From The Wall Street Journal:
Scott Brick reads 50 books a year so you don’t have to.
Mr. Brick is an audio book narrator, one of the most lauded and sought-after in the business. The winner of four “Audie” awards, the Oscars of the spoken word, he’s the baritone voice of choice for thriller masters like Lee Child, Nelson DeMille and Gregg Hurwitz, and for historians, among them, Ron Chernow (Mr. Brick narrated “Alexander Hamilton” and “Washington”).
He estimates that he’s narrated some 900 books to date by authors as diverse as Ayn Rand, Erik Larson, Truman Capote, William Faulkner, Dennis Lehane and Pat Conroy.
That’s Mr. Brick on Frank Herbert’s multivolume “Dune” series and on pieces of the Ray Bradbury, Isaac Asimov and Philip K. Dick oeuvre. He’s currently booked six months out; the workload includes new novels by Brad Meltzer and Clive Cussler.
“In many ways my voice is kind of vanilla,” said Mr. Brick over multiple cups of English breakfast tea during a recent visit to New York from his home in Los Angeles. “But if you’re going to spend 25 hours with a voice…”
Mr. Brick makes a point of reading a book before he takes it into the recording studio. Especially in the case of a whodunit, he needs to know whodunit. “Authors give us red herrings so we can be surprised when the real killer is revealed,” he said. “And when I know who the red herring is I can make that character as dislikable as I can to help authors do what they clearly intend to do. And I take the real killer and make him seem as mild as mother’s milk.”
The covers of a book can sometimes seem very far apart. “My analogy for the narration process is that it’s a dance,” Mr. Brick said. “Your partner is the text, and when you have a weak partner you find yourself doing more of the work. But when you’re dancing with a strong partner you can relax and just let it happen.”
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Mr. Brick read voraciously during his childhood in Santa Barbara and in a central California farming community—then as now fantasy and sci-fi were favorite genres—and studied theater at UCLA. He was eking out a living as an actor, mostly performing Shakespeare for kids, when, 20 years ago, a college pal in the recording industry arranged an audiobook audition for him.
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It was a smart career move. In 2017, the most recent year for which data is available, audiobook sales totaled more than $2.5 billion, a jump of almost 23% from the year prior, according to the Audio Publishers Association.
Mr. Brick narrates a book a week, and says he’s paid considerably more than the industry average of $250 per finished hour. His is an elusive art. “You can get all the words right and in the right order and pronounce them correctly but that’s not enough,” he said. “You have to perform it for lack of a better term. You have to bring it off the page.”
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Does listening to a book count as reading a book? “A lot of people who have the audio book think they’re cheating or doing the Cliffs Notes or something,” Mr. Brick said. “I think it is the same as reading in terms of absorbing the material, experiencing the story the author intended. But there is a difference.”
“In the old days, the only thing between the author’s words were the reader’s eyes and imagination,” he continued. “Now, you have the narrator standing between the author’s words and the listener’s mind. I’m the construct, and my job is to make the construct as small and unnoticeable as possible.”
“I’m as shallow as the next actor,” Mr. Brick said, “but if I read an audio review that doesn’t mention me, I’m fine with it. That means I’ve done my job.”
Link to the rest at The Wall Street Journal