One of the enigmas in the publishing industry is quoting for long form narration and audio books. Let’s figure this one out together!

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).

lymantria-dispar.jpgObviously, if certain words are irregular, of foreign origin, or of a technical nature, they will be more expensive per word than regular words like ‘tree’, ‘love’, ‘apple’, or ‘shopping’. 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.

In one of my posts this week, I asked you to give your opinion on the current standard rates sheet at InteractiveVoices. We are going to revise the rate sheet for with your feedback. What have your experiences been recording audio books? Has proper compensation been an issue? Looking forward to hearing from you… Comment on this article!

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Stephanie Ciccarelli is the Co-Founder and Chief Brand Officer of Classically trained in voice, piano, violin and musical theatre, as well as a respected mentor and industry speaker, Stephanie graduated with a Bachelor of Musical Arts from the Don Wright Faculty of Music at the University of Western Ontario. Possessing a great love for imparting knowledge and empowering others, her podcast Sound Stories serves an audience that wants to achieve excellence in storytelling. Stephanie is found on the PROFIT Magazine W100 list three times (2013, 2015 and 2016), a ranking of Canada's top female entrepreneurs, and is the author of Voice Acting for Dummies®.


  1. Don’t confuse “proper” compensation with “higher pay”.
    Proper Compensation is merely an Investment. If the client believes in the final product, they will “invest” a certain amount of money into the talent and production to gain high Quality and long-term Profitability.
    I don’t believe an amateur can expect “high” compensation when they havn’t proved their value for the product… but they can always expect “proper” compensation. A high risk, low yield investment is not very appealing to the Client so they’ll only invest what is proper.
    Since I’ve gleaned a great amount of experience both in performing narration and in directing/producing long-form audio, “proper compensation” is not only Higher for me, but also a more secure and valuable investment for the client. Thus, they’re willing to pay higher, as we both agree that is “proper”.
    If you want your “proper compensation” to be higher… simply prove that the client’s investment in you is both secure and worthwhile (adding to the Quality and Profitability of the final product).

  2. PS: As a director/producer, I’ve seen anywhere from $300 to $750 per Edited Hour of audio … even quotes of $10k and $50k for an 11 Disc audiobook.
    As far as “proper” pay … I’d recommend starting near $300/Edited Hour, and working your way up. Prove the quality and value of your work! If you remain with the “average pay” or “recommended compensation charts” you’ll never believe yourself better than “average” and the client will never pay more for it.
    But in my opinion, that’s only “proper”.

  3. When bidding for a long form job, whether narration or audiobook or others – – don’t forget to discuss the way in which you will handle difficult to pronounce words. The talent has some responsibility here, and so does the client. It is his or her project and they should not automatically expect that the voice talent will always be familiar with every word in every script.
    Ask that the client make some effort to point out certain regional or otherwise unique or unusual pronunciations that may not be readily apparent. For instance, what is the correct pronunciation of the Colorado town “Buena Vista”? You will probably think you know and you will probably be wrong, unless you are familiar with the town or the area. It is not pronounced “Bwayna Vista” as you might think – – it is, oddly enough, corrrectly pronounced “B-you-na Vista”.
    Another one to watch out for is Latin phrases. There are a couple of things that can come up and slap ya here – Some may be of standard Latin pronunciation rules and others may require Ecclesiastical Latin pronunciation rules. One may be appropriate but the client may prefer the other, for reasons known only to him or her.
    Failure to communicate will inevitably end up in time consuming delays for the client and more work for the voice talent.

  4. I have done over 35 audio books for a small publishing house. I started out doing it for their standard rate ($300 for 4 finished hours). After I’d been doing that for a couple of years, I tried to up my rates. They refused.
    I know that people like my stuff. I get positive feedback all the time. The publisher just acts like they will just get some other smoe to do it if I refuse to work for so little.
    How do you put the squeeze on them, when they don’t seem to care? And I’m not sure I could afford to lose the extra income.

  5. I have recorded around 25 audio books for kids.
    Coming to your point, I started out doing it for reasonable rates.
    I think that people should select the best professional speaker, especially talent with good voices.
    I find that people like my stuff. I offer additional value to my clients. As a professional speaker, I get good feedback all the time.
    child audio books


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