APAC 2014: Tiffany's Take

It’s Been One Week+ Since You APAC-ed Me

(Yes, I did just reference a Barenaked Ladies song from many moons ago, but darn it all, it’s a catchy tune and I like it!)

So last week, Sean & I ventured to New York for APAC (Audio Publisher Association Conference).What an amazing time! We met new people, learned cool things & enjoyed, yet missed, every moment away from the kiddos. (Thank goodness for Skype & our technical capabilities!)

Before heading to the Pre-APAC Mixer Wednesday evening, we dined at a great BBQ place, Brother Jimmie’s on 8th Street.. My former box office student assistant, Andrew, (from way back in my Theatre Business Management days in Texas)dined with us. He has been incredibly successful in New York: graduating from Marymount Manhattan College, then working for Dodger Properties as the Production Coordinator and the primary contact for Investor Relations. He rocks! The hour went by quickly, too quickly, and we headed back to the hotel to get ready for the Mixer.

So we got ready for the mixer & off we went!

Wait! Back up a bit! We actually had another meeting prior to that. We had the pleasure of meeting the author/publisher who granted us our very first audiobook contract on ACX (and four more since then) Jan Yager, PhD, and her husband Fred, who co-authored two of those books. Jan and I had spoken several times on the phone, emailed, texted, everything but meet in person, so this was a real treat! We relaxed at a coffee shop and talked about their moving back to the Northeast, our families, then discussed marketing for the books we collaborated on.(Check out Hannacroix Creek Books, Inc. for details about their company.) A good, productive time spent with lovely people.

And now…. off to the Mixer! Looking darn spiffy in our outfits (Sean will hate that phrasing,teeheehee[Yes... Yes I do - SW] ), and me with lackluster humidity-challenged hair (Sean’s is always coiffed… he has AMAZING hair), we checked in and entered the Pranna undergroundlounge area. It was dark and moody in there, but the atmosphere was alive with cheer. And super loud! Though we knew no one from face-to-face interaction, I recognized people who have left questions or commented in the Facebook groups to which we belong: Andi ArndtElizabeth Wiley, Steven Jay Cohen, Kitty Hendrix, Jeffrey Kafer,just to name a few…. And we met lots of new folks like Tracy Brunjes, Carol Dines, PamelaAlmand and Anne Hartung. It was delightful interacting with all these folks and more, even if it was for just a few minutes. (After all, we were all there to meet as many folks as possible, so working the room was essential!)

And as we were leaving, one of my dearest friends, Vikas Adam, arrived. We haven’t seen each other in several years, visiting only by email, text and phone as we live on opposite coastsVikis the one who suggested Sean and I get intoaudiobook narration/production as he knew my talents from our years of working in theatre together, and Sean’s from producing his music. (Besides being an awesome producer/sound engineer for audiobooks, he is an incredible musician. In fact, he’s composed music for several books we’ve narrated. What had been a hobby for him, is now a professional gig!)  We chatted with Vik for a bit before heading back to Skype with the kids before they went to bed, and to get ourselves some rest before the big Conference.

Thursday morning came and we were up and ready to go early to APAC. We knew we needed to be there somewhat early to check-in as I was fortunate enough to be a part of the Directors Diagnostics (DD). I wanted plenty of time to get there, register, nosh a little and prepare for the coaching session.

For the DD, I was paired with the incomparable Hillary Huber. She is amazing. Such a talent! It was privilege to spend time with her critiquing my performance. Hillary liked the piece I brought in (a section from ‘Letters from Wishing Rock’ by PamStucky. It’s the first book in a trilogy we will be starting in the next couple of weeks), and had good feedback for me. The 20 minutes flew by too fast, but I am very grateful for the time we had.She allowed me to record our session so I wouldn’t forget anything. (Sean & I have reviewed her notes several times and she gave me constructive criticism and pointers to up my game.) I felt more confident afterward as she said I have a great voice and am doing well.  Many thanks to Tavia Gilbert for adding me to the list of narrators eligible for the DD, and to Robin Eller for coordinating the opportunity. Their help provided us a unique experience.

After the DD session, I found Sean and we conferred on what I learned and got back to meeting new people. So many people! It’s staggering to have so much talent in one space! So many different backgrounds – from radio,theatre, voice-over, and more – all those diverse trainings lead each of us to audiobooks. Amazing!

It was time for the Joint Session presentations. First up, APA. We were introduced to the Board members and heard about various updates from the APA office. Good information about the audiobook industry and the growth it is seeing. Plus they told us about the new book mobile tour. It looks cool. It will be in our area in late August, so I plan to volunteer.

Following that was the Keynote Speaker – Mr. Alan Ivy – a man passionate about getting people to think in a NEW box, not necessarily OUTSIDE the box. He was charming, funny and relayed his message in a short time. I am looking forward to listen to his book ‘Thinking In New Boxes’.

After that was the Panel on how publishers and narrators can work together to promote their projects. It was interesting to hear from them. One of the main points I got, was that the publishershave a budget to spend on publicizing the books. But, it also sounded like they only do that with their bigger titles that already have a following. That made me wonder when and if they take a chance on unknown/lesser-known authors/narrators? My take is that they don’t. It makes the playing field very uneven for people who are doing great work. (In a later panel, a publisher said books get buried because they don’t have the time or money to invest in every project. Very discouraging to hear that.) Sean and I work diligently to promote our projects through social media, and sometimes the pusometimes armed as well, but many times they do nothing.Very frustrating.

Lunch time. My tomato allergy kept me away fromall the main course items, but luckily I do love Caesar salad. J

Post lunch, Sean went to the Business Track programs, and I to the Performance Track, only to see one another in brief moments between sessions. Sigh… I like hanging with my hubby. I missed his company.

My first session was the Narrator Roundtable. Wow! Wow! Wow! The folks on the panel were amazing! Johnny Heller, Lisa Renee Pitts, Nicole Barber, Paul Ruben, Carol Mondaand Stephen McLaughlin. Again… Wow! Wow! Wow! What a fun, interesting, thought-challenging session. Each panelist had good tips for narrating. I would love to work with any of them. Paul Ruben’sCommandments for Fiction and Non-Fiction are right on! (What I would give to study with this gentleman). The reminder to constantly learn and get training to help your craft, to breath, to connect with the words and the subtext – all these things overlapped into my acting/directing training. This panel reignited that part of my brain, all for the better.

The next session was on Publishing Opportunities. Sean and I have discussed doing this, so I was excited to learn from the experts: Karen White, Stefan Rudnicki, Gabrielle de Cuir, and Jeffrey Kafer. Boy, did I learn lots. I learned that it is a huge project to publish. Making contactwith authors/publishersmaking offers, creatingcontracts, hosts of legal issues, finding a worthydistribution outletproviding customer support,knowing e-commerce… just a mini-peek at all the things that need to be addressed when publishing. Right now, our business is too new to take on publishing, but I do think it is something we will explore in the next five years. It’s a chance we would like to take.

After that was Narrator Self-Promotion Tips and Techniques. The panel (Tara Sands, Tom Dheere, Robert Fass, and Debra Deyan) had a number of good ideas. I was happy to hear that they use most of the same social media outlets that we do already, so I know we are on the right track. Plus they talked about sending quarterly newsletters (which we had been planning), getting reviews from bloggers, and having an email sign-up list (also something we had started working on). The two main things I took from this was Tara saying ‘ABG – Always Be Giving’ – true in all aspects of life; and Debra saying that publishers do indeed look at ratings on Audible, etc. before they consider working with a new narrator, and that unless you have 4 or 5 stars for performance, they won’t even consider you. That statement was, to say the least, quite upsetting. The reviews on Audible and other sites are not professional critiques. So if a book that has five 4-star ratings and one 1-star rating, that average would be low and the narrator would be passed over. (Since this panel, a discussion was opened on this subject on a Facebook group. A publisher who is very knowledgeable indicated that while they do look at the reviews, there are many variables that play into it, so they will throw out reviews that have nothing written to relay their scoring, or are by someone who always writes negative reviews, etc. That relieved the minds of many!)

The last panel was the Listening Lounge where we got to hear eight narrators perform 3-5 minuteselections from books they have recorded or would like to record. What a treat! The diversity of style was enormous. I am looking forward to listening to more of their works!

After that was the cocktail hour. We stood in line and chatted with Cornelius Church, a man who has started an audiobook distributer business(Avrakadavra Audio). Sean got a beverage and we headed over to talk with Vik and some of his friends from LA. It was a great way to unwind from the crazy, fun, educational day.

After returning to the hotel to change, Sean and I headed to a diner for dinner where I tried my first and last chocolate egg cream soda. (Bleck!) Then back to the Washington Square Hotel (nice place!) for a nightcap at the bar where another former student of mine works, Nick. He made me a drink called “Penicillin”. For this particular beverage, I say YUM! Nick was looking up other drinks to make me based on my preference of whiskey, scotch, lemon and ginger, but I had to decline as I knew I would probably pass out if I had anything else. (It’s hard work being “on” for hours on end… Fun, but exhausting nonetheless.)

Even though we met tons of people at APAC this year, there are so many more with whom we’ve yet to interact. Next year, be ready folks… I am going to meet you all!

Until then, feel free to email me… (Tiffany@AirbendingMediaProductions.com) I like interacting with this fantastic crowd!

PS - geeked out for a friend of mine during one of the Networking Breaks. Backstory: When we started doing audiobooks, my friend Jennifer told me to check out Xe Sands, her favorite narrator. I did and she is, indeed, great. Well, low and behold, Ms. Sands was at the event and allowed me to take a picture of us together to send to Jennifer. Xe was delightful. It was a pleasure to meet her and talk about the fun things she has on her beautiful website. (Her website is very cool.She takes you on a journey. Great concept and execution. Check it out!)

Tiffany and Xe at APAC.  Tiffany being a Fan Geek on behalf of her friend Jennifer.  Xe was gracious enough to indulge her.  

Tiffany and Xe at APAC.  Tiffany being a Fan Geek on behalf of her friend Jennifer.  Xe was gracious enough to indulge her.  

PPS - I saw that Ann Richardson was in one of the panel discussion rooms, so I again geekedout. (I had done research on several narrators’ websites to see what styles are effective and eye-catching… trying to get ideas for mine.) So I walked up to her and told her how much I liked her website. It conjured such a refreshing feeling,it is charming, professional yet approachable, clean and has no superfluous pages/info. I really like her site. She thanked me and gave me a packet of daisy seeds – her trademark gift in lieu of a business card. Excellent, fun and different marketing option! I like that too!