How much does it cost to create an audiobook?

You spent hours, weeks, maybe even months or years writing and self-publishing your book. So why wouldn’t you want it to reach as many people as possible? More people are listening to audio now than ever before, so if your book is only available in written format, you are leaving serious amounts of influence, visibility, and royalties on the table.

If you’re thinking, “creating an audiobook sounds expensive and complicated,” you should think again. In most cases, you can turn your self-published Kindle book into an audiobook for little to no upfront cost.

HERE ARE YOUR 3 MAIN OPTIONS FOR MAKING AN AUDIOBOOK:

  1. Narrate your book yourself (it’s easier than you might think.)

  2. Enter into a revenue share agreement with a narrator.

  3. Pay a flat “per hour” rate to have your book produced.

Deciding which option is best for you can be a pretty daunting task, so let’s take a closer look at each of them.

Option #1: Record your own audiobook

 Did you know that many audiobook listeners actually prefer to listen to audiobooks that were narrated by the author? Your fans already love your written work, so narrating your audiobook yourself lets you take your relationship with your readers one step further by letting them hear you tell your story in your own voice.

HOW TO MAKE YOUR OWN AUDIOBOOK

If you are going to spend the time creating an audiobook, you are most likely going to want to sell it on Audible, Amazon, and iTunes once it’s complete since these companies sell the greatest number of audiobooks in the world. 

The good news is that you can submit your audiobook through one site called ACX or “Audiobook Creation Exchange” which is owned by Amazon, and your audiobook will be distributed through Audible, iTunes, and Amazon automatically. There is no need to submit to each of these sites separately.

So far, so good, right?

Here’s the mildly tricky part.

In order for ACX to accept your audiobook submission, your recording must meet the ACX Submission Requirements. 

The good news is that you can easily meet their requirements with a couple of key items:

  1. Audacity (a free audio recording and editing software program),

  2. A microphone (there are plenty of inexpensive options available on Amazon - here's what I recommend),

  3. A pop filter

  4. A quiet space, and

  5. Headphones to use while editing (I love these, but basic headphones will also work.)

That’s it.

Even if you are on a tight budget, you can get everything that you need to create your audiobook for $50-$100. 

WHICH MICROPHONE IS BEST FOR AUDIOBOOKS? 

You can certainly "get the job done" with a basic USB microphone, but if you want professional audio quality or plan to record a series of audiobooks, I recommend using the Rode NT1A microphone. This is the microphone that I use as a professional narrator to record audiobooks for my clients. At $229, it's not the most expensive microphone on the market, but the results are fantastic.

Keep in mind that since the RODE NT1A is a condenser microphone (as opposed to a USB model) you will need an audio interface to connect the microphone to your computer. I highly recommend the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 audio interface.

Option #2: Hire an ACX narrator for no upfront cost (royalty share option)

Let’s assume that you don’t want to narrate your own book. Maybe you don’t like your voice or don’t want to bother with the technical aspects of editing and producing an audiobook. You can still have your audiobook narrated for no upfront cost by entering into a revenue share agreement with a narrator on ACX.

If you work through ACX (and I highly recommend working with ACX if you’re unrepresented by a publisher because they handle all royalty payments and any disputes that may arise during the production process) the revenue share is a 50/50 split of the author’s or “rights holder’s” entitled royalty. In other words, after ACX takes their commission, the author and the narrator split all income from the audiobook evenly.

Now, this may sound like a good deal or a bad deal to you depending upon your budget and the size of your fan base. Allow me to elaborate on that.

A royalty share agreement could be great for a self-published author who has a very small fan base and little-to-no budget for audio production. You simply upload your manuscript to ACX, select a narrator from the auditions that you receive,  and the audiobook narrator takes care of the rest.

Within a few weeks you have a professionally produced audiobook listed for sale on Audible, Amazon, and iTunes. You now have a new passive income stream and your book has the potential to reach thousands of new fans around the world.

But let’s say that you spent a considerable amount of time and money marketing your book, growing a social media following and building an email list of readers. You know that once you announce that your audiobook is for sale, you will have plenty of orders from your existing readers and fans. If you happen to be in this situation, entering into a 50/50 revenue split probably isn’t in your best interest because you’ll end up losing out on a lot of revenue. 

Luckily, there is a third option…

Option #3: Flat Rate “PFH” Agreements

On ACX you can expect to pay anywhere from $50-$350 per finished hour of audio if you are looking for a flat rate deal. This means that you pay your narrator one flat fee for your completed audiobook and you do not have to split any future royalties with them.

The per hour price is for each completed hour of audio, not the total number of hours your narrator spent recording, editing, and producing your audiobook.

For example, if your book is 50,000 words, your audiobook would be approximately 5.3 hours long. If you are paying $80 per produced hour of audio, your total bill for the production would be $430.

***Tip: You can estimate the audio length of your book by dividing the total word count by 9,300. (9,300 is the average number of words per hour in an audiobook.)

The bottom line is that if you would expect to earn more than $430 (or the final cost of the book production) in a relatively short period of time, then paying the flat fee upfront might be the best way to go if your goal is to maximize revenue from audiobook sales over time.

Another factor to keep in mind when considering a PFH deal is how much per hour you are willing and able to pay your narrator. As I mentioned before, narrator rates range from $50 to $350 or more per hour. That's a big range. 

In most cases, narrators who are just getting started will charge lower rates. This doesn't necessarily mean that they lack in talent. All narrators on ACX must be capable of meeting the ACX submission requirements, therefore, the expectation is that any narrator who auditions for your audiobook through ACX will be capable of producing a finished product that meets Audible's professional audio standards. 

Narrators that charge higher rates often have a lot of experience. In most cases, they've produced dozens, or even hundreds of books. Some, but not all, of these narrators also have formal acting or voice over training, making it necessary for them to charge higher rates to recoup the the time and money that they have spent developing their craft. 

However, just because a narrator charges more per hour doesn't necessarily mean that their work will be better or that they are the best fit for your particular project. When choosing a narrator, it's important to choose someone whose voice is the best fit for your book. 

In the case of nonfiction, you must consider who your audience is and what voice would appeal most to them given the subject matter of the book. When it comes to fiction, it's vital to choose a narrator who is capable of performing the part of the main character well.

I would suggest listening to all auditions first without looking at the price and ranking them before you start assessing costs and digging into credentials because these less important criteria should not be the main factor in your decision making process. 

Now, I'd love to know what you think.  

Do you have any questions about recording your own audiobook or choosing a narrator for your project? 

Which option do you think you'll go with? 

Leave a comment below and share your thoughts!