Recording Audiobooks Efficiently:
'Finished Hour' Vs. 'Labor Hour'
By John Pruden
Audiobook Narrator & Voice Actor
When recording audiobooks at home, it is extremely important to do it as efficiently as possible, since this will maximize your profit as a narrator.
In Part 1 of this two-part series, we’ll discuss how audiobook narrators are paid and the difference between "finished hours” versus "labor hours.”
In Part 2, we’ll discuss two very important things you can employ with your recording setup to record more efficiently, and thereby increase your hourly profit for labor.
MANAGING THE VARIABLES
There are a lot of variables involved in audiobook production. Managing the variables that are under your control can go a long way to helping you be more successful as an audiobook narrator.
Here, we’ll be focusing primarily on audiobook production at home, rates per finished hour, and how actual labor hours figure into the equation.
This last part will help illustrate just how important working efficiently is to your success as an audiobook narrator.
Basically, a narrator can record in one of two places:
If you’re recording in a publisher’s or producer’s studio, it’s very important to the producer/director that you do a good job and do it quickly.
This is because everyone wants to make their money as quickly as possible so they can move on to the next job and make more money – the same as any other voice-over job.
But if you’re recording alone at home you have all the time in the world, right?
Right, but also Wrong!
It’s not in your best interest to take a lot of time – unless, of course, you’re independently wealthy and are only doing this for a hobby. In which case, you can tune me out and I hate you.
FIGURE YOUR LABOR
If you’re recording alone at home and are given nothing more than a book and a deadline, do you think it’s important to the publisher or producer exactly how long it takes you to complete it?
No. They just want you to do a good job and submit it before your deadline.
So it becomes very important to the narrator to do it quickly and efficiently.
This is because there are "finished hours” and "labor hours,” and the labor hours are paid from the finished hour rate!
PAID FOR FINISHED HOUR
Typically, audiobook narrators are paid an hourly rate based upon the "finished hour” of the book being narrated.
Hourly rates for new narrators paid by medium- to large-sized publishers range from about $100 to $350 per finished hour - both in studio and at home.
For simplicity sake, we’ll use $100 per finished hour and the average book length of 10 hours.
Therefore, a finished book that is 10.0 hours long will get the narrator paid $1,000.
Pretty simple. Or is it?
ASK FIRST ...
Let’s ask some questions:
Let’s do the math to find out.
How long it will take you to complete a book will depend on how much or how little of the work you and the producer/publisher/author have agreed you will do.
There are a number of variations. Let’s look at two: the minimum and the maximum. Note that the following examples do not include adding any other performers or music in any form.
At the very minimum, you will read and research the book, then record your narration and any corrections you must make. This is a typical arrangement with a publisher and can be recorded in their studio or your own at home.
It looks like this:
TOTAL: 31-47 hours
On the other hand, it’s entirely possible that you may find yourself performing every aspect of an audiobook’s production: reading/researching, recording the narration, proofing, recording corrections, editing, and mastering.
So let’s break down the complete production of a 10-hour book for all aspects of production:
TOTAL: 62-94 hours
YOUR LABOR COST
However long it took you to actually complete your portion of this book is your hours of labor.
Therefore, if you are getting paid $1,000 for this 10-hour book, labor-wise, you could be making the following:
WHAT YOU REALLY EARN
So, to answer our questions:
UNDERSTAND & NEGOTIATE
You can easily see that if a low per-finished hourly rate is combined with a lot of production hours, it’s possible for a narrator to get paid less than minimum wage per hour of labor!
This simple example quickly shows the importance of proper negotiations to ensure that you are getting paid for all of the labor you are performing.
You can also see how important it is to take all of this into consideration by doing that math – before negotiating.
INCREASE YOUR EFFICIENCY
But most importantly, you can see that the more efficient you are in your production, the more you will make per hour of labor!
As your efficiency decreases, your labor hours increase - and your resulting rate per hour of labor will decrease, as a result.
Therefore, our goal as narrators should be to increase efficiency to achieve an increased, reasonable rate per labor hour.
So, how do we become more efficient in our production, you ask? See Part 2 of this series, Recording Studio Setup & Using "Quick Punch."
Note about the numbers: The hours and rates shown here are meant to be as accurate as possible. Everyone may not agree with these numbers because everyone’s personal experience and level of expertise is different.
But everyone with experience in this area should be able to agree that these numbers are possible. Only your time and experience will help you develop your own numbers.
ABOUT JOHN ...
John Pruden is a full-time audiobook narrator who also performs in corporate narrations, as animation and video game characters, and in radio and TV commercials through his company, Voice Acting With Character. In just under three years, he went from being a part-time voice actor with a day job to becoming a full-time, home-based audiobook narrator. He will be writing more VoiceOverXtra articles chronicling how he got to where he is today, and what he has learned along the way.