My email inbox continues to provide fodder for blog articles. Last week, someone sent me this question:
I’ve been asked to record a 200 page audiobook. I’m not in a union or guild. I do have some voiceover experience. What do you recommend I charge?
While the question you asked seems simple, the answer requires more explanation, as found in this blog post and the one from Paul Strikwerda linked within it.
As basic info, you need to know the WORD count, not the page count, of the book you would narrate. You can figure out the finished run-time based on the word count. For instance, Audible uses an average rate of speed of 155 words a minute, or 9300 words per finished hour.
Paul’s article shows you a formula to calculate finished time. My article shows you how to calculate the real time required for editing to produce the book. As Paul points out in his comment to my article, you also need to add time for preliminary research.
You’ll have to consider all of these factors about the time commitment along with your experience, relationship with the client, training, and studio equipment to determine a rate that is fair compensation.
Small publishers only pay $50-100 per finished hour. I would only perform an audiobook at that very low rate if I wanted to build commercial credits.
I hope these thoughts are helpful. Best wishes for your continued success!
New Answer (WARNING: MATH IS INVOLVED!)
Apparently, I overwhelmed this person with good information that would require her to actually do some research because she re-posted her question on a voiceover forum within an hour of receiving my reply.
Here’s the simple mathematical formula for solving this problem:
1. Divide the word count of the book by your rate of speech per hour to get the number of finished hours. If you don’t know your rate of speech, Audible uses 9400 words per hour, or 157 words per minute, in its calculation for books posted on ACX.
2. Multiply the number of finished hours by 6. This number is a very conservative estimate of the number of real-time hours you will spend in preparing to read (pre-reading the book, looking up pronunciations, etc.), recording, editing, and transmitting your book. For instance, a 10-hour book may require 60 hours of your life from the time you read the first word until the last byte is uploaded or mailed to the client.
3. Multiply the real-time hours by the hourly rate of pay you need to survive. Chances are very good that you will come up with a pay rate for this audiobook that is $1000s MORE than your client wishes to pay. You have to decide how to negotiate a rate acceptable to both of you.
Even with this formula in hand, you still will want to research current audiobook rates. Just enter “audiobook rates” into Google, and you’ll get a wealth of information. If you want tips for negotiating a higher price, check out my article Cruising for a competitive advantage.
Once you know the amount of time you’ll invest in the project and the amount of money you need to get for your time, you’ll know whether to accept an audiobook project. For instance, I would voice a royalty-share book only if I were passionate about the topic and had the time available for the project. It’s always good to be working and gaining credits if your survival needs are being met.
If you have more thoughts on this topic or questions on other topics related to voiceover, marketing, or just living your best life,, I’d love to get your comments on the blog!