The Advantages of Paying the Audiobook Narrator Upfront

When authors on ACX are presented with the options of paying by royalty share (RS), royalty share plus (RS+) or per finished hour (PFH) for their book’s narration, the royalty share options seem pretty attractive. While these choices appear to be of great financial benefit to the author because there’s no outlay of money, there are many disadvantages. Following are considerations for paying for the narration upfront through PFH or a flat fee.

  1. The book will be owned outright – This arrangement gives the author the most freedom to sell and distribute the book because its sale won’t be limited to and restricted for seven years on the Audible/iTunes/Amazon platforms. The book can be sold anywhere including the author’s website.
  2. Libraries and colleges want/need new books – There’s a growing market for eBooks and audio books in local and international libraries! These can be a huge market for books.  Colleges especially are looking for new books, particularly non-fiction to use for their students interested in the latest information about subjects.
  3. Bundle books for special sales and promotions – If an author has multiple books, even if they are narrated by different voice actors, they will be able to bundle them for special sales. Highly discounted and free books can be offered to attract new listeners or those new to a series.
  4. Attract the most experienced narrators – Seasoned audio book narrators know that the actual production of audio books requires an outlay of multiple hours for each finished hour of audio book and there are costs for outside editors and proofers. A typical book can take almost six (6) hours of work between narrator and editors for every hour of the retail audio book. The time includes:
    1. reading the book
    2. researching pronunciations
    3. recording the book
    4. proofing the book for mistakes (must be done by an outside ear)
    5. re-recording those sections with mistakes
    6. editing the audio for timing and extraneous noise issues
    7. mastering the sound for the listener’s enjoyment and to meet publisher’s specifications
    8. uploading audio files to the Audible or production house’s platforms.

These steps and outside support for the narrator are vital to creating the highest quality audio book. The cost of outside contractors varies between $75-$100 PFH and is paid by the narrator up front.

  1. Recognize what it takes to sustain a business – There are costs associated with running a successful business. These include office space, equipment, software upgrades, internet access, audio engineer support, bookkeeping, continued training, insurance, taxes, etc. Working on a royalty share basis for a book that does not cover the narrator’s costs makes it impossible to keep the door of their business open.


Currently, the average rate for a professional audio book narrator is between $250-500 PFH.  Paying a fee that can sustain a business acknowledges that the audio book business is a professional one and ensures that the narrator can be there when an author wants them later for another project.

For additional insight on this subject and other great indie author issues check out Joanna Penn’s podcast, The Creative Penn. This podcast episode is especially helpful on this topic:  It addresses her direct experience with her fiction and non-fiction audiobooks.