What do you tell authors when they ask how much you would charge to produce their audiobook?
Do you quote…?
- Royalty Share Split
- Royalty Share Hybrid
- Pay for Production
- Per Finished Hour (PFH)
- SAG-AFTRA Minimum
- Royalty Plus Stipend
- Whatever You Can Get Away With
I polled my fellow authors who are members of Author U in Denver, and they unanimously agreed they had no idea how any of the above pricing worked – except Option 7, which they thought narrator’s prices might really be.
That’s not how authors think. They pay for editing services by word count. Why not price audiobooks that way?
Try this simpler formula:
For a fully narrated, edited, and produced ACX-ready audiobook:
$30 per 1,000 words
That’s it. If the book is 40,000 words long, the audiobook version will cost the author $1,200.
Here’s how this works for the narrator.
I read at an average rate of 9,300 words per hour. At $30 per 1,000 words, I would make $279 per finished hour (9.3 x 30). Your mileage may vary, but I’ve included a chart below if you want to see approximately how much you will make from this simpler rate.
Per 1,000 words, Per Finished Hour (PFH) at 9,300 words per hour read rate
- $30 = $279 PFH
- $28 = $260.40 PFH
- $25 = $232.50 PFH
- $20 = $186 PFH
- $10.75 = $100 PFH
Some more background:
Q. What does Per Finished Hour (PFH) mean?
A.“Per Finished Hour” is the way payment is usually calculated in the audiobook industry. Generally, narrators are paid for every hour of finished recording, rather than the good old days when narrators were paid by studio hour.
If it takes me about two hours to record and three hours to edit and master one finished hour, and my rate is $279 PFH, then I’m making $55.80 per hour. Better, if I pay an editor $50 PFH (but the best editors cost more) and focus on recording, I make $89.50 per hour.
Q. What are the union audiobook narration rates?
A. SAG-AFTRA Minimum on ACX is $225 PFH. Formerly recorded exclusively under the AFTRA Sound Recordings Code, today there are also more than 25 separate SAG-AFTRA agreements with audiobook publishers and producers. Those minimum rates are between $150 and $400+ PFH.
Q. Most ACX books are Royalty Share only. How do I make money with those?
A. You need a combination of research and luck. Go for a book that is doing well in the Amazon sales categories, even in a particular subcategory. Favor highly rated books with established authors.
For more on the way narrators make money producing audiobooks, you should download Karen Commins’ excellent ACX Narrator FAQ (ACX FAQ are found in the ACX Narrators and Producers FaceBook group, and you must be a member) and read her blog on How to Pick the Right Royalty Share Project.
This “x dollars per 1,000 words” formula takes some of the mystery out of what it costs to produce audiobooks. Pricing by word count can lead to more authors saying “yes,” because they understand clearly what their final cost will be.