Voice Acting

How To Price Projects Exceeding 100,000 Words

Do you ever wonder about how you should quote for projects with enormous word counts?
We’ve worked out a formula you can use for preparing quotes for clients when a script’s word count exceeds 100,000 words.
Take a look at what we’ve shared and also let us know what the word count of the longest script you’ve ever recorded was!
Join the conversation now!

That’s A Lot Of Words!

Earlier today we received an email from one of our voice talent customers who was trying to sort out how much she should charge a client for a 179,000 project. Not a bad problem to have, wouldn’t you agree?

Here’s how we broke down the math:
179,000 words
Average speaking speed is 125 words per minute
179,000 / 125 = 1200 minutes
1200 minutes / 60 minutes in an hour = 20 hours

Having A Finished Hourly Rate

It’s good to have a finished hourly rate for edited material on hand. If the work is comparable to audiobooks, the going rate is between $200-$300 per edited hour. Let’s go with $250.
20 hours X $250/hour = $5000.
As always, when working with clients off the site we recommend 50% upfront and 50% due immediately upon receipt of the finished work.

Quoting for Audiobooks and Other Long Content

Quoting for audio book recordings can be a tricky business. There are so many factors to consider when embarking on an audio book recording, including the length (total word count), complexity of the book, artistic direction, consistency, and technical requirements.

After those formalities are accounted for, then follows the herculean task of bringing the audio book through all of its ups and downs to a graceful completion, including extra time spent editing, mastering, etc.

From what we’ve heard, the average word costs a client somewhere between .01 and .05 (basically, anywhere between a penny to a nickel USD / Canadian).

Examples of irregular or specialty words could be ‘ubiquitous’, ‘lieutenant’, or ‘behemoth’.

Foreign words could be ‘connoisseur’, ‘gnocchi’, or ‘rooibos’.

Technical or medical words could be ‘tetracycline’, ‘idiopathic pericarditis’, or ‘Lymantria dispar’.

The voice talents’ professional responsibilities set aside, the greatest, or, one could say most gargantuan challenge lies in educating people about how much it costs to record an audio book.

Some clients honestly have no idea regarding what an audio book recording should cost. All they are thinking about is selling the book after it’s recorded at a competitive price. Many audio books are sold online at websites for a fraction of the price that one would suppose, simply because the file is available as an MP3 download, an electronic product that costs nothing to reproduce and close to nothing to maintain.

Also, the cheaper the audio book, the more people are likely to buy it, and perhaps, they may buy multiple books while they are there. As I said before, it’s a simple download or file transfer with little to no exertion for the buyer or seller.

While these merchants make money off of the product in small increments, the sales volumes are high. Sales are made over and over again at no additional cost to the merchant save for any advertising they may do to sell the audio book and potential web hosting / accounting fees.

Now, this isn’t the case for all audio book companies. There are some that recognize that they need to properly compensate the voice actor for their work and sell the product for a premium. The fact of the matter is that voice actors everywhere need to remain steadfast regarding what they charge so that there is no confusion where the client is concerned, particularly individuals whose only goal is to make a quick buck.

What’s The Longest Script You’ve Ever Recorded?

Whether in the hundreds, thousands or hundreds of thousands word wise, we’d love to hear from you!

Be sure to comment below or write in via email to let us know.

Best wishes,

P.S. If you’ve had experience quoting for these kind of jobs and want to add your thoughts, feel free to share how you did it too!
©iStockphoto.com/Burak Pekakcan

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  • Avatar for Penny Galloway
    Penny Galloway
    November 1, 2011, 3:43 pm

    The longest script I’ve ever done was an audiobook over 400,000 words. Yikes.

  • Avatar for Karly Nimmo
    Karly Nimmo
    November 1, 2011, 5:08 pm

    I’m recording one at the moment that was supposed to be around the 315,000 mark but it looks like it will well exceed that point!

  • Avatar for Doug Warner
    Doug Warner
    November 2, 2011, 8:39 am

    I just finished one that was 64,000 that was delivered in CD format (6 CD’s). Currently working on one that is 92,000 and have two more in the que behind that, one is 23,000 and the biggest one is about 225,000 words. These are all e-learning audio books with the subject matter being finances with a bunch of legal terms throughout all of them. The editing time has been a nightmare and very time consuming to say the least…Any suggestions on how to make the editing process go quicker would be appreciated…..

  • Avatar for Dan Lenard
    Dan Lenard
    November 2, 2011, 8:39 am

    The ENTIRE Old Testament, (Torah) with the Hebrew pronunciation of names! It took over 8 months, and included the weekly Haftarah readings of the later books of the Jewish texts. All in English in a new translation. Fascinating project! Talk about the “Voice of G-d!”
    Available at Kolmenachem.com “The Jewish Audio Bible.”

  • Avatar for Johnny George
    Johnny George
    November 2, 2011, 10:59 am

    Your formula confused me a bit. I followed your per word rate and hourly rate and my quote came out to $5,966.67. You short-changed yourself by almost $1,000.00.
    I use a different formula but may institute one similar with yours and mine combined.
    Additionally, I’ve usually used the 150 mark as my wpm. A narrative is usually read a bit faster than an audiobook. So we must take that into consideration as per the type of reading we approach in order to be accurate with our quotes.
    Great topic. Love to hear more from others too.

  • Avatar for Howard Ellison
    Howard Ellison
    November 2, 2011, 3:55 pm

    So excited to get a first good-quality book, 65,000 words, and lacking your guide (plus no agent or coach at the time) I quoted about half. But we learn. Along with Doug Warner, I find editing protracted – yet I would hesitate to contract it out as I see it as part of the performance. Somehow it speeds up, once you cost it.

  • Avatar for Karen DeBoer
    Karen DeBoer
    November 2, 2011, 10:02 pm

    Hi–I did notice the math was off on that formula as Johnny did, and I also find my reading pace is typically about 150 wpm. It does help to customize the price to your own average reading pace, but I think David’s guidelines in general were very helpful. This was actually my project, and I haven’t started it yet. I’ve never done a project of this size, so it will be new territory for me!
    One thing I’ve learned that is very helpful in the editing process is to clap when you make a mistake during the recording, so you can go back in the file and know where you need to make the corrections. That way, you aren’t captive to your entire voice file–just the parts that need attention.
    For me, pricing is the most challenging part of my voiceover career, so I am always interested in input on the subject.

  • Avatar for Celia Lynn
    Celia Lynn
    November 3, 2011, 11:23 pm

    For audiobooks, I go by 9,400 words per hour (or 10,000 to round it off). Don’t know where I heard/ read that formula, but it seems pretty accurate for what those that I’ve recorded.

  • Avatar for Deborah Sale Butler
    Deborah Sale Butler
    November 4, 2011, 4:31 pm

    For long projects, I find that “punching in” works best. Unless you are listening down afterwards and discover the mistake, you usually know right away that you messed up, so stop immediately, go back to the last natural break and pick up from there. You’ll see the edit on the wave form and can add your clean-up fades afterwards.

  • Avatar for Peter Stern
    Peter Stern
    November 4, 2011, 5:01 pm

    I’ve been using a completely different method. I charge per word. The price depends on how much work I expect to get from the client. For e-learning projects of up to 8000 words (small by comparison) from a regular client, I charge £0.05 (GBP) per word which is about $0.08 USD. That woul be about $6320 for the example above. However, I do set a minimum price of £200 for anything less than 4000 words.
    Does anyone else charge by the word?

  • Avatar for Sinead McClure
    Sinead McClure
    November 5, 2011, 12:26 pm

    I think it is good to have a baseline but different jobs call for different rates, length isn’t always the clincher – and I would advise caution on the ‘clap’ when you make a mistake to alert you to your edits, it is always better to listen to the entire project, or sections of it (if it is large), as you edit. I was an editor when computers only played pacman, so I have picked up the habit of listening from the analogue editing days, when I had to cut and splice, and usually ended up swathed in tape reel!

  • Avatar for Karen DeBoer
    Karen DeBoer
    November 8, 2011, 9:33 am

    Just a quick comment about the “clap”. I had learned that method from another voice talent and have found it to be incredibly helpful in reducing time in the editing booth, and wanted to throw it out there for Doug, who was looking for ways to reduce his editing time.
    The client will always listen to the entire body of work regardless, and if there are any gaffes, they get back to me with a notation of the spot that needs to be corrected. When it is a small body of work, I always listen to the entire piece, but I have only had a couple of times that my clap method didn’t catch every mistake on long projects, where it may not be realistic to listen to the entire file (unless you are getting paid for post-production, when you can justify the time required to do it.)
    I know everyone has a different approach, and each must do what works best for their particular circumstance, so I would say there is really no “one right way”. It is always enlightening to hear what other talent are doing!

  • Avatar for Corneilius Freemann
    Corneilius Freemann
    December 1, 2011, 2:35 pm

    by the pound

  • Avatar for Himani
    Himani 'Vanita' Gandhi
    December 1, 2011, 2:36 pm

    By a specific time-frame then multiply it by the amount of time it has actually taken 🙂

  • Avatar for Tina
    January 24, 2012, 4:58 pm

    How to answer this questions?
    How much time would it take you to record, edit, and “clean up” a broadcast quality track for the following project – audiobook 5000 words? And how much you charge for this?

  • Avatar for Frank Bona
    Frank Bona
    December 10, 2012, 4:18 pm

    What is the average time it takes to record, edit and clean up a 5000 word project. This is exactly what I’m looking for. I understand the reading formula but haven’t answered the editing and clean-up questions.