Don’t Knock Your Client’s Business Model

Hey, there!

Someone on one of the audiobook narrator lists I’m on posted a comment about ACX.

The poster said it was “heartbreaking” what happens to our carefully crafted audio recordings once ACX converts them to AA files (their proprietary format) for sale to the public.

And he went on to say some pretty insulting stuff about how ACX and Audible’s product is so horrible to the ear.

I think that’s an uninformed, lunkhead move. Here’s why.

I’d really love it if griping about ACX and Audible was more moderate – they’re not doing anything overt that audiobook producers haven’t been doing for 50 years.

Audiobooks are like AM radio. The quality of the recording isn’t the most important part of the product – it’s the storytelling.

And just as your favorite talk show host is highly compressed so you can hear them over motor noise and traffic and road rumble, so is audiobook audio prepared for maximum presence and listenability in high-noise environments, even though the frequency response of the audio is limited and the compression is high.

This notion that ACX/Audible (or any other audiobook publisher) is “ruining our work” is nonsense. People enjoy what we do because we’re consummate storytellers, not because we record, edit and master with exquisite panache and quality.

We should, of course, create the best quality production we’re capable of putting out. I’m not saying you should be any less diligent about keeping to the highest audio standards.

But…what ACX does to the audio is their business.

Your business is to give them a great read.

You’ve got enough to worry about doing that. You don’t have time to waste griping about their production process, any more than you do about an on-camera gig where they cut you out of most of the scene, but pay you anyway.

They are the client.

Hope this helps.


13 Responses to Don’t Knock Your Client’s Business Model

  1. Andrew Reilly September 19, 2013 at 9:08 am #

    Excellent post, David. I’m about to teach English in Afghanistan for a year, and when I’m back might use your professional services for a new website. Best, Andrew

  2. Don Moffit September 19, 2013 at 10:02 am #

    How true David!

  3. Kila September 19, 2013 at 1:29 pm #

    If that person is really worried about it, they should try to sell it on their own; Ive found that hands-on experience is the best critique killer. Thanks for you posts, David!

  4. Joel November 3, 2015 at 11:39 am #

    I respectfully disagree. While you make a good point about understanding and accepting your clients business model I do wish ACX was more transparent with their process. Caring about quality isn’t missing the point. Using your example of AM radio, the content was key then as well, but that didn’t mean good stations didn’t spend a LOT of time and money eeking out the best possible sound quality. I didn’t read (or write) the rant you’re responding to so I can’t comment on what was said, or how it was said, but I too wish the audio quality I give to ACX was better represented in the final product. I know it is possible to do better because some of the productions that I’ve narrated for (using the same booth and audio chain in my home studio) sound much better on Audible.

    • David H. Lawrence XVII November 3, 2015 at 11:57 am #

      What will that gain you? Do you think the people who edit TV shows in 4k quality take the same attitude when they see it on their TV screens, crushed by both digital storage systems and whatever the delivery process is to the viewer? What does that gain you? I thank you for your respectful disagreement.

      • Tim November 3, 2015 at 3:37 pm #

        I think some people think they will gain more sales in a royalty share situation with better audio quality. I think this is a false connection.

        I always listen to books while doing something else, so small details and pristine noise floor is really never an issue.

        Additionally, there are some narrators I would listen to if they recorded over the phone, and others I can’t stand no matter what the quality of the recording. It’s about the narration and storytelling.

        • Justa Guy November 3, 2015 at 7:30 pm #

          “others I can’t stand no matter what the quality of the recording. It’s about the narration and storytelling.”

          I agree. Oddly enough there are narrators I can’t bear to listen to, who have actually received multiple Audie Awards. They use a flat, almost monotone style… Each sentence ends with the final word delivered a half note lower, like some sort of audible period. I never hear a conversation. I never hear a story. I just hear them reading words from a page, in their flat, monotone style. I hear them, and wonder… How the hell did they win an award, churning out crap like this?

  5. Katy Dore November 3, 2015 at 12:22 pm #

    David, I agree with not “airing dirty laundry”. We are the “contractors” and ACX is our client. If you bad mouth your client, they don’t come back. There is no need to be publicly abusive of the client’s practices. Contact them, express your concerns, then thank them for providing you with business.

  6. Chris MacDonnell November 3, 2015 at 12:36 pm #

    Sometimes there is that confusion caused by the sample quality which audible use for the listing. As we know, that quality is not representative of the actual download purchased by the listener and I would agree that, for the most part, it does not represent the sound quality a producer has achieved or which the listener hears after purchasing. (Even product from the big commercial producers are affected). If we are using TV shows as an example then I submit that at least the quality of promos and trailers which are shown is consistant with the quality of the actual show however the delivery comes to the screen. Even so, we know this is the case and regular customers know that too. It’s pointless to rant or complain about it. But if we are narrators and producers I don’t think we should ignore our resposibilities as producers in favour of the art of narration. If we do that then we are cheating. Yes, storytelling is 100% what we do as narrators… but quality of sound and technical excellence is our job as producers and thats why we worry so much about the sound of our final product.

  7. Todd Cattell November 3, 2015 at 1:54 pm #

    True That David!

  8. Basil Sands November 4, 2015 at 8:43 am #

    My favourite story telling performance medium is around a campfire by a river in the woods with a bunch of boy scouts getting totally engrossed in the story as the water ripples past, owls hoot in the distance, other leaders talking in the background, and maybe even distant traffic noises…not a single one of those boys has ever complained about audio quality as Beowulf fought Grendel or the warrior Niklik rescued the Snow Queen from the Mountain Troll.

    That said, as long your audio meets the requirements of the publisher, the listener will be engrossed in the story if you tell it well. Publicly complaining about what ACX does to the audio to prep for sale is mainly just going to guarantee you don’t get hired by Audible Inc down the road.

  9. Suzan Lorraine August 25, 2018 at 9:24 am #

    As usual David, you are RIGHT ON!!

  10. Anna August 29, 2018 at 5:18 pm #

    David this is awesome!

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