One actor’s journey from an iconic radio station to a burgeoning audiobook career.
Like most of life’s plans, Tom Jordan never started out thinking that he wanted to be a voice actor, but he did know one thing; he was always comfortable behind a microphone.
This confidence lead him to the studios of one of LA’s legendary rock station, KLOS where, in the early 1990’s, he became a volunteer answering their community switchboard. In his mind he had plans of making broadcast radio his career. That was until one of the show’s most notable DJ’s, “Uncle” Joe Benson, intervened.
“He told me, ‘You don’t want to get into broadcasting kid – it’s a cutthroat business!’”
With this bit of sage advice and with the help of friend, he plotted out a new course into the world of voice over. But 1994 was far different world than the one we have today.
“Back then, before the internet, you had to go to Burbank or Studio City for an audition,” Tom recalls. “You couldn’t send anything electronically.”
Frustrated with the difficulty and expense of the craft at the time, he shelved his plans until about 2000, when the internet made things so much easier. While juggling a full time job and the demands of raising a family, he began doing commercial VO for small cable companies and for such products as car lots, small shops in malls, and so forth.
The work didn’t pay much, and wasn’t the career he dreamed of, but he pressed on. He landed an agent and began to get training with voice coaches, all the while continuing on with his day job as a marketing writer. Then, in May of 2016, he made the foray into audiobooks, albeit with trepidation.
“I wasn’t sure if I wanted to sit in a room and record for ten hours, but I discovered that there were plenty of shorter books that were available to narrate.”
The shorter books not only gave him experience and bulked up his portfolio, they helped him in other ways as well.
“The stories were very well written and had great covers,” he says. “And covers are real important for your portfolio. Also, they had a lot of great character voices that really helped me gain experience.”
It was a great place to get his feet wet, but he knew that shorts weren’t the way to go long term.
“The rule of thumb in the industry is to look for the six to ten hour books as they tend to sell better on Audible.com. Also, from a long term career perspective, if the major publishers are going to go looking for a voice actor, they’re going to want to see some stamina in the form of longer books in their portfolio.”
Although he was still getting leads for other v/o work from his agent, it was becoming increasingly-obvious that he had found his new passion, and a prolific passion it was.
“I’ve put up twenty four titles on Audible since last April,” he says proudly.
All of this production did not occur in a vacuum. Tom Jordon had help in the form of an editor, something that he highly recommends for any voice actor.
Asked what genres he works in, he responds.
“I’ve done quite a few romances, including young adult and historical romances. And I’ve just picked up a couple of thrillers – which are a blast to read.”
He realized along the way that finding books that he enjoyed reading for his own entertainment made his job much easier. He also shared what a voice actor looks for in books to narrate.
“Good believable dialogue – which really stretches you mentally and creatively. You’re talking to yourself with yourself, but you’re also talking to this imaginary character that you’re portraying. It really is kind of a rush when you’ve got a good dialogue going on.”
His advice for fledgling or aspiring voice actors?
“Get training and coaching wherever you can, and whatever you can afford. Find on-line and Skype based workshops, and realize that your coach does not have to be local. My own coach is in Minneapolis, and I’ve never met him in the year and a half he’s been coaching me.”
Asked about advice from the other side as an author looking to have their work narrated, Tom responds that narrators look at the same things that Audible - and print - customers look for in a book.
“When Audible subscribers browse for books they look at three things - in this order: cover art, reviews, and then the summary, so the writer has to have those nailed down. Also,” he adds, “The audition script should contain a decent amount of dialogue and I like to ask the author to send me their favorite section to read. Sometimes I think this makes the difference in me getting the job or not.”
Marketing is also a key factor in the selection process and both sides, author and voice actor, should be willing to help market the audiobook.
“One thing I did, early on, was form a group on Facebook with an author friend of his that acts as a meeting ground for authors, narrators, and audiobook listers. We have nearly 1,000 members now, and it’s a very lively bunch. We encourage self-promotion, which is often frowned-upon by other similar groups. It’s a great group of people who all love audiobooks – thus its name, Audiobook Lovers.
One final bit of advice that Tom offers authors is to not be afraid of using contractions in dialogue, and he offers a theory as to why he feels it’s more important when it comes to audiobooks than print or e-books.
“I think, when you read it as a book, your brain tends to automatically make the two words into a contraction. But when I read it out loud, it sounds very stilted, and that can be a problem.”
The most surprising thing he’s learned along the way?
“There’s a lot of work out there for narrators willing to take the time to do it right. Audiobook sales were up more than 20 percent last year with unit sales nearly twice that amount. There are many reasons, but much of the growth is driven by the fact that it’s easier now than ever to listen to audiobooks. Think back to books on tape – 24 cassette tapes in a folder that you had to haul with you between the house and your car, boombox, wherever your cassette player was. This really limited people’s audiobook consumption. Then came CDs – a little better.
Now, nearly any phone can play audiobooks and you can hold hundreds of them on a single device. Bluetooth in cars makes it easy to listen on your commute. it’s all about breaking down barriers with technologies. Frankly, I’m really glad to see all this happening. It’s an extremely exciting time to be a narrator.”
Tom Jordan is the narrator of the recently released One Eyed Jack audiobook as well as many others.
To order One Eyed Jack on audible go to:
To contact or connect with Tom, use the following links:
Facebook: www.facebook.com/ tomvoiceover
Twitter: www.twitter.com/ tomvoiceover