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The Surge In Audiobook Titles, Home Studio,
& Compensation Methods Keep Income Lower
May 21, 2015
See REPORT 1 - Beyond The Numbers: Analyzing Data, Commenting On Comments
See REPORT 2: What Audiobook Narrators Earn; Methods Of Compensation (with graphs and respondents' comments)

By James Conlan
Audiobook Narrator, Voice Talent & Coach
Survey Reports Co-Author

Most audiobooks today are recorded in the narrators' home (or personal) studio. And this trend, coupled with the proliferation of more and more titles, has a direct bearing on a narrator's potential income. Why?

Our analysis of responses and comments in our Audiobook Narrators Business Survey 2015 continues. (Please click here for graphs and respondents' comments).

Questions 8 and 9: Recording and Editing

It’s no surprise that there has been a major shift in where most audiobooks are being recorded and edited these days.

Until the mid-2000’s, this function was handled by the major publishers in their own studios, as well as by independent audiobook production studios located around the country.

These independents purchased the rights to produce an audiobook version of the printed book or e-book. At this level of the industry, production is still an in-house function.

Audible opened the door to home studio recording and editing when it established the Audiobook Creation Exchange (ACX). Now, close to 90% of all audiobook narrators record at least some of their projects in home studios, as estimated from our survey.

Interestingly, roughly 30% of these home narrators report using outside resources for editing and mastering at least some of the time.

Having home studio narration as an option is likely what is powering the audiobbook industry to explode in recent years, especially regarding titles from smaller publishers and self-published books.

We are risking a corollary here - open to challenge: with the proliferation of more choices, few audiobooks will garner a large number of downloads. Therefore, most audiobooks that are home-studio produced are not going to be a lucrative source of income.

For more about this, see below ... 

Questions 10, 11, and 12: Compensation

Although major narrators get flat-fee or fee-plus-royalty deals, payment for most is made either on a royalty-share basis or on a cost per finished hour (CPFH).

Over half of narrators in this survey report earning 20% or less of online sales. Only about 14% of narrators earn over 31% of sales.

Narrators indicate a general desire to move away from royalty and toward CPFH.

Those who do get fees report a wide spread, with about half earning $201 to $300 per finished hour.

Our conclusion about current compensation is that it will take a huge number of online sales of a particular title to earn the narrator any decent return on his or her work.

Slightly better is cost per finished hour, which typically earns the narrator around $2,000 for a 10-hour book.

Some narrators observed that it’s worth determining the likelihood of high sales before undertaking a royalty-based project. But so far, no one has offered a way to predict this - even when sales of print and e-book versions have been strong.  

Question 13: Annual Earnings

Answers to this question pretty much reflect the situation in any performance-based business: most people don’t make much narrating audiobooks.

Over 60% of the survey's participants reported annual earnings under $10,000. Barely one percent earn over $100,000.

Depending on whether one wants to earn a living or just a supplementary income, it’s good at least to note that 20% of respondents fall into the category of $20,000 to $100,000.  

Next, Report #3: Are Narrators Satisfied?

John Florian is a voice actor and publisher of VoiceOverXtra, the voice over industry's online news, training and resource center. A former print publishing executive and magazine editorial director, he founded VoiceOverXtra in 2007, which today offers the voice over community industry news, how-to features, online and workshop training, the Voice Over Legal guide, and an ever-growing online resource center of articles and links. In 2013, he produced Voice Over Virtual, a major online industry conference.

Jim Conlan has led a dual career for most of his adult life: advertising executive and voice talent. As a founder of Radio Works, he has written and produced thousands of radio commercials for clients all over the country. As a voice talent, he learned from some of the best in the business by directing on an almost daily basis. Jim now devotes most of his time to training voice talent, doing voice over projects, and narrating audiobooks. Some 40 titles are currently available on Audible under the name, James Conlan. "So I wasn't just a co-author of the survey," Jim says, "I was a respondent!"

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Comments (1)
Earl Thomas
8/17/2016 at 12:39 PM
Any advice for a 1st time voicing of a audio book. it is 121 pages long incdles intro & conclusion, 5 chapters
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