Indie authors often ask how much it costs to create an audiobook. This is a big question to answer and there are so many variables to it! So I’ll explain all the various options and give some basic costs but there is no one answer.
Royalty Share (RS):
What is royalty share? It is where the narrator and author (also called Rights Holder or RH) split the royalties from the sales of the book. It’s usually split 50/50. There is no upfront cost of authors here, which seems like a huge benefit but it’s a huge risk for narrators as we spend a lot of time and usually a lot of money to produce a book. So if the author doesn’t have a marketing plan or proven sales, it may be hard to find a narrator to work on a RS contract.
Per Finished Hour (PFH):
Per Finished Hour is being paid based on how long the books is when completed. The union minimum for non edited audio is approximately $250pfh (I believe it’s around $350 for finished/edited audio). So a 4 hour book would range between $1,000 to $1,400 for a book. This may seem a lot but I’ll go into that in a bit.
Royalty Share Plus (RS+) or Royalty Hybrid:
This can be called various things but in essence it’s a combination of the two types of agreements above. Where the narrator receives a smaller per finished hour to cover some of the post production costs and royalties (still usually 50/50).
Royalty Deferred (RD):
This is only available from the amazing Audiobooks Unleashed. They are a great distribution company that I love working with. Royalty deferred is unique and allows the narrator to receive 100% royalties until they meet their PFH minimum. So no up front costs on the author and the narrator gets a bit more until a predetermined amount is met (at that point, you can send all the royalties to the author or split them at a different split such as 50/50 or 70/30, etc.). This can also be combined with a lower PFH to help cover costs.
Post Production Costs
So what are these post production costs I’ve been talking about? Most professional narrators will hire out other professionals to make the best audiobook possible! We hire out proofers, editors, mastering and even sometimes prepping! Proofers listen to the audio we’ve recorded and make sure it matches the text and also if there are any random noises that were missed, those types of things. Editors/Mastering cleans up the audio and make sure it hits all the specs for the distribution platforms. We hire this out because most of us aren’t audio engineers, we are narrators! Some of us know how to do this post production but hiring out gives us more time to narrate more books (because post production takes a LONG time!). The price for these services typically range from $80-$100 per finished hour for all that.
So as you can see it’s a pretty variable answer and each narrator is a bit different with their rates and it all depends on the project.