How Much Do Audiobook Narrators Make?

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Given the rise in popularity of listening to books—whether they’re from your local library, a bookstore, or Audible—it’s no surprise that many folks (not just professional voice actors) are extolling the benefits of becoming an audiobook narrator. But how much can you make in this niche? Have no fear—we’re here with some financial facts about how much narrators are getting paid for this type of work, and what factors you need to look out for to understand the rates and payment ranges in the field. Because as anyone who’s read a book will tell you, knowledge is power!

How much do voiceover actors make for audiobooks?

When you’re starting out, you’ll likely have to join a platform like Backstage, Voice123, or the Audiobook Creation Exchange (ACX) to audition for work. You will be paid on a per-project basis, usually at a per-finished-hour rate or through a royalties or profit-sharing model maintained with the rights holder of the project (usually the author)—or some sort of hybrid model.

But what do these terms mean?

  • Per finished hour (PFH): This is a rate dependent on the total time of finished audio—but not the hours it took to create said hour. If you have a PFH rate of $200 for an audiobook that ends up being eight hours long, you’ll receive $1,600. However, it will take you more than an hour to complete an hour’s worth of finalized recording. Your total number of working hours could be affected by the number of revisions needed (most narrators do not charge for revisions or edits), the quality of the audio submitted, and the amount of research and rehearsing you do in order to create the final product. Most employers will use the PFH method and offer a rate of $10–$100 PFH to beginners; more experienced narrators can make several hundred dollars PFH. Celebrities and members of SAG-AFTRA will often fetch a higher rate as well.
  • Royalty and profit sharing: This rate has the most variables to consider, because your upfront profit will likely be very low—but with the caveat that if the audiobook is successful, your profits will be much higher (up to a quarter of the overall profits the title makes, according to our previous research). It’s also worth noting that in recent years, major publishers like Audible and ACX have found that their purported royalty numbers do not always align with what narrators are actually being paid, causing controversy in the field.

When you’re a novice in the field, you’ll have to take a few lower-paying gigs in order to gain experience and create a portfolio for yourself. According to ACX, which is owned by Audible/Amazon, the platform’s narrators earn an average of $10 to $100 per finished hour for beginners, and $100 to $500 for more experienced professionals. Backstage’s earlier research shows this averages out to $2,000 to $5,000 per completed project. It is important to remember, however, that the industry average changes all the time, particularly if you’re paid in part by residuals.

It’s vital to do your research before accepting any project, especially one with royalty/profit sharing—you could be taking a big financial risk with no payoff if the project isn’t of a certain quality, or if the author or publisher isn’t invested in the book’s success.

What factors affect audiobook narration pay?

There are several basic factors that come into play for evaluating the valuation of an audiobook narrator’s work.

Experience: The more established your portfolio, the higher your rate can be. Rate of pay is often commensurate with experience and ability. The work you accept will showcase your range as a narrator and may end up being heard by those who can impact your career. As with most careers in the entertainment industry, the work builds on itself. So while it’s perfectly fine to accept any and every job you can, make sure you’re keeping your overall body of work in mind as well.

Job type: Be sure to consider how complex a project will be when assessing your own rate demands. For example, having to create multiple characters’ voices in a novel will likely require more time and effort than reading a more straightforward memoir from a single point of view. And a book’s word count will affect your earning potential. Employers also influence the time it takes to finish a project—sometimes you’ll only be responsible for researching the project and recording, and other jobs will require you to do post-production work. 

Contract: Everything mentioned so far will be defined by the contract you sign, which will stipulate how you are paid. Will there be residuals and royalties? Did you agree to a per-finished-hour rate? 

In the end, audiobook narration is a job like anything else—it is not a magical pool of money from which you can rake in millions on the side. But with time, effort, and the right sort of voice skills, you may find a new passion and add a new tool to your creativity belt! 

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