Blogger: Wendy Lawton
The visiting author stood behind a table covered in stacks of her many books. She talked to readers and potential readers for much of the afternoon. She was a real professional. As we watched, we never saw her tire of talking to people. Until, that is, one woman came up to her, picked up a book, flipped it over to scan the back cover and said, “I don’t really buy books because everyone tells me I should write my own.” The author’s smile was just short of a grimace. The woman put the book down. “I’m really busy these days but if I could free up a couple of weekends I know I could write a book.”
You’ve all heard some variation on this theme. “Oh, you’ve written a memoir? Everyone tells me I should write my life story.” Or “I excelled in spelling and grammar in junior high school. I know I could be an editor.” Strange. You don’t hear someone coming up to a cardiovascular surgeon to say, “If I just had some of those tiny needles and fine suture, I could do that.”
Whatever happened to respecting a professional? In Malcolm Gladwell’s book, Outliers, he wrote, “10,000 hours is the magic number of greatness.” He gave example after example of people who only attained proficiency after about 10,000 invested hours.
This came home to me a few weeks ago in our staff meeting. We were talking about the importance of audio books and how some authors would like to record their own audio books. Hmmm. I listen to many an audio book and have become adept at judging the voice talent on each book. It takes the finely honed skill of an actor to read and record an audio book. The narrator may have to do several voices; male, female and child in one book. She or he may also need to do believable accents or dialects. Trust me, it is so easy to sound hokey. I’ve sent back an audio book and opted for the print version because the narrator was flat-out annoying.
One of the agents ended our staff discussion by saying, “Authors want readers to respect them as professionals. Doesn’t it seem odd that an author would believe he could pick up a microphone and instantly narrate a book?”
That agent was right. Narrating an audio book is much like writing a book in the first place. It takes a well-honed set of skills. Just imagine if we added up the hours spent on learning the art of writing in this blog community alone and added it together? How about the sheer number of words written before ever being published? Staggering numbers of hours or numbers of words. It’s the same for voice talent. The same for childrens’ book illustrators. The same for professional editors. It’s art– a hard won proficiency.
Don’t you wish people would respect the professional? Respect the hours invested in learning the craft? What comments have you heard that made you cringe?