How much can you make recording audiobooks from home as a beginner?

 

When people find out that I record audiobooks from home, the first question they usually ask is, 

"How much do you make doing that?" 

Personally, I think it's a bit odd to ask someone how much money they make, but since so many people seem to be interested in the topic, I thought I'd write a post about it. 

In a moment I'm going to pull back the curtain and show you EXACTLY how much I made on my first couple of projects as a brand new narrator.

I think that information is the most helpful to someone who is thinking about getting started with audiobooks and trying to figure out what kind of results they can expect in the short term. 

Disclaimer: This case study reflects my personal earnings, experiences, and opinions. I cannot guarantee that your results will be the same. Your individual results may depend on a variety of factors including, but not limited to, how much effort you put in and your level of skill.  
 
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Before I show you the numbers, I want to give you the "Cliff's Notes" version of how I stumbled into audiobook recording in the first place. 

A few years back I needed a side gig. 

There were plenty of reasons why...

  • to stop living paycheck to paycheck, 
  • pay off debt, 
  • build up savings, 
  • plan for emergencies, 
  • less financial stress,  
  • etc.   

I was already working 50+ hours a week, so I didn't have a lot of time to spare. 

Whatever I did needed to be:  

1. legit, 

2. enjoyable, 

3.  flexible, and

4. preferably something I could do from home.

After weeding through a bunch of scammy "opportunities" online, I found a couple of things that looked promising. 

One of them was a site called ACX.com

ACX is owned by Audible -- the largest seller of audiobooks in the world. They also have a partnership with Amazon.com. It's legit.    

It's an open marketplace where authors and publishers post books that they want to have turned into audiobooks. All audiobooks that are submitted through ACX are then sold Audible, Amazon, and iTunes. 

Anyone (over 18) can create an account, start auditioning, and get paid offers to narrate. 

Unlike many other "voice over jobs" sites that require you to pay a fee to access to their job listings, ACX is free

I've always been a book lover so this idea was a bit thrilling, to say the least.

I knew this would be something I'd enjoy. 

BUT...

  • I had no voice over experience,
  • I'd never taken an acting class, and
  • I didn't know the first thing about audio recording. 

Naturally, I was worried I might be in over my head. 

However, I'm not one to shy away from a challenge.

I set up my ACX account, ordered a microphone from Ebay to keep costs down (since I was just testing the waters at this point), and started recording auditions using a free software program called, Audacity

On most days there are around 2,000 titles seeking auditions on ACX, so I had plenty of books to choose from.

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Dealing with Rejections

I wish that I could tell you that every audition I submitted resulted in an offer, but that was NOT the case. 

In fact, that's not remotely realistic. 

Even the "pros" get rejected. It's just part of the process. 

I have to admit, my first couple of auditions were fairly terrible (and yes, they were rejected.) 

At first I started to second guess myself. 

"Am I really good enough to do this?" 

After wallowing in my own self doubt for a few moments, I decided that I wasn't going to give up that easily. 

I kept practicing. 

I started listening to popular audiobooks everyday so I could "train my ear" to what professional narration sounds like. 

I quickly came to the conclusion that being a "good" narrator boils down to creating a listening experience that is engaging for the listener. 

It's not about having "a nice sounding voice." 

All along, I had a gut feeling that if I was persistent and kept submitting auditions, sooner or later, I'd land my first offer. 

And then IT happened... 

YES! YES! YES!

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The rush of adrenaline that I felt when I saw this message in my inbox was unlike anything I'd ever experienced before. 

It was terrifying and exhilarating all at the same time. 

I was about to produce my first full length audiobook. 

Here’s a screenshot of the offer I accepted: 

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The publisher offered me $80 per finished hour of audio, which worked out to about $608.00 for the completed audiobook.

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Considering that the average PFH rate for narrators (with some experience) is between $150 - $250 PFH, this offer was actually on the low side...

But we all have to start somewhere and I needed to build up my portfolio, so I was more than happy to work on this project. 

The publisher was happy with my work, so they offered me second book contract right away!

Yay for (repeat) clients! 

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 My earnings for just those two books totaled over $1200.00. 

Not bad for a beginner. 

But here's where things started to get really interesting...

There's another payment type available on ACX called "royalty share." 

This is where you split all of the royalties from sales with the author 50/50. 

Royalty share books are a great way to build up a stream of passive income that will continue to pay you every month for years to come.  

They can be very profitable if the audiobook sells well. 

In theory, you could end up earning more over time from a good royalty share deal than you can from a flat rate (PFH) contract. 

The downside is, if the book doesn't sell well, you have to cut your losses.

This makes them more risky. 

Unfortunately, there's no way to tell exactly how many copies an audiobook will sell, but there are 4 things that you should always check that will help you decide if a royalty share book has good sales potential. 

In the next section I'll tell you what those 4 things are. 

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