AUDIOBOOK NARRATORS SURVEY - REPORT 5
From 'Slave Labor' to 'My Passion And Love,' Audiobook Narrators Rant And Rave ...
September 10, 2015
See Report 1: Levels Of Experience, What And How They Narrate
See Report 2: What Narrators Earn, Methods of Compensation
See Report 3: Are Narrators Satisfied With Earnings?
See Report 4: How To Break Into And Work The Majors
By John Florian and Jim Conlan
Survey Report Co-Authors
Boom! Do you hear that? Do you feel it?
If you're an audiobook narrator you are experiencing the boom-time years of the audiobook business - as U.S. sales of audiobooks double annually and are expected to have reached or topped $2 billion in 2014. That's alota money. And alota work.
Yet how are you - as a narrator - faring in all this?
Earlier this year, VoiceOverXtra's Audiobook Narrators Business Survey-2015 invited narrators to share their situations and experiences. And responses from the 300 participants - at all levels of experience, working relationships and income - led to a series of reports (see links above) about what they do and how they do it, their income and more.
Along with graphs and analysis, many reports include dozens of comments from participants - some quite feisty.
QUICK RECAP ...
Not surprisingly, income is a hot
topic (seen in the graph below from Report #2).
Slightly more than half of the respondents said they were "somewhat” or
"very” unsatisfied with earnings, considering the time they put into narration (Report #3).
Another 18% was "neutral” about it.
And among the 3% who are "very” satisfied,
we would naturally count the 4 respondents earning more than $100,000 a year on
On the other side, 64% report earning
under $10,000 per year on narrations. Yet, enroute to the big time, another 10%
reported $50,000 to $100,000 annually for narrations. And remember – that could
be in addition to other voice over work.
A key to the higher earnings is
to break away from entry-level jobs to work directly with major publishers.
The Audiobook Creation Exchange (or ACX) is the online marketplace where
narrators can bid on jobs – and that’s largely seen as an entry point for new
narrators. Report #4 has lots of advice from
respondents on how to reach and work directly with major publishers.
FINAL REPORT HERE
The survey's last question was: "Anything else to tell us - about your situation or the audiobook narration business in general?"
And wow - we got an earful, which you're going to 'hear' in the 100+ comments below.
Several threads run through the
majority of comments. For example:
Much of this is disparaging and discouraging, of course. And
yet, respondents also said over and over again: They will continue to narrate for
the love of it, if not for the money.
- There are too
many sub-par narrators and too much sub-par production.
- A flood of unqualified narrators compete for titles, which dilutes
- There's disappointment in Audible – a dominant audiobook publisher – and its ACX
division for lowering the royalty payment scale.
- While credited with opening the floodgates to narration opportunities, ACX is often vilified for the ensuing tide of low quality in narrations and production.
- So-called 'old school' narrators observe industry changes and share perspectives on how to survive the business long-term.
narrators may have high expectations yet receive low pay.
frustration in trying to break into upper echelons of the business.
One question we did not ask: How to refer to the name of this industry? Is it audiobooks or audio books? Of course, there would not have been consensus there. It's much like the usage of voice over, voiceover and voice-over!The many, many comments below are presented in the order in which their survey responses were received. And grammarians take note: you'll see variations in spellings between the U.S. and U.K. participants.
Thank you VERY much if you participated in this extensive survey - you've been instrumental in establishing benchmarks of current work standards and experiences.
And thank you for following these five reports, which we hope will guide your audiobook narration career in the direction you seek.
LAST QUESTION: WHAT ELSE TO TELL US?
- I use audiobooks
to fill in time to keep the studio busy. The ROI time-wise is just not there,
in my opinion, to pursue it harder than I do.
I am semi-retired and do audiobook
production work as a hobby-business. It would be impossible for me to
actually earn a living doing this work. There is not enough profit in it.
- It's a great opportunity. I honestly only
do it to "fill" between VO gigs. I believe if developed it could be very good income for me.
For the most part, I have had wonderful
experiences with the authors. Except for the one who decided to post
her Christian book on Audible.com without paying me, each one of the authors
has been gracious and easy to work with.
- ACX used to pay a higher royalty to
each of us. Now it is 20%. Also, there
is a bounty for new clients of $25, which sounds great, but when they offer
free membership to Audible.com and people have the ability to get a free
book, then there's no bounty provided. So, the author and narrator lose.
- I have a full-time job outside of audiobook
narration because I make so little narrating. My (number of) book sales since July 2012 is 308, so there's no chance in making a
living with those kinds of sales.
would love to be able to work with a large publishing company and actually
get paid appropriately for the long hours I put into each of these books.
I appreciate that publishers will pay
more per finished hour since I produce a product that just needs a little
editing, but I wish I could just narrate and not have to be a sound engineer
as well - I'm not trained for that!
- Royalty share is the worst type of business.
about $.25/hour and tie yourself up in knots for about 2 months on each
project. BOTTOM LINE ROI, Now doing ONLY $$$/FINISHED HOUR.
- I did a major dive into the business a few
years back and love the work and the people.
- I have found that I have not
had the time to devote to doing the books, so have had to shift my focus.
I am looking forward to finding the way to have audiobooks be a nice
supplemental revenue stream without completely taking over my existence.
- This is an industry that totally
exploits wannabe narrators, in exchange for low quality. The major books for
major publishers are not done by wannabes. They are done by agent represented
elites. The only way to get there is to have been there at the transition
from Books On Tape to digital, or you are one in several thousand
that has the actual talent to do it to the standards of the major publishers.
Most books narrated are vanity published garbage. ACX and Audible are a
cancer. There isn't enough volume in their sales to make it worthwhile.
Self-published books should be done by the authors, or the narrators should
be properly compensated for the time and effort it takes to produce them.
ACX's quality standards are based on analog audio Books on Tape
standards, not modern digital recording standards. Is it Art vs. Business, or
total exploitation because of the demand for recorded material. And.... is it
exploitation of the fact that people can't read very well.
- Underpaid and saturated with unqualified
UK BEHIND US?
- I think it's the bedrock of Voice Over
right now. And I think it's a proving ground for those with definite acting
chops, vs. people with stereotypically pretty voices. Commercials and the
like have become a numbers game. Ya know, how many auditions can you crank
out in a day, and then you just hope you land one out of every 75. But if you
can land audiobook work in enough volume to have you working 40-50 hours a
week, it's possible to join that magical 6-figure club.
Looking forward to receiving
professional training and creating a business
- Persevere. Keep working with a coach and
open yourself up to learning always.
- We're way behind in the UK in terms of
home studio production for audiobooks, and though many VOs have home studios,
audio quality and tech knowledge are often not up to snuff.
The majority of UK publishers (including Audible UK) are largely wedded to
pro studios and to casting via agents. Hopefully this will change with the
realisation that home studio production values and quality can be comparable
to pro studios. Sadly, the preoccupation of publishers with getting well-known or celebrity voices is more difficult to break down - not helped by
the fact that Audible pays so little attention to the names of narrators -
narrator profiles and narrator's names alongside the author names on book
titles would help. On ACX narrators and authors do the work - this is not
reflected in the payment percentages, and quality goes down. Most UK
published books on ACX are pretty poor quality, and established UK authors
and narrators are unwilling to get involved. Hope for improvements may be hope in
- More emphasis needs to be placed on
quality. The market is being flooded with poor production and narration. This
is souring the taste of prospective listeners who may try a few books and
then quit listening. Poor Quality will have an effect on sales, which will
keep the dollars from flowing to professional narrators.
Audible/Amazon/iTunes needs to set their standards higher. ACX opened the
gates to subpar performances.
- Lots of folks get into this with the
idea that because they read to their library kids, that a narration career
will be easy. It is easy to get into, but the acting, technical, and business
learning curves are huge. And, sadly, there are about a bazillion groups out
there promoting narration 'training', selling basic information you can get
from the ACX blog or YouTube for free.
WHY DO IT?
- I have come to the conclusion - after several books and lots of wheel
spinning - that to be a successful independent narrator, you need a BUSINESS
PLAN FIRST. Sure, it should include,
training and equipment, however, 'Success' must be a defined goal with a
business and promotion plan to achieve it. I would love to see the groups selling the narration dream promote a real
world business approach before 'how to narrate.' A college curriculum approach might not
sell as well up front, but the graduates of this type of course would have
a better chance of long term success, and not being stuck in ACX.
To research, narrate, edit, proof and
master a typical audio book takes about four hours for every finished hour.
That's about 40 hours of work for a ten-hour book ... a full work week. It is vexing for professionals who are used to earning fees based on hourly
rates, to have to settle for royalty or finished hour deals. It seems that
Audible in particular has a gold mine in revenues, at the expense of the
narrator. Once Audible has taken its 60-percent cut, the publisher does
nothing to produce the audio book, yet splits the balance of royalties with
Narrator earnings are further eroded by Audible's various discount
policies, which may result in free or dirt-cheap audio book prices.
- Why do we do it? First because we love doing it; second we get a bit of
prestige - at least occasionally. But we should be earning more!
I just sort of fell into it. I did a
couple of voice overs for a friend's website. Someone asked if I would want to
do the narration for their audiobook.
- ACX has opened the industry to a vast
number of narrators. I'm thinking the
days of Random House investing in a director, an engineer, a proofreader, a
narrator, and doing all this in only two studio locations is both out of date
and unsustainable. Rather than get swamped, I do hope the "big guys" will adapt - and
recognize personal professional studio standards being advanced by the
World-Voices Organization (WoVO), and allow in an online talent pool that can
only improve the industry for audiobook consumers.
NEWBIES GETTING STARTED
- Would like to do more work, make more
Books waste my time unless I pay editor!!
- I have found that authors can be very
helpful following auditions, whether I'm selected or not. I have also found that there's a wonderful
camaraderie among the VO actors in the industry. They want to help each other and are
delighted when you get a gig, even if that means they didn't. It's growing and the work is there for
us, but as with any industry it will not just fall into your hands. You have
to market yourself.
Just starting out and guardedly
optimistic about the future of the industry.
It never hurts to know the right people
in the right places
It's a lot of fun and I get better and
Need more paying work!
- I am still very new, and my earnings
only reflected 6 months of work last year. It took me 6 months in the business before I got my first offer for a
- There are a number of things I'd change
with ACX as narrator, but if you're new to the industry - narrator or Rights
Holder - I can't imagine a better place to start and learn and earn, all at
the same time.
I am very picky about what and when I'll
audition for something. But then, I like other areas of voiceover work better
than audio books. Others prefer audio books, so perhaps their comments will
have more value! If I continue to do audio books, I will consider hiring an
editor. I have had editors in the past (proof editors) and thought it worked
OK, but in those cases, I still had to do quite a bit of editing prior to the
review. If I was in a major market with a major publisher, I think I might
like the process better. As much as I like to edit, I like it much better
when all I have to do is perform.
- Long-anticipated BEE Audio arrived in
UK. I went through the hoops and was accepted.
Rates quoted then at about 95 GBP per finished hour. With time factored in for research,
recording, retaking and editing, this won't pay the mortgage. And, as this is anonymous, I can say I am very, very good, love the books
more than any other work, but can't afford to give them the time.
SHOW ME THE MONEY
- A gripe: authors other than the
already famous don't get publicised. Audio versions don't even get reviewed.
Audiobooks are one part of my overall
career strategy. Because I'm Union, they help ensure that I will continuously
make enough to stay qualified for my health insurance and contribute to my
retirement. For that reason alone, I am grateful! I also find them to be one
of the most challenging and creative forms of voice work. It is something you
definitely have to love to do, though, because of the time and energy
- With a lot of hard work and discipline,
success can be achieved through means as simple as ACX.
- Authors and
Publishers need to be educated about the process of audiobook narration. And
ACX frankly, needs a competitor that will allow narrators to be able to take
on royalty share projects to benefit the author and narrator! My company has
been pulling $6,000 plus per month from ACX for two years! Do the math on what
that puts their share at what they make off me. I don't feel they put in more
time or effort than I do, so why should I get less of the royalty?
WONDERFUL, ENJOYABLE PROFESSION
- Authors and narrators need to get paid
- If I had it all to do over again, I'd
have built one more room within the room, and started sooner.
It's not too late to modify my studio, but I'm not getting any younger.
Works well for me as a union talent in a
- There's a real dichotomy (as in the rest
of our society) between "old school" narrators and "new
school" - old school being the guys who worked for the majors for many
years in publisher-owned studios, and the new home studio narrator/producer
model. I have to laugh (try not to sneer) at the old school guys who gripe
about "I'm a narrator - I don't want to do all that other stuff."
I work and study my craft nearly
obsessively. Surely there will be reasonable compensation somewhere down the
road? I look forward to establishing professional relationships outside of
ACX, and long to work with a director. This seems like a great advantage,
though it is also a joy to control all parts of a project.
I have been extremely lucky to have
found several very talented authors who like my narration. I also have the good fortune to be asked to
narrate all four of the "Little Women" series - all 38 and a half hours
of it - and although there are several versions of the first and second
books, I am the only crazy person to narrate all four! Classics sell consistently well, so I can
afford to narrate books by new authors that I happen to enjoy and not be too
reliant on their initial sales for income.
I still cannot believe I have found such a wonderfully enjoyable and
fulfilling profession. I love every
minute of the whole process - even editing!
I am not sure if slow sales of my
finished books are related to my performance or the reputation of the author. I am disappointed in the sales
through ACX. However, I enjoy this work and will persist.
- Being British in the states I get
audiobook auditions from different sources than places like ACX, and as I do a
lot of children audiobooks, I think this is slightly easier than long form
- This is a very fickle business, just like
the rest of voice-over, I find. Even though I was going strong for the first 9
months of last year with one audiobook project after another, I've not had a
booking since September 2014 and it's not for lack of auditions or promoting
I'm at the point now that I'm considering (though not really that
seriously), taking on a straight royalty share just to be working again, but
know that's not really possible for me with all the work that the
narration/editing process takes - and especially because this is my main form
of voice work
- I love narration and it's really a pleasure doing it when it's happening,
but the audition process is so taxing sometimes, and lately hasn't been paying
itself off, but I'm trusting that this will change soon!
- My narrations have been well received
and I'd like to do more compensated work. There appears to be few, if any,
audiobook publishers in the San Francisco bay area. The one I did find said
they had a full roster of readers and were not auditioning new talent. I'd
be happy to record remotely and would appreciate any suggestions you might
As with all Voice Over work, it is very
difficult to break into the work offered by the Major Publishers. At my present level, the "hard
work" of long narration is becoming a deterrent for continuing in the
business without receiving better compensation. Apparently, my talent is lacking and I am
somewhat discouraged, though I pursue education and instruction from some of
the best teachers in the business.
- My business has grown particularly over
the last 24 months. I am now doing exclusively audio books. I stopped pay to
play altogether. I'm certainly not a
major player, but I thank God I am growing.
At 70 years young I've started this 2nd career, which has turned to
nearly full time.
I also volunteer to narrate for the Iowa
State Department for the Blind.
MAKING UP THE RULES ...
- Audible Studios should seek out and hire
more of us ACX-based narrators, especially when we obtain Audible Approved
There should also be more promotion for us Audible Approved Producers to
major publishers. Give us a Highlight
page similar to what Audiofile Magazine and the Audio Publishers Association
does for Narrators.
- It is very difficult to get the attention of other major publishers. I know - I've been trying to break into
other big audiobook publishing companies for 2 years now.
It would be great if publicists who deal
with publishers or authors who contact us could be allowed to act as a
mediator, like with an agent for actors ...but that is not allowed by the
union. I have lost work because of this.
- It is a fairly new medium, run by people
who make up the rules as they go along and who are not necessarily qualified
to do so. There are people trying to make money (and they do) from
inexperienced newcomers who have no acting ability or vocal skills by setting
themselves up as narration Gurus, inventing their own terminology and
offering to demystify the acting process. The same applies to audio production, where there are a huge number of
so-called experts making money from
newcomers by offering technical advice (at a price), making the process
of recording more complicated and treating it as some kind of
rocket-science. The industry is
peppered with these charlatans. Quality of production is appalling due to the
pressure to produce quickly and move on to the next book. Just listen to
samples posted on ACX. I'm an
experienced actor and capable sound recorder with over 37 years of experience
and this is my overview. The business
is also terribly incestuous.
I'm glad to be in it! Although it's
strange and sad that rates have decreased over the years. There also seems to
be a lot more people thinking anyone can do this, or I should say, do it
well. As someone who works regularly on ACX, I take great care and pride in
producing quality work, and the lower rates that non-professionals will
accept there, and the sub par work, are resulting in poor product. I strongly
believe this brings down the whole business.
- The abundance of home studios has
watered down the "good narrator" market.
Everyone with a closet and a mic suddenly thinks they have the craft to
narrate and desire to be compensated far above their value - which is
negligible at best in many cases.
EDITING ADDS TIME
- The opportunity to work is there for the ACTOR willing to hone his
craft. It is not for people who have a
voice box and a computer. So there.
- The 'bar' has been
so lowered in the AB world that I don't know if it will ever recover. And I don't blame digitalization or any
other technology. The large
producers/publishers like Audible, Random House, Tantor, Brilliance,
Highbridge, Harper, Penguin, etc., regard ABs as a cash cow. It's the only area in publishing that's
making any money, and those folks are gonna squeeze that sponge as hard as
they can for as long as they can. They
don't care about the art of storytelling, they care only about the bottom
line, how low they can keep that per finished hour cost. End of story.
- I am very concerned
that actors and others working non-union and below union minimums are
undermining their own ability to do this work professionally in the future,
as well as that of those of us who currently depend on this work as full time
Quality is important. If you
are new to this work, I strongly encourage you to work with a director and
make sure you are using the highest quality recording equipment and studio
that you can.
That said, not everyone will be able to "break in" to this work
or be successful at it. Not all voice
actors are suited to long form narration, just as not all actors are suited
to on-camera work or Shakespeare. Keep
your expectations realistic.
- I do my own
editing and am a bit of a perfectionist, which adds time to the process, but
all my authors and publishers have commented on the quality, so I feel it is
Would like to try the publishing house experience (and not having to edit!),
but the pfh rates without royalty (and that snowball's chance of a
blockbuster!) seem awfully low at $200-$400pfh.
- I enjoy narrating audiobooks and want to
make a living doing so. I need to make a business plan and market myself.
Just a point of interest, I believe the
APA (Audio Publishers Association) is the only organization that offers any sort of benefit to narrators, in
the way of mixers, webinars, and APAC. I currently serve on the Executive Board of World-Voices.org, and am
the Chair of the committee called "Narrator Resource Station,"
which is a special interest division of World-Voices. We are working to develop the same (and
hopefully more!) benefits for narrators, including social gatherings,
webinars, helpful resource materials such as "FAQ" sheet about the
industry, best practices, and compilations of popular threads on social media
(think topics such as "what's the best remedy for a sore throat" or
"do you have to have a perfect repository of accents in order to be a
narrator?" etc.) Membership fees are very reasonable and I invite you to
check out our new website at www.world-voices.org if you are interested.
There's too much self-promotion involved
for my taste. I accept being my own
engineer and researcher, in addition to narrating; but I balk at being my own
agent and doing my own public relations. So I don't get as much work as I might if I were enthralled by social
TOO MUCH WORK!
- More and more is expected of narrators
as time goes on - for less and less money. ACX has contributed to the
downfall of talented narrators vying for its titles by encouraging rights
holders to engage in questionable practices that pros steer clear of.
Since narrating and producing 10 books
for ACX, I've decided to break away from audiobooks and move into other niche
markets of voice over. I don't feel ACX has the narrator/producer's best interests at heart. They cut the royalty share from 25% to 20%
last year, which is a big de-motivator for me.
Even though I've been to APAC, I still
don't know how to get work with other publishers (the big guys). I'd like to
know how-to get in, but I haven't had any luck...so far. I have set goals for
this year to find out how-to and then do it!
- Only having been involved in Audio Book
Narration for 3 years, I still consider myself to be a newbie...I'm open to
new ideas and new areas to audition for opportunities.
Too many narrators in the business.
- Just begun, but my goal is to work for
major publishers in Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Young Adult or other similar genre. If
not that, I'll take pretty much anything - as long as I get paid.
- I am looking to work with non-ACX
authors and publishers.
It has become diluted with a huge influx
of "narrators," although I'm not sure how serious they are. I
suspect most have never actually recorded an audiobook. There is also a flood
of new e-books, most of which are of poor quality. E-books selling for 99
cents are posted on ACX, where a narrator working for nothing up front does
all the work, then the AB is put up for sale for $15, with no publicity or
marketing to speak of. The result is basically a total loss for the
The problem is that I don't think Audible cares. Audible makes the same if
10,000 titles each sell 10 copies or if 100 titles each sell 1,000. The only
loser is the narrator, and it appears there is a bottomless supply of us. Nope,
I am extremely disillusioned. The work has fallen off dramatically for
many people at my experience level, and the ACX - Audible monster has been
unleashed, never to be reined in.
LOVE IT, LOVE IT
- I am a narrator first and foremost. I should not be expected to be an UNCOMPENSATED (or very low-paid)
engineer/director/editor/proofer/QC and post-production supervisor all at the
same time. Those are not my honed
skills ... let alone the fact that the cost and/or time involved to finish the
post production chews into the narrator's pay. AND ... How am I - are we - to produce
our best creative work with the critical ear turned on ourselves all the
- The industry has changed. And the new
model, I think, has been a huge detriment and detractor of the creative
work. I think the work has GOT to
suffer as a result. Not to mention our
At two years in, I still feel like I'm
"just getting started." I'm
very interested to see the (survey) results you get!
- Still learning . . .
This is an industry that rewards
narrators for specializing in audiobooks, and being there for the long haul.
It takes years to get known, and the longer you are a familiar face, the more
reliable and appealing you become to producers.
- The waters are so murky. There are so
many narrators and so many self-publishing authors that it is becoming really
difficult to discern what jobs are truly worth your time and worth working
on. Then, when you do find ones that are worth working on, there is extreme
competition. Honestly, the amount of time I have spent honing my craft in
this area has just not yielded the results I was hoping for. One of my titles went to #1 overall on
the Audible Best Seller list, but I'm still having a great deal of difficulty
finding meaningful work.
- I am absolutely in love with the process
of audiobook production. Every aspect of it, both the artistic and technical
sides. It is a truly beautiful craft. And the people in the community are
extremely passionate and wonderful and intelligent.
- When I started I had such
high hopes, but the earnings are downright insulting.
Like the arts in general, narration has
become open to all comers. Few will make it to the top flight, there will be
constant pressure from those who pay to cut costs. Because of this sudden
expansion the publishers do not yet reward experience in the way other arts
do, but that may change over time when value added is recognized (in my
- It's become more competitive because
people with less experience and home studios are in the mix now. They will do it for less, and publishers pay
less because they can. The quality
suffers, but there's not much we can do to stop the trend.
- For me, I've always pursued audiobooks as a sideline to my other jobs. A nice perk when they come along, but not
as a main income. Thankfully, I haven't relied on them as a primary source of
income, as it would be even more difficult now.
ACX has grown to be incredibly
successful and yet they have decreased the Royalty Share percentage and seem
to be more selective with choosing titles that deserve a stipend. That is not
right and not fair.
- With the availability of technology and personal studios, this
business is in constant change. Initially I was put off by old school
narrators who paved the way with their VERY hard work and who, no doubt, continue to do great work, but are
nevertheless somewhat territorial and negative in describing the work to
newcomers. However, I am now recognizing that it is not as difficult as it is
made out to be, and am sloughing off the authoritarian attitudes of some
on the web groups and doing my own
thing and enjoying it well! Onward!
- Great way to keep busy.
ROYALTY'S SLAVE LABOR
- Most manuscripts contain far too much
foul language, most of it pointless. They erroneously think it enhances
readership or adds to the book's character. That makes it difficult for those
of us who don't want to use our voice and talent for filth, to find suitable
- When doing royalty share I'm not even
making minimum wage for all the time I put into it.
- While ACX has kept me busy, it is a
challenge to find a predictable good
- Just glad to finally get to check this
off my bucket list!
I did a few books earlier on with no
guidance, pre ACX. It was awful, not worth the money, and I walked away. Now
that I'm rounding the learning curve I feel they are enjoyable and I prefer
the current model of the audiobook work marketplace, which involves fewer
"cattle call" auditions and more relationships with casino
I will continue to narrate, build my
portfolio and improve my skills. The
good pfh rates and work with "major" publishers will come! I
believe it will happen!!
- Have set up own audiobook business with
It's fun work, and using a place such as
ACX, it's pretty easy to land a book. But with the royalty
structure ACX offers, it's easy to start feeling like slave labor.
Another example: a book I narrated a few months ago generated $1,037.00 in
gross sales to ACX in November. I received $85; I assume the rights-holder
also received $85. It makes it tough to rationalize spending 30 or 40 hours
prepping, narrating, editing, mastering, and submitting an 8-hour audiobook.
I have narrated solely for one publisher. To expand I need to diversify and reach out
- There is consolidation going on within
the audiobook industry, and increased competition as output shrinks will
force third-party producers like Deyan Audio to become rights-holding
publishers in their own right if they are to survive.
The market is getting flooded with new narrators, and this competition is
impacting more experienced narrators, especially those who are not Audie
winners with cachet.
Brilliance is the elephant in the room and will be forced to become a Union
house in the near future.
HYPHENATE THAT ...
- I'm just starting out.
I've listened to some samples on
Audible; including my own older ones. I have to say, rights holders need to
be more picky about who they hire.
I work in radio and have done vo for
many years.I find audio books to be a great challenge as well as a great
time for growth and expansion. I like doing them, but it definitely requires a
different mindset. I imagine part of that is short form vs long form
thinking ... staying for the long haul!
- ACX has drastically lowered the bar for
narrators to enter the market, which has resulted in a LOT of people jumping
into audiobook narration who, frankly, should not be doing it. The overall
impacts of this are:
1) A deluge of poorly performed, and even more poorly engineered audiobooks
flooding the market, and lowering buying public's opinion of audiobooks as a
legitimately professional entertainment (and literary) venue.
2) Major publishers have become less willing to expose their brands to the
risk of casting newer talents working from home studios.
3) Independent rights-holders are less likely to understand the value of,
and pay reasonable rates for, experienced, professional narrators.
Not sure what, if anything, can be done about this.
- As a voice over coach once told me, as well, and others: I am a hyphenate. For example, I own The
Lion's Den Production and Diversified Maintenance Systems. I am a Building Services
Contractor-Audiobook Producer. The two
don't always play well together.
I am a public school teacher who is
about to retire, and I am hoping that audiobook narration and production will
become my new, final career. Voice work has been something I have wanted to
do all of my life and I am finally getting the opportunity to do it. I love
telling stories and doing voices, so doing audiobooks is a natural for me.
- The business has changed dramatically
since I started. Then, it was still old-school, recording in pro studios with
engineers/directors. In the last 2-3 years that changed to mostly home studio
recording (even for major publishers). Bear in mind that this is West Coast.
The East Coast still does more studio work. The union saved us from ruin by
keeping rates from falling into the cellar, but in some instances I believe
they settled too low, though I think that might have been the best option
possible. Something happened in the
process that left publishers with the impression that the minimum union rate
was it, and they wouldn't negotiate higher (even, I hear, for many long-term
established narrators). I used to be able to negotiate $225-250. Now I know I
will probably get less. The influx of voiceover talent (brought by ACX)
didn't help - for every narrator trying to negotiate a higher rate there are
now hundreds of actors willing to do it cheaper.
- Just beginning in the audio book
genre. Though I am a professional VO and have been in the VO industry for 20+
AUDIOBOOKS & ACTORS
- It seems that home studio narration is
really the future of the Audiobook industry, and I think that's fantastic. I
love the flexibility and the lack of commute. I worry though, that as more
and more home studio narrators become involved, and as more and more of them
are willing to actually edit and fully produce titles (as opposed to having
the production company or publisher pick up those costs &
responsibilities), the more our collective value is cheapened. I urge all
narrators to become SAG-AFTRA members! It's the only way we can protect
ourselves from unfair wages and earn health coverage and a pension while
we're at it.
- It's detrimental to the industry overall
to have this new, ACX-inspired one-man band approach. Audiobook narrators
should be actors and not readers/editors/proofers/masterers. If
someone wants to grow and break into big publishers' rosters, they should
concentrate on ACTING skills. One publisher told me, "If I see a resume
with 100 ACX titles, I'm not interested. That shows me that someone hasn't
the talent and skill to move on and move up." ACX has fundamentally
changed the industry. It's not all bad, but it's not all good. Savvy actors
will skillfully pursue relationships with publishers and use ACX as an
occasional, one-off opportunity, not the primary source of their work.
Actors should also be particular about what they record. Narrating awful
writing exclusively doesn't help one get to be a better interpreter of the
written word. Just because it's offered and out in the world doesn't mean it's in
one's best interest to produce as a voice talent. Spend that time in voice
- I spend about 85% of my time narrating
audio books for about 50% of my income. I'm paid less now as a veteran narrator of over 150 titles than I was
on my first few books in 2005, rates have slid over the years and would have
continued to slide had the union not become more active in the industry. All that said, it's sill my passion and my
AN ART AND CRAFT
- ACX has been mainly a disaster for the professional narrator, lowering
expectations and quality standards for the entire industry. However, authors who would have never been
produced under the "old" model can now get audio books of their
work made completely risk free ... which isn't entirely a bad thing.
It remains to be seen if the consolidation of the industry is good or bad
for individual narrators ... though it is scary.
- It is an art and a craft that involves
more than a nice voice. One needs to cultivate technique, passion and
endurance. It is not for everyone. The best narrators are either natural
storytellers or have learned and honed their craft through the years.
is a difference between the quality of most ACX-produced books and front-list
titles for a major publishing house and a prominent author. And the only way
royalty share will work is with a popular author to generate sales, which will
be rare to encounter via ACX.
- Get an agent, provide a strong demo tape,
hustle, and follow the traditional route to cultivating a career. As a
venerable producer says, "This craft is not for everyone's Aunt
Mary." It's not a niche now, but along with other VO, a profession.
It is hard work. It can be very
rewarding, as long as you like to read a lot and be alone in a booth for
hours every day. And I do. It is a full time job with some flexibility,
although growing expectations and requests for quick delivery diminish that a
- Too many amateurs with bad sounding work
The field seems to be flooded with
anyone with a microphone. The books
available via ACX have lowered in quality over the past year.
ABOUT THE SURVEY & REPORT AUTHORS
- I'm still in the dinosaur age of using
an actual paper manuscript and want to move over to an electronic device with
annotation software/app. What device
is the most popular - iPad, etc.? Also, of all the annotation apps out there, which one is favorite
among audiobook narrators?
I've decided to only narrate non fiction
projects that will have long lasting appeal at this point in order to extend
the life of residual income.
I'm still trying to navigate my way. I
really do need to find a way to branch out and get exposed to more publishers
in an effort to increase my amount of work.
I am stuck. I want to narrate more, but to work at the higher paying level.
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.
JAMES (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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