Ladies and gentlemen, the story you are about to see is true. The names have been changed to protect the innocent.
Previously, I related the beginning of the story concerning Beacon Audiobooks. Briefly, a representative of their company contacted me by email to see if I would be interested in producing books for them – a non-exclusive agreement for Royalty Share work. We exchanged emails for a few days and eventually I was passed off from the first contact to another person who sent a manuscript of a book and a page of notes and hints on how to proceed. All this was done fairly proficiently and effectively, if not in the most expected manner for a business relationship.
This email, that contained the manuscript and hints document, said:
Nice to meet you. I’ve attached a novel for you to narrate. If you’re familiar with ACX, we require the same technical specs and guidelines as they do. Also attached are some helpful tips to read before starting. I would say for a book at this length, it should be turned in within 3.5 weeks. Lastly, please send over a 5 min sample of the book before fully starting for approval.
Let me know if you have any questions.
Okay, that was easy. No auditioning or any hassle, just the book and a timeline with a five minute checkpoint. This might be pretty good!
In my mind, this book was a few hours long, and 3-4 weeks was workable, but I had some other commitments from ACX that I had to get done first. I didn’t get right on the Beacon book, but after I finished my other time-sensitive recordings, I did the five minute checkpoint and sent it in for review with the following note:
Here is the First Five of “xxxxx yyy zzzzzzz” for your review.
Normally, I don’t stop at the first checkpoint when I record. When I get started on a book, I will usually record for 45-60 minutes trusting that the First 15 will be okay. I haven’t gotten burned by this yet, but there have been a few times when departing from this standard served me well. This was to become one of those times. The reply back was:
Nice to hear from you. This sample is approved. I sent you this book 16 days ago and never heard back. Is there any reason why it takes so long? With a 3.5 week turn around time, seems like half of the time was spent not working on it if the sample has just now been sent. Please advise.
Hmm. That hit me as a little snarky, but maybe it was because I read it at like 4:45 AM and the coffee was still dripping. All our communications had been cordial, if not terribly professional, but this one came across as a reprimand. Not responding in the most submissive manner, I shared:
I am contracted with other books in production, and your 3.5 week timeframe comes across as a suggestion, not as a hard deadline. Additionally, your process is certainly not production centered. In your first communication, I was given the manuscript and told a timeframe. This did not begin as a collaborative effort.
While I am interested in producing this book, for you to choose the title for me, determine a timeframe of 3.5 weeks for a 100,000 word Royalty Share project without providing me a chance to preview the title or collaborate in a schedule, and then respond as you did, does not lend itself to a positive working relationship.
I don’t wish to be rude, but perhaps you would be better suited to finding another narrator for this title. Neither do I wish to turn my back on a business opportunity, but one that is more equitable is what I had in mind.
I wasn’t trying to lose the deal here, but neither was I wanting to be bossed around or caused to feel like a high schooler that didn’t get their homework done on time. I don’t know if the gentleman was trying to evoke either of those feelings, but the tone of the email become more and more abrasive every time I read it. I could even hear the sarcasm in the opening line, although he was kind enough to leave out the “finally” at the end of that sentence.
As is pretty much always a lost cause, I thought if I stood my ground and explained my view that he would agree with me and we could reach a mutually beneficial schedule. And did you notice that it took me this long in the process to do an actual word count? Yes, probably 11 hours or more – in 3.5 weeks. Full time at 4:1, which we know is tough to achieve on a book with characters and dialogue, would be an entire week! For Royalty Share. I don’t think so. I have shorter books on ACX for RS where the Rights Holder allowed 3-4 months.
Unsurprisingly, he was not swayed by my logic or fervor:
Thanks for the email. The issue was not you taking immediate paying work, its that we never heard from you about any possibly delays. Unfortunately, the books assigned will be our choosing unless there is a genre you prefer not to read. A time frame for each book is given based on the length of the book, not typically anticipating other life distractions for you personally.
I wish you the very best moving forward in your narrating career!
Very well, then. No negotiating – I will tell you what to do and when to do it and how much of it to do. The kicker was the line about personal life distractions. Do I want to work with a company that doesn’t typically anticipate that their producers might have a personal life that would distract them from their narrating?
I am culpable here for not knowing the length of the book and, as much as I don’t want to say it, waiting 16 days to do my checkpoint. I should have done this in the first week and avoided some of the contentious communication, but I didn’t. And now, that bridge is burnt.
While you haven’t specifically stated your desires for this title, I infer that you do not wish for us to continue this process. If that is your intention, then I concur.
Good day, sir.
The last line is my favorite of the entire exchange. As you expect, it is a quote, and I was yearning for one more response here so I could follow up with the inevitable, “I said, ‘Good day,’ sir.”