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Part 2
Audiobook Fees: What To Bid?
Rate Guides Pose Many Options 
 
By Paul Strikwerda
Voice Actor
©2009 Paul Strikwerda
 
In Part 1, I began helping my voice talent friend Fernanda determine what to bid on an audiobook audition that had come to her online.
 
We started by researching the book, estimating the word count, and determining how long it would take to complete the job.
 
Next question: what to charge?
 
WHAT ARE YOU WORTH?
 
Here’s the easy answer: you are an independent contractor, are you not?
 
Theoretically, that means that you can charge whatever you think you’re worth. If your name is Julia Roberts, you’ll probably get it. If you’re not, dream on.
 
Seriously, according to the Edge Studio rate card, audiobooks "usually pay per completed hour (the length of the final product) rather than per hour (the length of time you are in the studio).”
 
UNION or NON-UNION?
 
If we were to take out the table of contents, the footnotes and any other fluff, you’re probably looking at 8 completed hours on CD for this particular project. 
 
New readers who happen to be AFTRA members can charge $139.25 per hour, which would give you $1,114.
 
The AFTRA rate for experienced readers is $168.25 per completed hour, and that would leave a total of $1,345 in your pocket.
 
If you don’t belong to AFTRA, the world you live in looks very different.
 
DOESN'T INCLUDE EDITING
 
Bear in mind, Edge Studio explicitly says that their numbers are "pure suggestions for less experienced, non-union talent. Rates reflect average and realistic rates being fairly charged within the industry, and do NOT include editing.”
 
For audiobooks the rates are:
  • Inexperienced narrator: $85 to $140 per completed hour
  • Moderately Experienced: $90 to $175 per completed hour
  • Very Experienced: $150 to $250 per completed hour
In other words, the very, very inexperienced reader could realistically charge $680 for 8 completed hours (8 x $85). Her colleague on the other end of the spectrum could charge $2,000.
 
ANOTHER PAY GUIDE
 
But we’re not done yet. There are other sources we can use to determine a bid for this Wall street saga.
 
The Voices.com FAQ reference rate page has an overview per project category. The indicated range for audiobooks is $500 to $10,000 (even though they’re headquartered in Canada, I think this is in USD).
 
Voices.com even has a second list of "Average prices, rates and costs.”
 
Based on this overview, the site suggests $300 for a one-hour audiobook recording session, plus $100 for each additional hour.
 
SO THAT MEANS ...
 
Let’s say that you’d minimally need a 10-hour recording session to produce an 8-hour audiobook.
 
That would mean that this project would bring in $1,200 (the client pays an extra 10% SurePay escrow fee in the Voices.com system).
 
To make things a bit more complicated, Voices.com offers a third list of rates. The suggested rates for audiobooks in this overview are:
  • 1-hour recording session: USD$125 (10 studio hours x $125 = $1,350)
  • Per finished hour of audio: USD$500 (8 finished hours x $500 = $4,000)
  • Per page rate: USD$125 (300 pages x $125 = $37,500)
A THIRD GUIDE
 
If you’re still with me, let’s throw one more number into the mix, straight from the Voice123 reference rate page.
 
Voice123 clarifies: "These rates have been calculated by surveying and averaging Voice123 non-union voice-over talents with two or more years of experience as voice-overs. Prices in this document are averages for suggested minimums (base rates).”
 
The average rate per hour of work (regardless of the length of the audio delivered) for a project taking up to 10 hours is $164.
 
So, if we once again assume that 8 hours of completed audio takes at least 10 hours of studio time, using the Voice123 minimum rate, a talent could charge $1,640 for this project.
 
SO, WHAT TO CHARGE?

I’d be the first one to agree that these numbers are based on a few assumptions, because the voice-seeker left out vital information when posting the job (either by accident or on purpose).
 
However, the rates I used are in the public domain.
 
"Fernanda, remind me, what book were we talking about again?”
"A 304-page guide, written by former Goldman Sachs partner and Wall Street’s No.1 retail industry analyst that 'will help readers recognize and react to signs of change that their rivals don’t see - and win a sizeable competitive advantage.'”
"And how much was the budget again?”
"Between 500 and 750 dollars.”
"How many responses did the voice-seeker receive so far?”
"Only 105.”
WINNER OR LOSER?
 
"How much do you think the client will end up paying for a narrator?" Fernanda asked. "And is there a minimum rate per project?”
 
I replied, "Unless you happen to run into the person who put in the winning bid, you’ll never know."
 
But I would be very surprised if all 105 hopefuls would bid the $750 maximum. Can you even call it a winning bid, or is it more realistic to speak of a losing bid?
 
WHAT DO YOU NEED?
 
When it comes to determining reasonable voice-over rates, we’ve only just begun to scratch the surface.
 
If you really want to discuss what you should charge, there are two crucial questions you need to ask yourself first:
  • How much do I need to make?
  • How much do I want to make?
But let’s talk about that some other time. I think I need to get back to my power nap now.
 
ABOUT PAUL ...
 
Paul Strikwerda is a 25-year veteran of the voice-over industry whose Nethervoice service features German and Dutch voice-overs, translation and evaluation services. Born in Holland, he has worked for Dutch national and international radio, the BBC and American Public Radio. Although 90% of his work is in English, Strikwerda also records in Dutch, German and French. Clients include Novartis, Johnson & Johnson, and the Discovery Channel. He also publishes an informative and entertaining blog, Double Dutch.
 
 

 

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Comments (2)
Mike McGreal
5/6/2016 at 3:28 AM
Thanks for a really useful article!
Tim Chisholm
12/4/2015 at 1:07 AM
Thank-you for your research. You've answered many of the same questions I'm faced with.
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