Learning how long it will take to record your audiobook will help you to plan better. Recording an audiobook involves script preparation, narration, editing, proofing (or quality control), and mastering. According to Reedsy.com, the average length of a fiction novel is 50,000 – 70,000 words. The average is 60,000 words which results in an audiobook that’s about 6.5 hours long or 6.5 finished hours.
The length of time to record an audiobook depends on the number of words in the manuscript. For each hour of completed audiobook recording, the narrator must spend 6.7 hours doing narration, editing, proofing, and mastering. This does not include the time to prepare the audiobook script which could take several days.
The table below shows the number of hours of work required to narrate, edit, proof, and master an audiobook.
|Description (6.5 finished hours)*||Rate (PFH)||Time (hours)|
|Audiobook Script Preparation||N/A||4 days**|
* Finished hours refers to the length of the completed audiobook. ACX uses an average of 9,300 words per finished hour (PFH). Therefore, a 60,000 word novel divided by 9,300 words PFH = 6.5 hours, which is the length of the completed audiobook.
** Audiobook script preparation and mastering depend on many factors. My estimate for this table are about 4 days of audiobook script preparation. I explain how I obtain these estimates below.
Below, I have more information on how to calculate the time you may need for a book of a different length. I also include additional information about audiobook script preparation and mastering, which are not included in the table above.
Note that many of the calculations in the table above and the text below use a rate of per finished hour (PFH). The way to calculate the total time for a task is to multiply the rate by the length of the audiobook. For example, the total time for narration is 2 PFH x 6.5 finished hours = 13 hours for narration.
Total Time (Narration, Editing, Proofing, & Mastering)
If you know you will need 43.6 hours to create your audiobook, you might spread this out over one week. Narrating, editing, proofing, and mastering may happen iteratively. In other words, you may narrate one hour, then edit, proof, and master in the same day.
In addition, you may need more time to rerecord small segments of your original recording. The table above rerecording is already included in the editing and proofing steps.
Audiobook script preparation time is difficult to quantify. You will need time to read through the entire book and create an audiobook script. The length of time needed for the narrator to prepare depends on the length of the book and the skill of the narrator.
An average narrator may need a few days to one week for preparation. This includes reading through the entire book, clearing up anything hard to pronounce, and then creating an audiobook script.
If you are narrating a nonfiction book with lots of hard to pronounce medical terms, you may need extra time to look up their pronunciations. Then you’ll need more time to create and practice your audiobook script.
Do you need help creating an audiobook script? My article How Do You Write An Audiobook Script explains the steps to create the script in detail.
If you are narrating a fantasy book with lots of unusual names and places, you may need some time communicating with the author as you work your way through your audiobook script. This may be more time than you would need if you just had to look up existing medical terms.
An experienced narrator may record at a rate of 2 PFH which is reflected in the table above. The resulting total hours narration are:
13 narration hours = 2 PFH x 6.5 finished hours
As a new narrator, you may need more time than an experienced narrator. Therefore instead of a rate of 2 PFH, you may need a rate of 3 PFH. The total narration hours will be:
19.5 narration hours = 3 PFH x 6.5 finished hours
Audiobook editing is your first step after narrating. Editing an audiobook is the slow process of removing any sounds that shouldn’t be in the recording. For example, you’ll need to remove coughs, loud breathing, sniffling, sneezing, as well as repeated phrases (outtakes) that should be deleted, etc.
I don’t recommend that you edit as a beginner. It’s much better to work on one new skill at a time. Initially, only focus on improving your narration. Later, when you become more comfortable with narrating, then move to editing if you like.
If you are an experienced editor, you may record at a rate of 3 PFH, which is reflected in the table above. As a result, your total editing hours will be:
19.5 editing hours = 3 PFH x 6.5 finished hours
However, as a beginner you will need more. If you record at a rate of 4 PFH, then your total editing time for a 6.5-hour audiobook is:
26 editing hours = 4 PFH x 6.5 finished hours
As you become proficient, you may edit at a rate of 2 PFH or 3 PFH.
Proofing (Quality Control)
Audiobook proofing is your next step after editing. Proofing is the process of listening to your audiobook after it has been edited.
My article What is Audiobook Proofing explains in more detail what proofing is, how to proof, what to do if you are beginner, and more.
When you proof your audiobook, you listen to your recording the way your audiobook listener would hear it. Use your headphones and carefully listen for your acting skills, correct pronunciations, and any unwanted sounds. As a beginner, you should proof your work and outsource it to a professional until you feel comfortable with your proofing.
If you have some experience proofing audiobooks, then you may proof at a rate of 1.2 PFH which is reflected in the table above. The total number of proofing hours will be:
7.2 proofing hours = 1.2 PFH x 6.5 finished hours
If you are new to proofing, you may proof at a rate of 2 PFH instead of 1.2 PFH. The total hours needed will be:
13 proofing hours = 2 PFH x 6.5 finished hours
This includes the time that may be needed to go back and rerecord small segments of the audiobook.
Mastering is your next step after proofing. It is the process of adjusting sound levels so that the audiobook sounds good. Listeners will not have to adjust the volume down during the loud parts of the audiobook or turn the volume up during the quiet parts.
If you are a beginner, I recommend that you outsource this step. It may take 3 or 4 days to have a professional master your recording and return it to you.
However, if you want to learn more about mastering, this Audible/ACX YouTube channel gives you more detailed information.
If you have some experience mastering audio files, you may master at a rate of 0.5 PFH. The time to master an audiobook is difficult to quantify because it depends on the number of files, the quality of the recording, and the skill of the narrator. The total time to master an audiobook will be:
3.25 mastering hours = 0.5 PFH x 6.5 finished hours
If you are brand new to mastering and you want to do it yourself, you may master at a rate of 1 PFH. The total time to master an audiobook will be:
6.5 mastering hours = 1.0 PFH x 6.5 finished hours
How long does it take to narrate 10,000 words (~40 pages)?
Narrating smaller books is an excellent way for beginners to launch their narration business. A 40-page book is about 10,000 words. If you use the ACX speaking average of 9300 words PFH, then the total audiobook length is: 10,000 words / 9300 words PFH = 1.1 hours.
Now that you know the estimated audiobook length, you can calculate your total time below:
- Narration: 2 PFH x 1.1 finished hours = 2.2 hours
- Editing: 3 PFH x 1.1 finished hours = 3.3 hours
- Proofing: 1.2 PFH x 1.1 finished hours = 1.3 hours
- Mastering: 0.5 PFH x 1.1 finished hours = 0.6 hours
- Total Time = 7.4 hours
Remember that these calculations do not include script preparation time. It’s difficult to estimate the time needed because it depends on the complexity of the book as well as the skill of the narrator.
For this example, I would estimate about 4 days for script preparation and mastering.
Generally, you’ll need about 43.6 hours to create a 60,000-word book, after you have prepared the audiobook script. If you obtain a new book once or twice a month, you will be on your way to launching a fun and lucrative career.
How long did it take you to narrate your audiobook? Please leave your comments below.