How To Bid An Audiobook

audiobook-2No matter how much you want to voice a particular audiobook project, it’s prudent to follow certain procedures in the bidding process—or you might find yourself working for free—or even losing money in the process.

Audiobooks are notoriously low paying voice-over jobs. As many well known talents will tell you, you’ve got to love storytelling or it’s not worth it! It’s a lot of work! However, many find it so rewarding.

So how much do narrators make? Audiobook narrators typically make between $150 (for beginners or unknowns) to $350 per finished hour, from what I’ve gleaned talking to others. (No one knows exactly what talent make.) Of course, stars who are hired for abridged retail versions of audiobooks make much more.

But how can you know what to bid? Determine what it will be worth to you to do the job. As with any job, if you bid too high you risk losing it. If you bid too low, you risk regretting getting the job! So ask yourself some questions.

1) Will you enjoy voicing this particular project? 2) How long is the book? 3) Can you complete it by their deadline? 4) Will you edit it yourself or hire an editor? 5) Is it full of characters and accents? If so… does that excite you or intimidate you? (If it’s hard for you it could take you a looooooong time to voice, and your editor a looooong time to edit all of your mistakes. It may not be a good fit for you if you come to the end and find you made $11 per hour!!!)

Then determine how much time it will take you to voice the book. Not all 200-page books are alike! Some can take you much longer than others to voice! Here’s how you do that:

Take two pages of the book and narrate them. Time how long it takes you to voice those pages. That will give you an idea of what time it might take you on average to narrate a page. For example, let’s say (for the purpose of demonstrating we’ll use round numbers) it takes you 10 minutes to do two pages. That’s 5 minutes per page… 5 X 200 (pages) = 1000 minutes. That’s 16 2/3 hours of narrating.

Note that two pages of technical and difficult copy can take a lot longer than two pages of easy reading aimed at middle school students. So you’ve got to do this step for each book to accurately determine how long the job will take you. How many finished hours does the client estimate the book being? Perhaps eight? If they pay $250 per finished hour….then it’s $250 x 8 = $2000 you’d make for the book. That’s just for the narration part.

Editing typically takes two hours for every hour you spend recording (in my experience) so you’d be paying an editor for 32 hours, as well. Or you’d spend that time doing your own editing. So approximately 48 man-hours will go into the book. If you do all the editing, then divide $2000 by 48 and you see you’ll make about $42/ hr. If you hire an editor for less than that, you’ll work less and make more. (Editors typically charge anywhere from $15-$30 per hour.)

Do the math and decide if it’s worth it to you to spend the time to voice the book, and if you should hire an editor. Some of the more established narrators make more per finished hour, and publishers pay for the editing.

Another option is revenue share. More and more authors and publishers are opting for revenue share contracts with narrators. With the right book, this could be quite lucrative. With the wrong book, you won’t make much. A revenue share deal could let you get your feet wet and land your first book. But you’ll be doing all the editing yourself—or paying out of pocket for someone else to do it. Your reward—great or small—comes later.

I hope this is helpful information to you. Believe me… I speak from experience. If you don’t calculate this in advance, you could find yourself working hours and hours with little or no compensation other than a job well done!

Julie Williams

About Julie Williams

Julie Williams has voiced thousands of commercials and narrations, and eLearning scripts, as well as many other voice-overs. She is an active audiobook narrator, and was a 2012 Audie Finalist. Julie has also taught at such notable events as VO2013, The VoiceLympics Cruise, and multiple VOICE Conferences. She is a nationally recognized voiceover coach, and has coached hundreds of talent worldwide to reach their full potential. Julie is available for private coaching via Skype for a limited number of students.

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