So what is the cost of turning your book into an audiobook? With the growth in popularity of platforms like Audible, this has become a very popular question.
The answer to this question depends on many factors, two of the most important being whether you hire an audiobook producer or narrator or if you intend to complete the production of your audiobook yourself.
So, it’s possible to spend as little as $0 upfront to commence work with an ACX narrator, or to pay a professional to narrate your audiobook anywhere between 50 and 400+ dollars per hour; alternatively, you can invest in your own audio equipment and record your book yourself:
When investing in equipment to narrate your book yourself, once again, you can spend a little or a lot on equipment. You could pick up some second-hand equipment relatively cheaply, or you could spend well over $500 for some top-of-the-range equipment. What you decide to spend will depend on your budget and whether or not you intend to record more audiobooks in the future. You also need to take into consideration learning the software and how to use the equipment.
Of course, with Youtube and all of the free tutorials that will not be an issue but do factor in the time it will take vs. outsourcing, if you have more important things to be doing (i.e book marketing to make back that money you just spent on hiring a voice actor!)
How Much Does It Cost To Make An Audiobook: The Four Options
When discussing the creation of your very own audiobook, there are four main options that you can select from:
- Producing the audiobook by yourself
- Make a revenue share agreement with a narrator who specialized in audiobooks
- Use a professional narrator, paying a flat rate per hour (this is commonly referred to as a PFH contract)
- Choose an agreement that is somewhere in between, and known as a hybrid agreement.
This type of arrangement will include a flat rate component and a royalty share. When you choose this type of agreement, the flat rate fee you pay will generally be a lot lower than the fee you pay for a PFH contract.
It can be tricky to decide on which method to use. After all, it’s a big decision to make. A closer look at the costs of the different options is detailed below in this article, to ensure that you make the right decision for your very first audiobook.
Recording your audiobook yourself
If you are a published author or a self-published author, and you retain the audio right to the book you wish to record, recording your book yourself is a viable option. When you record your own audiobook, you can then go on to sell it through Audible via ACX, or alternatively through dozens of other retailers that specialize in the sale of audiobooks via Authors Republic.
If, on the other hand, a publisher currently holds the rights to your book, you may need to negotiate a new contract before you can proceed with the recording of your audiobook.
There are also many other factors that you should take into consideration when you are thinking about recording your audiobook yourself, these including:
Your performance ability.
This is your ability as an individual to narrate your book in a way that meets the expectation of your listeners, that connects with them, and that keeps them interested in what you are saying.
Your technical skills.
When you use a publishing platform for your audiobook such as ACX, your audiobook will need to meet certain technical requirements before it can be sold on Amazon, Audible, or iTunes. I cannot over emphasise this enough.
As long as your performance ability is average or above, as a non-fiction author, your audience will like that you narrate your own book, most especially if you already have a following on YouTube or on Podcasts.
In fact, many people are disappointed when audiobooks are narrated by someone who is not the author.
As a fiction author, however, you will need learned or natural acting skills if you are going to narrate your own book. You will need good performance skills, and a way to judge if you are up to the mark or not is by listening to some audiobooks in your genre and comparing your own acting ability to them.
If you wish to maintain creative control, working as a director with a studio voice talent, or narrating your own book yourself are quite essential.
When you narrate your own book, you will have control over all aspects of your production; on the other hand, if you enlist the help of a narrator you find online, you will lose some of this directional control.
When you choose a freelance narrator, you will have to trust the way they interpret your manuscript.
Recording your own audiobook is undoubtedly cheaper than paying a flat-rate fee.
On the other hand, however, you will need to purchase or hire equipment for your recording, the amount you spend on equipment obviously depending on if you intend to use it on a regular basis.
Once you have considered all of the above factors and the pros and cons involved with recording your own audiobook, you will need to make a decision. If you are going to go ahead and narrate your own audiobook, the next important step is buying the necessary equipment.
You will need, as a minimum, the following:
The Rode Nt1 kit is an excellent microphone for narrating audiobooks, but you will find it is great for any audio job such as singing vocals and recording acoustic instruments, also.
This microphone has been a top contester for many years and Rode just keep updating it (if it aint broke, right?)
However, you can spend anything from as little as $50 to more than $500 on a microphone. Once again, it depends on your budget and how often you will use your equipment.
A Pop Filter
Also known as a pop shield, a good microphone kit should already come with one of these. This little thing is easier to skip out on if you are new to audio recording, but you definitely don’t want to do that. It is called a pop filter for a reason.
It keeps out all of those unattractive “Puh”‘s
The good thing is it will never cost a lot, it is a cheap and simple tool, just very effective. You can grab one on Amazon for around $16 or less (they all do the same thing, any one will do the job)
Your interface can be single or dual narration, and can also be used for instruments and podcasting alike.
A good Sony headset such as the MDR 7506 will cost upwards of $80, without the protective storage case.
This can cost as little as $15, and you can choose from clamp mount or desktop options. Again this and headphones are smaller things that a good kit will include. You just have to work out if it works out cheaper to buy the kit or buy each piece of equipment separately.
And the final piece of the puzzle…
Audio Recording Software
This is available for free when you choose Audacity. Audacity has everything you need to get recording your first audiobook, so really it isn’t necessary to pay for pro tools or paid programs like Reaper or Adobe Audition.
Audacity is also compatible with Windows, Mac OSX and Linux.
The total cost of making your own audiobook yourself can vary greatly, depending on the cost of your time and the equipment you choose.
You could spend as little as $155 or in excess of $750.
A great way to keep down the cost, most especially if you are on a budget is to invest in second hand or repurposed equipment that you can find on Amazon or eBay. You also always have the option of reselling equipment in the same way if you find that you will no longer need it, or if you wish to upgrade and invest in some top-quality equipment for your following editions.
Hiring an ACX Narrator using a royalty share and No Upfront Cost
If you are not keen on the idea of narrating your audiobook yourself, don’t think you have the voice for it, or simply prefer to hire a narrator there is a way you can do this with no initial cost. When you enter into a royalty share agreement with a narrator, you won’t have to pay your narrator anything until you sell your first copies.
At this moment in time, you would be limited to ACX if you wish to enter into a royalty share option, as at present, this is the only publisher for audiobooks that offers this option. There does however exist the option of using an attorney to draft a contract outside of ACX.
If you are going to opt for ACX/Audible, the royalty share with your narrator will be 50/50, and all payments will be handled by ACX and processed on a monthly basis.
Pros and Cons of ACX
|No upfront fee required||You will need to enter into a contract with ACX/Audible that is exclusive if you wish to do a royalty share.|
|Your book will be sellable on Amazon, iTunes, and Audible||Your audiobook will only be available for purchase on Amazon, Audible, and iTunes for 7 years.|
|Good for tight budgets||Once you sign the contract, you cannot distribute or sell your book through any other channels for 7 years.|
|Accounting and distribution of royalties are done for you.||You will automatically lose 50% of your earnings.|
| ||Not beneficial long term, as you can earn more by paying a flat-rate fee.|
| ||Experienced narrators are wary of royalty share projects, and you may have to use a less experienced narrator who has a lower quality of equipment or less experience.|
| ||Your chosen narrator will not help with the promotional side of your audiobook.|
As you can see, there really are far more cons than pros of opting for a royalty share contract. Unless you really have “zero budget” to start with, it is better to narrate your own book with cheap equipment you can buy or pay a flat-rate fee.
Remember, that you will be tied into your contract for 7 years, will lose half of your earning during this period of time, and you will not be able to distribute or promote your audiobook anywhere else other than Amazon, iTunes, and Audible.
Flat Rate Agreements
A third option that is popular amongst audiobook publishers is to pay a narrator a flat-rate fee.
This fee is generally calculated per hour, and the amount you pay will correspond to the total runtime of your book. This type of contract is known in the trade as a PFH contract.
The rate you pay for your PFH contract can vary enormously, depending on the reputation and skill of the narrator. For a less-known narrator, expect to pay around $50 per hour; for a skilled narrator, this fee can easily increase to $400.
If you are using ACX, you should budget somewhere between $150 and $20 per finished hour of work.
So, for a 6-hour long audiobook, the flat rate fee could cost up to $1500. If you are prepared to pay this amount, and indeed if it fits in your budget, you should expect a very talented producer and a voice for your book that will really help you sell the end product.
At the very bottom end of the scale, you can pay as little as $40 per hour as a flat-rate fee. But, you do get what you pay for, and you won’t find any serious narrators that charge this little. Even a newer freelancer will charge at least $50 per hour. So, make sure you steer clear of cheap narrators who will ruin your image and all your hard work.
As there are so many freelancers out there offering their skills, prices are very competitive. To ensure you pick a freelancer that will give your audiobook a good voice, check out their reviews, and most definitely ask them for a sample of their work before you enter into a contract with them.
The average number of spoken words per hour for an audio recording is 9,300.
So, to work out the length of the recording of your audiobook, multiply the flat-rate by your total word count, then divide the total word count by 9,300.
If you think that the best way forward for you is to enter into a PFH contract, offer a rate that will attract artists that are talented. If you offer a low rate, you will attract the wrong type of narrator. Spending a little more will ensure a higher quality for your recording, which in turn will turn into more sales.
When deciding about the flat rate fee that you are willing to pay, think about the long term and not just about the amount you will need to pay for your recording. Think about promoting yourself as a serious author, and think about the bigger picture and about your future.
Your promotional strategy is as important as your choice of narrator for your book. You need to find a happy medium, where you will make money in royalties without having to pay out too heavily in the first place. A smart promotional strategy will ensure you can earn every month on your book, this meaning that the fee you pay your narrator is well worthwhile.
The total cost for your contract will be anywhere from $50 to $400 per hour of running time for your audiobook.
Pros and Cons of Flat Rate Contracts
|You can choose how much you wish to pay, and the quality of the recording will be reflected in the amount you pay||The initial outlay can be expensive, especially for your first audiobook|
|It is possible to find Freelancers who will provide a good quality of work for a reduced fee||If you don’t have a good promotional strategy, you may find that you earn less in royalties than the fee you pay your narrator|
|You are free to choose the promotional strategy you want to and are not limited to where you can sell your book|| |
A fourth and final option for recording your audiobook that is exclusive to ACX, is to enter into a hybrid contract. This type of contract is also known as a “royalty share plus” contract
When you enter into this type of contract, you will enjoy a reduced PFH rate that is combined with a royalty share, making it a good option for people with limited budgets.
Why Consider a Hybrid Contract?
The idea behind hybrid contracts is that you can attract a good narrator without having to pay the standard flat rate fees. One reason new authors often opt against PFH a contract is because of the initial cost. Hybrid contracts offer quality at a reduced price.
As mentioned before, competitive narrators are often wary of taking on a job where they will only receive a royalty share. This is of course, due to the risk of no copies being sold and the narrator simply having wasted their time. This can often be the case, even when the end product is good, due to a simple lack of promotion.
If you fail to promote your book with a solid strategy, no one will buy it. It’s like having a high-end website with excellent content. There’s no point spending money on such a high-end design if no one knows it’s there to be found.
As an author who is unsure of how to correctly promote an audiobook, the world of freelancers can once again help you out. Freelancers can be hired for the promoting of your audiobooks, ensuring that all your work is not in vain. It is understandable that high-end narrators won’t work for only royalties when there is always plenty of work out there will guarantee income.
You may be able to find a narrator willing to work just for royalties, but you will find that it will be someone with little or no experience that is interested only in building up their portfolio.
Hybrid contracts, therefore, offset the risk, as the narrator will be paid a flat rate fee too, albeit it one that is lower than with a PFH contract. If you wish to opt for a hybrid contract, you can expect to pay somewhere in the range of $25 to $100 per finished hour.
On top of this, of course, the narrator will receive his or her royalty share. When opting for hybrid contracts, it is important to discuss exactly what the narrator expects, his fees, and the royalty share he expects.
The biggest advantage of hybrid contracts is that you can attract an experienced narrator without having to pay a large upfront fee.
One of the main disadvantages of this type of ACX contract is that for 7 years, you will only be able to sell your audiobook on Amazon, iTunes, and Audible. During this period you will also lose 50% of your royalties.
There is no right or wrong answer to how you should go about recording your first audiobook. The method you choose will depend on how confident you are as a narrator, your budget, and the type of contract you are willing to enter into. As a non-fiction author, narrating your own books is almost always preferable, and if you don’t have the skills or confidence necessary, you can always learn them!
For fiction, paying a narrator is really just as good as recording your book yourself. Therefore, depending on your budget and equipment, you only need to choose between different types of contracts and the narrator for your new audiobook.