How much does it cost to create an audiobook? Find out what you need to know about becoming a published audiobook author.
How much does it cost to create an audiobook?
Audiobooks changed the way people consume stories. They are game changers when it comes to consuming the written word, whether it’s a non-fiction work, public domain titles, textbooks, or everything in between.
They also let people listen to stories while performing other tasks. Audio recordings of books even help people with dyslexia and other reading difficulties enjoy the same enthralling stories as everyone else.
From world-renowned to self-published authors, audiobooks are considered a significant addition to modern literary mediums. Likewise, listeners love the convenience and affordability of digital narrations over paperback alternatives or Kindle eBooks.
But none of this means that creating an audiobook is easy or worth the trouble for every indie author. Let’s explore the hard work and upfront costs involved in the average audiobook production process.
The cost of creating an audiobook
Audiobook sales enjoy significant growth year over year. However, that doesn’t mean they’re always profitable for authors and audiobook production houses. Creating a great audiobook isn’t just a matter of having an excellent story.
Audiobooks gain popularity partially based on audio quality. Because of this, recording is the most significant expense in making audiobooks. Fortunately, there are a few ways to go about it so any first-time author can turn their books into audiobooks and enter a new market:
Make your own audiobook
Finding recording and production software and hardware is easy. Unfortunately, a DIY audiobook recording isn’t necessarily cheap or recommended. First, not all authors are good audiobook narrators, especially those writing their own books in a second language.
Second, audio production requires technical skills many authors don’t have. Lastly, sound equipment isn’t cheap, and renting it may not be cost-effective. Likewise, building a small studio can be too big of an investment if authors can’t consistently record and publish new audiobooks.
Here are some of the requirements for recording an audiobook.
- Professional recording and production software (e.g., Audacity)
- Large-diaphragm condenser microphone
- Pop filter
- Quality headphones
- Powerful computer
- Audio interface
Creating an audiobook themselves gives authors some control over their spending, but cheap equipment rarely translates into excellent audiobooks that keep people engaged. You may spend $1,000 and create a decent audiobook or more than $5,000 to barely improve the audio quality.
Remember that the quality all depends on your ability to use the equipment and deliver a powerful voiceover. It also doesn’t account for fees charged by ACX, Audible, iTunes, and other audiobook distribution services.
Rent time with a sound engineer in a studio
A more popular option is to go to a professional studio. The production costs may actually be lower than buying equipment. In addition, an audio engineer can ensure you have all the technical requirements and expertise needed to create quality audio files while reading your book.
But here’s something to keep in mind: Recording studio hourly rates still aren’t cheap, and you probably won’t narrate your audiobook in one sitting. Many audiobooks span well over five hours. Depending on your pace, diction, and other factors, it can take four times as long to record.
Costs can go up to $200 per hour in a good recording studio with audiobook production experience. That won’t cover post-production editing and fine-tuning fees.
Hire professional producers and narrators
Hiring someone with proven experience in narrating and producing audiobooks is one of the best ways to ensure high quality.
Veteran audiobook producers know how to record narrators, direct performances, make notes, and get the best out of every hour in the studio. In addition, voice actors or professional narrators don’t waste time.
Costs vary based on the narrator. Celebrities often negotiate upfront fees, while others have flat rates or per-finished-hour (PFH) rates. While PFH rates seem convenient because they let you plan a budget, you would need all the funds on hand before publishing.
Partnering with a professional audiobook production service
If you don’t want any hassle, a done-for-you audiobook production company can take care of everything for you.
It’s very efficient, and you get to work with people who know what they’re doing. Moreover, you can get the guidance or coaching needed to narrate your book in a professional studio setting.
An audiobook production service can also help you publish and distribute your audiobook, but the cost won’t always be cheaper than putting together your dream team of narrators and producers.
Other audiobook expenses
While the actual audiobook recording represents a big portion of your budget, there are other costs to consider:
- Narrator royalties—Some celebrity voice actors and narrators work on hybrid contracts where they charge upfront flat fees and take a percentage of the profits.
- Publisher royalties—Publishing houses that handle everything, from recording to post-production to distribution, may also want to exercise the royalty share option on audiobook sales.
- Promotional costs—Advertising is a separate expense from the hourly recording rate and other audiobook publishing service fees. Without advertising, the book may not generate enough interest or sales.
- Artwork—Audiobooks may be digital audio files, but they still need the proper packaging, even if digital. Hiring artists to do the cover and other artwork is another expense to consider.
- Marketplace commissions—Selling an audiobook on Amazon or similar marketplaces means partnering with distributors that charge their various commissions per sale.
When talking about the cost of an audiobook, you may also want to consider potential losses. For example, publishing on subscription-based platforms like Amazon Audible or Scribd means you won’t make as much profit per audiobook if members pay a small subscription fee and listen to your audiobook for free.
Likewise, people pirate finished audiobooks as much as music, movies, and other digital media—thereby depriving you of sales. Therefore, estimating your profits is crucial for determining your working budget and total cost for recording and publishing an audiobook version of your book.
Grab expertly produced audiobooks from Speechify
If you want to see what a professional audiobook service looks like, Speechify has you covered. Its catalog contains hundreds of classic titles and thousands more you can buy. Speechify caters to all genre lovers and has some of the highest-quality digital recordings on the market.
Download the Speechify app on your favorite device, create an account, and start listening to professional Speechify audiobooks.
Is making an audiobook profitable?
Making an audiobook is profitable if you can negotiate good rates, get high-quality voiceovers and publishing, and already have a popular book published. Turning bestsellers into audiobooks is more likely to return profits.
Do you need a license to make an audiobook?
You only need a license if you want to produce an audiobook based on someone else’s work. You have to pay and license the rights to record, produce, and publish the audiobook.
How long does it take to make an audiobook?
One finished hour of voiceover can take up to four times longer to record for first-time narrators. Experienced voice artists do this much faster but that still doesn’t account for extra hours of editing and post-production work.
How many audiobooks have been made so far?
The audiobook industry is a $5 billion-plus industry experiencing continuous growth. Hundreds of thousands of audiobooks exist, with tens of thousands of new ones published year over year.