Money Talks – Paying, and Getting Paid, For Your Audiobook.

Authors, publishers, agents, circle up. Today, we’re going to talk money. ACX offers two different options when it comes to paying for your audiobook. You can also choose between two distribution options, which affect how much you stand to make from your audio sales. So let’s take a start-to-finish look at the different options you have on ACX when it comes to dollars and cents.

Planning Your Budget

Budgeting is one of the first things you should think about when preparing to get your book produced in audio. ACX offers two ways to compensate your producer: pay a “per finished hour” rate (PFH) when you approve the final audio, or enter into a royalty share agreement, where you pay the producer nothing up front, but agree to split your portion of the royalties 50-50 on the back end. The biggest consideration here is whether you have the funds to pay for your production up front, or whether you’d prefer to share royalties from sales. Both have their benefits – one allows you to keep your full portion of your royalties, the other gives you a marketing partner who is equally invested in the project, but it’s important to know which is right for you.

P4P: Is it 4 You?

Paying a per-finished-hour rate, what we call “pay for production” (or P4P) on ACX, is the traditional model of paying for an audiobook production. A good estimate of industry standard rates for retail ready audiobook production breaks down as follows: roughly $200 PFH for narration and another $200 PFH for the post production work (editing, QC, mixing and mastering). Rates can vary from producer to producer and from project to project of course. It’s also important to understand what you’re paying for, and the skill and time that goes into it. On average, it can take about four hours of work to produce one hour of finished audio. Your narrator is usually spending two hours reading in the booth and another two to three hours editing, mixing and mastering for each finished hour of audio. So while a rate of $300-$400 PFH may seem high, it makes sense when you understand the works that’s gone into it.

When budgeting for a P4P deal, the other factor to consider is the length of your title. We estimate that about 9,300 words equals one hour of finished audio (you can learn how to get an accurate word count for your title here). So, with that in mind, you can contact producers on ACX and negotiate  a fair rate for producing your title.

The Revolutionary Royalty Share

Of course, not everyone wants to pay their producer up front. For those that want to go a different route, ACX offers the royalty share payment model. Under these terms, you, the rights holder, forgo up front payment. Your producer will do the same work described above, and deliver the same retail-ready audio product. The time spent, and the value of the producer’s work is the same as if they were being paid up front. That’s why it’s extra important to have a solid plan for how you’ll market your title, and how your producer can fit into that plan. Choosing to split the royalties can get you a “partner in crime,” and double the marketing force behind your audio version.

It’s important to note that the royalty share option is only available when you grant ACX exclusive distribution of your title. Which brings us to:

Distribution – Exclusive or Non-Exclusive

The other big consideration for an ACX rights holder is whether to choose exclusive or non-exclusive distribution. This is a very in-depth topic, and much more detailed information on distribution and royalty rates can be found on our site. In brief, ACX will distribute your title to Audible, Amazon and iTunes. If you choose exclusive distribution, we will make your book available through these three channels and pay you an escalator royalty rate that starts at 50%, and increases in your favor the more you sell. With non-exclusive distribution, your book will still be available for purchase though the sites above, but you retain the right to sell or distribute it in any other way you wish. As we mentioned before, the royalty share method of paying your producer is only available with exclusive distribution.

Which combination of payment and distribution is right for you? Only you can know for sure, and it can vary from project to project. But with the information above, you should be well situated to make an informed, intelligent choice!

Which payment and distribution methods have you worked for you on ACX? Tell us in the comments!

11 responses to “Money Talks – Paying, and Getting Paid, For Your Audiobook.

  1. Greetings! Thanks for another informative article.

    I wanted to make a slight adjustment to the estimated number of hours needed to produce a finished hour and offer a few other observations.

    I tell authors and new narrators that it can take a conservative 6 hours in real time to produce 1 finished hour.

    As you stated, it does take 4-5 hours to record, edit, and master the recordings. However, that 4 hours STARTS when I get in the booth.

    Prior to recording, I’ve spent time actually READING the book once for flow. I’ve made some choices about character voices for fiction works. I’ve also researched pronunciations for any words I don’t know.

    The pronunciation research can be an extremely time-consuming task, especially with non-fiction books. For instance, I’m currently recording Kathleen P. Chamberlain’s fascinating account “In the Shadow of Billy the Kid: Susan McSween and the Lincoln County War”. This book contains numerous Spanish and Native American words, as well as historical names. I researched all of these words prior to recording.

    It would be nice if one could just Google a name and have an audio clip of the correct pronunciation appear as the first result. Reality doesn’t work that way. If I have the time to be thorough, I could spend 5-30 minutes searching the web and making calls just to get one correct pronunciation.

    Pay for production deals usually include enough money for a producer/narrator to hire researchers, editors, and proofers. On a royalty share deal, all of those tasks generally fall to the producer/narrator. Rights holders who provide pronunciation guides and/or research assistance may find narrators more willing to work on a royalty share agreement.

    However, many narrators refuse to work on any royalty share deal because all of the risk is with the narrator. A narrator might invest 40, 50, 60 hours or more in an audiobook and have abysmal sales due to lack of promotion and visibility.

    Where the rights holders may view an audiobook simply as an additional income stream, a narrator has to weigh the opportunity cost of the project. Time spent on audiobook production means potential income lost in other areas, whether from voice-over or acting clients or in other fields of work.

    I have undertaken numerous royalty share deals on ACX. Since the time commitment is great, I usually require 3-4 months on the contract so that I can continue to accept and perform work that pays up-front during audiobook production.

    I hope these thoughts are helpful to your readers and look forward to performing more audiobooks through ACX!

    Karen Commins
    My audiobooks at Audible:

    • All good points Karen. Thanks for providing our readers with additional insight into the audiobook production process!

  2. Thanks for the insider’s look into how a narrator works, Karen. I’m only working on my second audiobook now and I have a whole new respect for voice actors!

  3. Johnny Jackson

    I’am interested in making my book audio. ONR MAN’S RIDE THROUGH THE AMERICAN CIVIL WAR is a historical fiction novel with several different caractors. It was published by Booklocker and listed on Amizon. I would be happy to send you a copy so you can evaluate.   Johnny Jackson author                                                   Thank you


  4. Karen’s comment on the pronunciation is really spot on. I dealt with this in the greek play we recently produced by posting an audio pronunciation guide on my website so that the talent could hear my pronunciation before we went into the studio. FYI we had 18 hours of studio time to get 90 minutes of recorded time. Granted, this is a full-cast play.
    Non-exclusive, needless to say!

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  6. Thank you so much, Karen, et al., for your comments.
    Many of us VO actors who have done commercials are interested in this new market. Obviously, it is not as easy for the narrator- producer as it sounds. I just finished the intro to VO production classes at the SAG Foundation. Having cut audio for a documentary, where voices are real-people authentic, I was impressed at the level of skill required to produce a “polished” sound. The time it requires to research, learn the intricacies of the software for editing and producing an acceptable finished master is notable.

  7. Appreciate your comments, Karen. I’m looking to having an audiobook made for my historical fiction work. I would definitely provide research, help on pronunciation because I know it’s a big undertaking to narrate. I know my book’s audience and would be an avid promoter of the audio version.

  8. Pingback: The ACX Author’s Audiobook Checklist | Audiobook Creation Exchange Blog (ACX)

  9. I’m considering producing a poem that will only end up at around one tenth of an hour. How does the P4P rate work on this? Is there a minimum up-to-one hour rate? For example: the P4P rate is $100 but you get $100 for anything up to the first hour? Or would you just get $10 for a tenth of an hour?

  10. Pingback: How to Begin a Successful Author/Producer Relationship by Kelli Shane | Self-Publishing Author Advice from The Alliance of Independent Authors

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