Saturday, August 20, 2011

Please Welcome Voice Artist Sherri Berger

Hi, Mary here. Today's guest, Sherri Berger, is the voice of my very first audio book.
Out of Control
I got to know her when she asked how to pronounce my last name (a challenge worldwide) and I thought what she does for a living was so interesting I asked her to come and do a day on Seekerville.
If you can, before you read her blog, go HERE and listen to the interview with her. You will be amazed to hear where these really familiar commercials get their 'voice'. I dare you not to be grinning when you finish watching it. It's fun to see her creating with her voice.
Go there, then come back here and have all your questions answered.
Then read through the blog to find a way to get your name in the drawing for an audio book of Out of Control.

Q: Do you do all the voices…even the men?
A: Yes, that’s the challenge and the fun part of the job. As a person who loves doing character voices and has the ability to change my voice, audiobooks has afforded me the opportunity to use this ability and challenges me to offer both slight vocal brush strokes or bold characterizations for each character depending on what’s called for in the book.
And yes, I do all the voices, even the men. It’s amazing how just adding a bit of huskiness and/or working in a lower register creates the believability and reality that a man is talking. The listener just accepts it.

Q: How long does it take you to record a book?
A: It takes about 2 hours to record 1 finished hour. Out of Control took about 16 hours to record over 2.5 days.

Q: Do you make mistakes then back up and re-record it?
A: Do I ever!…yes I make mistakes. I just pick it up and redo the line or whatever is needed and continue on. That’s where a good editor comes in. Thank goodness for editing!

Q: Do you work in a cool high tech studio with sound engineers? Or do you do this at home with your computer?
A: All the above. Out of Control was recorded at Oasis Audio studios in Wheaton, Illinois. It’s about an hour from my home in Chicago. It’s a very nice studio with a very capable engineer. I also have my own studio…which really isn’t more than a computer, mic and a few other pieces of equipment…it’s very simple. I do record books and voice overs from my own studio as well. More and more publishers are requesting narrators to record books from their own studios which is great news for people who live in a variety of cities outside New York or LA and want to narrate books.

Q: Do you make a living doing this?
A: I do make a living from this but at this point, it’s only part of my income. I divide my time between commercial voice overs and running a voice over training program called Voice Over U where I have had the good fortune to host several top producers and narrators to teach audiobook workshops.  and 

Mary again--Here's the clue to get your name in the drawing!!! When we're writing, we try to give our characters a 'voice'. Leave a comment for Sherri and tell about a unique voice in your work or a unique voice you love from TV or movies.Q: Are you trained specifically in audiobooks?
A: Yes, I did have training but many top narrators are theatre or film actors and easily move into this genre with little or no training. While I had a natural ability to do different voices, my challenge was to give voice and character to the third person narrator. The person who helped me perfect my craft is Paul Ruben, an award winning producer in New York who is not only a sought after producer but a brilliant teacher. He really helped me navigate through the thought process of narrating for audiobooks.

I must say, this is the best acting job in my book. (pun intended). It’s a very satisfying and gratifying opportunity and another aspect of a very full career in voice overs.

Mary again!!!--Listen to the first four pages of:
Out of Control
as read by
Sherri Berger

A Chicago resident for 30 years, Sherri Berger is originally from Kansas City where she first began her career in commercials, radio, and TV.

While learning the ropes of the voice over business in Chicago, Sherri supported herself with jobs in radio, advertising, and film. At the end of 1985, she took the plunge and became a full-time voice over talent.

Known as one of the most highly respected voice over performers and one of the top names in Chicago, Sherri’s credits include a vast list of high profile accounts. Among her national campaigns are: Culligan, Coast Soap, Mr. Clean, McDonalds, Bounty, Mrs. Dash, Rubbermaid, Kelloggs, Kraft Macaroni and Cheese, Bisquick, Sears, Wrigley Gum, and many more local and regional spots.

Known as A Berger With Everything, Sherri's wide vocal range, versatility and ability to do a variety of character voices has afforded her a career involving almost every aspect of the voiceover business ... from commercials with humor to hard hitting political ads and serious PSA's; from corporate narrations, to character voices for animation and children's videos.

Other interesting voice over jobs include an episodic role on the short-lived ABC series, Sable, a radio soap opera, and looping voices for commercials and episodic television. A unique and exciting challenge was creating two diverse voices for a Soviet animated feature ... that of a nine year old girl and a 60 year old society matron. She was also chosen to be the voice for a talking alarm clock and talking doll.

Promos include segments for the History Channel and WTTW, CBS, HGTV, and movie promos for Lifetime Television. Most recently, her new focus and passion is narrating audiobooks.

Her advice to beginners? "Discover your own uniqueness and create a niche for yourself. First and foremost, learn the business of advertising. Become savvy and realize that while the art of doing voice overs is a craft, it is a business first. Realize, too, that as a talent, you are an entrepreneur and the product you're selling is you."

In addition to her successful voice over career, Sherri has parlayed her many creative talents in two other related businesses. As founder of Voice Over U, she teaches the ins and outs of the voice over business through the Lecture/Lab Series.

Sherri also saw an opportunity to help voice over performers with the need for creative marketing pieces. With her experience in advertising, she formed The Talent Package, a service unique in the industry, specializing in creative marketing concepts and promotional ideas specifically targeted to commercial talent.

Over the years, Sherri has served the film and advertising community of Chicago in a number of ways. She has served on the SAG Council and the boards of AFTRA, The Women's Ad Club, Women in Film, and was chairman of the AFTRA/SAG Conservatory for many years.

Nominated by her peers, Sherri Berger has been named one of the most outstanding women in America and is listed in Who's Who in American Women.


Cheryl Wyatt said...

This is so interesting! I loved learning about your talent, Sherri!

Welcome to Seekerville.


Melissa Jagears said...

I cannot imitate a voice for the life of me.

And my hubby can't carry a tune to save his life...

BUT if my hubby (who can imitate) sings in the voice of kermit the frog or sean connery, guess who's able to stay in tune? Yep, all you who can't keep a tune, try singing like kermit, might help you!

A lot of my secondary characters have accents or vocal quirks in my writing. Mainly because, I doubt I could sustain it with a main character. I was rather wowed with Karen Witemeyer's latest book that had her hero with a lisp. I was in awe of her bravery of doing that the second I realized she'd done that to herself. I don't think I'm that brave!

KC Frantzen said...


Thanks so much for sharing the super info today.

Loved "hearing" about your work, and your entrepreneurial spirit!

And Mary, great post. Thank you!

I'm on the Blackberry so will have to listen later. Looking forward to that!

I guess my voice is different in that I have May the K9 spy. I read one chapter. It's on the website. But it would be so fascinating to hear a pro with the manuscript!

Perhaps ONE day, I can afford it. Curious to know, what kind of sales ratio is there for print v audio v e-book?

Tina Radcliffe said...

Welcome Sherri! And I love your Berger webpage.

Cathy Shouse said...


This is interesting to me because I was a volunteer reader for several years for Central Indiana Radio Reading. They would partner me with someone and we read the newspaper on a radio channel which could be heard by visually disabled people who had special radio receivers. I loved it.

I've also spent many hours reading aloud to school children and changing the voices as I go. One of my favorite stories that have characters that just scream to "drawl" is "Comes A Wind." It's about a granny-type mother who has grown twin boys who bicker. It helps when I wear a cowboy hat to class.

Well, I'm guessing someone from rural Indiana would have trouble getting that first job in your work? :)

Also, I wondered how much prep goes into it before you turn on the mic? Do you read it over and figure out how many voices will be needed so you'll be better prepared?

I thought you might tell us today what makes a story more enjoyable to read aloud. People always tell authors to read their work aloud but your job must really tell you who has done that. Did you ever turn down recording a book for any reason?

Thanks for bringing this fascinating topic today.


Anonymous said...

I wish I could narrate but unfortunately all I can talk is east Texas hick...sigh...I listen to audiobooks off and on - my mind tends to wander when I'm listening..when I'm reading too but it's easier to skip back a few paragraphs/pages/chapters that it is to fiddle with my mp3 player or cd. the voices really do make the story - I like the one who does J D Robb's books and Debbie Macomber's..Rebecca Wells I think did her own with the yaya books..and there's a female narrator for Richard Pecks A Year Down Yonder(awesome story!)who just makes the story.

no sound here at work so will have to come back and listen to the sample later!


Debra E. Marvin said...

This whole thing fascinates me. I'm a big audiobook fan. I think I've heard Sherri before.

Thanks Mary!

Jackie said...

Welcome to Seekerville, Sherri. Thanks for sharing with us.
My oldest son entertains young children by imitating famous voices, usually cartoons. I've always been fascinated by his ability to imitate people.

Have you ever agreed to a voice job then regretted your decision? Like hated the book then were stuck? I'd imagine reading an entire book you didn't like would be exhausting.

One of the "bad guys" in the book I'm writing now has the most distinct voice. I'm trying to figure out how this can bring him down.

I enjoyed your interview. Thanks!


Renee Ann said...

Loved listening to Sherri's audio clips! I didn't know I'd heard her voice so often :)

Over the years, I've always had to drive long distances to school or homes of tutoring clients. When I'm listening to an audio book the time flies!

My first audio book was Jan Karon reading her own stories. Then I moved on to enjoy many other recordings. (Whoever did the Tony Hillerman books was great!) I found that I could enjoy listening to a novel I never would've finished reading. So audio books helped me experience many genres.

I think one of my all time favorites has been the voice of Reepicheep in The Chronicles of Narnia. After hearing Sherri's voice, I'm sure she could do him and many other great characters!

Missy Tippens said...

Sherri, how fun!! I do recognize your voice! I'm so glad to get to meet the person behind the voice. :)

Thanks so much for being with us today!

*lizzie starr said...

Thanks for the view into the world of voices. I like to pretend I can do voices, although I'm not so sure how successful I am at it. :)

A good share of my tales have Celtic characters--which I love hearing in my head. But a favorite mixed in with them is the lilt of an East Indian speech. That was fun to write.

Sherri Shackelford said...

What a fascinating profession! Thank you for sharing insight into your work. Plus, I love the way you spell your name - the right way!

Lourdes said...

What a great interview, really interesting. I think for me I tend to like most the male voices with accents.

I always thought I would love to do something like that but not with my Bronx accent LOL.

Whitney said...

Welcome, Sherri! I was so glad to see audio books (especially Christian fiction) being given a little promo here. I did watch the interview clip first—fun! I recognized them! My mom is legally blind and though she uses a CCTV (close circuit TV) to magnify books, it gets very tiring for her to sit at a desk for extended periods of time. She gets Talking Books which we both enjoy listening to, but I can tell you, the person reading the story can either make or break any connection or possibility of liking the book if they’re no good. We have heard some really good ones (David Suchet and Hugh Fraser) reading Agatha Christie’s Poirot; we have heard some REALLY bad ones that sound like a machine—monotone—reading them. Don’t even get me started about some of the sissy-sounding males they get to read Zane Grey’s books.

You have a real gift and ministry, Sherri! Thanks for being part of getting Inspirational Fiction in an audio format for the blind and visually impaired, or people who just enjoy listening to the book in an almost theatrical set-up.
Okay, in my own story, the most distinct voice is probably that of my brash hero—slightly husky with a constant inflection of a grin. And boy, what a contagious, boisterous laugh!

In movies? There are SO many. I love to listen to Tom Selleck and Sam Elliot, because after all, don’t they have the quintessential sexy-man voice? I also like Bruce Boxleitner’s voice. It’s soothing, and manly, and he can do teasing, serious, humorous, angry… he’d be a great reader for books. I have listened to Glenn Close read books and she does a great job too.


Patsy said...

Sherri, you job is so interesting. I bet it's fun too! The voice I get a kick out of to listen to is the voice of one of the southern captians on North and South. I'm from the south also but he makes it so funny trying to talk southern. He stretches his words out real looooong! haha

Tina Radcliffe said...

BTW I am also a huge audio fan. I'd like to know more about the awards for audio artists.

I know some readers will read a book based on who the audio artist is. Quite interesting.

Rose said...

Hi Sherri,

What a very unique and interesting occupation! Thanks for sharing with us.


Mary Connealy said...

Good morning. I have loved talking with Sherri. I find this so fascinating. Her voice, like on the Lifetime narration (if you want to that link at the beginning of her blog post, to listen to her Fox News interview, you'll hear it) is really smooth. No accent. Really lovely tone.

Melanie Dickerson said...

Wow, that's interesting. And you're right, Mary. I was smiling at the end of that video!

Now that I think about it, I'm not sure I've ever listened to an audio book. Hmm. But I think it would be awesome if my books were made into audio books! How cool.

The woman who does the voiceover in my video trailer for The Merchant's Daughter recently contacted me. That was really cool! She has a really nice English accent, even though she's from the midwest, and she doesn't look anything like the model on the cover of the book! LOL

Tina Pinson said...

I give up, every other time I try to leave a comment off my phone, it disappears. But given my comment you should all breathe a sigh of relief.


I find audio books interesting. I listen much but I have considered doing them.

I used play around with voices, could sing a mean Cher and several cartoon voices. my middle child has taken over where I left off. He doesn't sing Cher though.

As for getting to know my character's voice, I try.


I'm working on one who likes to speak in cliches. My way if breaking rules maybe.

Anyway thanks for sharing Sherri and Mary it was very educationary.

Couldn't resist.


Tina Radcliffe said...


Tina Pinson said...

I meant to say I don't listen much. You think that got lost in translation from my phone too?


Julie Lessman said...

SHERRI!!! WOW ... what a very cool job to have!!

I used to have a job as writer/producer for film strips and commercials, so I worked with a lot of voice-over talent and I always admired (and envied) them. It's so much fun watching them work, and the video Mary posted of you was SO cool!

Thanks for being a guest on Seekerville and not sure if you are fielding questions/comments today, but if you are, what are three of the most unusual voices you have done other than the Vella Mint commercial, which is SO seriously good ... AND fun!


Tina Pinson said...

Educationary... it's my new word, I had to rhyme. Exploratory didn't cut it.

Eva Maria Hamilton said...

That is a seriously cool job Sherri! I've always loved listening to audio books :)

Mary, you're lucky to have an audio book.

Happy Birthday Ruth!

Pam Hillman said...

Loved this! Such an interesting job you have, Sherri.

It was great how you use tone and inflection to set the mood for the reader.

I think we've met a star performer today!

My favorite part was watching you do the Velamint commercial.

Erica Vetsch said...

Okay, this was wicked cool! What a treat.

For unique or unusual voices, I have to go with Sam Elliot. Deep, gravely,!

Anonymous said...

Sherri, I'm so happy for you that you found the perfect niche for your talents.

One of my favorite voices from the movies is Lena from "Singing in the Rain." She was brassy,annoying, and completely memorable! Too fun!

Mary Beth

Lorna said...

What an fascinating interview! I've often wondered how one gets involved in reading for audio publications. I always have one in the car and recently finished THE HELP on audiobook. (That was incredibly well done!)

Favorite voices? I love Patrick Stewart's voice. It's so regal.

Jill Burnett said...

Sounds like you did a real good job, thanks for reading "Out of Control", looking forward to listing to the whole thing.

Pam Hillman said...

Oh, yeah, I forgot about the question.

Erica, I'm with you...Sam Elliot, yes!

And Clint Eastwood.

Edwina said...

Thanks for sharing your talent - it's really awesome!
Your voice seems naturally low. Are you able to pitch it higher? I have a character in a book I'm working on. She is the Southern grandmother to everyone and everyone is either "Hunny" or "Sugah." How would you portray her voice? Would you pitch it higher? Make it softer?

Patty Wysong said...

This. is. so. cool!! What a voice and what talent! Blows my mind. Welcome to Seekerville, Sherri. Loved this!

Unique voices are something I listen for and 'hear', but in my head they're more inaudible words--kinda like a silent movie that I know what they're saying. It's weird. LoL. But THIS--what Sherri does is totally cool. Oh to have that voice in my head. ;-)

Pepper said...

Welcome, Sherri!
What a fun job?!? During your training, did you have to have a vocal coach? What about dialects? How do you train for those :-)

I LOVE Andy Griffith's voice and accent (for personal reasons, of course)

And I absolutely love Matthew Mcconaughey's easy southern drawl.

And Maggie Smith's wonderful voice as well as Alan Rickman (who plays Snape on Harry Potter, and Sherriff of Nottingham in Robin Hood.

I try to incorporate those types of accents into my books.

I teach Phonetics at a university and LOVE listening to and imitating accents.

misskallie2000 said...

Hi Sherri, Did you do the voice an any of Patricia Cornwell's Scarpetta Series? My brother traveled a lot and bought audio books every week for several yrs. He lent me several bags and he had a lot of her audio books. Your voice reminds me of Scarpetta. My brother died in 2003 of Leiomyosarcoma and I have listen to only a few books since then. I think your voice over job sounds great. I use to read to my kids when they were small and do the voices and would love to do voices on some of the books I have read. Would be a great job since I am retired. lol
Loved the video. Thanks for stopping by to chat and share with us.

misskallie2000 at yahoo dot com

Tina Radcliffe said...

OOH, and besides a wonderful opportunity to win an Audio version of Mary Connealy's OUT OF CONTROL you can still get your name in the hate for the First Five Page Critique.

Tina Radcliffe said...

You know another thing that just RANDOMLY sprang to mind, is apparently some authors note in their contracts which specific audio artists they must have read the audio form of their books. This is pretty cool. Susan Eliz. Phillips does this and I listen to many of her books on audio as well as written format. It is nice to have the continuity of the same artist.

Jenna V said...

Sherri, welcome to Seekerville. I must add my vote to Sam Elliot's voiceovers. I think I would buy anything that man sold via voiceover :-)

I would love to be put into the hat for the five page critique, thanks!

Tina Radcliffe said...

Freudian slip? You tell me...

You can still get your name in the HATE for the First Five Page Critique. OMG. My apologies. We love your pages...I just have keyboard issues. Last weekend I ate corn on the cob in front of the computer.

There. I admitted it. Don't I feel better.

Tina Radcliffe said...

I wonder if Sherri's voice is insured by Lloyd's of London?

Casey said...

Oh I'm listening to those first four pages now!

Really, really interesting, I loved it! I have always enjoyed the occasional audio book and it's fascinating to know the story behind the story. ;-)

My dad loves doing crazy voices when he reads books when me and my siblings were little. From Green Eggs and Ham or Bubba, the Cowboy Prince, he makes his voice go high or low. So fun. :)

Ooh, loving listening to Sherri read this, she is doing a great job!

Lee Carver said...

Sherri, I'm fascinated about your work, especially since two sight-impaired people asked me to produce my book on tape. One said she particularly likes to hear books read by the author. Well, maybe. I don't have your talent. Clue: I love the voice of Sam Elliot, who looks so much like my younger brother. Voice of a character I'm writing: a young German man, immediately post-WWII, with "A Secret Life".

Pepper said...

I HATE to admit it, but I'd love to be in the 5 page critique :-)

Mary Connealy said...

I've been running all day but I'm back now.

The audio book is such a cool new thing. I love it.

I once read a short story onto a tape as part of a volunteer program for special ed kids.

It was HARD. I'd stumble over words and have to back up, pick a spot with some space between words and start over.

They only let me do one. I suspect my voice traumatized small children and they burned the tape and DELETED me from their volunteer list.

connie said...

Sam Elliott is my favorite.
"Beef, it's what's for dinner."
I'd reconize his voice anywhere.
I get a kick out of my husband trying to imitate his voice.

Interesting post

Debbie Archer said...

What a great interview and conversation! It's like getting a special peek inside another realm of writing and audio.

Hope Chastain said...

Sherri, how delightful! It's people like you who make me like audiobooks! And I remembered your Velamints commercials! :) You're a wonderful choice to read Mary's book!

I'd love to study with you, but I'm far from Illinois! Will you ever have online courses? Dialects & voices have been a hobby of mine since I was a child. We were blessed to live all over the country, so I picked up lots of accents that way. :)

Congratulations, Mary, on your very first audiobook! Lovely!

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Oh, this is fascinating. Sherri, when Mary first said you were coming I hopped over to 'see' you.

What a fun, great job! And it amazes me how well you do it. I've listened to a couple of audio books, both done by men and they did the female part as well and just changed the inflection.

It worked. When I read stories to kids, no one cares that I do all the parts and it's fun changing the voice to fit the character.

Thank you for being here today!

Digging for Pearls said...

My unique voices weaves faith into my characters daily life, not added as an afterthought. They struggle with failing at times, but also have time of successes too.

Jodie Wolfe

Virginia said...

Very interesting! My kids love audio books, especially the 'Magic Thief' series, by Sarah Prineas. That voice actor has to do a young boy, a gruff body guard cook, and the old man's journal. The N.E.R.D.S. kids series about spies has a great narrator, too!
Melissa, I had a voice coah tell me once that everyone can learn to sing- it's getting past the mental barriers that we put up sometime as children. Maybe that's why you can sing like Kermit? It gets you past the barrier?

Virginia said...

Cathy, my kids love that book! Since we have *ahem* bickering sibling boys, that really makes us laugh!

Virginia said...

Oh! All these great voices- I forgot to say I love Richard Armitage from the BBC North and South! I think he has some sort of Northern accent originally, and I don't know a lot about the different dialects, but the propsoal scene where his voice drops am octave and he growls, "I don't want to posess you, I want to marry you because I love you" always makes me swoon out of my seat. :D

Cara Lynn James said...

That was great, Sherri! I found it interesting that you don't have any kind of accent to distract a listener. I can see why they chose you to read the book!

Peggy Rychwa said...

Listening to audio books during that one-hour commute to work is a great way to get in some "reading time".

Kayleen said...

I listen to many books on tape. What I don't like is when the reader uses too little inflection. Same monotone voice is boring! But I also hate too much inflection which deflects from the power of the story. Thanks for this great interview! I'll look for more of this reader!

Marsha Gulick said...

It seems I hear George Clooney's voice frequently on commercials.

I really like your Mae West voice, very well done, Sherri!

Kay Lorraine said...

A wonderful interview with a very talented women. I have had the pleasure of working with Sherri many years ago. She is a total professional and a joy to work with. Plus the fact that she is a terrific lady.

Thanks for this article. I look forward to hearing the book during my workout!

Sherri said...

Hi Kay,
Thanks for your comments. Great to hear from you and see your own blog. what a riot, but then, you write like you talk so that's no surprise!


Sherri said...

Good morning Seekerville.

I'm new to this blogging thing and posted some comments yesterday that didn't seem to get posted so I'll try again and if my first comments somehow show up, I apologize in advance for the duplication.

Here's to Sherri who spells her name right!

Cathy, thanks for your excellent questions and comments. What makes reading a book enjoyable? Good writing of course and a good story with interesting characters. I like to narrate books I like to read...humor, mysteries, political espionage are my favorites. I really enjoyed Out of Control and loved how Mary infused humor and sass in her characters.

I do put in many, many hours of prep before the actual recording of the book. I read the book several times and list the characters and descriptions which helps me decide what kind of voice to do...most times, it just comes to me as I'm reading. Other times, I work at finding the right voice...many considerations with regard to contrast with other characters so there's no confusion as to who's talking, and of course what's appropriate. I record myself and determine in the playback what's working and what's not and go from there.

With regards to turning down projects...I try not to but if I don't think I can do the book justice or if the rate is not worth the time it would take, I do refuse and of course, there are times I'm not available to complete a book by the requested deadline. In fact, I wasn't available for Mary's book initially because Oasis Audio, the publisher gave me a two week deadline and I was in the middle of another project...but after reading about 10 pages of the book, I called the publisher back and said I really want to do it and I'll work it out. I really had fun doing this book.

So far I've never hated a book but I've been bored. I try to make a boring book fun with interesting characters, and once recording I can enjoy the process.

Tina, re awards for narrators...I belong to an organization called, APA, Audio Publishers Assoc and every year there is a conference and an awards ceremony, the Academy Award of publishing, called The Audie Awards where publishers and narrators are awarded for their work.

Edwina, thanks for your question about the southern woman in your book. Of course I can pitch my voice higher and do quite often. I love doing southern voices and in fact, one of the main characters in Mary's book came from Texas so I gave her an ever so slight Texas accent. (I had Laura Bush in my head when I did it.) Let's twalk...


Mary Connealy said...

Hi, Sherri, thanks for stopping in. Your blog post was great. Thanks for being on Seekerville.

Sherri said...

Thanks, Mary, it was fun. If anyone in the future has any questions or wants to contact me for any reason, please feel free to contact me at And good luck to those who win a copy of the audiobook. I hope you enjoy it.