be losing out on an extra $400 to almost $1,000 per book on codes that you could be using to send to promo sites such as freeaudiobookcodes.com/ so as to allow YOU to be getting that cash)

  • If they ever tell you that the book is about something on self help, money, or weight loss, then pass those up because many times, these are books which have titles stuffed to the gills with "buzz words" which exploit the Amazon/Audible algorithm because the idea ties back into the second point which I made, is they use this as a way to try and get their numbers to falsely represent their (and by extension your) book to the number one spot on "The Amazon Best Sellers List" but in reality, it's just a cheap shot at trying to get more money for them. (Examples of topics would be Mindfulness, Keto, CBD, Stock Market Investing, Dark Psychology, Stoicism, etc)

  • Many times, they will also have an ultimatum of stating that you absolutely need to have the book done in either a 3, 4, or 5 hour mark EXACTLY. That again is an exploitation of the algorithm and yet another sign of a scam.
  • ALWAYS ask to see the book/script upfront and ahead of time. This will always ultimately determine what kind of a book you are going to be getting yourself into. The number one/biggest thing to look out for is if the book is riddled with tons upon tons of spelling and grammar errors. Because if it is, then that means the book was ghostwritten by a Nigerian that the Rights Holder had paid $10 to run the manuscript through Google Translate so as to avoid copyright detection (as some of these books are not even the original authors, but rather this right holders own cut and copy/pasted version that they plan to yet again exploit the system with)

  • Another small yet tale tale sign is not only will they request that the book MUST meet the 3 hour mark, but they will also say that you must finish these books in no less than a weeks time. This is due to them trying to just pump out as many as possible and really don't care about the quality, but rather quantity so as to beat the algorithm. Plus, they will even go so far as to spam the system and avoid getting locked out by trying to even use different names on each of the books they send you.
  • Lastly, if they are telling you that you will need to upload each of the chapter files to another website or their own email/file sharing service and not ACX because of "some reason" (they will say things along the line of"My computer won't let me get on ACX" or "There is a problem with allowing me to download your files" and "I am unable to connect to ACX") this is a sure fire way to have them literally take your files and run with them, not pay you, and if you try and tell the ACX staff about it, the right holder can throw it back at you and say "She/He never ever sent me the files on ACX" and screen shot that sure enough, you didn't.

Scary stuff isn't it? So what can you do now? Well for starters, the best and most effective thing that you can do is to message publishing companies/authors directly: This is the big one. Because not only will you have the same hit and miss from auditioning as you do on ACX, but you will have more freedom to work on books you actually will enjoy, AND get to work with the actual author/publishing company directly instead of having to go through 3rd party entities where you end up having to speak with what feels like 4 or 5 different people to find out any information about the book you are doing.

Now before I close, I want to just put a small annotation here with regards to everything I just said. And no, this isn't me backtracking and trying to tell you all of that stuff I just listed is a lie and I wasted your time. No no, those thing you should still always be adhered to. But what I want to make a note of is this. And this should be for any sort of freelance voice over work that you do (be it audiobooks or other sites such as Upwork or Fivver) Trust your better judgment and listen to your instinct. If it sounds too good to be true, or at least more than 3 of these red flags show up, get the heck out of Dodge. Because something to make note of here is not all people that message you are going to be fakes, as well as not all people that message you are going to be legit. For example, you can get an American or British rights holder (speaking perfect English and with a legit pen name) and their message can still have the tropes of only wanting to pay you $25 PFH for a 4 hour book. Or you can have somebody that does have a legit book, and wants to pay you $100 PFH, yet they send you the script and it's completely botched. Again, always go with your better judgment and keep note of things that are happening with the people you are messaging and making deals with, so that you don't end up getting burned in the end. But other than that, try and have fun and good luck narrating/book hunting!

Heath Chapman Douglass