Want to make up to $350 per hour as an audiobook narrator? You’re going to want read this. Top audiobook narrators can earn up to $3,000 per book!
Think you don’t have what it takes? Think again. Audiobook narrators are people (just like you) who all started with a dream to bring text to life (and make some money to boot). They all started the same way, and some of them have now made it to the Audible narrator hall of fame.
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How Much Does an Audiobook Narrator Make?
Can you make money as an audiobook narrator?
There are all sorts of ways to gain fame and fortune these days. Some of them are pretty well known, but others don’t always make the news as often – even if they’re multi-billion dollar industries.
Take the world of audiobooks, for example. Books on tape usually don’t make the news, but the voice actors producing them can make staggering amounts of cash.
These audiobook narrators have continued to find work easily as a large section of the public simply doesn’t have the time to sit down and read a book for hours on end.
A good narrator can bring the written word to life with their voice, animating each page to entertain the audience. Publishers snap up professionals with this kind of talent whenever possible, luring them in with massive salaries.
It’s up to you to find out what kind of narration is in demand. You’ll need to make decisions about and work on your tone, inflection, dialect, etc. This will likely mean hours of research.
This can seem like a daunting prospect, but even a moderate amount of success can be surprisingly rewarding.
How much can you make narrating audiobooks on average?
If you’re just starting out, you can get anywhere from $50 to $100 per hour. If you’re more experienced, you can command rates of up to $350 per hour.
Keep in mind, this is per finished hour (PFH) in the actual audiobook, not per hour of work.
So, for example, say you command a rate of $125 PFH, if it takes six hours to read a book, this rate results in a $3,000 payout.
Where to sign up to become an audiobook narrator
While you might be surprised to see Fiverr on this list, don’t be. Fiverr is arguably better for finding comparable talent at a lower price. As the name implies, you can find contract work for as little as $5.
Narrator fees are perhaps the single most expensive fee to account for when producing such a project, so many look to Fiverr to hire.
How much you make depends on experience
This should be no surprise, but the exact amount a person earns for narrating an audiobook will vary based on a few factors.
Take the publishing company offering the work, for example. A smaller outlet will be limited in its ability to offer competitive wages.
On the other hand, they’ll also likely have a smaller talent pool to work with, so you might get more attention upfront. Again, this could be a deciding factor for newcomers.
A narrator’s experience with a particular brand of publication is another crucial point to consider. For example, if you’re more competent at narrating children’s stories, you might not find as much success narrating history books or science textbooks.
There are also foreign languages to consider. If you can speak another language natively, a whole new realm of opportunity could exist for you.
Keep in mind that narrators still working to establish themselves usually don’t get paid industry standard rates.
Can you get paid in royalties?
Royalties have standards, but they can be much more fluid than standard rates. For example, they can be paid out as “x” number of dollars per copy sold or as a percentage.
In either case, your cut can be on the high side if you’re working with a lesser-known publication or agency. On the other hand, if your client or their work is already popular, the royalty will likely be lower.
The way your content is distributed influences the outcome of your royalty rate. By some measures, the average hovers between 25% and 40% of the content’s price.
With many arrangements, half of those royalties actually go to the narrator, and the other half goes to the author or original content producer.
Royalties are fickle. They can take years to manifest due to a variety of reasons. Moreover, interest in the subject matter at hand can wax and wane unexpectedly, among other factors.
Unless new narrators can accept the high probability of making negligible amounts of money for months on end, they’ll have to either make do with the rates offered or do some negotiating.
Is being unionized worth it?
Narrators can join the American Federation of Television & Radio Artists (how to join SAG-AFTRA). This is by the most prominent audiobook narrator union. With them, you’ll earn some $140 per hour.
If you have enough experience, you might be able to push that rate up to $170 or more. Now compare that to comparable un-unionized rates.
Without a union, narrators with respectable resumes can be expected to bring in a maximum of $150 per finished hour (PFH). The difference in average earning capability is clear.
Narrators who choose to join AFTRA will have to pay dues just like with any other union. Their yearly dues would currently amount to about $222.96.
Given the undeniable advantage in terms of income, many new narrators will choose to unionize. Others choose to remain independent, retaining more control over their careers.
The choice is up to you, but you could always try both avenues to see which better suits you.
What’s the average salary of audiobook narrators?
Due to the factors we’ve considered so far, it can be tricky to accurately nail down a particular salary average for audiobook narrators. However, in many instances, it is less trouble to connect the intended average to individual cities.
For example, narrators in the two biggest cities for this field of work – Los Angeles and New York City – can look forward to high average salaries. In New York, the average is $70,000 per year.
In other regions that see a lot less activity, you can find salaries in the $30,000 to $50,000 range.
How much does Audible pay narrators?
Income averages are important for understanding whether or not entering a career is worth the risk and effort entailed. However, once the jobs start trickling in, you must be prepared to learn that the numbers on the ground look slightly different.
These days, one of the most commonly used platforms for audiobook narration is Audible. That’s the audiobook company managed by Amazon. It’s a space where characters from every aspect of the injury can meet and arrange for projects:
- Recording Studios & more
Amazon’s global reach is virtually unmatched. So you can be sure that thousands of entities from the list above will peruse Audible when you decide to launch your narrating career. But what can you be expected to earn there?
Audible allows narrators to collect 50% of total royalties. There’s also the possibility of PFH pay (per finished hour). You can even stipulate both forms of payment if you wish.
As far as that’s concerned, Amazon pays a minimum of $100 PFH for non-union workers and $250 PFH for works unionized with AFTRA. Audible is one of the few top narrator companies that does not charge fees of any sort for the use of their platform.
This is another reason why Audible is popular with enterprising new narrators.
What equipment do you need to get started?
You can’t just jump in and call yourself an audiobook narrator and expect to be taken seriously. You need professional equipment to deliver high-quality work.
You’ll need to invest in a studio space, something quiet is a must. This doesn’t mean you have to rent space somewhere – you can do this from home! Keep in mind though, that you need it to be whisper quiet.
You don’t have to invest in soundproofing. Sometimes, a closet will do.
Get a high-quality microphone and headphones. While you’re at it, get your hands on a pop filter as well. This device covers your microphone so that small sounds like breathing and lip-smacking don’t interfere with the recording.
Don’t skimp on these, as your sound is the work.
Finally, you’ll need software to record yourself and to edit together your best work.
You’ll also need a device to read off of. While you can just use your smartphone, you probably want a tablet to see bigger text. For scrolling, you can use your finger, an Apple pencil, or a soft stylus.
Audiobook narrators: The bottom line
Make no mistake about it, you can make good money narrating audiobooks.
Some seek a full-time career out of it, while others merely look for reasonably passive income to supplement other work.
It’s no secret that some voices are more pleasant to the ear than others, but there’s no reason for less confident aspiring narrators to fret. There are options like voice acting lessons and vocal coaches to help develop your narrating voice.
The final thought is to remember that this is still an acting gig. You’re reciting lines from a script of sorts, and you’ll have to be good to get work. And, practice makes perfect, as with any other skill.