Much Ado About Narrators

I have been having the roughest time getting a decent book narrator. In Search of Amika has had more hiccups than I would like to admit, from the distro to the audiobookin’. It’s going to hold up the next book Dreamer for a while but thankfully not by much since it seems to mainly be coding and finding talents. The book is done, just having issues on the publishing side.

Now to whinge about having a hard time finding a good narrator.

I have come across plenty narrators, some who are really talented but not a good fit and some who have a lot of heart but not really talented. There there are some who are woeful mismatches. I have learned so far with ISoA is the two hiccups are:

-The Southern accents
– The genderless character, who is also one of the main characters, Ipkuni.

I am finding a harder time than I thought I would. It’s both hard and easy to find narrators. There are sites that have them but also you have to sort through a lot of what you don’t want. I basically want, for the current batch of works, a Black female narrator because I mainly write Black female characters. The works that are exceptions to this rule can be substituted with a Black Chicano/Black male narrator. It is a sea of White out there, and it is frustrating. At this point I just pick “Southern accent” and skim by picture to create a selection batch and go from there. Or I post Wanted: Narrator in my writing groups (I’m only in writing groups for Black or PoC people strictly so it helps a bit). Or in the gaming group I’m in (I’m in only one as of right now, Black Girl Gamers). It gets me some people but not too many. And because I don’t mind if someone is new or seasoned – everyone starts somewhere and I have nothing but memories of “need experience to get a job, need a job to get experience” ouroboros bullsh*t so I’m not interested in continuing that cycle –  I get a bevy of people.

It isn’t a clear cut “the pros sound great, the amateurs sound trash” because I’m getting things that dot all over the place. The Southern is supposed to be centered in Atlanta, which is pretty regional. Turns out I am having a hard time with that, not many can do ATL. And if I get the dead on ATL (which I have yet to get but close), it seems to come with the ATL discretion towards queerness as well – which is not so great. I do provide quick and dirty character run downs in the samples to make sure the narrator isn’t pitching in the dark here (which is easy to do, I’m sure most people did not imagine Alan Rickman as Snape – and he makes for a great Snape). But I think I might be running into “what do genderless/agendered people sound like?” because despite the run-downs, I get a lot of … variations. When I get a great Ipkuni, it is discovered the person is not so great with Southern, it will range from “Gone with the Wind” to “The Color Purple” quite commonly. If I get a great Southern accent, I get an Ipkuni that makes me molt in abject sonic cringe and horror.

Usually, I try to keep narrator hunting to the groups I’m in because I can live with a half decent Southern if they can do my character Ipkuni justice. The groups I’m in are super queer-friendly – to the point that one or two may be the mod and/or the admins and none of them really tolerate any bs of any sort.  I’ve seen individuals blipped over the slightest queer-phobic interactions, even if that individual is part of the LGBTQIA spectrum as well. Gay and a firm believer in biphobia? Gone. Ace and transphobic? Out you go, too. It keeps a clean community. But not a lot of narrators because they are groups for writers and gamers. See how this gets tough?

Should anyone think “Well, maybe you should expand your selection pool”, I hear you and I see you. And you couldn’t be more wrong. I don’t want to “minstrel” up my characters a la Fireside publishing (nearly got published by them by the way, everything fell through. I was upset then and now, I very much am not. And they’re the ones that started the Diversity in SF/F yearly studies, #BlackSpecFic!) and everyone else who has worked closely with MMP works are all Black. Since I’m the one that runs things, I’m the one who gets to pick what I want and what I want is a Black narrator. There’s no true shortage of them, I just haven’t found that person yet. Plus, when people of other races emulate Black lingo, that begs the question of why should I get bad copycats when I can always hire the real McCoys? This would be a problem I would definitely be stuck with in traditional publishing and, quite obviously from above, small press publishing.

Part of the goal also is to have one narrator that will be basically doing all my ensuing works. Short, long, doesn’t matter. Unless there needs to be a change, that’s gonna be my narrator. Hopefully I find them eventually.

ISoA is also getting redone, both print and ebook. It just needs a revamp. At least I picked a smaller work as a first try with all of this. Otherwise, I would be super agitated if it were a novella or a novel.

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