“ Do you do erotica?”
The question – sent through instant message – immediately raised an eyebrow while I sipped my tea.
Do I do erotica? Hmmm.
Outside of my converted dayroom basement, in the real world of Seattle coffee, ‘business caz’ and passive aggressive commuters, that would be deemed rude, infantile and perverse.
Do I DO erotica? Good day to you, sir!
Yet, I wasn’t outside in the cold PNW drizzle; I stood behind my desk, a USB mic hanging from a jib in front of my mouth and a pop filter warm with my tea scented breath. That’s when I realized my slight, manufactured theatrical distraction from coding (Unity 5 / C#) began to a take a life of it’s own and people wanted me to aurally hump them…and I was perfectly okay with that.
From Project Manager to Verbal Pornographer
If you ask the average audiobook / voice actor how they got into this business, you’d be amazed that they share the same statistics: unused theatrical training, boredom of office politics, a love to read and a slight, but intense, streak of coo-coo. I’m no different, except I worked, and still work, in video games. I am a game enthusiast at heart, a technophile and a proud comic nerd. There is one thing I’m not though, and that is patient with white collar bullshit. Most of my career I was in front of a white board, enjoying the high from dry erase markers. If I wasn’t in pointless meetings with pointless spreadsheets and pointless people, I was making pointless attempts to actually get work done so I could go home on time.
It didn’t matter if it was games, mobile or web technology; I grew frustratingly bored of being LittleFinger in the cubicle version of Game of Thrones, where every day the broken coffee pot would offer up it’s Brown Wedding of half-assed Costco coffee beans. So when my contract at Microsoft came up, I didn’t renew. I was too burned out, too jaded and too pissed at the industry that I loved dearly to work with bagel slaves for a while, if ever.
Desperate times call for desperate measures. I paid off ALL my bills and decided to chill. During said ‘chill-cation’, I decided to make a home grown phone video and post to Fiverr for vocal work. I mean, I did get theatrical training and I did work the Seattle theater junket for a few years straight! I was told I had range and sassiness. I have all this equipment collecting dust! If Pewdie Pie can make millions being a fake internet friend, surely I can make a few bucks to pay for my Adobe Creative Cloud subscription for the year!
What I didn’t expect is for work to come in and then someone asked me if I would narrate and produce audiobooks for ACX/Audible. Sure, I thought, I can do a book or two until my creative mind decides to not be bitter. Then came an interesting turn of events; for every ‘clean book’ I auditioned for, authors of naughty books – meaning paranormal romance (aka Twilight), fetish and kink – would find me and clamour for my performance of their cum drenched prose. The reason?
‘I have the right voice for it.’
What is ACX? Why Audiobooks?
ACX is a platform for right holders (authors) and producers (narrators) collaborate to make audiobooks; the very same you listen to on your phone or in your car. Some producers like to be paid upfront at a rate that range from 50 to 250 dollars an hour, depending on skill and pedigree. Others, including myself, prefer the royalty route where you get 20% of all sales of the book for 7 years. It’s not a lot, but over 7 years, you never know what could happen. For instance, the Martian and 50 Shades of Grey were both performed by ACX narrators.
I got into Audiobooks to aid my dyslexia, all while keeping my theatrical chops sharp. Many actors go the way of the do-do if they can’t find the right gigs, get the right agent or live in the right city to procure those things. I saw audiobooks as a win/win, even with the small amount of royalties, because no matter if my performance is good or bad, I WILL get paid something, which can’t be stated by a majority of theatrical performers. Second, I can work remotely anywhere as long as I have a mic and a quiet room. Also, it’s a great conversation starter during Uber rides and a terrific way to terrify your parents when you tell them you’re doing porn now!
So What Is Your Day Like and What Do You Read?
Johanna Fairview and I have a lot in common: We read dirty books for money, well she probably reads more than me…for now. I don’t know how many pseudonyms she has, but I have three personas: JC (so vanilla), Persona #1 – reads really bad books and romance novels, and, last but not least, Persona #2 – reads nothing but fetish and erotica. I moan, I squeal, I gasp and I seduce in the secret corners of the internet.
I cut deals with ghostwriters who want to make Middle America housewives masturbate to bears and dragons fucking trucks while their 2 kids nap. At times, I don my audio dominatrix spikes to verbally spank, chastise and humiliate men who enjoy being told that their testicles are worthless and their junk is the size of a twig. I do all of this while in my yoga pants,Sherlock t-shirt and fuzzy slippers.
I start my day at 7am with a thorough brushing of teeth, vocal warmups and a look at my schedule for the day. I read for about an hour, then it’s breakfast. I edit for 2 or three hours then I head to the gym for 90 minutes. I return, shower, eat lunch and finish my edits. When I’m done, I upload an final mp3 to ACX for review, I go upstairs to eat dinner and play Shadow of the Comet. My day is a typical workday of 6 – 8 hours. If the author has feedback, they will skype me and we’ll talk as if we are secretive bureaucrats planning world domination one orgasm at a time. On light days. I code and update GDDs, so I still get game development time in.
So What About Cash Flow?
I’m just starting out, so the cash is inconsistent. I make upfront cash on Fiverr and do audiobooks for longer projects. I don’t perform books that don’t have a following of at least 10 readers or more on Amazon AND Goodreads. The upside to this is that new authors will book me if they like my work, so now I’m on retainer until January next year.
At the end of the month, my check is deposited directly into my account. I shave off 40% for self employment taxes (which I get back during tax time because of tax breaks) and I budget the rest. So far, I make above minimum wage at about 25.00 an hour, but remember, with obliterated debt, that much money is pretty nice. Considering the time invested, I spend a lot less of it dicking around like a traditional wage slave would in a traditional office. The author is your boss and all they want is a good book, so unless they are super anal, they are usually happy with professionals who do a good job and turn stuff in early or on time.
Jessi Gage, author and blogger, has a great multi-blog writeup about ACX. Give it a read!
This Sounds Kinda Cool..Where Do I Sign Up?
If you have an amazon account, a Blue Yeti Mic, Audacity, training and editing skills, then you’re golden. If not, Youtube will provide tutorials. It’s sexy, fun and rewarding work that is tedious when it comes to the editing!
I love what I do because now I can hone my passion of voice work that can be transferred to video games (Mark Hamill, Tim Curry, Cree Summer, Micheal Dorn, Christopher Walken and the late Dennis Hopper are a few game VO artists.), while developing my own digital worlds! So what if I’m humping werebears next week, at least it will be the best bear fest 19.99 can buy!