We are continuing our CoronaVirus Series and talking to people who are able to earn a living from home. Today I asked Trenton Bennett a very well known and talented voice actor /audiobook narrator for audio books. Trenton is providing us with some tips on how to become a voice actor. I had the privilege of hearing Trenton Bennett present at Podfest and one of the things that impressed me was the fact that he started this career later in life. Many of our listeners are thinking about a new career after midlife. Trenton shares many tips and strategies for becoming a voice actor or hiring a voice actor to narrate a book that you’re published. Looking for a new career you can do from home definitely listen in.
How to Become a Voice Actor
Trenton shares what ACX is and a course that he took to help him become a voice actor. “ACX” is short for “Audiobook Creators’ Exchange”. It’s the place where everyone goes to produce audiobooks for Amazon / Audible and iTunes. ACX is really the best place to start because they manage the process of finding work, producing, and interacting with the author (or “rights holder”, who is not always the author) to get an audiobook pushed out to Amazon / Audible and iTunes.
Trenton recommends the ACX Master Class at http://www.acxmasterclass.com . It is taught by Dan O’Day and David H. Lawrence XVII and it’s aimed at taking someone from “day 1, I don’t know anything” to “I’m good, I get the tech, and I’m managing my own products on ACX” The costs of using the equipment are low and methods they teach are really easy to do.
How to Set Up Your Recording Studio
It can be as simple as using a closet in your home that’s in a quiet space: leave the clothes in because they dampen the sound. I first started off in a walk-in Master Closet and have since built my own studio. Some people like to build booths. If you live in a noisy area or large city, this is a better solution, but for many people you can just convert a room if you have one.
There is a really great Facebook group called “Voiceover Artist and Booth Building”
They have tons of articles about everything from a blanket-fort to building your own room-within-a-room.
Trenton hired a pro to help him build his studio. He hired George “the tech” Whittam to consult with me remotely, and it was worth every penny. George gave him a lot of tips and then specific guidance. He ended up deciding to build his own acoustic panels and put together the room all by himself. You can do it! I even post a video on how I built my own acoustic panels and ceiling cloud to help other people.
How to Hire a Voice Actor like Trenton Bennett
Trenton shared “It’s really easy! If you’ve already published to Amazon, you can go into ACX and ‘claim’ your book as something that belongs to you. Then you write up a profile, call for auditions, and narrators see your title and respond. It’s really important to properly put together the description and other information about your book, which is a full course all unto itself! But I am always happy to help anyone get started if they want to reach out to me.”
Unique Book Titles that Trenton Bennett has Narrated
Trenton narrated some unique titles including Corbin Bernsen’s Rust and The Starchild Trilogy, by Robert G. Williscroft.
Trenton Shares about Rust by Corbin Bernsen
“Rust really was an honor to do. I was so pleased to be asked to record it! Corbin Bernsen is a great actor, and this particular project was all him. It has a small-town vibe, a tough but beautiful story, a crisis of faith… and there was a lot of pressure there because it was also a movie directed by Bernsen himself. I can’t easily emulate his voice, so as I voiced his character I had to pick a sound that was close to him but wouldn’t beat up my voice trying to be a very specific person.”
Trenton Shares about The Starchild Trilogy
“The Starchild Trilogy was a huge challenge – the first book alone has over 50 distinct characters, dialogue in other languages, and some of that I had to put together on my own! It’s a genre called “Hard SF”. This is a kind of science fiction where the science is the star. That means that in between some Tom Clancy action and interstellar intrigue, I might go on some long tangents explaining VASIMR engines or orbital launch loops. Hard SF is a labor of love – it has a small but very smart fan base.”
Trenton’s Advice on Designing Your Lifestyle
“It’s never perfect! I have a T-shirt with a quote from Lao-Tzu that I used to motivate me: “Perfection is the willingness to be imperfect”. Everything about my voiceover career is a slow growth that changes over time. I learn and improve. I don’t have to start perfect—I just have to start.”
“It’s also important to know that as you spend time doing a new venture, you’ll learn things that will change the direction you need to go. It will take time. It will take patience. It will take hard work and discipline—but you can still truly enjoy it, because this lifestyle is something you chose to take on.”
“Here’s my example: I kicked off my Year One mid-year. I took the ACX Master Class and immediately started landing audiobooks before the class was even over. I wanted to know more about voiceover in general though, so I signed up for what is now VO Heroes
“And I spent the next calendar year taking every one of the 38 classes there, plus other courses on the side.”
“I used all that information to make decisions on what areas of voiceover to try to get into. It’s really important not to try to do everything, because this is a field with a lot of specialists. You need to find what best matches you, and build your skills in that, instead of trying to do everything.”
“I started trying to land commercial and documentary narration gigs, but audiobooks kept calling! Last year I ended up landing more audiobook work than I could take on, and people being willing to wait a bit to get it all done, just so they could have me to work with. That was amazing!”
“It’s really important to remember that this business—and any other business—is always a marathon and NOT a sprint. Everyone I know in this business who has been successful, it has taken them anywhere from 6-10 years to get there.”
How to Become a Voice Actor – Books that Trenton Recommends
“I did love The 48 Laws of Power, by Robert Greene. I realize that sounds like an odd pick, but it was the fact that it was a combination of stories, real and fictional, from history and lessons about human nature. When you know more of what motivates people, it’s easier to get into the heads of your characters and truly understand what motivates them.”
“Audiobook narration is Voice Acting, and so I also benefitted a great deal from the book Secrets of Screen Acting by Patrick Tucker. It focuses on teaching you how acting for the stage is different for the screen, but in that process, you also start to get a feel for how good visuals are assembled.”
“I know, that sounds weird! I don’t do a lot of on-camera work. But it really did help my narration. When you listen to an audiobook, I’m acting out the characters, sure—but I’m also the sets, the backdrops, the props—even the ambient sounds! I’m composing the scenes on the page into audio soundscapes on a whole different platform. I have to take the author’s vision and paint that same picture for you when you hear it. So in my mind as I’m telling the story, I’m building an elaborate visual in my head and then pouring emotion and emphasis into the read to convey that ‘cinematic’ vision to you.”
Trenton’s Best Advice for Newbies
Whatever it is, you need to tackle it like it’s a business. Go for it, but be realistic about what you need to do to make it successful. Learn how other successful people in that field got where they wanted to be. Write a business plan. Make some decisions at the outset but don’t spend forever thinking about starting. You start, and then you learn, and then you pivot your sail to catch the wind when the wind changes.
I’d hand that family member a copy of the book Start Ugly by Chris Krimitsos. It’s a quick read and a motivating parable about all of these things.
What Held Trenton Back Initially from Becoming a Voice Actor
Well originally, I wanted to be an animator! I actually have an art degree. I wanted to do that, but at the time I really didn’t have many options for learning, and I also knew that getting into that field would probably require me to move to Los Angeles and wait for someone at Disney or Warner Brothers to retire! (*laughs*). It was only a few years later that Jurassic Park came out, the whole paradigm shifted, and suddenly animators were in high demand.
I’m telling you all this for a really important reason. My big mistake was that by then I let negative opinions about my talent and my potential crush my hopes…and one of the loudest voices shouting me down was my own.
I also had a real knack for acting, performing, and voicework, but I didn’t really know how to apply those skills! So I did side projects, here and there, and I found excuses to pour my talents into various places they’d do some good, like training, producing and narrating explainer videos, etc.
I still didn’t know where to begin. And so it was an unusual bit of luck that I ran across David H. Lawrence XVII. Here’s a seasoned pro who was willing to give a random stranger his time. David asked some very specific questions about my goals and my experience. He made himself available to me, but he also didn’t end our first conversation with, “But first—write me a check!” He said, “Go get acting lessons,”.
Trenton’s Best Advice or Quote
‘Don’t get complacent.’ I was working a job that was really easy to do. I’d get the day’s work done by 10 AM, then spend the rest of the day waiting for new stuff to come in and reading books. I read the entire Dune series at work in less than a month while pouncing on every job that hit the Inbox.
He said this to me while walking by my cube, and I followed him to his desk and asked for more. That one phrase motivated me to go looking around the office for other ways I could help people. I was rewarded again and again for that throughout my career. If you can think of a better way to do things, speak up. If you want to learn, as long as you’re not jumping in the way, most people like to talk about themselves and what they do. They also like asking questions if they can see that you’re truly interested in helping them.
Habits that Contribute To Your Success
I think in the long-term, and I give myself breathing room in the short term. What I mean by that is, with all I’ve got to do, I give myself one day a week to goof off. When I know that I have that day coming, I’m less tempted to take a break beforehand and more motivated to get everything done for the week.
Thinking in the long-term means that I know any given week’s work is just a step across months that cover a journey of years.
At the end of every week, as the next week rolls around, you might be tempted to stress or feel like you didn’t accomplish enough. Take a moment to list out everything you got done the last week. You may be pleasantly surprised!
Be honest with yourself and give yourself credit – did something slip because you put too much on your plate? Re-think your goals for the coming week and be reasonable about what you should expect to accomplish.
How Can You Find Trenton Bennett
I’m at trentonbennett.com, I’m on Facebook and Twitter as “VoiceOfTrenton”, you can find me on LinkedIn and YouTube and you can always e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
My podcast, “Classic Rock Battles: the Limey & the Yank”, which I co-host with Steve Atkins, is available wherever you get your Podcasts or on http://www.thelimeyandtheyank.com and it too has a presence on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
If you have been wondering how to how to become a voice actor or how to find a voice actor to narrate your book, I hope you’ll continue your quest and check out some of these resources provided for you.