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Interview: Vance Bastian, Audio Book Narrator

Vance Bastian

QSF’s own Vance Bastian is here to talk with us about all things audio.

Vance is a writer, voice actor/audiobook narrator, and podcast host for the WROTE Podcast, where he interviews LGBTIQ authors along with SA Collins and Jayne Lockwood, and the new Campfire Podcast, a full novel told in daily bites.

We will touch on all these things with Vance, and he can answer your questions about audiobooks and production.

J. Scott Coatsworth Vance should be joining us in a few minutes.

Angel Martinez

SA Collins Vance is my #SuperHero (be he knows that)

Candra Blaire I am excited because you guys are smile emoticon

J. Scott Coatsworth LOL

Vance Bastian I’m here

Jamie Fessenden Morning, Vance.

J. Scott Coatsworth Woo hoo! Wow, lots of folks!

Vance Bastian Hi Jamie!

Jamie Fessenden Shhh…. not so loud….

Jamie Fessenden How are you?

Vance Bastian

Vance Bastian I’m great

J. Scott Coatsworth LOL

J. Scott Coatsworth OK, let’s get started.

J. Scott Coatsworth We have Vance Bastian here. Vance is a long time QSFer who is both a writer and an accomplished narrator.

J. Scott Coatsworth Don’t deny it, Vance.

J. Scott Coatsworth He also is one of the three creators of the WROTE podcast, along with

Vance Bastian Hi Everyone!

J. Scott Coatsworth And he recently launched the new Campfire Podcast – a serial fiction ‘cast that runs from M-F every week at

Campfire Podcast
Pull up a chair, roast a marshmallow, the story’s about to start

J. Scott Coatsworth In short, he’s a very busy guy.

Vance Bastian It’s true… I’m kinda short.

J. Scott Coatsworth *snort*

Write a reply…

J. Scott Coatsworth About the format… Angel and I have a list of prepared questions; after that we will ask him questions from y’all – please message any questions you have to me and I will put them in queue.

J. Scott Coatsworth Angel – wanna jump in with the first one?

Angel Martinez Hi Vance! So pleased to have you here! Let’s start with the basics – most of our folks know audio books, but it’s still new to some readers who might ask: “I’ve never listened to an audio title online. How does it work?”

J. Scott Coatsworth Good question. smile emoticon I actually never have, not online at least (not counting podcasts).

Vance Bastian With the improvement of streaming technology – it’s come a LONG way from the 10-20 disc set. Now, you purchase the audiobook and it’s streamed to your device, or computer, or other player. So you can listen to a book while you do other tasks… or just close your eyes, recline in your chair, and go full immersion

J. Scott Coatsworth Do you need any special apps?

Vance Bastian As with an ebook, that mostly depends on the retailer you frequent. Some have native apps (Audible), but others will sell you the audio files (almost always in .mp3 format these days) and you download those and play those from whatever you have that plays digital music

J. Scott Coatsworth Nice. smile emoticon I will have to try it. *checks to see if Slumberscythe is available in audio*

J. Scott Coatsworth As I mentioned before, Vance runs the Campfire podcast, which he launched a couple months ago. What are the biggest challenges in running a daily m-f podcast?

Vance Bastian My novel isn’t yet…. ironically.

J. Scott Coatsworth Well, get on it! LOL

Angel Martinez Seriously~!

Jamie Fessenden You have the power.

Vance Bastian And not a great answer. It’s that, “my work takes a back burner to everyone else’s” mentality. It’s not a GOOD explanation, but the psychology of it eludes me.

Vance Bastian That Time/Money balance.

J. Scott Coatsworth Care to elaborate? *grin*

Vance Bastian Podcast production is hosted on a computer service – and we producers are charged a per-upload fee based on kilobytes or megabytes of storage… so funding the Campfire Podcast has been a tricky challenge (that’s the Money side of the answer)…

Vance Bastian But for each hour of professional audio you listen to, you need to realize there’s anywhere from 3-6 hours of narration, editing, and audio balancing behind the scenes.

Vance Bastian Daily

Vance Bastian Just like an author wouldn’t release a first draft into the world, there’s no way I’m releasing a first draft of a narration into the world.

Angel Martinez Wow gasp emoticon That’s a lot of work

J. Scott Coatsworth Wow… that’s a lot.

Vance Bastian I know… it really is something you kind of have to love doing.

J. Scott Coatsworth You make it seem so effortless.

Vance Bastian Thanks! That’s kind of my goal.

Angel Martinez For our authors, why should they try to get their books into audio format?

Vance Bastian I would MUCH rather people enjoy the story I’m delivering

J. Scott Coatsworth LOL of course.

J. Scott Coatsworth Yes… is it really worth it?

Julia AT Weaver Flowers Just got here.

J. Scott Coatsworth ‘welcome!

Vance Bastian Several – reasons, actually…

Vance Bastian I’m going to use the term “fans” to refer to readers and listeners.

Vance Bastian First – thanks to technology, audio is now accessible quickly AND personal. So a fan can acquire an audiobook as quickly as an ebook.

Angel Martinez Which is lovely grin emoticon

J. Scott Coatsworth But do they sell?

Vance Bastian Because it’s portable, audio has become this incredible thing you can do while you’re doing most other tasks.

Vance Bastian Audiobooks do sell, and are selling. The demand for them is rising noticeably

J. Scott Coatsworth Dreamspinner said they are moving aggressively to convert their list to audio.

J. Scott Coatsworth It’s a good sign. You may be very busy soon, my friend.

Vance Bastian They are – which is amazing. But they’re not the only publishing house that’s doing so.

J. Scott Coatsworth Yay!

Vance Bastian I am so extremely grateful to be busy with work that is this rewarding AND that people really seem to enjoy

J. Scott Coatsworth Because you are good at it.

J. Scott Coatsworth OK, next question.

J. Scott Coatsworth How do you decide on voice characterizations for different characters, major and minor, and what do you draw on to create such a variety? I love the voices you are using for the side characters in The Autumn Lands. And you did some great ones for Angel’s Shax and Co too…

Vance Bastian THAT starts with a conversation with the author and/or rights holder… and I’m going to back you up a bit….

Vance Bastian If you’re looking to have your writing narrated – the very first thing to consider is what style you want. The two ends of that spectrum are “Theatrical” – with strong character voices and accents (like I’ve done for Angel’s Brimstone series or John I…See More

Vance Bastian Your question definitely falls under Theatrical style. So once that’s been determined, I read the manuscript and then ask the author/rights holder if they had any specific voicing in mind.

Vance Bastian But the decision to DO it is the author’s…

J. Scott Coatsworth That makes sense.

Vance Bastian As for me… I’ve been making voices and doing impressions since I started talking. Several years of acting for both stage and indie film later… and I surprised the heck out of myself by being able to narrate in character voices.

Angel Martinez So where does that come from? When an author asks for something specific?

Vance Bastian How do I decide what character gets what? That’s kind of a blend of what the author wrote in the manuscript, how important the character is to the plot, and trusting the voice that comes out of my mouth after I’m comfortable with the manuscript

Angel Martinez Trusting the voice! That rather sounds like what authors do too smile emoticon

Vance Bastian An unimportant character who only appears once in one line (like a cranky old lady screeching out the window) will get a stock cranky-old-lady voice and I’ll move on because she doesn’t come back.

J. Scott Coatsworth I loved that voice, BTW

Vance Bastian HA HA HA HA… she cracked me up

Vance Bastian But a main character? That’s something I give far more thought to because they’re going to need to convey emotion AND information

Angel Martinez I’m picturing your brain with all these character voice shelves lining it, lol

J. Scott Coatsworth The Vance Voice Vwarehouse.

Vance Bastian On the flip side, I’m also working on Brandon Witt’s “The Imperfection of Swans” – and that is definitely a naturally relaxed, and non-theatrical read.

J. Scott Coatsworth Brandon is fabulous. Just sayin’.

Vance Bastian Yes he is!

You’re both extremely kind! (Keep it up! LOL) And I’m getting more and more excited to hear you reading Swans, Vance! This conversation was really fun to read through, btw. Had no idea how many how many hours are behind each ‘hour’ of audio. Though I suppose that makes sense. Same for writing and youtube videos, etc. But wow! Now I’m even more honored you’re reading for me. Sorry that I can’t stick around, time to go get fitted for a suit for my brother’s wedding!

J. Scott Coatsworth I know. We assume Vance just sits down and gets it right the first time.

Vance Bastian Am I allowed to remain mysterious on that point, Scott?

Vance Bastian My fiancée once commented that he thought I could populate Chicago with the voices in my head.

Angel Martinez I think you could, lol

J. Scott Coatsworth *packs up bags for move to Chicago*

Angel Martinez From Amanda Marlies Ching: “Do you do your narration at home or in a studio? What programs do you use? I am a narrator who is edited elsewhere and would like to try some small projects myself.” And from me – what kind of equipment challenges do you face?

Vance Bastian I am still building my home studio… but it’s definitely become a dedicated room.

Vance Bastian Challenge #1: ENVIRONMENT. Furnaces, Air Conditioners, Refrigerators SUCK. That background noise is harsh. A professional studio has dealt with that – yay soundproof booths! But in your home you’ll be turning off the HVAC fans, and if you can’t get away from the fridge, unplugging it for an hour while you grab some raw audio. The other consideration here is timing of the day. I know at 3:00pm I am all done with my microphone because the school bus pulls up and children EXPLODE off the bus SHRIEKING and SCREAMING at top volume

Vance Bastian Nice kids, but MAN are they LOUD

J. Scott Coatsworth LOL

Angel Martinez *shakes cane* You kids get off my audio!

Vance Bastian *snicker*

Vance Bastian Challenge #2: EQUIPMENT. A professional mic is key. I use one that captures in a cardoid pattern – think a heart shape with the point aimed at my mouth. So it only grabs a little to the sides, but mostly in front. My computer was built to edit indie films, so I just happened to have Adobe’s Audition as part of that suite… but I actually capture the raw audio using Audacity. Finally, I invested in soundproofing styrofoam blocks for the walls, and an audio dampening blanket that I can drape over my computer just during raw capturing (knowing I only have a couple hours then I need to let the PC cool down)

J. Scott Coatsworth wow. Is any duct tape involved? tongue emoticon

Julia AT Weaver Flowers duct tape should be required for any job.

J. Scott Coatsworth So true.

Julia AT Weaver Flowers I’m SCA, remember.

Vance Bastian Believe it or not, not. I use a light poster tape to adhere the foam so I don’t ruin paint or foam

Angel Martinez Nice!

Vance Bastian Challenge #3: EDITING. Again, a studio would RULE. Cleaning up audio is long, laborious work. You can’t do it at 2x speed, and you are constantly stopping, deleting a click or a pop, rewinding a second, playing it again, moving on to the next bit of interference. Then there are the multiple takes – and choosing which to keep and which to delete. Etc. Finally, understanding what the sound levels mean, and how compression works, and applying limiter, etc. If you’re going to self-produce… you’re going to have to learn the audio edit skills.

Angel Martinez So you have to have a techy side to go with your theatrical side, or you’re sunk

Vance Bastian Not if you narrate for a studio that handles ALL of that. *dream job*

Vance Bastian Oh… right…. the final part is understanding the sound requirements for your distribution method. Audiobook sound quality is a zillion times better than podcast quality … but each distribution method does set its own limits and numbers.

Vance Bastian I *think* I got the major parts… let me know if I missed a part of the question

Angel Martinez Nope, you got it all! grin emoticon

Vance Bastian

J. Scott Coatsworth So it sounds complicated. I have a question from Julia AT Weaver Flowers: How does one become a narrator? Are there places where I can apply?

J. Scott Coatsworth And I’d add… is there training available?

Julia AT Weaver Flowers In Kansas City.

Vance Bastian Training is available… more from coaches than from schools. Though some media institutes offer various levels of voice training, they’re usually geared more for radio/podcast/talkshow than narration

Vance Bastian I should dovetail this answer – the voice coaches I’ve met have been excellent. I do think the standard is high for coaches in this industry

Jamie Fessenden I’ll just interject that a friend of mine did take a course in voice narration in Maine. She got a lot out of it.

Vance Bastian As for where to apply… It’s much like an acting career. You can entrepreneur it and start auditioning for jobs (and you will be judged on both performance and audio quality). OR you can sign up through an agency and they can rep you – but you’re going to have to impress them to sign with them.

J. Scott Coatsworth Hmmm. Just like writing.

Angel Martinez So you’d have demo tapes? Like a singer?

Vance Bastian Correct!

Angel Martinez Cool!

Vance Bastian A really good happy medium is – they bring voice actors together with people needing voice for various things – commercials as well as narration

Welcome to the #1 Marketplace for Voice Over Talent

Julia AT Weaver Flowers I guess I won’t be starting a new career.

J. Scott Coatsworth Just start small. Like with writing. smile emoticon

Julia AT Weaver Flowers At least not at my age.

Vance Bastian Julia AT Weaver Flowers You should take small steps forward. As with any career, there’s a learning curve… and it -IS- work. Very few people see a writer actually working, they only see the end product. It’s kind of the same here. That said, if you feel your voice has something to offer, you absolutely should explore it. Hit me up in a private message later and I can give you a few ideas.

Angel Martinez This was actually a question from Scott, lol: “What are some of the craziest requests you’ve had as a voice narrator? *side eyes Shax and crew*”

Vance Bastian Crazy? I never use that word. “Challenging?” YES! I love the challenge though. Let’s see… Jayne Lockwood needed Christopher Walken for our 12-Days event, and it just wasn’t a character I could pull off – certainly NOT for an extended read. Umm… narrating a believable sex scene when I’m surrounded by computer monitors and foam is a bit of a challenge.

Jayne Lockwood Foam?!?!

Vance Bastian Believe it or not, Shax’s crew came really naturally to me. I had to play with an innocence level on Ness – because over the arc of the series he needs to gain confidence – but they were all pretty definite in my mind.

Angel Martinez ROFL! It was a good Walken! And I can see sex scenes being tough. *shoves Fear of Frogs under the table* *nothing to see here*

Vance Bastian Angel Martinez Yeah….

Angel Martinez I truly thought asking for a drag queen AI would be odd, but Vance took it right in stride.

Vance Bastian Jayne Lockwood yep. Foam.

Vance Bastian Angel Martinez Ivana’s the sanest crew member. Her voice came to me right away.

Angel Martinez

Jamie Fessenden Foam and Ravens.

Angel Martinez Ravens are vital to the process *nods*

Jamie Fessenden Certainly if MY books are involved.

Vance Bastian Jamie Fessenden Foam and ravens – welcome to my world!

J. Scott Coatsworth (we’ve gotten through most of the prepared and submitted questions, so message me if you have one)

J. Scott Coatsworth So Vance… Carole Cummings sent in a question – she wants to know how we can support your work. And what is Patreon?

Vance Bastian Carole Cummings is amazing! Patreon hearkens back to the days when artists had patrons. Here’s the basis of the equation: IF an artist produces THEN Patreon charges the patrons the agreed-upon amount. So for example, I set up $1, $2, and $5 per month levels. As long as I’m producing and delivering to my patrons, Patreon will honor their amazing support by helping me keep going.

J. Scott Coatsworth That’s really affordable. smile emoticon

J. Scott Coatsworth And well worth it.

Vance Bastian Thank you!

Angel Martinez Affordable and the patrons get first listen smile emoticon

Vance Bastian Good point – my $5/month patrons DO get early access to Campfire episodes

Vance Bastian If people LIKE what we’re doing on the WROTE podcast, or at the Campfire podcast, they can hit up and select a patron level.

Vance Bastian is creating The Campfire Podcast | Patreon

J. Scott Coatsworth Plus supporting Vance makes him happy, and if you ever need a narrator down the road, you want a happy one who likes you.

Julia AT Weaver Flowers Wish I had the finances to contribute.

Vance Bastian Julia AT Weaver Flowers Honestly the most amazing thing you can do is tell people if you enjoy the podcasts. If an interview with an author has meaning to you, or one of the stories I’m narrating is really entertaining, share it with people you think might enjoy it as well. We podcasters are judged in our industry based on listen numbers… so for free you can help us BIG time by introducing us to new listeners!!
Julia AT Weaver Flowers I always share the links.

Vance Bastian That makes you a super-fan in my book!

Vance Bastian And thank you!!

Julia AT Weaver Flowers Of course, I don’t listen to as many as I should.

Julia AT Weaver Flowers I have a hard time keeping up with everything.

Vance Bastian I hear you… there’s a LOT to absorb in the world these days. Best to scan the headlines and titles, and tune in when it calls to you!

Vance Bastian Podcasting is similar to radio – the listener doesn’t pay anything. But broadcast radio stations either do pledge drives (NPR) or have paid advertisers (commercial radio). As of yet, neither WROTE nor the Campfire has those… so any help covering our costs will serve to keep us on the air!

Angel Martinez From Jamie Fessenden: “What’s the process is for uploading an audiobook to Audible?”

Vance Bastian For an author/rights-holder: you need to go to the Audiobook Creation Exchange (an Amazon company), sign in with your AUTHOR Amazon credentials, and confirm that you have the rights to have the audio of your book produced.

Audiobook Creation Exchange (ACX)
We have 2,385 titles open for auditions, 32,572 producers to choose from, and 53,487 audiobooks on sale at Audible, Amazon, and iTunes.

Angel Martinez Which is easy as pie, by the way

Vance Bastian If you publish through a publisher, check your contract. They may have someone in-house whose job it is to help you or manage this for you.
Vance Bastian Once you’ve confirmed rights, you get to do a bit of shopping – what style do you want? What kind of voice? What language?

Vance Bastian Then you select from the auditions that come in. Note: If you have a narrator you like – you should absolutely let them know your book is out there for auditions and that you’d like them to consider it.

Jayne Lockwood Vance gives FABULOUS Walken. When you said foam though, Vance, my mind immediately went …. What can I say? I love my baths…

J. Scott Coatsworth LOL… I think I’ve seen a video of Brandon Witt that looks like that…

Vance Bastian Ha ha ha

Angel Martinez *snicker*

Brandon Witt if I have looked even Acordar that good in or out of the bathtub I would never wear clothes at all. Unfortunately, my love cheeseburgers trumps my love of been pretty.

J. Scott Coatsworth Brandon Witt You looked good enough, I thought. That was the one where you tried lipstick too, wasn’t it?

Brandon Witt When don’t I try lipstick! And notice the concealing arrangement of the bubbles and the camera angle wink emoticon

Vance Bastian Once you’ve selected a narrator’s audition, they have to upload a First 15 Minutes sample. This is usually where you get to tell them what kind of voices/accents (if any) you want, etc. Then you let them go and they go to work. Chapters are uploaded a file at a time, and you have to listen and approve each one. ACX will not push it to sales channels (Audible, iTunes, etc.) UNTIL you’ve approved each and every chapter the narrator uploaded

Jayne Lockwood Bless. There’s Vance trying to have a serious conversation and I just come in and be like …

J. Scott Coatsworth Um… like Jayne? tongue emoticon

Jayne Lockwood J. Scott Coatsworth scroll down….

Angel Martinez Like Jayne

Vance Bastian Finally, once everything’s approved, ACX will assure the quality is up to their standards. If it is, they’ll push it out to sales (warning – this can take up to 14 days – plan accordingly). If it’s not, they’ll go back to the narrator/producer with instructions for what levels need adjusting. (Doesn’t involve the author, but it’s good that you know it’s happening)

Vance Bastian Once it’s selling, ACX will alert you and give you a handful of free download codes that you can send to reviewers to promote your new audiobook

Vance Bastian I think that’s a good overview… let me know if you still have questions on that process

J. Scott Coatsworth OK… so what’s next for WROTE and Campfire?

Vance Bastian WROTE – Albert Nothlit’s return episode aired today. Next week is Episode 50! We decided that milestone episode should be we three hosts again – kind of a State of the Podcast Address.

Angel Martinez Nice!

J. Scott Coatsworth woo hoo!

J. Scott Coatsworth Wow, fifty episodes.

Jamie Fessenden Thanks. A friend had some trouble getting the audio up to their standards, but she’d never done it before, so it was more of a challenge figuring out what they wanted.

Vance Bastian Yeah. They are the MOST strict in the industry – but they’ve also built a reputation on audio quality. Have your friend message me privately, there are a couple ACX quality check plugins that can be used to pre-check before uploading

Jamie Fessenden Cool. Thanks!

Vance Bastian On the Campfire Podcast, we’re mid-way through J. Scott Coatsworth’s book “The Autumn Lands”! After that, we’re heading to space with Albert Nothlit’s “Tantalus”. Then we’ll be returning to horror with Jamie Fessenden’s “The Book of St. Cyprian” from the Gothika: Bones anthology

J. Scott Coatsworth There’s still time to start mine, if you wanna – it’s only two weeks long.

Vance Bastian That’s a good point… On the Campfire Podcast we’ll be doing a few shorter stories before the next long one. But I wanted to make sure there were story Start and End points so people never, ever felt like they couldn’t just jump back in after missing some

Jamie Fessenden I want my entire story narrated like Christopher Walken.

Vance Bastian HA HA HA HA !!!!

Jamie Fessenden Doing an impression of Jimmy Stewart.

Vance Bastian Oh dear lord… I just broke my tongue…

J. Scott Coatsworth Jamie, be nice. We need a whole and healthy and mentally stable Vance.

Angel Martinez And lastly – where can we find Vance? Your work and where to contact about narration – and don’t forget the Pinterest wink emoticon

Jamie Fessenden “Mentally stable” is overrated.

Julia AT Weaver Flowers If we were mentally stable, would we be writers?

J. Scott Coatsworth Yes. Pinterest. *smiles*

Vance Bastian Uh… where can’t you find me? If you want to listen to the chapter-a-day narration, the Campfire Podcast goes out to all the common podcast networks – or you can listen right from the site:

Campfire Podcast
Pull up a chair, roast a marshmallow, the story’s about to start

J. Scott Coatsworth I recommend Boys on the Mountain… intense but really well done. And of course, well narrated.

Vance Bastian Thanks! That was an amazing project to start with – and it was nominated for a Lambda Literary Award mid-way through it’s run on the podcast!

Vance Bastian If you want to listen to the much more “writer life” WROTE podcast, come join Jayne Lockwood, SA Collins, and I at

WROTE Podcast
Queer storytelling in all sub-genres and media types

Vance Bastian As for me…,, and I *might* be thinking about a campfire recipe contest over on

Vance Bastian (Note: the Twitter ate the “pod”)

J. Scott Coatsworth LOL

Vance Bastian And trust me when I say, I’m FAR more active on the Campfire social media pages than I am on my own these days…

J. Scott Coatsworth Hmmm. Haven’t noticed. tongue emoticon

J. Scott Coatsworth And Pinterest is new, so head over there and give Vance some follows…

Angel Martinez There are pics of Vance. You won’t be sorry. Just sayin’

Vance Bastian Angel Martinez I would like to disavow all knowledge of the pictures in question

Vance Bastian No… thats those other guys. Mine is just “campfirecast”

J. Scott Coatsworth ah I see.

Vance Bastian Look for my lil’logo

Vance Bastian Oh… narration! If you think my voice might be right for your project, you can reach out to me through FB messenger, or through any of the podcast channels

Angel Martinez Excellent!

J. Scott Coatsworth Thanks, Vance – this was a great chat (see, I told y’all it would be)!

J. Scott Coatsworth If you have any questions we didn’t get to, please post them here. Vance, do you mind circling back later to see if there are any more?

Vance Bastian I’d be happy to. I’m in my home studio all day today.

J. Scott Coatsworth Thanks for letting us grill you, and thanks to everyone else who came and listened and asked questions!

Vance Bastian Thank you all! Just hearing that you enjoy what we’re doing with the podcasts and the narration really, really makes us feel like we’re serving you well!

Angel Martinez Thank you so much for letting us interrogate, er, interview you, Vance! QSF’ers – Vance can be found at his podcasts and as the voice of Shax, the demon prince of thieves, and crew on the Hell for the Company audio edition grin emoticon

Vance Bastian You’re so welcome! Thank YOU for everything!!!

J. Scott Coatsworth This interview will also be posted on the QSF interviews page in a few days:

Interviews – Queer Sci Fi
Interviews Posted on August 28, 2015 by scott We’ll post our Facebook interviews here as archives: 8/25/15:…

Jamie Fessenden Good to talk to you, Vance!

Vance Bastian Great talking to you too!

See the original chat here:

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