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An Author's Foray into “Telling” Her Story

Posted by Sherrie Wilkolaski on Mon, May 21, 2012 @ 12:51 PM

by Yvonne S. Thornton, M. D., M. P. H.

I am a physician (obstetrician/gynecologist), national bestselling author (“The Ditchdigger’s Daughters”), musician (alto saxophonist), vocalist (soprano), University professor, clinical researcher, mother, wife and motivational speaker.  With that said, what would possess me to narrate my own memoir, SOMETHING TO PROVE?

The First Book and Bestseller.

fam cover resized 600My first book, “The Ditchdigger’s Daughters” was narrated by a lovely woman, Fran Washington, met with critical acclaim and went on to be adapted into an award-winning cable TV movie.  People have always complimented me on my mellifluous voice. So, when I heard her, I thought to myself, “I could do that.  It doesn’t seem to be that difficult”.  But, that’s as far as it went for more than twenty years. Well, the opportunity presented itself after writing my second memoir, SOMETHING TO PROVE.  Dick Estell of the nationally-syndicated “Radio Reader” had offered to read my book on his radio program starting July 4, 2011.  He, too, did a great job.  However, I thought that the audiobook would definitely need a feminine voice.  The audio rights for the book were held by Kaplan Publishing, publishers of the initial hardcover in 2009.  When the hardcover was finally published in December of 2010, I kept asking Kaplan about when the audiobook would be available and who would be selected to narrate my book.  I heard nothing from the publishers. It’s as if I were all alone in a forest. Weeks went by, months went by. No response. However, I was persistent and resolute about having an audiobook for SOMETHING TO PROVE.  After six months of nothing happening, I asked my literary agent to try and get the audiobook rights reverted back to the authors.  She really didn’t seem to be that interested either.  However, after nine months (the gestational age for a full-term baby) of constantly bothering the publishing company, I prevailed and Kaplan finally relinquished the audiobook rights.  Now, what do I do?  I had the audiobook rights, but I didn’t know what to do with them. 

Getting the Audio Book Published.

I didn’t have any connections in the audiobook business and my literary agent couldn’t have 0741472325 resized 600cared less.  So, I went online and typed in “audiobook publishers”.  Up popped Infinity Publishers and Spoken Books Publishing!  I immediately called Tim Rice, who was most professional and full of information.  Following our conversation, he quoted me the fee (which was very reasonable) and sent me the standard audio contract.  I was on my way!  I asked him whether I could narrate my own the book, even though I had absolutely no experience in voice-over work or narrating and if I could do the narration over the phone from my home.  He chuckled and told me that I could narrate my own book, but I needed to come to the studio in West Conshohocken, Pennsylvania.  West Conshohocken, Pennsylvania?  I didn’t know where West Conshohocken was!  I live in the New York City metropolitan area and I had to look on the map for the location of West Conshohocken, Pennsylvania.  It was about a two-hour drive, but now I was on a mission and I didn’t care how far I had to go to get this project done.  I was going.  A few weeks later, I was introduced to Dave Giorgio——the most awesome, fabulous, stupendous producer for my audiobook.  I was a neophyte, I had never done this before and Dave took me through everything—holding my hand all the way.  He was so, so, so kind and patient.  Before I knew what narrating a book involved, I thought I could just sit down in the studio booth, complete the reading of the book in one or two sessions and go home.  After all it’s only a 265-page book, right?  Boy, was I surprised!

Being a “voice” talent is NOTHING compared to anything I had ever experienced before.  I have been a motivational speaker and a lecturer for over 20 years, speaking before hundreds and thousands of people. But, sitting down in an enclosed sound-proof booth with earphones on and a microphone ready to record your every breath was daunting.  Unlike public speaking and even though I authored the memoir I was to narrate, I had to learn to concentrate on the words, the breathing patterns, the inflection, pronunciation, enunciation, avoid the mouth-muscle fatigue, all the while being aware of the proper cadence and character voice changes. I had a new-found respect for audiobook narrators and could understand why many authors did not narrate and record their own books.  But, I was in too deep and I just kept going with the guidance, support and encouragement of Dave Giorgio, my producer.  He was truly phenomenal.  One session, turned into two, three, and then four and beyond.  Driving two hours from New York was off-set by the miraculous results I was hearing from the unedited drafts of the audiobook.  Dave let me hear the raw recordings so that I could improve my delivery and practice, practice, practice my lines.  It was a major undertaking but I was psyched.

However, in the midst of preparing my audiobook, I discovered, quite inadvertently, that Kaplan Books Publishing had closed their recently-formed trade book division and with dastardly indifference, slithered away ignominiously without having the courtesy or integrity of informing any of its authors of their decision to leave book publishing.  I was in shock!  However, coming to the studio to record the book kept me focused.  When life gives you lemons, “make lemonade”!!  During my visits to West Conshohocken, I noted that Infinity Publishing also published traditional books.  So, I called Michelle Shane at Infinity Publishing and asked her about trying to keep the book in print by publishing it as a paperback.  She, too, was very helpful and accommodating.  It was particularly disheartening about Kaplan, especially since my memoir SOMETHING TO PROVE was named the 2011 Grand Prize Winner of the New York Book Festival.  Go Figure!! 

When all was said and done, it took me about eight sessions to complete my narrative role in the making of the audiobook.  With the editing complete, after about two months, I had the finished product of a beautifully mastered audiobook. SOMETHING TO PROVE is now not only an audiobook “as read by the author”, but also a paperback with a CD inside (both being sold on Amazon.com).  There was a silver lining after all. I am very proud of myself and, more important, I am thrilled with Infinity Publishing and Spoken Books Publishing for giving me the opportunity to keep my book alive. 

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Dr. Thornton is the national best-selling author of the heartwarming memoir, "The Ditchdigger's Daughters" published in 1995 and has never been out of print. The book, "The Ditchdigger's Daughters" was also featured on the "Oprah Winfrey Show". This family biography (co-authored with Jo Coudert) is a tribute to her parents and was condensed in The Reader's Digest, translated into 19 languages, adapted into a World Premiere Movie and nominated for the Peabody Award and the Cable ACE Award for Best Picture. http://www.doctorthornton.com

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Tags: audio book publishing, infinity publishing, book marketing, book publicity, self publishing, self publishing companies, spoken books publishing, independent publishing

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