Are you interested in a career as an audiobook narrator?
You’ve probably asked yourself these questions.
- How much do audiobook narrators make?
- How do audiobook narrator jobs work?
I wrote this article to help aspiring audiobook narrators like yourself learn the ropes of the industry and how much they should expect. I’ll also explain why audiobook narration is a growing industry and how you can benefit from it.
Table of Contents
How Much Do Audiobook Narrators Make?
The amount you make for audio narration depends on your position, experience, asking price, marketing, and other factors.
The audiobook narration rates vary for independent and contracted (or employed) audiobook narrator workers. To become an audiobook narrator, you should first pick between the two.
Here is how much an independent narrator can make.
If you want to become an audiobook narrator who can set your price, become an independent narrator. Most audiobook narrators start with an agency or company before going independent.
Independent audiobook narrators usually work closer with audiobook publishers, and their rates vary.
You can charge $50 to $100 per hour. If you still work eight hours daily (weekends off), this totals around $100,000 to $200,000 annually.
The more experienced you are, you can charge $200-300 or more per hour. If you still work eight hours daily (weekends off), this totals $400,000 to $600,000 annually.
Seasoned narrators rarely work eight hours daily because voice-over work isn’t that common, especially for audiobooks.
Factors Affecting Earnings
Here are some factors that can affect your earnings.
Many narrators don’t charge for audio revisions or multiple audio versions, affecting your earnings. Sometimes the finished hour reduces after edits, which also affects your pay.
Some charge per finished hour of the finished audio, others charge per hour that they work, and others charge a fixed rate for the completed recording audio. Charging per hour means charging for the length of the finished audio files.
You will earn less if it takes longer to do a voice-over for the entire book. Well-known narrators are efficient when they do a voice-over.
To compete with established narrators, you must have a good home studio. Although not a complete professional studio, you need a recording space, a quality microphone, a microphone stand, noise-canceling headphones, audio recording software, and other necessities.
These expenses come from most narrators’ pockets unless a client sponsors them, which is rare.
If you do not have a good-quality microphone and a place to record your audiobooks, you might have to do your narration work again and again. The narrators’ charge cannot include poor-quality audio.
Contract or Employed Narrators
An example of a contract narrator gig is being an audible narrator. ACX narrators earn $10 to $100 for beginners and $100 to $500 for professionals.
The narrator’s pay rate depends on audiobook work, feedback, experience, and if their voice fits particular niches. Audible, like other audiobook work agencies, adapts a per-finished hour (PFH) mode of payment.
Here is the royalty share breakdown of audible.
As an employed narrator, you earn a fixed rate for the many or few hours you work. This figure can range from $40,000 annually and above, depending on the agency or company.
The Audio Publishers Association reported that 30 member companies made $331 million in total revenue in 2008 alone. The amount per company depends on the rate they charge or the royalty share they receive per audiobook sold.
Some of these companies employ individuals with vocal talent capable of doing different voices of multiple characters to make up for a small headcount. Sometimes, the company receives the royalty share rather than the employee.
Factors That Affect Earnings
Here are the factors that affect contract or employed narrators’ earnings.
Voice for a Specific Genre
Say you have a deep narrator’s voice for science fiction that captures the author’s vision; you will be an asset to the company and might receive a raise or bonus.
If you have a generic voice, you will be replaceable and might receive less. Practice reading aloud and try to emulate others to develop a unique voice.
Speed and Efficiency
Aside from a strong voice, you must be accurate, fast, and efficient. Your work has to have little to no errors, and you should submit it promptly.
You can negotiate for higher pay if you are efficient and accurate.
Audiobook Narrator Wages
Different sites (freelance, contract, or outsourcing) have different rates. These rates vary since some sites offer positions while others offer gigs.
Here are the different sites and how they vary in pay.
Fiverr is a freelancer’s first company that provides audiobook narrator jobs for beginners. The base payment for a gig is just $5, but voice actors can make up to $750 per gig.
Fiverr charges a 20% commission on your earnings.
ZipRecruiter is an employment market that helps both job seekers and employers. Most positions on the site are full-time, but there are also part-time and project-based options.
According to ZipRecruiter, the national average for audiobook narrators is $70,310 annually.
Voice123 has a unique way of paying narrators. Instead of the typical PFH payment arrangement, you can earn $50 per 150 words. According to estimates, you can read audiobooks and earn up to $1,250 per hour.
However, this estimate doesn’t account for the availability of work and the complexity of the voice-acting tasks.
Voices is a suitable venue for looking for more work as it lists multiple projects ranging from stories, children’s audiobooks, novellas, and other content narration. The site is an excellent place to start when looking for work opportunities.
According to Voices, the average payment you can earn is $210 per year. Narrating audiobooks will give you an average of $200 to $300 per hour, but experts can make $500 to $1,000 per recording session.
Upwork is a popular freelance marketplace that might offer you regularity, but most of its work is on a per-project basis.
The base pay for this site is $10 per hour, but you can earn an average of $25 for a short 30-minute project. The highest you can make per audio project is $5,000.
Voquent is a brand that consists of voiceover and audiobook narrator artists. The hourly rate for this company is $170 PFH, and according to the site, you need 10 hours to narrate 90,000 words.
You’ll earn $1,700 for the 10-hour project of 90,000 words.
What Are Audiobook Narrator Jobs?
Audiobook narrator jobs include voice actors recording audiobooks. To become an audiobook narrator, you need skills as a voice actor.
Although a love for books is not necessary, many professional audiobook narrators are avid readers. To become a successful audiobook narrator, you must practice your audio narration skills.
Audiobook narrators’ work is a form of vocal acting that focuses specifically on reading aloud an audiobook.
In the audiobook industry, the audio narrator can work independently or under contract/ employment.
Here are the two main types of audiobook narrators.
Independent Audiobook Narrator
Independent audiobook narrators get paid per hour, page, project, or other metrics. These types of audiobook narrators can work on multiple projects at once.
Here are the pros and cons of being an independent audiobook narrator.
- You can work on multiple projects simultaneously.
- You can demand higher pay.
- You can work flexible hours.
- You can request a cut of audiobook sales in the form of a royalty share (this depends on your client).
- You can choose your projects.
- You might struggle to find work.
- You only earn when there is a client.
- You have to watch out for scams.
- You do not have any employment benefits.
- You have to compete with other voice actors and experienced narrators.
Contracted or Employed Audiobook Narrator
A contracted or employed audiobook narrator works under a contract or the employment of an audiobook narration agency or company.
Here are the pros and cons of being a contracted or employed audiobook narrator.
- You get employment benefits (which might not apply to contract workers).
- You get more workload.
- You do not have to look for clients yourself.
- You can use the audiobook narration agency’s or company’s resources.
- You are more likely to enter the audiobook industry without previous contacts.
- You can work in a professional recording studio.
- You can learn from experienced narrator veterans.
- You might not be able to choose your audiobook narration projects.
- Your audiobook narrating work might not give you any credit.
- Your audiobook narration might have to follow the company or agency’s guidelines.
- You might need to work right away on another project within the finished hour of a completed audiobook.
- You might not get any royalty share for the completed audiobook.
- You might not get a promotion or pay raise for your narration jobs.
Essential Skills To Become An Audiobook Narrator
If becoming an audiobook narrator is your dream job, there are a few things you need to learn to get your first gig or job.
Here are the essential skills to land an audiobook narrator position or gig.
Aside from reading words accurately, you should enunciate them properly and clearly. Avoid exaggerations and watch out for sibilance, lisping, or whistling.
One example of enunciation you must practice is the “s” or soft “c” sound. You shouldn’t make them too airy or windy.
It is only okay to over-articulate when this type of talk is part of the character.
Breath control is essential to avoid sudden pauses in your speech. You can improve your breathing by exercising daily to increase your lung capacity.
Talking for extended periods without needing to catch your breath is an advantage. You should also learn to speak without using too much air and when to pause.
Your delivery refers to your ability to capture what the author wants to portray in the book. Make sure to talk with the client and understand what type of delivery they expect.
A skilled audiobook narrator is a person that can capture the reader’s imagination and attention through their voice. You need a compelling voice (this depends on the character).
One skill that you need to learn is eye-brain-mouth control. You need to read fast and master which word you’re reading while talking while also focusing on your delivery.
You can improve this by practicing reading and trying to avoid making mistakes when reading. Better control results in more accurate reading.
Aside from capturing the right voice, you should be consistent throughout the project. You can do this by reviewing the voice and practicing the delivery daily.
When you have a large audiobook project, try recording some phrases or sentences for one character’s voice so you can always go back to them later.
You need to understand the audiobooks you read and learn when to place emphasis, when to pause, and how to give the text more power.
As a new narrator, you can read the entire text beforehand to get a better picture of where to place emphasis.
This element requires significant imagination. To create compelling characters, you need to imagine them, how they talk, and how they interact.
You can assign unique traits to each character to give it more personality, depending on what the author wants. As a narrator, it is your job to make the author’s vision of the book come to life.
Some audiobooks require the narrator to jump from narrating the story to a character in the book. The narrator needs to separate phrases with “he said,” “she said,” “they said,” or “it said.”
If you have a physical printout, you can add color to segments with a change from character to narrator and vice versa. You can assign different colors for characters as well.
The last skill you need to learn is understanding the text, which means connecting to what the author has to say and embodying the story as your own.
You can converse with the author to better understand the audiobook’s purpose, tone, or essence.
How To Start as an Audiobook Narrator
If you want to begin your career as an audiobook narrator, there are things you need to do to land your first gig or job.
Here’s a step-by-step process you can follow.
Develop Your Voice.
Developing your vocals is crucial. You must work on your vocal quality and create new types of voices.
Have at least five different vocals you can portray. Doing so lets you provide a more extensive range of characters when reading an audiobook.
Try toying around with the pitch, tone, pace, or pronunciation to create a new character.
Developing a range of voices also gives you a better chance of landing more projects. Go for three more general and two unique voices or vice versa.
You must have high-quality vocals to cater to more generic work and unique vocals for unique projects.
Create a Portfolio.
Unlike other careers, your portfolio matters more than your classes if you studied under a good school or a known mentor.
You need to create a demo reel to display the different types of voice-overs you can accomplish.
An example would be to record audiobooks in your preferred genre.
Make sure you have enough choices for clients to scan through. Adding a little bit of variety to attract more clients.
Another thing you need to do is ensure that the portfolio is easily accessible to clients. Avoid sending them through audio files.
Upload your portfolio online or on Google Drive so that clients don’t need to download them when looking at your work. The more convenient, the better.
You can upload your work on YouTube or other streaming platforms. You can quickly provide links to potential clients to check your work.
It pays to join an agency or company when starting in the audiobook-narrating world. You will need to audition to join a specific group.
Another advantage of joining an agency or company is affiliation when looking for gigs. Some audiobook narrators join an agency or company while offering their services for freelance projects.
Joining an agency or company lets you earn more as a narrator since you can work on the jobs they give you while working on other project-based gigs.
It allows you to still make money if there’s a slowdown in projects from your agency or company (if your company doesn’t pay you a fixed salary).
Promote Your Services.
Sometimes, it is better to take a pay cut for a project that boosts your reputation and can help you land more projects later.
Say you have the chance to work with a well-known author but are taking a 20% pay cut; it might be wise to do so since this can help boost your reputation.
Create a channel or social media presence where you constantly upload new projects or snippets of projects.
Social media helps grow your portfolio and expands your reach for more potential projects.
Growing a YouTube channel as an audiobook narrator also helps you market yourself to potential clients in the future.
Like every industry, audiobook narration has evolved over the years, as you will notice trends coming and going. Because of this, you need to improve and learn.
Even professional narrators try to evolve in their art as the years go by. Maybe you can try to develop another character or improve your already available characters’ quality, depth, pitch, or tone.
Another thing you can do is always work on your breathing, intonation, and articulation. One way to improve is to look for a professional and ask for tips.
It also helps to take vocal lessons on narration.
The Bottom Line
I hope you’ve learned all you need about landing a career as an audiobook narrator.
If you want to start your narration job, don’t hesitate to start recording your demo reel and practicing along the way.
Narrating audiobooks is an excellent way to make money on Audible.