50 books is a big deal for me. I feel like a salty old dog in the audiobook game now...
Hardly! So far from it, it took a stack of books to learn how much I didn’t know.
I've figured out a few things, some of which I had to on my own because I was reluctant to take the advice of others in the first place.
50 books: 3 years, 150 hours of audio.
Meeting ACX quality control means nothing. You can pass QC and still sound like garbage. Pay for sound expertise early! If you’re trying to do a good job narrating, that will go to waste without good mastering.
There's a reason sound technicians go to school: there is a vast pool of knowledge about sound, not even counting all the software and equipment used to manage it. It has its own vocabulary! If you want to get down to reading books aloud, and not spend all your time learning about sound, then assistance from someone who has done that time is NOT OPTIONAL (this is the more obvious piece of advice I ignored at the outset to my later chagrin).
It's ok to turn down books. Struggling through a poorly edited ms takes time and effort. Just about every spelling error and punctuation fault means a stop and start, which means an edit, and it all means time. An ms that's not in shape to be read isn't worth trying.
It’s ok to back out of books you don’t want to give your voice to. The one time I declined to do a book for moral reasons, was, naturally, the time the author asked me "Hey, how come?" I answered, and I learned about my discomfort lines (they don't have to do with sexuality - I have no problem voicing eroticism that doesn’t represent me because sexuality is as diverse as snowflakes in a storm. The wild diversity interests me).
Sales aren't fair. Sometimes garbage sells, and quality doesn't. Not all the time, but too often, I see no correlation between good writing and a good margin. Two of the most poorly written, riddled with errors, popsicle stick characters, zero plot books I voiced (which shall not be named and came before I learned the last point about freedom to bow out), remain my best sellers. I can't comprehend how this is possible! Maybe I'll get some illumination in the next 50 books. Then I'll also be able to explain to the world why 50 Shades happened. Just for instance. But since this isn’t all about the money, but about enjoying the process, getting to do books I appreciate, and working hard to do a good job on them is satisfying no matter the payout. The quality books are what makes this job worth doing.
Like most things, tenacity matters. I'm going to learn more in the next 50, I know there's more to learn, but I have to show up to them in order to learn it. I don't think it's talent that matters as much as work. "[N]othing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent" - Calvin Coolidge. Work, over time = growth.