Sarah Sampino—voice actor and TikTok personality—sits down with D2D’s own Mark Leslie Lefebvre to talk all things audio for the self-publishing space.
Sarah Sampino is an actor from Long (LAWWng) Island – but you only hear her accent after she’s had a few drinks. She is continuously surprised by the support of her business-oriented parents, who swear that she sang “Part of Your World” before she could talk. Apparently that can’t go on a resume. Sarah earned her B.F.A in Drama from New York University, and her BF from England. She learned to sword fight at RADA, and also trained at The Lee Strasberg Theatre & Film Institute and Stonestreet Studios. In addition to her TV, film, and theatrical work, Sarah performs for voice-overs and audiobooks. We love her open live-streamed videos of work on current audiobook projects on TikTok and thought it would be fun to get her insights into the life of an actor and narrator.
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Mark Lefebvre, Sarah Sampino
Mark Lefebvre 00:01
Hello, and welcome to Self-Publishing Insiders. I’m your host today, Mark Leslie Lefebvre, Director of Business Development at Draft2Digital. I’m honored to have in the same time zone with me, coming from her studio in New York, Sarah Sampino. Welcome to the live show.
Sarah Sampino 00:20
Hi, thank you so much for having me.
Mark Lefebvre 00:23
This is really cool. Now I’ve gotten an opportunity to see you perform from your studio before, we’ll get into that in a little bit. But I first want to talk a little bit about your background as an actor and how you got into theater, television, film, all those fun things.
Sarah Sampino 00:41
Yeah, sure. So, I’ve been an actor professionally, I would say, since I was like 15 years old. I always did all the school stuff and all that. But yeah, so I was an actor since I was 15. I went to NYU for drama as well. So I did all that jazz. Lots of theater, primarily right now, I do film and TV, lots of indie stuff. And then kind of organically audiobooks came from that, actually, through a master class at NYU. So I was like, well, this is a job that’s a lot better than waitressing in between having to go on set, you know, and I was like, but this is acting, this is real. This is something that I could really do. And, you know, everybody else went to lunch afterwards. And, you know, did whatever they did after the masterclass and I went home, and I went on ACX and I did the whole shebang. And that’s how it went down. So yeah, so it progressed from there. And now I do anything really. I mean, pandemic aside, but you know, whether it’s film, TV, animation, audiobooks, it’s just kind of whatever comes up. I’m really fortunate and humbled to be able to say that I could work throughout the pandemic, because of audiobooks. So if it wasn’t for that, I would have been in a tough spot as an actor full time.
Mark Lefebvre 02:15
Well, yeah, theater wasn’t happening for the longest time and then even, I mean, there was a hiatus for film. I mean, seems to be back on lightly, but film and TV productions, right?
Sarah Sampino 02:27
It’s kicking back up finally. Yeah, but things were tough. Things were rough for quite a bit.
Mark Lefebvre 02:32
So you talked about, instead of being a waitress, which is typically what actors do between …
Sarah Sampino 02:36
I was. I was a waitress, nothing wrong with it.
Mark Lefebvre 02:40
No, no, but I’m just saying, but it’s flexible, the open long hours, so you have the opportunity to fill in time. And typically, because it’s a part time job, it’s very flexible, so you can trade shifts with people to go to rehearsals and things like that. Exactly. So you had picked up doing voice talent, voiceovers, as well as audiobooks. Was that something that you picked up prior to the pandemic? Or how did that all happen?
Sarah Sampino 03:05
Yeah, I did all of this prior to the pandemic. I was lucky in the sense that if I had been, if I had gotten into this after the pandemic, I think it would have been a very different experience. But I was already going full time by that point. So I’d already done, you know, commercials, voiceover, animation, audiobooks, and audiobooks was definitely the newest venture in my acting career as a whole. But I started in like, late 2018. So I was still new by the time the pandemic hit, but I’d hit the foundations enough that I was working with publishers, and I wasn’t, you know, going in blind in the middle of an insane global crisis.
Mark Lefebvre 03:50
I wanted to dig into this, and I hope it’s okay, I’m putting you on the spot here. So audition, potentially audition stories, maybe your first audition for film or television, and then I want to transition to the very first audiobook experience and what that was like, because I’m trying to draw some maybe similarities or differences.
Sarah Sampino 04:09
Yeah, sure. Okay, well, I don’t remember my first. I mean, I’ve been auditioning for who knows how long, but the one that sticks out to me is the first gig on TV that I got. And this was for a true crime reenactment series. You see some of these, so this is what I did when I was, I think when I was 15. So this was my like, first foray, and like release on TV, oh my god, Sarah’s on TV, like maybe she can really be an actress kind of thing. And it was like this, it was a horror. And I had to scream, scream, scream, scream, like I was being murdered over and over and over and over. And I’m like, you know, I’m 15. I’m the short little girl who’s like growing up into her body. And there’s a casting call for, I think it was Chicago, or something, but it was just for men in the chorus. So you have all of these beautiful, muscley, you know, fit men, just, you know, like piling into the room at Ripley Greer. And they’re all walking around, and I’m this little girl going in. And I’m screaming and screaming and screaming and screaming and I ended up getting the job. And I come out and you just see like, a crowd of guys standing outside the door being like, we were about to come in and get you. They were like, if we didn’t see the name of the show outside of the door, we were gonna come in. We were just waiting, kind of thing. I was like, hey, thank you. I’ll take that as a compliment. But yeah, it was funny. So that’s a fun one that I think about.
Mark Lefebvre 05:56
Oh, that’s a great one. Yeah, it’s really good acting. But what about your very first audiobook experience? Was that like using ACX? Or how was that experience?
Sarah Sampino 06:09
Yeah, my first experience was using ACX. ACX has been great to me. I, oh God, what was it? It was a kids’ book, something … Jasmine’s First Startup, I think. Something like that. It was a super cute kids’ book. And I had no idea what I was doing at all, not the slightest idea. Like, if I were to go back, I wouldn’t recommend people start out the way I did. But you know, I was in college, I was like, see this website? I’m gonna do it. And I did it. But yeah, it was cute. I edited it myself, and it took me like, a week, to narrate, to edit, what was like seven finished minutes, having no idea what I was doing, calling up all these different engineers trying to figure it out. And it was wild. And it was so dumb of me to just do it. But I came from that point and committed myself to learning everything. So I did that book, went, okay, I wasn’t ready. One second. And then learned everything I needed to learn, got the training. And from there, I was really, really lucky that I got a few longer series right off the bat. And because of that, I was able to just go and go and go and keep full time work with indie authors until publishers began to take notice. And then I got with publishers. And so now I do like 50/50 of the two.
Mark Lefebvre 07:49
Okay, all right, cool. So like some contract work with publishers? And then some of the more freelance stuff with mostly indie authors, I’m assuming.
Sarah Sampino 07:58
Yeah, yeah. It’s all it’s all freelance, really. So essentially, I’ll get an email. And it’ll just be either from an author or a publisher, and they’ll just be like, here’s a book, are you interested? And then I’ll take a look at it. And I’ll say yes or no. Occasionally, I’ll audition for things. But I’m just very lucky that at this point in my career, I don’t have to audition much, because people are coming to me with work, which is wild. So I mean, I don’t say that like, oh, my God. But it’s just so, it’s less me auditioning and more people coming to me and honestly, it’s also less of me going, am I interested in this book? And just more, can I fit this into my schedule? How can we fit this into our schedules? When do you need it by? Etc, etc, etc. So that’s kind of more really what it’s about. I feel like there are a few times that I, there are a few times that I’ve turned down a book.
Mark Lefebvre 08:51
Right. So what is that deciding factor, then? Is it just not a good fit? Or is it something about the project?
Sarah Sampino 09:00
Yeah, I mean, there are a few very different factors. Like, just because I might not read or listen to a book doesn’t mean that I wouldn’t narrate it. In fact, some of my favorite jobs have been things I never would have listened to. And that’s like, the fun of it. It’s great. And it’s so much fun to play and add it to my wheelhouse, whether it’s fiction or nonfiction. But that being said, there have been a few problematic titles that I received, in my opinion, that were like, glorifying rape, glorifying things like that, that I just felt uncomfortable with. That’s only happened like once or twice, because I’ve narrated some very, very dark material. But you know, to the point, if the book itself is glorifying something, that’s a different story. And then a lot of times there’s, you know, maybe somebody will come to me and they’ll say, okay, we need you to do a Swedish accent, first person, main character. And I’ll be like, look, I can throw together a Swedish accent, but I might not be the best fit for that book, you might want to go with somebody else. And of course with, you know, diversity, equity and inclusion being so important, another thing that has come up quite a lot is being asked to narrate audiobooks where the main character is a woman of color. And that’s a very tricky road to go down. Because different authors have different opinions on whether or not that should be okay. But at the end of the day, it kind of comes down to what the community needs as a whole, what the industry needs, and also what I need. And so I have passed a lot recently on some of those titles and referred, you know, a lot of times it’s the author coming to me, and I’ve referred them to some of my many friends and colleagues who are a better fit for that role than I am.
Mark Lefebvre 11:01
Well, that’s great that you’ve got this sense of community to say, well, I can’t do that accent, or you’ll be better served by this other friend of mine who can do that. So, you do accents. I’ve heard some of the samples that you have on your website. Can you give us a little sample of some of the ones that you are comfortable doing?
Sarah Sampino 11:21
Can I give you accent samples? Sure.
Mark Lefebvre 11:23
Can you do Canadian?
Sarah Sampino 11:27
Kind of. I know, I heard you, you’re just going like about and you’re like adding, you’re adding your little Canadian. That’s kind of all I do for Canadian is I’ll just be American. And then anytime you’ve got that vowel coming in, I’ll just be like about, and I’ll say eh a lot. And then there you go, you’re Canadian.
Mark Lefebvre 11:42
And talk about, you know, poutine and hockey and maple syrup and you’re good to go.
Sarah Sampino 11:46
Maple syrup or whatever you say, and then you’re good to go.
Mark Lefebvre 11:49
But you do some Celtic voices, right, in some of the books?
Sarah Sampino 11:52
Yeah, I mean, do we have comments here? Do you guys want to throw out accents? Are they like live? Oh my gosh, there are so many people here. Hello, everybody.
Mark Lefebvre 12:06
So we’ve got a few fans in the audience saying, Sarah is awesome. Yay, Sarah. Sarah is the best. Yeah, Sarah’s crew, as well. And then Elyssa says, yay for accents. So how about a Scottish accent?
Sarah Sampino 12:26
Scottish? Well, you can do like, you can do like the proper Highlander. Like, this isn’t actually how people talk anymore. So you can kinda like do your outlander. And you say like, eh, och, ay lass, and you keep that gravel in your voice and keep your rolled r’s? I kind of need something to read. And but whatever. So you could do that. Or you can make it a bit more realistic.
Mark Lefebvre 12:50
You can read one of the comments, right?
Sarah Sampino 12:55
Yeah, well here’s Megan, you say like, you know, the crew always shows up. I love it. And you can keep it more up here like this. And you can make a bit more, actually kind of more how the way they’d say it. And you do that. I do a lot of Highlander mostly. But then you can also, I also go with the modern and then I don’t know what do you go from there. Then you go into your Irish, and your Irish you give a little bit more of a lilt to, but you don’t actually talk like this. You don’t talk like this unless you’re trying to actually do some sort of leprechaun or elf or you’re taking a take on it. This is the way that to actually go and be Irish is when you would speak more like this and then you’ll just take a little bit of a lilt to it. And time and you know, round and all that things. And then …
Mark Lefebvre 13:37
Well actually, while we’re recording this it’s March 17, 2022. So do you want to wish people in that accent a happy St. Patrick’s Day?
Sarah Sampino 13:45
Happy St. Patrick’s Day. I wish you all the best and your leprechauns and your irish stuff. Yeah, and then I don’t know, then you can go into your, you bring it into your sort of like, London accent, you can bring it to like, what you talking about gov, or what are you on about, what’s going on, you can keep it down here, you can make a bit more slang. Or you can bring it full cockney, if you bring it wider. And like I think like Sweeney Todd, like, what’s your rush, what’s your ‘urry, and you can bring it back into more like the back of the throat and bring it up more. And then you’ve got more of that sort of posh. And you take your consonants and you bring them more like this. And this doesn’t actually exist as an accent. This is not how people speak anymore. But this is like RP and you can even roll your r’s. And then you kind of just speak the way that an actual British person kind of speaks a bit more like this. And my fiance’s British, so I just kind of emulate him. Well, you’re not actually pronouncing every t so much, depending on what you’re doing. And you can go southern where you’re like saying, like your farmer and your tractor, or you can go up to like Liverpool or Scouse, and you’re like going full on turning them there. Or I can keep going, then you do all the American ones.
Mark Lefebvre 15:01
Is this something, so when you’re working with an author, is it the request of the author that certain characters have certain voices? Or is that sort of more of a back and forth that happens? How does that come out into an audio text?
Sarah Sampino 15:15
Yeah, it depends. So sometimes the author or the publisher, sometimes they will through the publisher, I’ll get, like a spreadsheet of each character, and like a quick little synopsis about them, and the accent that they want. And it can be, so like, there’s a book I did a few books back that I think some of these people know. And it had I think 130 characters in it. And every single character was very clearly dictated, down to the vocal tone, the accent, the dialect, the region. And so, and it was every accent that exists. So I did that with absolute, you know, clarity on what I needed to do, and every accent that needed to happen. And there are other people who go, you know, you know what you’re doing, we trust your gut. Go. That kind of thing. And both are great. They’re both totally different experiences. A lot of times when I’m doing fantasy books I’ll be given, or like lit RPG books especially, I’m kind of given free rein. They’re like, just throw some random accents in there. So I’ll just be walking around, and I’ll just, like, throw some French in, because I can, which is fun for that sort of thing.
Mark Lefebvre 16:24
So something that happens to authors is, when we’re reading books, or even watching movies or television shows, sometimes we think, wow, I would have done the dialogue differently, or I would have inserted this, or I would have ended it differently. You probably listen to audiobooks as well, for pleasure. Do you get the experience as a professional audiobook narrator? Do you go, wow, I would have done that voice this way. Does that come up?
Sarah Sampino 16:50
Yeah, kind of, but at the same time, that’s why she or he narrated it, you know? It’s more, instead of being like, oh, I would have done it this way. It’s kind of interesting to see. And it gives me more options than, oh, I would have done it this way. But here’s another take on it. And I think it’s a good thing because it keeps my performance from getting stagnant and stale as well. Plus, I know a lot of these people as well. Like maybe if they really bothered me but, your chapter eight was a little weak.
Mark Lefebvre 17:19
Yeah, well, writers tend not to do that to each other. So I wanted to share with our audience how we discovered you and the cool things you’re doing is Alexis, one of the Draft2Digital team members found you through our TikTok account and found you on TikTok. And I want to explore, so you do something absolutely fascinating. You do live sessions, live Tik Tok sessions, where you’re actually in the studio where you are now. And you’re actually recording the audiobooks that you’re you’ve been hired to produce. Now, you obviously have permission from the author in question. But again, hey, it’s free publicity for them. Come on, what author wouldn’t say, please do this? How did you get into that? And I’m just curious more about that whole experience.
Sarah Sampino 18:12
Yeah, so I have been doing live reads for quite a while actually on Discord. And it was originally just a very small group of primarily 99% narrators. And it was just a way for all of us to get together and sort of have a pair of ears listening. Because normally you’re in the booth by yourself, you know. And so it’s hard sometimes because, you know, with the pandemic, in-studio sessions were much rarer, directed sessions were much rarer, and you were kind of just given free rein, but also you spent your days in a box by yourself. So it was just really good to know somebody else was there listening, and then TikTok got more popular. And my I really loved going live. Not a lot of people, not everyone did, but I loved it because it reminded me that there was an audience listening, and it gave me that back and forth and that energy that I love as a stage actor and an on-camera actor, and especially not being able to have that during the pandemic, I was feeling a bit stifled and burnt out. So to be able to have that form of performance and to also get feedback directly and just to sort of be chatting with people and feeling a bit more social. was really, really nice. So my lovely friend and narrator Marnie Pennan Coleman, she reached out to me and she said, you know, hey, like you should go on TikTok. And I was like, no, TikTok’s not for me. I’m not a really big social media person. And she’s like, no, listen to me. Like you have to get to 1000 followers, and you can go live. And I was like, yeah, 1000 followers, okay. And she made me do it and she pushed me and I was like, okay, fine. And I got there and I went live and it’s been the best thing. I’ve met so many lovely people, so many authors who have reached out to me, publishers even. But I’ve also just really made friends and I’ve heard from so many lovely listeners in the community who, you know, tell me that they appreciate the work and you know, people just, we’re all just joking around back and forth, because apparently I like hum songs under my breath when I mess up. And you know, it’s definitely not like a straight faced read. I definitely gesticulate and explain things that I don’t really know what I’m saying.
Mark Lefebvre 20:43
I’m just popping up a comment from Zach, “Sarah’s TikTok’s are on fire.”
Sarah Sampino 20:50
Zach is another amazing narrator and we also narrate lots of dual books together.
Mark Lefebvre 20:55
So I’m gonna jump ahead and ask a question. I wasn’t gonna pop questions. But Lexi asks, “Have you worked on books that are multiple narrators?” This is the perfect time since you brought it up, multiple narrations, like split point of view books with alternating chapters, etc. I may even have a project I was looking at hiring you for. So yeah, let’s talk about that sort of duality in terms of narrating.
Sarah Sampino 21:20
Yeah, sure. So we call it duals, duets, and multicast. So I’ve done all of them. The difference is, duals is exactly what Lexi said. So it’s alternating POV chapters, point of view chapters. So for example, let’s just say it’s a guy and a girl and they’re love interests. So the girl’s point of view chapter, she does all of the voices in that chapter, including the men, you know, it’s from her perspective, and then vice versa. For the guy, it’s his perspective, he does all the voices. So that’s dual. Duet, it’s almost more like a play or an audio drama. And that is when the two actors are together, at least once it’s edited, if they’re not in person. The two actors are together, and they are narrating all the female lines for the female, all the male lines for the male. And that’s making it very specific, just male and female, but for a basic example. So then that’s more of like a back and forth, where, you know, you’ll be getting these different voices played by the same two people. And then there’s multicast, where multicast is typically that every character is a different actor. And so that’s just like, duet to the max. And there’s …
Mark Lefebvre 22:33
So there’s one narrator, maybe for the voice, but then all the voices of the dialogue are all different people, or actors maybe playing different voices, potentially.
Sarah Sampino 22:42
Exactly, I mean, you can do whatever you want, you know? But yeah, exactly. So that’s just kind of the levels in which you go up. And it’s so much fun. Because again, you’re just playing, you’re just playing with friends, and you’re playing with talented people.
Mark Lefebvre 22:58
We talked about pre-pandemic, you may actually be in the studio with your duet narrator where you’re doing the female point of view. But then anytime it’s a he-said thing, it’s going to be the male voice, for example. Or I guess the question is, does the script have to change? So instead of a lot of … the script, I call it, the manuscript, what you’re reading from. Do the dialogue tags maybe change? Because you don’t need the he-said, she-said when the voice changes. Is that true? Does that happen?
Sarah Sampino 23:33
Usually, you do it exactly as written in the text, especially for Whispersync reasons, so that everything syncs up. But you can take the dialogue tag off, if that’s what somebody wanted. I would personally consider that you’re then changing it to a proper audio drama. But yeah, most of the time you keep the dialogue tags, you keep everything as is, and you go from there. I mean, something that is helpful is sometimes the author will, like, highlight your lines for you, or you do it for yourself, but when someone wants to do it for you, and like show you where you should be speaking, that’s very helpful, especially if it’s not always clear.
Mark Lefebvre 24:10
When you’re in person doing that, is it separate sessions in the booth? Or are you standing and looking at them, especially if you’re having a conversation? Or is it always post production edited in?
Sarah Sampino 24:23
Yeah, so there’s a couple different ways to do it. So I am so lucky that my fiance is also a narrator. And so this booth is large for a booth. Whereas most people are very tight in here. And we both go in here, we have two different microphones that go into, you know, the same preamp, and we do it in real time with each other. So we’re together with each other bouncing off each other face to face and it’s a blast. And not just because he’s my fiance, but especially because he’s my fiance. We’re just, we pee our pants. And make great work. But it’s great.
Mark Lefebvre 25:02
So the booth gets a little smelly, but you have a good time.
Sarah Sampino 25:07
Oh, it gets so hot in here. Like literally the temperature gets insane.
Mark Lefebvre 25:11
Yeah, because you can’t have fans or things like that running, right? Because that’s gonna be removed from the soundtrack.
Sarah Sampino 25:16
Yeah, I mean, there’s ventilation. So I know I’m not gonna die, but it’s still quite hot in here. And we have a fan for when we have breaks in between. But yeah, so you can do it in person. And then a way that people work for duals, where it’s alternating POVs, usually you’re not in person, because you’d just be kind of sitting there when the other person’s doing their whole chapter. But for duets, you can either do it in person, the way I did with my fiance, you can do that “in person” by using Zoom, or there’s another software called Source Connect. And so there is a way to do it and make the audio work that you are doing what you would do in person, but virtually as best as you can. And then another way to do it is sometimes each narrator just records their lines separately. And that’s when it’s really helpful if an author like sort of labels things out for you, because then you know, you might be like, “Oh, blah, blah, blah …. He said,” and you don’t say the male’s dialogue in between. That’s what is the cheapest thing to do, honestly. I think there’s always a better performance when you’re able to, you know, play off of each other organically, I always recommend that. But it’s getting more and more popular just to do the individualized lines. And as long as you have actors who are good at sort of balancing each other’s tones, and they talk about it beforehand, and you have an editor who knows what they’re doing, and can do that for an independent production, it works just as well. It’s great.
Mark Lefebvre 26:49
So one of the things I remember, not that I have much experience in acting, but from my theater days, you know, practicing lines was so much better when you were actually having someone do the lines even with inflection rather than just dry reads. Even doing some video silly videos where I’m having dialogues with myself, and I’m the only one there. I do find it challenging when I’m not playing, I can’t play off myself because I’m recording one line of dialogue and then another character’s dialogue that I imagined. Are there tricks that you use when the person’s you know, you’re staring at your fiance. So you’re in the character and you’re playing off one another. But are there tricks that you use to get the right tone?
Sarah Sampino 27:33
To get the actual vocal tone?
Mark Lefebvre 27:35
Yeah, yeah. In a dialogue, for example.
Sarah Sampino 27:36
Yeah, well, I keep vocal reference files. So when I first create a character, I take a few sentences, and I either take it from what I’ve recorded or acted in their voice, and I will sort of explain it to myself the way you kind of heard me do when I was talking through an accent. And I will keep those saved on my computer, so I’ll be able to use those. And something that we do if we’re having trouble switching is, we’ll use kind of hand motions or posture, or apparently, it’s not really consciously but some of my listeners, especially for the book I’m doing right now, have pointed out that I do like, I raise my eyebrows always for one character apparently, I flare my nostrils for another character kind of thing. And I might not know exactly what I’m embodying, but I kind of change my, you know, my cadences the way I would for any other acting job.
Mark Lefebvre 28:29
Wow, that’s kind of cool. Thank you. These insights are absolutely phenomenal. Now, I did want to spend some time getting into asking you a little bit about, you also provide services for authors, not just your vocal talents, etc, production and vocal talents, but you’ve got Audiobooks Unleashed. Can you talk a little bit about that?
Sarah Sampino 28:50
Yeah, sure. So we do a bunch of things. But primarily, we’re a production and distribution company. So you know, if you want your audiobook to be produced, but I’m not the right fit for you, aw that sucks. But I mean, we will produce your audiobook for you with a narrator who is the right fit. If you want, we can take it all the way to distribution, which is distribution.audiobooksunleashed.com, and so you don’t have to have your book produced by us. But if you have your book and you have your files, and you’re ready to go, then we can also distribute it for you. And we are an option that provides a lot of different royalty agreements. And we provide wide distribution and we sort of give it a lot more hands-on access to the indie author, or indie publisher who wouldn’t be able to otherwise directly access things like controlling your pricing for all of your platforms and your metadata everywhere and running sales that you wouldn’t be able to run on, you know, individual platforms and promotions and all of that stuff. So that’s kind of what we do as well as CD distribution, and just sort of like …
Mark Lefebvre 30:08
Wait a second, I got to stop there. CD distribution. So I have audiobooks. And yeah, there’s digital files, and I’ve purchased through my narrators, I’ve purchased the rights so I can distribute them wherever I want. But CDs, you mean physical copies of things that potentially for libraries, potentially for people who just don’t have a smartphone and can listen to audio on the go?
Sarah Sampino 30:31
CDs do really, really well.
Mark Lefebvre 30:34
I mean, I can use your services potentially to have CDs made?
Sarah Sampino 30:40
Yes. Yes. Typically we don’t, if someone comes to us, and they just want physical distribution, most of the time, we’ll ask them to come back when they want both, because for us to just do physical distribution from a cost perspective is difficult for us, because we actually take risk when we do physical distribution. So there are titles, when we were just kind of like willy nilly letting anyone go through, that we actually paid money then to distribute, sort of thing. So it’s not a big deal in any sense. But if you’re going to come to us a lot of the times, you know, if you want to exclude a couple of platforms here or there, we’re absolutely fine with that. But we usually do ask, unless you’re a best-seller. And then you know, we’re all good here. But we usually do ask that you stick with us for digital as well as physical distribution. But we’re always open to talking.
Mark Lefebvre 31:35
Oh, that’s cool. I love that. I love that you’re giving authors options and choices as well. So I have to put on my reading glasses to see there’s questions and comments that want to get to so I can’t actually see them until I get there, here we go. So just some comments. Megan says, “Sarah really has curated the most supportive and friendly community. We just love her.” Let me get into, is this a question? Craig says, “I tell my narrator that if something doesn’t translate well in audio, and I’m fine changing it, and we’ll change book to match stuff. Stuff like two ‘s’ words together, etc.” You have that kind of relationship with your authors as well?
Sarah Sampino 32:21
Yeah, sometimes definitely. Like a lot, especially for lit RPG books, they’ll say to me, if there’s something that’s not flowing very well for audio, just change it. You don’t have to ask me. Like, I’ll look at it and I’ll change it, sort of thing. It just depends, you know. My job is to be word perfect unless I am told otherwise.
Mark Lefebvre 32:38
Okay, cool. Elyssa is just sharing a link to your TikTok profile so people can benefit from that both in the comments on YouTube as well as just share them on the screen for folks. Now I’m going to go back. I think there were some questions early on, I’ll have to scroll up. I love the comments. The interactivity here is just phenomenal. So thanks, everyone. Okay, so here’s a question, “For we adnoid-anointed, lacking in the needed erudition, do we get to choose our narrators?” And of course, Jay says, “Alliteratively done, there.” So obviously, thanks for the tongue twister there.
Sarah Sampino 33:21
If it’s for distribution, yes. So the way it usually works is you would give us all the factors that you’re looking for, the qualities, we’ll ask you some questions. And then usually what we do is, we will put the casting out for you. We have narrators on our roster. And we’ll send you the top three, with their auditions for you. And then you pick from there. If you want more options than that, we can always talk, but usually, authors are kind of like, we trust that you know what you’re doing to make the best decision and then we give you three varied, you know, options, and we go these people are great for it. Let me know what you think. So that’s kind of what we do.
Mark Lefebvre 33:55
I do love that opportunity. So you also get probably repeat like authors who’ve used you that said, okay, you’re now the voice of so and so.
Sarah Sampino 34:06
Oh, all the time. I love it. That’s the best thing is when you make a relationship with an author, it can be just so rewarding, because these authors become my friends. You know, or they’ll have their whole back catalogue. And you know, we’ll just work together and create their worlds and it’s fantastic. It’s so fun.
Mark Lefebvre 34:25
Oh, that’s fantastic. And I’m just still, if you’ve seen any questions that you want me to pop up, let me know as I try to scan through and make sure I’m answering people’s questions. Lots of love. Lots of love, Tia says, “Hey we love you.”
Sarah Sampino 34:42
Yeah, if there are questions that we’re missing, you guys, you can just ask them again.
Mark Lefebvre 34:46
There we go. So Lexi, also known as the Alexis I was referring to from TikTok asks, “As someone whose experiences were initially as an actress, what was the biggest thing to adjust to or learn when you started working as a narrator or voice actress?”
Sarah Sampino 35:04
Mic technique. Mic technique. Yeah.
Mark Lefebvre 35:06
Oh, because someone else was in charge of that with the boom mics and everything right?
Sarah Sampino 35:09
Yeah, exactly. Someone else was in charge of those levels. And you know, they’ll say, okay, tell me how loud you’re gonna go. And you’ll be like, here we go, and you’ll scream or something, and they’ll adjust for it. But when you’re here, you can’t. You got to, the people who listen to me know, I’ll yell sometimes, I spiked the mic. If you’re doing a big thing, you have to know mic technique. It’s a whole other level to the performance. And you know, how to base your performance around the microphone, which it’s another character kind of.
Mark Lefebvre 35:39
Well, that is kind of neat. Where is the mic in relation to where you are in the studio? Like I’ve got mine on a little tripod. So yours is coming down from the ceiling?
Sarah Sampino 35:48
Yeah, well actually it’s not, it’s fake coming down from the ceiling. There’s a boom that’s drilled into a shelf right over here. But it comes from above.
Mark Lefebvre 35:57
Okay, cool. And so that’s typically, is it, what, six inches?
Sarah Sampino 36:02
I can actually show you, so usually I face this way when I record.
Mark Lefebvre 36:06
Oh my God, it’s backwards on TikTok. I’ve been looking at it wrong this whole time. I’m joking, right?
Sarah Sampino 36:13
So this is a pop filter. But if you were to lift this up, it should be about this distance.
Mark Lefebvre 36:19
Okay? So you use your hand and right, like that. Everything’s a-ok?
Sarah Sampino 36:25
Everything’s chill, everything’s chill. So if you bring it down, like at this point, I just kind of know what it is. But I have it in a certain way, and so for me, I’ll bring it like about here.
Mark Lefebvre 36:36
Okay, cool. That’s awesome. Thank you for the visual on that. So for the equipment then, you said when you first started, I imagine you probably acquired equipment over the years as it became more and more of an actual profession.
Sarah Sampino 36:48
Yeah, definitely. I went into things with proper equipment. Just because, especially as doing voiceover before I was doing audiobooks, I was booking gigs. And I needed, especially for just even audition purposes, the proper equipment to do that with. Now, I learned as I got more experienced that there was much better equipment to get than what I had. And so like, I would recommend a different mic to somebody than the one that I first used. But I definitely was invested in what I was doing. And now yeah, now I’ve got tons and tons of money invested in equipment, but it sounds, it’s got a great sound to it. So it’s paid off.
Mark Lefebvre 37:30
And then the booth, right? Like the booth was obviously an investment. Was that a room that you guys commandeered? Or was it something you built? How did that come about?
Sarah Sampino 37:40
So this, because we needed a bigger room than, so like a Whisper Room or Studio Bricks are like two very popular, fantastic companies that make booths that you can purchase. But to get one that would fit two people in it would be an astronomical price. And my fiance is also an engineer. And he built this booth. So this is not, I mean, it is a room. But this is not a room. This is a booth, essentially a little baby house within, you know.
Mark Lefebvre 38:11
Also within a room. There’s like a, you can see the difference between the top of the booth and, oh yeah, okay.
Sarah Sampino 38:19
I am in a full-on booth right now.
Mark Lefebvre 38:22
Oh, very cool. Very good.
Sarah Sampino 38:24
So this has been completely built from scratch using a ton of schematics and plans and, you know, we consulted with technicians and audio technician experts and learning about acoustical panels. And I mean, we did the whole nine yards. So yeah, so this is a great booth. And the best part about the booth is that I got to paint it white, instead of it being dark like most other people’s booths are. So some people think it’s a, like that I’m in a room or a closet or something. But no, we built this. It’s just that it’s good to not be in the dark all the time.
Mark Lefebvre 39:04
Oh, you know what, I never noticed that. Actually, now that you mention it, I was like yeah, every other booth I’ve ever been in or seen is very, very dark because usually the, what do you call the sound-proofing things?
Sarah Sampino 39:16
I call them foamies, that’s not what they’re called, but. I have some up there. But what I use instead are acoustical panels. And you can do either, but these are these things that you see right here. These are called acoustical panels. And because of that, you actually don’t want to fill up the entire space with them because you want the sound to bounce off more authentically. So that’s how we decided to do it. Sorry, I’m getting technical now.
Mark Lefebvre 39:39
Well I love this, this is always great. That’s why we have the Self-Publishing Insiders, you’re giving us an inside the booth peek. So next question, I got a pop up here. “Do you like doing audio dramas?” And this is from daddynewman. I have to put on my glasses to read this. “Do you like doing audio dramas? How do you record? Do to do it separately from others?”
Sarah Sampino 40:03
Yeah. So I think this was maybe what we were talking about before. Yeah, I love doing audio dramas. And yeah, usually we’re not all in the same place just because narrators now work together from all over the place. So a lot of times we’ll be, you know, video chatting with each other for an audio drama, or we’ll be recording online separately. And then an editor will pull them all together.
Mark Lefebvre 40:25
Now, you mentioned Zoom was something that could potentially work for that, right? Because I know you can export a Zoom feed in a dual, like separate feeds. But that’s something that can work? Or are there add-ins or plugins or something like that?
Sarah Sampino 40:40
Yeah, so you can do Zoom, but Zoom, you wouldn’t be able to take the audio from. There are different ways to do it. You can do it with two different narrators using their own audio systems. And then you can also use something called Source Connect, which is a software that is standard to use for voiceover artists and editors. And so you can use that to actually have someone else’s audio go into your DAW at the same time, and it gets quite technical, but there are multiple ways to do it. And you know, I’ve done them in both. It just kind of depends on preference and honestly what the editor’s preference is and just how you work.
Mark Lefebvre 41:15
Yeah, I have to put up these comments. I commented that, having watched your stuff on TikTok, I was like, well, the angle is wrong. It’s backwards. Amber says that the angle feels so weird.
Sarah Sampino 41:27
That’s because I have my, this is actually my laptop that’s on a shelf, because as people know who listen to me on Discord, my camera on Discord is not great. So I was like alright, let’s bring the laptop up here.
Mark Lefebvre 41:37
So speaking of Discord, John Doe, I think I know him. John Doe says, “If someone has only ever seen you on Discord two times, what would what would you suggest that they go buy as the first book or video where you are the performer?”
Sarah Sampino 41:54
Well, I made on TikTok, I have a pinned video that’s like some of my favorite audiobooks I’ve done. So I would say look at that, depending on what genre you like. I love to recommend the Vortex Visions series to everyone by Elise Kova. It’s finished and it’s on Audible. And that was one of the first like series, I hate saying series. Series, serieses? Sorry. That was one of the first series that I got. And I love, love, love the material. And I also just kind of think of it as like the progression of my career because it was the beginning. And then as each book was written, so every you know, eight months or however long, I would come back in and I would do it. So I felt like it was like I just felt like the character and it was so nice. And it was just kind of my journey into this career as well as like the character’s journey into her life story. So that’s something that’s near and dear to my heart, though I’m sure that if I listened back to the first book now. I might be like, ooh, I should have done that differently. But I love that.
Mark Lefebvre 43:00
But you don’t critique yourself from the past or other friends.
Sarah Sampino 43:04
Oh, I don’t listen to myself. Oh no.
Mark Lefebvre 43:07
So we are getting close to the end. Sarah please, for listeners who are listening to the podcast feed and people who are maybe listening and not watching the video, can you please let our listeners know, our viewers know where they can find out more about you and maybe check out some of the places where you’ve done acting and some of your audiobooks? Or even look to hire you or check out the services you provide.
Sarah Sampino 43:28
Yeah, so you can go on my website, which is sarahsampino.com. Ooh, look at that. And if you’re interested specifically in Audiobooks Unleashed and production services, you can go to distribution.audiobooksunleashed.com. Oh, there you go. Yeah, and then if you want to see me on social media and all that jazz, I am at Sarah Sampino everywhere, except for TikTok. I am @sarahsampinoactress.
Mark Lefebvre 43:56
Cool and I think Elyssa shared the shared the TikTok one for you. Just add Sarah Sampino, check that out. Sarah, thank you so much for joining me here today.
Sarah Sampino 44:08
Thank you so much. This has been so fun.
Mark Lefebvre 44:10
And I want to thank everyone else for participating. Do feel free to, if you’re an author, you can join the print beta at draft2digital.com/printbeta. Do subscribe to us online, you can find us on different platforms, if you’re looking for, this is for authors looking for promotions, D2D.tips/D2Dpromoform. And of course, we do appear on very different social media platforms. Just kind of type in youtube.com/draft2digital and see if we’re there, because you can subscribe to us and not miss any one of these awesome, awesome weekly live chats. It also goes to a podcast feed. Again, if you’re looking for support for your self-publishing career, we’ve got the blog over at draft2digital.com/blog. Sarah again, thank you so much for hanging out with me today. Thank you everyone for listening.