Recently my publisher told me that my first novel A Biased Judgement: The Sherlock Holmes Diaries 1897 was being made into an audiobook. Yes, woo-hoo, indeed! I was sent some audition tapes and selected Dominic Lopez as the most engaging narrator. Then I started to wonder about the process. How is an audiobook made? How long does it take to record a novel? Dominic was kind enough to answer my questions:
Hi Dominic, thanks for talking to me about your process. Let’s start off with a very basic question: How would you describe what your do? Audiobook reader / narrator? Actor specialising in voice-overs?
According to ACX I am a producer as I do not simply read the book, but edit and master it as well. I tend to describe myself as an Audiobook Narrator.
What’s your background?
I grew up mostly in Texas, though we moved around a bit when I was very young. I lived in New York for about 14 years, where I attended The National Shakespeare Conservatory. I am currently back in Texas, specifically Odessa in West Texas. Like many Americans I am ethnically/racially mixed but I tend to identify as Hispanic.
In addition to narrating audiobooks, you’re an actor. What have you worked on? And do you have a preference in terms of media: Film, stage, audio, etc.?
I have about 40 years of acting experience. I have mostly done stage work, but I have done a little bit of film. You can see a trailer for a horror short film I was in called Dollboy here
I have written, produced, directed, and stared in a few original stage productions; Sketch comedy shows and a staged audio drama called The Adventures of Fred Brown and His Amazing Pandimensional Multi-Ship.
Most recently I directed Romeo and Juliet at the Globe of the Great Southwest, a replica of Shakespeare’s Globe Theater here in Odessa, Texas. It was described disparagingly as, “a mashup of a sports halftime show, cult movie, and estranged anime,” which is exactly what I was going for so…
I can’t say I prefer one medium over another.
How did you get into the audiobook business?
I only started a few months ago. I lost my day job and was trying to avoid getting another job in retail. I have this really nice microphone that’s just been sitting around gathering dust, so I thought I could use it to try to get some audio work. My sister Lita (also an actor) told me about ACX (Audiobook Creation Exchange) and I started sending out auditions.
Take us through the process. Are you sent books that are being planned for narrations and then audition? Do you get to select the novels you get to read? What happens next?
I work through ACX.com which describes itself as, “a marketplace where authors, literary agents, publishers, and other Rights Holders can connect with narrators, engineers, recording studios, and other Producers capable of producing a finished audiobook.” I have a profile on the site with some samples of my work. Rights holders list auditions for their books on the site. I can browse through the auditions and rights holders can browse though the producer profiles. My first job came from a NY Times bestselling author’s publicist who saw my profile and asked me to audition for the book. Once someone makes an offer and I accept, they send me a digital copy of the book and dates when the first 15 minutes are due and when the finished book is due.
How do you approach a reading? What sort of preparation do you need to do?
I don’t do a whole lot of preparation. I read the book and then I jump right in. Sometimes I make a few notes about character voices. Sometimes a character will go away for a few chapters and I need to remember what they sound like when I come back to them. Some narrators like to work from a printed copy which they mark up with notes. I prefer to read from my Kindle so there is no sound of papers turning during recording.
Do you plan the voice of each character in advance, or is your reading more instinctive?
A little of both. Sometimes I try things out as I am reading through the first time. Others I chose on the spot as I start recording. Usually when I start recording I know what the main characters will sound like and I fill in the minor ones as I go.
Given that how iconic Holmes and Watson are, do you find yourself influenced by other portrayals? If so, which and why?
My Sherlock Holmes in inspired and influenced completely and solely by Sherlock Hemlock, World’s Greatest Detective from Sesame Street. Why? Because he’s the best. I guess you’d say my Watson is a fairly generic Watson. I actually have two Holmes and Watsons. It depends on who the narrator of the story is. If it’s Watson then his voice is closer to my natural voice since he does most of the talking and Holmes’ voice is very much a “character” voice. If Holmes is the narrator, as is the case in your book, then it’s the other way around. One book I did was a third person narrator so they both got the character voice. Of course I am putting on an accent for most of the characters on a Holmes book so none of them are quite my real voice.
Are there particular challenges in reading passages of exposition or description?
What do you think is your greatest strength as a narrator?
My ability to do different voices and accents.
What would you say are the biggest difficulties in narrating a book?
The editing. At first I thought it would be the sound mastering. I have no experience with that, but I found some very useful tools that have simplified the process greatly. The editing however is tedious, not fun at all. It’s like, you know, work.
How long does it take to record a book?
It’s hard to say. I’m still new at this and will probably get more efficient as I go. I haven’t been logging my hours, but I would estimate it’s about one hour of editing per hour of recording. Of course, the hours of recording will vary depending on the length of the book. An hour of recording does not equal an hour of finished audio because there will be mistakes or outside noises that get edited out.
What other titles have you narrated?
My first book was Children of the Roses by Warren Adler, a sequel to his very popular War of the Roses. Then hooked up with MX Publishing and the Sherlock Holmes books started. So far I’ve done You Buy Bones: Sherlock Holmes and His London Through the Eyes of Scotland Yard by Marcia Wilson and Sherlock Holmes and the Adventure of the Ruby Elephants by Christopher James.
I am currently working on Christopher James’ second book Sherlock Holmes and the Jeweller of Florence and your own A Biased Judgement: The Sherlock Holmes Diaries 1897.
As soon as those are done I have to get to work on Sherlock Holmes and the Adventure of the Cold-Served Revenge by Petr Macek and The Open and Shut Case: Octavius Bear Book 1 by Harry Demaio.
Most of these books are part of a series, so I will likely be doing the other book in each series as well. MX is going to keep me busy for a while. I’m glad to be working on so many Holmes books. Sherlock Holmes is one of my favorite characters.
Finally, a couple of off-topic questions I include in all my interviews: Who is your hero? What’s your favourite quote?
My fictional hero is Superman. He is my favorite thing. I’m greatly saddened but what Warner Brothers has been doing with the character over the past few years. In real life, my heroes are my parents. My father is an attorney who has spent his life helping other people. My mother has also spent her life helping others while raising nine children. They are loving, supportive, and fun. We play Dungeons and Dragons together every week at the local game store.
My favorite quote- “Friend are just enemies who don’t have the guts to kill you.” Judy Tenuta
Here’s a few links:
My Facebook page
And on Audible
Finally, I have a youtube channel but there is only one thing on it right now. More coming soon: Dominic on YouTube
Watch for the audiobook release of A Biased Judgement: The Sherlock Holmes Diaries 1897 coming soon.