Beginners can earn maximum profits as they gain experience and become a seasoned narrators. How much an audiobook narrator gets paid depends on several factors which include their pay rate, the length of the audiobook, experience of narrator, and platform to create the audiobook.
Beginners could receive $10 per finished hour (PFH) to $100 PFH, and experienced narrators could get $100 PFH – $350 PFH. PFH refers to the narrator’s pay rate for a completed audiobook.
As an example, the table below shows how much you would get paid from 8 different platforms if you were a beginner earning $100 PFH and narrated an audiobook that was 6.5 hours long.
|Platform Name||Beginner Pay Rate (PFH)||Platform Fees||Total to Narrator|
|Audible / ACX||$100||No Fee1||$650|
|Findway Voices||$100||No Fee2||$650|
|Voice Bunny||$100||Paid by Client||$650|
|People Per Hour||$100||Tiered5||$558|
|Freelancer||$100||10% + Membership6||$584|
1 Assume pay for completed audiobook. Audible and Audiobook Creation Exchange (ACX) are Amazon companies that make their money by selling the audiobooks and do not charge a fee to the narrator for creating it. The Royalty Share options are listed later in the article.
2 Assume pay for completed audiobook. Findaway Voices make their money by selling the audiobooks and do not charge a fee to the narrator for creating it. The Royalty Share options are listed later in the article.
3 Assume lowest paid Voice123 membership which is a level a beginner is likely to choose. Assuming the beginner narrator gets one gig per month, I subtracted off the monthly membership amount.
4 This is the Upwork fee structure webpage.
5 This is the People Per Hour fee structure webpage.
6 Assume the lowest paid membership which is $0.99 per month. This is the link that describes the Freelancer memberships levels.
The 8 platforms listed above are only the most popular, but do not represent a complete list. The remainder of this article discussed all of the options available to narrators who work on the platforms listed above.
Narrator Additional Costs
As a narrator, you are recording the audiobook, editing, proofing, and mastering. I haven’t included these costs because I’m assuming that you will only pay for these items once before you start narrating audiobook. Below is a list of the additional equipment you’ll need to get started:
- Home studio (or access to professional studio)
- iAnnotate (to create audiobook script)
- Microphone (studio grade)
- Headphones (studio grade)
- Recording, editing, and mastering software (editing and mastering may be outsourced which will increase the cost of the audiobook production)
Audible/ACX is an Amazon company that connects authors to narrators and then sells their created audiobooks on their platform. Narrators get paid in one of 3 ways: Pay for Production, Royalty Share, and Royalty Share Plus.
The way it works is authors and narrators contact each other and negotiate a pay per finished hour (PFH). This finished hour is not talking about how long it takes the narrator to make the audiobook, but instead the length of the completed audiobook.
I wrote an article How Long Does It Take To Narrate an Audiobook where I explained why the production of an audiobook could take 6 times the length of the completed audiobook.
Audiobooks are sold based on the length. The profit is used to determine the royalty that authors and narrators will receive. This is the link to Audible that lists the prices per length of audiobook. Below is the list of prices :
- under 1 hour: under $7
- 1 – 3 hours: $7 – $10
- 3 – 5 hours: $10 – $20
- 5 – 10 hours: $15 – $25
- 10 – 20 hours: $20 – $30
- over 20 hours: $25 – $35
Pay for Production
The ACX Pay for Production program allows the author and narrator to negotiate a rate of pay. Generally, beginning narrators could get a lower rate ($10-$100) and experienced narrators may get ($100-$500).
Once the rate of pay is agreed to, the narrator records the book. When the author and narrator agree that the recording is good, the narrator gets paid.
The ACX Royalty Share program allows the author and narrator to split the royalties from the sale of the audiobook 50/50. See the figure below. This deal is only available if the author signed an exclusive contract with the audiobook. In other words, the audiobook cannot be available anywhere else.
An example of how this might work is if the audiobook is $15. Then, the author receives 20% or $3, and you, as the narrator, get $3 as well. Note that this agreement lasts for 7 years.
As a narrator, you also have access to the bounty program. If you or the author get new subscribers to Audible, you will receive $25, and the author gets $50.
Royalty Share Plus
The ACX Royalty Share Plus program allows authors to pay a small fee to narrators to cover production costs (editing, proofing, and mastering). The small upfront free is negotiable between the author and narrator.
Once the audiobook is available, the author gets 20% royalties, and the narrator gets 20% royalties. The advantage to this program is if the author doesn’t have enough money to spend on the Pay for Production program, the author can pay a lower amount to help the narrator and get access to narrators who before may have only considered the Pay for Production Program.
An example of how this might work would be for a 6.5-hour audiobook. Instead of receiving $650, you, as the narrator, might negotiate a production cost of $200. If the audiobook is $15, for the next 7 years, you’ll receive a royalty of 20% or $3, and the author will get a royalty of 20% or $3.
As a narrator, you also have access to the bounty program. If you or the author get new subscribers to Audible you will receive $25, and the author gets $50.
Findaway Voices is an aggregate publisher that connects the author with the narrator. They primarily make their money through publishing and don’t exact fees on the narrator as they create new audiobooks.
Findaway Voices retains 20% of the royalties from the sale
of the audiobook and sends the rest to the author and narrator. This differs
from Audible/ACX, and has a large impact on the author and a noticeable impact
on the narrator. Narrators get paid either with the Pay Per Production or
Voices Share Program.
Pay Per Production
Findaway Voices pays narrators in the Pay Per Production program by allowing narrators to set a rate and wait for an author who will agree to pay their rate. This rate is not negotiable, unlike Audible/ACX. Once the author agrees to work with the narrator, you as the narrator will get paid per finished hour.
Since Findaway Voices doesn’t sell the audiobooks but instead partners with other distributers, they split the royalties from the other partner with the author. For example, a $15 audiobook sold through Findaway Voices to Audible/ACX would receive a 25% royalty. Audible/ACS would take 75% or $11.25, Findaway Voices will receive 20% of the 25% sales or $0.75, and the author will receive 80% of the 25% sales or $3.
The Voices Share program allows authors and narrators to choose a combination of pay per production and royalty split. For a $15 audiobook that is distributed to Audible/ACX, the royalty to Findaway Voices, the author, and the narrator is 25%.
Findaway Voices takes 20% of 25% or $0.75, the author gets a royalty share of 60% of 25% or $2.25, and you, as the narrator, get a royalty share of 20% of 25% or $0.75. In addition, you also get 50% of your per finished hourly rate upfront. See the figure below.
This agreement continues for 10 years. Anytime into the 10-year timeframe, the author could pay you off by paying the full amount owed plus the original 50%, which is equivalent to paying the narrator 150%.
Additional Audiobook Narration Platforms
Additional platforms where you can work as a freelance narrator include Voice Bunny, Voice123, Fiverr, Upwork, People Per Hour and Freelancer. In each of these companies audiobook narrators are paid for a completed audiobook instead of by royalty sharing with the author.
Voice Bunny is a company that helps its clients create voice over products. This could include audiobooks, radio commercials, movie characters, movie trailers, video games, etc.
Voice Bunny charges a fee per transaction. Once the narrator has negotiated a price with a client, Voice Bunny adds their fee to the narrator’s price. In this way, the price the narrator negotiates is the price they will receive. This is the Voice Bunny web page that discusses the fee structure.
A beginning narrator may charge $50 PFH and earn $350 for a 6.5-hour audiobook. An experienced narrator may charge $200 PFH and earn $1300.
The completed audio you submit must be edited, proofed, and mastered. In general, it cannot contain any mistakes.
Voice123 is a company that provides voice actors to their customers who create commercials, audiobooks, characters in animated movies and videogames, to eLearning, advertising, and product or explainer videos.
Voice123 doesn’t charge fees per transaction – instead, they charge by a membership. The more expensive the membership, the more gig opportunities the narrator will get. The expensive membership gig will also allow the narrator to receive better customer service. This is the Voice123 website listing all of the membership levels.
A union narrator may charge $195 – $235 PFH, whereas a non-union narrator should charge $300 – $350 PFH.
The non-union narrator has higher rates that include editing, proofing, health care, pension, and fee to union master. These values come from the Global Voice Acting Academy’s Rate Guide.
Fiverr is an online market place that allows people to find and purchase a service, and it allows freelancers to grow their business with a steady flow of clients. On Fiverr, narrators set their price and Fiverr subtracts at 20% commission from the narrator’s earnings. This is the Fiverr Terms of Service webpage that discusses their fee structure.
The range of gigs I found for the complete audiobook ranged from $20 PFH to $300 PFH.
The average Fiverr narrator gig was $120 PFH. For a 6.5-hour audiobook, the narrator would earn $780. However, once fees are subtracted, the total earned would be $624.
Upwork is an online market place that allows freelancers to connect with people looking for services or products. On Upwork, narrators set their price and Upwork subtracts their fee from the narrator’s earnings. This is the Upwork web page that discusses their fee structure.
The range of gigs I found for a complete audiobook ranged from $40 PFH to $200 PFH.
The average Upwork gig came in at $97 PFH. For a 6.5-hour audiobook, you as the narrator would earn $630. However, once fees are subtracted the total earned would be $517.
People Per Hour is similar to Upwork.com in that it links freelances with people looking for their services or products. People Per Hour narrators set their own price, and like Fiverr and Upwork, the freelancer must pay the fees to People Per Hour.
This is the People Per Hour webpage that lists the fee structure.
The range of gigs I found for a complete audiobook ranged from $20 PFH – $125 PFH.
The average People Per Hour gig came to $63 PFH. For a 6.5-hour audiobook, you as the narrator would earn $409. However, once fees are subtracted, the total earned would be $341.
Freelancer is a company that connects freelancers with clients. Freelancer narrators set their own price, and pay Freelancer.com a 10% fee per transaction plus a membership fee.
This is the Freelancer webpage that describes their fee structure. In addition, Freelancer has a membership service that guarantees access to a certain number of bids per month. This is the Freelancer membership website.
On Freelancer, narrators charge by the hour. The range of gigs I found for a complete audiobook ranged from $10 PFH – $125 PFH.
The average Freelancer gig came to $52 PFH. For a 6.5-hour audiobook, you as the narrator would earn $338 assuming the lowest-paid membership. However, once fees are subtracted, the total earned would be $303.
Narrator earnings vary significantly depending on the platform you chose to you. Have you worked on any platforms not listed here? Please let me know in the comments below.