Rejection: all part of the business

I received two rejections for two different picture book manuscripts last week. And just yesterday, I received a third! Three in two weeks, a new record!

Has that ever happened to you? If so, what did you do?

Me, I deleted the messages and sent the manuscripts off to other publishers!

Oh, and I started working on a brand-new manuscript, which has been taking up a significant portion of my free time, which is why I wasn’t able to post anything last Tuesday.

Accept it and move on!

Everyone has a different way of dealing with rejections, for manuscripts, voicework, or otherwise. Some folks – usually those new to writing – take a rejection notice to heart and anguish over it, deciding right then and there that it was foolish to ever consider sending something out and they swear they’ll never do that again.

Those poor souls never get published because they quit.

On the other hand, some folks save every rejection letter they’ve ever received, and joke about plastering their living rooms or bedrooms with them once they hit it big. These folks may also never get published – but at least they’ve got the right attitude. You can’t get a deal if you’re not in the game.

Still others, like Yours Truly, discard rejection letters as soon as they show up.

Early on in my career I had considered holding onto them as a sort of badge of honour…but I quickly decided I didn’t want any kind of negative energy around! Occasionally, I’ll get a very positive rejection – an editor or agent who can’t use what I sent them, but are encouraging nonetheless – and those I’ll hang onto for reference.

But if it’s a form rejection, sorry, not interested, doesn’t fit, not quite what we’re looking for, blah blah…it’s in the circular file!

Oh, and another rejection, of sorts

My baby!I also learned from one of my voiceover clients that one of their clients (for whom I voice monthly radio commercials) wants to go in a different direction – i.e., wants to use a voice other than mine.

Again, this goes with the territory. It’s not that they didn’t like my voice, didn’t like me, didn’t like the quality of work I was doing….they just wanted something different. So I don’t wring my hands over it; I simply continue on, doing what I’ve been doing.

The term, “You win some, you lose some” was created specifically for writers and actors.

Full disclosure: I have no idea if that preceding statement is true, but it seems to make sense, so I’m sticking with it.

Honestly, I’ve been rejected by women for reasons a lot worse than “I’d like to try something different.” (Although, now that I think about it, I actually have been rejected by a number of women for that very reason…but I digress…)

But that’s the reason most of us in these businesses get rejected: the people we’re dealing with simply want something different. Not necessarily something better – although that certainly could be the case – just something differentAnd all a person in my position can do is say, “Ok, best wishes!” and then move on.

In my case, I’m moving on by wrapping up a new children’s poetry collection, starting a new picture book manuscript, and jotting down ideas for three other books I haven’t gotten to yet. I’ve also been in touch with a potential new voiceover client, so we’ll see what happens there!

What is your attitude about rejection?

How do you deal with it? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments. We all feel differently about it and deal with it in very personal ways, so perhaps your nugget of wisdom might help someone who is struggling.

I look forward to reading your opinions! Right now, though, I have another cover letter I need to write…

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When people stop trying

I’ve been noticing something a lot lately. I’ve been noticing spelling errors made by people who are supposed to know how to spell things. I’ve been reading errors in grammar made by people who are supposed to know how to write.

I’ve been hearing things spoken incorrectly by people who get paid to speak.

Is the world becoming more and more full of folks who just don’t care enough to bother, or am I becoming a curmudgeon?

Thankfully, I’m still an exuberant, virile, young man…so the answer appears to be the former.

Dachshund
Poor little guy had no idea he was going to be the basis for a blog post.

Lack of communication in the communications industry

Seriously – what is going on these days? Everywhere I turn I’m bombarded with mistakes made by precisely those people who should not be making these mistakes.
A few examples:

– A radio news reporter was relating a story on-air about a domestic dispute involving a man, his girlfriend, and his dog. When the woman doing the reporting made reference to the man’s “dash-hound,” I had no clue what she was talking about until it occurred to me she apparently had never heard of a dachshund. Granted, the average American might not recognize that word as being pronounced “DAHK-suhnd,” but one of the first lessons in radio I ever learned 25 years ago was, if you don’t know how to pronounce something – ask!

– A local TV news outlet shared a news story on their Facebook page recently, recognizing the anniversary of the discovery of the bodies of two young girls, whose killer is still unknown. The headline noted that the girls have never been found. Now, not to be insensitive, but if their bodies were discovered some 15 years ago, I’m pretty sure the girls aren’t going to pop up anytime soon. Who writes this stuff??

– The other day, I heard a radio commercial I almost couldn’t stand listening to. The audio was thin and distorted, the person speaking sounded completely unenthused about whatever he was talking about, and I can’t even remember what they were selling because I just kept waiting for it to end. The commercial sounded like it had been recorded over a telephone…because it probably had been.

Make an effort, people!

Granted, you may be prone to a malapropism from time to time. You might use less-than-perfect grammar when leaving a Facebook comment. Heck, even I find spelling mistakes in this blog sometimes months after I’ve posted!  But these are examples of glaring errors made by people paid to not make these mistakes.

The person who didn’t know what a “dash-hound” actually mispronounces words all the time; it became a nearly daily occurrence before I stopped listening altogether.

TV news departments have large staffs of people who are paid good money to communicate the news, so grammar and syntax should not be a problem area.

No radio commercial should ever be recorded over the telephone…ever. Even the ones that are written to sound like they’re telephone conversations should be recorded in-studio. The particular commercial in question is either the result of a lazy producer or a sales rep who was given way too much control over the production process.

Grammar-Yoda

Human error…or something worse?

We all make mistakes. As I said, I understand that. But the preponderance of examples such as these leads me to wonder if something else is going on…something much worse.

In each of the three cases I shared above, a simple solution would have been to take one extra step. The radio reporter could have asked someone how to pronounce this word she’s never seen before. The TV news headline writer could have had someone proofread the post first. And the business owner who recorded the awful commercial could have come in to the studio.

But instead, that one extra step was neglected. It could be called laziness or ineptitude.

I prefer to call it apathy.

…and apathy IS worse

Laziness is a human condition, a state of being. Ineptitude is a lack of skills capable of completing a task.

But apathy is a lack of concern for that which one should have concern! Apathy, as inactive as it may seem, is actually a very active thing. It prevents people from producing good work not because they are lazy, inept, or otherwise incapable. It prevents them from performing because they just don’t care.

So whether it’s your job, your marriage, or any kind of project of which you find yourself involved, don’t be apathetic.

Don’t not care.

And if you recognize that you truly don’t care about the project, step back, step aside, or step down – and let someone who does care do the job.

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This just in: I had not even had a chance to hit “post” when a Facebook friend shared this ridiculous headline about an “amphibious” pitcher!  That’s right…he doesn’t just pitch with both hands, folks, he can live underwater, too! Once again, where’s a proofreader when you need one??

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I appreciate the help…but you’re not really helping

ID-10084724 (Mic)I wasn’t planning on a follow-up to last week’s post about the need for information when doing voiceover auditions. I figured I’d covered just about everything – what to expect from voice talent, what not to expect, how to help them help you get better auditions.

But as I thought about it, it occurred to me I had so many great examples of what not to say or do…I had to share some of them. These auditions weren’t lacking direction, necessarily; however, they were lacking the right information!

If you read last week’s post, you’ll recognize many of the points I made. These are all 100% completely real, too…so don’t think I’m embellishing anything here!

If you want me to audition, a script is helpful

Earlier this year, I came across an audition I had to look over 3 or 4 times, just to make sure I was reading it correctly. The request was to take a swear word and “make it funny.” The voice seeker was creating a “funny product” and wanted to use sound bites that would eventually have music and sound effects added.

Fortunately, I wasn’t being asked to provide the post-production for the audition – which is something voice actors rarely, if ever, do- but I was being expected to spend my time trying to think of funny ways of saying a vulgarity, just for the possibility of getting the gig.

Yep, I’d say there was definitely something “funny” about this audition.

I passed.

If you expect me to audition without a script, make it worth my while

About the same time that previously-mentioned audition came through, I saw another one requesting “funny, true stories.” The recordings needed to be original, at least 3 minutes in length, and then as I read the request I noticed they said that they will pay for recordings they like, so to therefore not submit ‘audition’ recordings.

It took me a moment to realize this company, which features podcasts and videos of real-life stories online, was looking for freelance contributors – not voiceover artists. There is a difference folks.

You wouldn’t ask a certified ASE mechanic to wash your car. You wouldn’t ask a licensed plumber to pour you a drink of water.

Not trying to sound arrogant here or anything…but if you want to get people to submit something for use on your website, that’s great! I hope you get plenty of submissions you can use! But please – know your audience. Understand that what people like me do is a profession, not a pastime. Very few of us will record, edit, and mix down 3 minutes of audio for a mere $100.

Please give me voice direction that makes sense

I once saw an audition for what I could only imagine was a humorous project…but which still made no sense. The producers were looking for a colonial-era American voice who sounds like a Boston Red Sox fan.

Ummm…right. Well, as someone who IS a Boston Red Sox fan – and who grew up around Boston Red Sox fans – I’m not exactly sure how any of them would have ended up in colonial America. Conversely, I don’t know how anyone in colonial America would even have a Boston accent, since we were all still speaking the Queen’s English at the time.

Perhaps I was missing something.

Like better instructions.

If you want me to add music, give me an adjective I can work with

ID-10032444 (grandma)
“Excuse me, dear, is that the Slade version, or Quiet Riot?”

Years ago, I was producing a radio commercial for a restaurant. I was asked to use some “nice Mother’s Day-type” music underneath.

Uh-huh.

Well, I could have used “Mama” by Genesis, “Mama Told Me Not to Come” by Three Dog Night, or my favourite, “Mama Weer All Crazee Now” by Slade…but since I figured I’d run into intellectual copyright issues with all of those, I used a soft, sappy acoustic production music track and sent it off.
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They approved it. Apparently, moms love soft, sappy acoustic production music.

Know what you want before you ask

It comes down to understanding what you’re asking for. Before you write up the audition request, stop and ask yourself a few questions: Is this request reasonable? Am I expecting too much from someone who hasn’t even been hired yet? Does what I’m asking even make sense? Are these instructions clear enough?

Trying to put yourself in the position of the voice actor will not only help the voice actor, but it will help you in preparing for what you’ll receive for auditions. If you receive an inordinate number of auditions that are not what you were looking for, it might not be the fault of the voice talent.

It could be a confusing, unclear, mixed-message audition request – and all that will get you is a bunch of recordings you probably can’t use.

And probably more than a couple of swear words that won’t be very funny.

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Did you like this post? Find something interesting elsewhere in this blog? I really won’t mind at all if you feel compelled to share it with your friends and followers!

PoetsGarage-badgeTo keep abreast of all my posts, please consider subscribing via the links up there on the right!  (I usually only post twice a week – on Tues. and Fri. – so you won’t be inundated with emails every day)  Also feel free to visit my voiceover website HERE, and you can also follow me via Twitter FacebookPinterest, and SoundCloud!

Hiring voice talent: I can’t help you if you don’t help me

You’re hungry. It’s almost 1pm, and you realize you haven’t had lunch yet. So you walk into a local sandwich shop where you’ve heard they have great food, and say,

ID-100204903 (sandwich)“I’d like a sandwich on bread.”

The guy at the counter looks at you questioningly and asks, “Umm…what type of sandwich?”

You reply, “Well, I’m not really sure – why don’t you give me a bunch of different ones and I’ll let you know which one I like.”

Preposterous? Ridiculous? Unrealistic? Perhaps…but in the world of voiceovers, this sort of thing happens all the time.

Knowing what you need

I see a lot of auditions every week, and one thing that strikes me is how often the people seeking voice talent do not know what they are looking for. (Or if they do, they keep it a secret) Many times the auditions look something like this:

“Looking for a male voice for corporate narration.”

Is that a young male voice? Middle-aged? Upbeat? Conversational? Urban-cool or mature-professional?

Now, I’m not going to try to audition for something that is not at all suited to my voice or delivery – like pretending I have a growling, textured voice instead of my smooth baritone – but I can provide a number of different style reads, depending on what a potential client prefers. You want serious? Happy? Energetic? I can do that. You want an emphatic whisper or a jovial next-door neighbor? I can do that, too.

I can’t do “husky,” “hip,” “or “urban.” I’m not opposed to those types of deliveries – I simply can’t do them. So knowing what you’re looking for helps me determine if I should audition for you. There’s no sense in me wasting time recording a sample script if I don’t have the voice you want. And there’s no point in wasting your time making you listen to something that isn’t at all what you need.

Speaking of wasting time…

Another common request from voice seekers is to provide several different takes…which is fine, as I normally provide at least 2, sometimes 3 takes of the same script when I audition (depending on how long the script is).

"What if?"But when I see a request to provide multiple takes in different styles because the seeker isn’t quite sure what he or she wants…that indicates to a voice artist that the person they may end up working with is probably going to be very difficult to please.

If you don’t know what you like before you get my audio, how do I know you’re going to like my audio when you get it?

It comes down to having at least a general idea of what you need, and understanding the ramifications and parameters of that need. I once received an audition for a pre-colonial southern American soldier, and the directions stated to include a southern accent, if we could. I didn’t. I read the script with a British accent and explained that our common American accents hadn’t developed at that point in history. Before the Revolutionary War, we were all still British citizens. with the Queen’s English fully intact.

Fortunately, the seeker agreed and I got the part!

Help me to help you

I’m more than happy to provide assistance like that.

I’m more than happy to inform a voice seeker that there is a grammar error or syntax error that should be corrected, if I feel it’s appropriate to do so.

I’ve even partially improvised a few auditions when requested to do so.

However, I skip over auditions that expect me to actually write the script when that’s not part of the project. Seriously – I’ve seen auditions for radio liners, DJ drops, and even games that ask me to make up “funny” lines and be creative with it. Keep in mind, this is for the audition, not the gig itself. I’m sorry, but having to write my own audition script is pure laziness on the part of the voice seeker. I’ve written plenty of scripts in my life and it is one of the services I offer – but I’m not doing it for free.

Ham & cheese or pastrami on rye?

You wouldn’t walk into a deli and ask for some meat on bread. But that’s what you’re doing when you ask for a “male voice” with no other information.

Do you want smoked turkey or oven-roasted? Swiss cheese, American, or cheddar? Whole wheat, white, or sourdough bread? There are as many variations to your sandwich as there are voices. I can provide some of those variations; I can’t provide all of them. Perhaps you’ll like what I do; perhaps you’ll prefer someone else.

Either way, the next time you need a voice, stop and consider what type of voice you think will work best. You’ll save yourself time – and money, too – by narrowing your search.

As for sandwiches…I’d suggest the Reuben.

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Did you like this post? Find something interesting elsewhere in this blog? I really won’t mind at all if you feel compelled to share it with your friends and followers!

PoetsGarage-badgeTo keep abreast of all my posts, please consider subscribing via the links up there on the right!  (I usually only post twice a week – on Tues. and Fri. – so you won’t be inundated with emails every day)  Also feel free to visit my voiceover website HERE, and you can also follow me via Twitter FacebookPinterest, and SoundCloud!

More opportunities to lose customers (a sequel)

Earlier this year, I shared my thoughts on how a company (or individual) can disappoint customers in two easy steps. Those steps were, in a nutshell, “Don’t care enough about the customer to do anything” and “only care enough to do the bare minimum.” Well today, I’m going to make things even easier for you folks who are trying to find new ways to lose business.

It’s a ONE-STEP process that is so easy, anyone can do it. It’s called…

“Don’t be an idiot”

20130820_145129
Fortunately, this guy was down by the brook, nowhere near the house. You can’t tell from the picture, but he was about 4 inches wide – what I’d call mind-bogglingly-massive.

Shall we begin with an example? Yes, let’s. Last week, I had to search for an extermination business. We live in a 100-year-old house, and although I really don’t mind spiders, we’re getting overrun with them this year. Really, I like spiders; they eat all the bugs I hate. But when you hang up a denim jacket in the laundry room and within a week there’s a spider nest inside – well, that’s a problem.

So I went online to find a local exterminator. I found 3 or 4 who I called and talked with – but one website took me by surprise.  CLICK HERE to see what I found.

As far as I can tell, there isn’t any actual business called “Absolute Exterminator.” At least, not an actual exterminator. This website appears to be designed to list local exterminators, even though the average consumer wouldn’t know that at first glance. The thing that really annoys me about these folks is the way they use web-browsing cookies (I assume) to know where I live, so they cut-and-paste a tailor-made home page for me.

With ridiculous lines like, “New Hampshire insects can damage your Merrimack County home” and “The 3,005 people of Warner know there are some annoying bugs in New Hampshire,” it was pretty obvious to me that the website simply plugged my location information into their premade webpage and hoped I would be impressed enough to learn more.

On the contrary, I was utterly UNimpressed, and had learned enough just reading that one page.

“Don’t be an idiot” – while driving

A second example is something I see  – and you probably see – far too often.

Inconsiderate drivers cut you off. They run stop signs, merge into your lane with no warning, and honk their horns at you because they think they own the road. Happens all the time, right?

Well, if you’re driving a company vehicle, it should NEVER HAPPEN. I used to work for a number of radio stations, and whenever I drove one of the station vans, I always made sure my driving was impeccable. I always used my directional, never cut people off, always drove the speed limit. And if some moron did something stupid, I would never beep at him or make rude gestures…I just sucked it up and kept driving.

Yet, I am amazed at the number of rude, selfish drivers using company vehicles. Nary a week goes by where I don’t find myself being cut off by some dude from Rusty Rim Hole Plumbing, or being angrily honked at by a very impatient driver for Stubby’s Towing Service. What do they think happens when they tick someone like me off?

It certainly won’t be to patronize their business anytime soon. More likely, they’ll get written about in my blog – and NOT in a happy, gumdrops and lollipops kind of way.

Either people like this don’t care what other drivers think, because they’re just employees and don’t have any vested interest in doing what’s right…or they’re simply idiots.

“Don’t be an idiot” – so just don’t open your mouth

ID-100209955 (preg)
“Pardon me, but are you…?”

A third terrific way to get customers miffed at you is to say insulting things without even realizing it.

My wife and I were at a large department store earlier today (I won’t say which one because I wouldn’t want the store to be ‘targeted’), and as we were going through the checkout one of the employees stopped by and started talking to our very chatty 1-year-old baby girl, Phoebe. All was well and good, until the employee said…

“I see a sweet little girl who loves her grandpa!”

I bit my lip, because I knew that what was about to come out of my mouth was inappropriate in the check-out line. When we left the store, my wife tried to reassure me I really didn’t look that old…but this employee had just ruined my morning.

Seriously, who says that?? Isn’t that one of those things you never say to people? Isn’t that like going up to a woman with a belly and asking how the pregnancy’s going??

Now, I realize that plenty of people my age (47) have young grandkids, so it’s not like I was offended because of that. But the fact is, I was there WITH MY WIFE – who is not only 7 years younger than me, but looks like she’s at least 5 years younger than that. So this employee did one of two things:

She either a) thought my wife was a grandparent, as well (which, if you’ve ever seen my wife, you’d know is highly doubtful), or b) she thought I was there with my daughter and HER daughter! I’m sorry, but at 47, I’m pretty sure I don’t look like the father of a 35-year-old. And it’s not that I’m vain – but I already know that I look older than I am, so this employee underscoring that fact for me was totally unnecessary.

Making the world a happier place

let it go - B&RI try to let things like these examples go, I really do. It does no good to hold onto animosity or negative feelings. (That’s why blogging is so cathartic!)

But sneaky, rude, or stupid behavior is so rampant these days, it’s hard to leave it behind; chances are, something new and insulting will just pop up the next day.

I try to be understanding, though. Human beings are fallible, and we all make mistakes now and then. Often, the person doing the offending doesn’t realize it, or perhaps is having a bad day, or is preoccupied with their workload, or has stressful issues on their mind.

Then again, some people are just idiots.

Please don’t be one.

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Did you like this post? Find something interesting elsewhere in this blog? I really won’t mind at all if you feel compelled to share it with your friends and followers!

PoetsGarage-badgeTo keep abreast of all my posts, please consider subscribing via the links up there on the right!  (I usually only post twice a week – on Tues. and Fri. – so you won’t be inundated with emails every day)  Also feel free to visit my voiceover website HERE, and you can also follow me via Twitter FacebookPinterest, and SoundCloud!

Matt Forrest, Dream-Killer

Sweet, loveable me…destroying dreams?

Alas, it appears so.

I am often asked how one starts a career doing voiceovers or writing children’s books. As someone who has been doing voice work and audio editing for 25+ years, I’m happy to share advice, tips, and some guidance.

As someone who has yet to accomplish the feat of getting a children’s book published, I can only offer a few suggestions – like practice, networking, and critiquing. I have had numerous adult poems published in collections over the years and will soon have about 6 or 7 children’s poems published in various anthologies within the next year or two…but that’s a far cry from getting a book deal.

Be that as it may, much of the advice I give can be applied to either industry – and many more.  The reaction I get after giving the advice is often the same, as well.

Notice I called it an industry

Voiceover work and writing children’s books and poetry are similar in that they are both creative pursuits; however, it’s important to not lose sight of the fact that they are, in fact, industries. Businesses. Professional careers that require all the time, effort, and skill that most other professional careers require.

ID-100232154 (water pipe)
Other than turning off the water, I wouldn’t have a clue as to what to do next.

You wouldn’t decide to become an astronaut on a whim. You wouldn’t think that by buying a socket wrench you can pass yourself off as a car mechanic.

You wouldn’t decide to open a plumbing business simply because you once unclogged a drain in the upstairs bathroom and it seemed like easy money.

Unfortunately, there is something about creative media that makes people think anyone can do it. And to be honest, many people can do it – but don’t really want to.

Or rather, they don’t want to hear about the reality of it.

This is where the dream-killing begins…

The first thing I tell folks who ask me how to get into voiceovers or break into children’s publishing is this: learn about the industry. Read blog posts, seek out professional web pages, and get a feel for what is truly involved. There is more to voiceovers than speaking into a microphone, and there’s more to writing children’s stories than “See Spot Run.”

When I tell these well-meaning people that the industry (either one!) is difficult to break into, they first look at me as if I’m trying to keep them out of a secret club or something. Then when I tell them a few of the things they are actually going to need to do, I get the feeling they think I’m trying to scare them away.

I have to implore them not to misunderstand me – that I’m just trying to be honest and blunt with them.

Blunt honesty, it appears, is not popular.

The frightening facts

Some of the nuggets of advice I offer – while not particularly unique or even insightful – are certainly solid for either industry:

– It may be fun, but it’s work, and you need to treat it as such.
– It’s also enormously competitive. The good news is that most of the other folks in the industry are surprisingly supportive!

– If you want to be a professional, understand what that means and what is expected of you.
– It doesn’t matter if you have a “great voice”; what matters is if you can read well and bring a script to life.
– It doesn’t matter if you love kids; what matters is your ability to write and your willingness to revise, over and over.
– Understand that not everyone can do what you are attempting to do. If it was so easy anyone could do it, everyone would.
– Understand that this is a skill requiring training, perseverance, and talent (not necessarily in that order).
– Understand that rejection is a way of life. There is a very, very high likelihood that you will fail multiple times before you even begin to succeed. You might get passed over dozens of auditions before getting that first gig, and you might send out a hundred manuscripts before an agent or editor thinks you’ve got what it takes.
– Tenacity, perseverance, skill, communication abilities, a thick skin, and a sense of humor are your best friends.
– Egos will get you nowhere.

There are plenty of other industry-specific things I might share when chatting with folks about voiceovers or children’s publishing, but I usually lose them at “enormously competitive.”

I’m really not trying to kill dreams…it just sort of happens

Honestly, I’m not sure how many dreams I’ve killed. I know that many of the folks who have emailed me or spoken to me in person over the last few years are not currently pursuing the vocation they had asked me about in the first place.

SCBWII can only make some broad assumptions.

Either they a) got scared and decided to stick with what they were doing; b) thought I was trying to scare them and decided to do it their own way and failed; or c) are still trying to find the time to be able to engage in an industry as competitive as voiceovers (or children’s writing).

These days, I refer voiceover questions to fellow voice artists like Paul Strikwerda, whose book, Making Money in Your PJs, provides as much insight, advice, and blunt honesty as one can handle, or Dave Courvoisier, author of More Than Just a Voice, a book that details the nuts-and-bolts of the industry like marketing, coaching, and equipment. The professional organization World Voices is good place to learn what being a professional voice talent is all about.

For questions about children’s book publishing, writers like Katie Davis, Julie Hedlund, Tara Lazar, Dr. Patricia Stohr-Hunt, and many, many more are all willing to help teach, guide, and inspire. And of course, there’s always the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators (SCBWI), which is a great resource.

So if you happen to be wondering what it takes to get into these industries – or any of the creative arts – don’t let hard work and the fear of rejection stop you from realizing your dreams. Just do the work necessary and plan to stick with it for the long haul.

I’m not really a “Dream-Killer,” after all…just more of a reality-checker.

But hey, if Abe Lincoln can be a Vampire Hunter, why can’t I have an ominous-sounding moniker, as well?

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Did you like this post? Find something interesting elsewhere in this blog? I really won’t mind at all if you feel compelled to share it with your friends and followers!

PoetsGarage-badgeTo keep abreast of all my posts, please consider subscribing via the links up there on the right!  (I usually only post twice a week – on Tues. and Fri. – so you won’t be inundated with emails every day)  Also feel free to visit my voiceover website HERE, and you can also follow me via Twitter FacebookPinterest, and SoundCloud!

In copy writing, it’s all about the details

Last week, I wrote and produced a short video commercial for my wife’s business.

There are two problems with that statement.

ID-10021920 (Times Square)
Advertising: These folks know how to do it right.

First, I’ve never produced a video commercial before, ever. I’ve written hundreds of commercials – and produced thousands of radio commercials – but never produced a video commercial. Second, if you have no experience doing something like that and it’s going to have a big impact on the impression people get about your business, I always say it’s best to have a professional do it.

If you’ve never patched a roof before, you’re going to call a roofer. If you need your car repaired and you don’t know the difference between a carburetor and carbon dating, you’re going to bring it to a mechanic. So if you need a commercial or corporate video produced, seek out someone who has more experience than you do. It’s your livelihood, and it should be important enough for you to have it professionally handled.

As I said above, I didn’t do that. I did have some good reasons, though…

Understanding what I wanted to accomplish

Unlike many folks who have never written commercials before, yet decide they need to be the ones to write, produce and/or voice the things themselves, I knew before I even began how the commercial was going to be used and what I wanted to accomplish. This was not going to run on television – it was to be used via the internet (social media, etc.) only, and it was to garner the attention of a specific group of people who were unfamiliar with the specific benefits of the products my wife sells.

I also had 25 years of copy writing and multi-track audio production knowledge behind me (along with some basic video editing experience), so even though it probably wouldn’t be perfect, I suspected it would be suitable for her purposes. And trust me, I’m my own worst critic, so if it was even slightly subpar, I would’ve scrapped it and gone a different route.

Oh, and due to my ACL reconstruction surgery back in March, a major car accident in late winter, and a leaking roof (see above!), I had a zero budget.  So a one-man DIY project was born.

It all starts with the script

Like a novel or short story, there are several things a good commercial script needs to do. In chronological order, they are:

  1. Attract the listener’s or viewer’s attention
  2. Connect on some emotional level
  3. Develop interest
  4. Create desire
  5. Compel action

A commercial should also showcase the product’s or service’s Unique Selling Proposition (USP) – the feature or benefit that makes the product or service stand out from all the others. And in the case of a television commercial, it should be able to get its point across even if there’s no audio. Doctor’s offices might have the sound turned down and sports bars are often so noisy one can’t even hear the person they’re with, much less the TV – so visuals are extremely important.

Knowing the benefits and USP of my wife’s products, I put the script together and realized I wasn’t going to need to provide a voiceover. (Ironic, isn’t it, that a voice guy produces a video commercial he doesn’t even get to voice?) But it didn’t need it, so I didn’t do it.

The commercial and the breakdown

First, let me show you the commercial and then I’ll break down some of the details I was particular about…

As I mentioned before, I knew the specific audience I was after: health-conscious folks who are not opposed to the vegan lifestyle. Of course, one does not need to be a vegan to appreciate botanically-based products that don’t test on animals, but the word “vegan” is so well-known these days that if you hear or see the word, you immediately understand its connotations.

So after attracting the attention of people who can appreciate veganism, I list other facets of Arbonne’s product’s USP: they are gluten-free, kosher, botanically-based. Then, rather than telling the viewer they need to buy something or they need to improve their lives or they need to do something else, I ask a simple question. Having just seen the benefits of the products – without me telling the viewer these are the benefits – the viewer can now make that connection on their own.

And when you can encourage a viewer or listener to draw their own conclusion and subconsciously take part in your commercial…it’s much more powerful than you telling them this and telling them that and hoping they believe you.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES
No need for a voiceover; the sounds of nature worked quite well on their own.

Just like most commercials, I show a problem (your health & wellness products are not vegan/gluten-free/etc. even though you are) and I offer a solution (try Arbonne) – but I do it subtly. The call to action is subtle, as well – I don’t command the viewer to buy now, save now, limited time, blah blah…I simply suggest they learn more.

I wanted this video to be almost like a conversation, and being too heavy-handed with my approach would have been counterproductive. That’s why I opted to use some light sound effects of a natural setting rather than a voiceover; I didn’t want the commercial to feel like a commercial.

Three more details you didn’t even notice

One comes immediately after the words “botanically-based.” From the moment the commercial begins, there is a rhythm to each of the words that flashes on the screen…but then there’s a pause before I ask my question. I deliberately did this to allow the viewer to consider what these words have to do with each other and where I’m leading them. If I posed the question too quickly, the USP – those benefits I listed – would not have had a chance to sink in quite enough.

Remember, it’s a conversation – and I didn’t want it to appear the commercial was doing all the talking. As I said previously, I wanted to allow the viewer some time to process the information and become a “part” of the commercial, and “part” of this conversation.

Another detail is that I did not mention the product name until slightly more than halfway through the spot. Some folks will tell you the name has to be front-and-center right from the get-go – but those are the folks who feel advertising is done best when it’s a one-way conversation. The way I look at it, if I’ve been able to keep you compelled long enough to view the commercial, you’ll stick around for the payoff.

The third detail is the little child and mother at the end, which I didn’t include just because it’s my son and wife. The Arbonne company sells its products via independent consultants who are often moms and daughters – and even dads. I wanted to evoke a familial feeling to the spot to underscore not only the Pure-Safe-Beneficial tagline, but the fact that families are buying, selling, and using these products to make their lives better…and a little child with a mom is about the best representation there is of that!

Pay attention to the details

So when you’re writing – whether it’s a commercial, short story, whatever – don’t lose sight of the details. Some might be superfluous (I could have included another word at the beginning and crammed too much info), some might not be on target (I could have listed products, but that wasn’t the point of the spot), and some might just be too wordy.

Know when to leave those out.

But other details – like knowing who you’re writing to, understanding what you want to say, and spending some time determining the best way to connect with the viewer/listener/reader – are imperatives.

If you write a picture book, short story, or commercial in less than one day, you’re either really lucky or you’re doing it wrong.Please don’t do it wrong.

If you don’t know how to do it, hire a professional. Your commercial and your roof will be better for it.

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Did you like this post? Find something interesting elsewhere in this blog? I really won’t mind at all if you feel compelled to share it with your friends and followers!

PoetsGarage-badgeTo keep abreast of all my posts, please consider subscribing via the links up there on the right!  (I usually only post twice a week – on Tues. and Fri. – so you won’t be inundated with emails every day)  Also feel free to visit my voiceover website HERE, and you can also follow me via Twitter FacebookPinterest, and SoundCloud!