Monday, June 20, 2011

The Pink Chair: The Audiobook Demo, The Candidate's Cold Call

In the telemarketing industry, a cold call is an unsolicited phone call made to a home or business. No prior relationship exists between the caller and the person picking up the phone. As the recipient of the phone call, you have the option of putting your phone number on the national Do Not Call Registry, hanging up on the caller, getting a cell phone (no solicitation calls are legally permitted to cell phones), or executing an elaborate vendetta to have the caller brought to the Florida Keys a la Nature Girl (by Carl Hiassen; narrated by Lee Adams.) In the audiobook industry, the unsolicited demo is the equivalent of a cold call and, just as in the telemarketing industry wherein only about 2% of the calls yield any results, the unsolicited demo is a long shot. At the company I work for, we get a couple of hundred of demos a week. Most of these demos are e-mailed to the studio director; but a not-insignificant number of these demos are flash-drives and CDs sent to the office. Following are a couple of observations about the material sent to the studio director's office:

  • There must be a course or class or workshop out there that takes people's money and tells them that branding is key. And that branding means spending a lot of time on a print image and packaging. A lot of CDs come into the office with elaborate photoshopped covers that tell the studio director's office very little if anything about the candidate other than s/he had a lot of time on their hands to create this package. The Studio Director is going to be listening to the sound samples, not judging the book by its cover. The CD that comes in with Sharpie scrawled all over it is going to get the same opportunity as the slickly packaged demo. That said, there was one over-produced demo that worked against the candidate: The packaging was so terrible that the first thought crossing our minds was, "[S/He] had better be really good if they sent us this." That candidate had to work against the packaging to start with. On the other hand, I received possibly the best demo package ever from John McLain. He walked up to me, said he liked to narrate Westerns and, gave me a CD that had an image of a cowboy boot with a headset on it. John McLain, Westerns and the cowboy boot are forever linked in my mind.
  • HELPFUL HINT: Branding is about your working reputation. Period.

  • Quite a few demos come in pieces. There's the CD or flash drive, a cover letter, a resume, a headshot, a business card, a QR code and sometimes even a promotional bit of kitsch like a bookmark, magnet or toy. That's a lot of stuff to keep together. And guess what? A lot of times this stuff gets separated - unintentionally, but it happens. The more pieces to the submission that there are, the more likely it is that pieces will be lost. Worst case scenario is when we have a great demo in hand, but can't find the contact info that accompanied it. Best case scenario, everything is in one unit, a business card slid inside the jewel case or contact info printed on the CD or flash drive.
  • HELPFUL HINT: Keep it simple. n.b. There are no pieces to be lost in an e-mail. Also, consider using an file upload service like

  • Some demos arrive with a cover letter addressed "To Whom It May Concern" or "Dear Friends." Really? You couldn't take the 30 seconds to google the correct contact person? Or a minute to make a phone call to the company to find out who to send the demo to? But you want us to spend anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour to listen and evaluate your demo? Don't think so. Hate to say it, but these demos often do not get any consideration at all.
  • HELPFUL HINT: Make the call. Google it. Find out who you're sending your demo to.

  • And finally, a word about follow-ups. Owing to the volume of demos received, it can take eons to get to your demo. A candidate may become discouraged after not hearing from the audiobook publisher after days, weeks, months... If you're wondering if we've even received your demo, you're best bet would be to pay for Delivery Confirmation from the United States Postal Service. For my part, I'm working on a standard e-mail acknowledgment of receipt --- one that doesn't lead the submitter to then expect immediate feedback and/or work. Still, continually checking up to see where your demo is, if we've listened to it yet, if we have work for you... does nothing more than clutter up the voice mail and e-mail inboxes. This is a common sight on Monday morning: Inbox.
  • HELPFUL HINT: Be patient. We're working on it. Really.
Next up on The Pink Chair:


  1. Fascinating info, DEC. Thanks.

  2. I should send you a demo of my narrating skills, and my hardcore rappin' skillz.

  3. Greetings, Tanya! Thanks so much for this excellent discussion about audiobook demo submissions. Since the unsolicited demo is the equivalent of a cold call, do you have any suggestions about how this voice talent could make her demo submission a bit warmer, possibly even requested by your studio?

    For instance, you and I live at opposite ends of the country. Outside of APA events for which we both would travel, we probably have no chance for face-to-face communication.

    John McLain's approach was a great example of the purpose of branding because you can easily remember how he might help you. In that same spirit, perhaps you might think of this comment as a virtual postcard from Atlanta that reads:

    "On a fantastic trip with engrossing non-fiction books: biographies, business, history, self-development, and travel genres are best. I invite you to visit my web site, where you may hear my audiobook demo, read testimonials, and see a video demonstration of my stunning soundproof studio. Hope to chat soon!"

    Thanks again for your advice and assistance. Here's hoping this comment is not email #1979 tomorrow morning!

    Karen Commins
    "A Vacation For Your Ears"