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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I know people frequently have questions about ACX and narrator royalty rates. Here's what I've learned (and been told):

$0-$50: Crickets. You will absolutely need to search through ACX's narrator archives. You most likely will wind up with someone who's newish to the audiobook world.

$50-$100: you may get some auditions, but you'll still have to be proactive trying to find the better narrators who work in this price range. But you totally can find narrators with some experience at this level, and if you're proactive enough, you can wind up with a really good audiobook.

$100-$200: you'll get a lot of auditions, pretty quickly, and they'll be from more experienced narrators. You will have to also look through the archives, if you want to find the best in this range. But there are a ton of talented narrators who work in this range, so you should wind up with a really great audiobook.

$200-$300: I believe Audible said that their top narrators are paid in this range. You'll get one of their best narrators, with lots of experience, and you'll have a totally kick-ass audiobook.

$300-900: you should get the most kick-ass professional narrator with of credits and awards from the traditional publishing world as well as TV & features. This audiobook should sound like it came from one of the big, traditional houses or better.

$1000: you can get a professional, award-winning TV/movie actor/actress for this rate. Maybe not an Oscar winner though. But if you wanted to pursue known names, this is what you should expect to pay.

Royalty Share: If your books don't sell well, no one wants royalty share. If they do sell well, you'll run into narrators wanting only royalty share. However, if they do sell well, this will be the split, so make sure you can live with it: Audible 50%-60%, narrator 20-25%, writer 20-25%. Their page is confusing and doesn't quite match the statements, so I think it may have been changed recently. It used to be tiered, but I think they got away from that, unfortunately.

Royalty Share plus $100 PFH: If you want to do royalty share, and attract a top-level narrator that you're not able to afford, this is the way to go.

Audiobooks are the fastest growing area right now for indies. You can easily match your e-book income with your audiobook sales.

If you do opt for Royalty Share, make sure you submit your title to ACX for consideration for a stipend. The stipend is a $100 per finished hour bonus that ACX will pay to your narrator. Your narrator must have the book completed within 60 days of the stipend offer, so make sure to give them 60 days when you fill out that form where you choose how long to give your narrator. If the narrator goes past your deadline, the stipend can be pulled. If they go past the 60 days, the stipend can be pulled.

Most narrators take about 2-4 hours in the studio to create 1 finished hour. Some will take longer. The longest I've heard of is 10-12 hours. The more inexperienced your narrator is, the longer it will take them. You don't want to pay for per hour in the studio. That's why the standard rate is per finished hour.

ACX QC actually exists. If your tracks have quality control issues, they will be kicked back.

Make sure the tracks your narrator submits to you are absolutely the way you want them before you approve. You'll only get a chance to approve the first track and then the whole of the tracks at the end.

If you need changes, create an editing log, where you mark down the change you need, the track you need it on, and the minute:second it's needed, so it's easier for the narrator to go back in the tracks and spot-change something.

You can have two narrators, a female and a male, to do the full range of voices, but Audible recommends limiting it to no more than two. And that's something that you'll need to arrange with your narrator. This is also something that you'll need to pay a PFH rate on, because royalty share is not splittable among more than 2 people.

ACX will give you promo codes, so you can promote your audiobook, by giving away free copies. Use the codes. If you run out of codes, you can request more. You need separate codes for the UK.

Okay, I think that's it. It's all I can think of right now, at any rate. YMMV.
 

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Discussion Starter · #2 ·
Found my notes. According to Audible, their top-of-the-line narrators average $260 per finished hour.
 

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Two hours for one hour of text? Did they read the thing before jumping in? Did they actually listen to it before uploading? I find that hard to believe that you can get a decent product at that rate.

Mark / Jeff et. al. have posted extensively about narration rates as I have and yes those tend to agree with what you list.

Just as a FYI, the audio drama in my sig and which ran in the banner ad yesterday took more than a year to produce. It took about 18 hours of studio recording time to get down to under 3 hours of finished product, and hundreds of hours to edit. I pay a flat hourly rate for voice talent in studio, a lower rate when we meet for coodrination, and also an hourly rate for studio time and engineering time. And then I go off and lock myself in a room and edit. Actually, we had myself and another engineer both working on this project at the same time to get it done.

There's a video clip here (skip the first 30 seconds or so):
http://vimeo.com/83477051
 

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Good list. Just a note: I pay 380. I found that the high-quality narrators were more around 300. I auditioned some of the best-known narrators but ended up going with mine for my whole catalog although she cost more.

I don't make anything like the same in audio as I do in ebooks, and I sell very well for an indie in audio. All my books have been in the top 20 in contemp romance in audio, and one sat in the top 40 for a couple months. This may depend on genre. Doesn't mean it isn't worth doing--I've made enough with 3 books out, one only 2 months, to cover the cost of the first 5--but it's just a nice supplemental income so far. Again, genres vary. I think Erom and flat-out erotica do very well.

(I've heard 4-6 hours of work to get to 1 finished hour, by the way. My narrator also reads the book first and makes her own notes and gives it a lot of time and thought. She gives me a full performance. That's where the 380 pays off. Her rating for her part on the latest book is 4.7 on 67 reviews. Yes I wince paying the bill, but ACX put my first book up for Audie consideration. It won't get nominated, but that's what's made them promo me and such. I'm not saying pay more, just--getting the right person can really help. Downside, she ain't fast.)
 

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ACX allows two rounds of corrections, not just one, unless that's changed recently.  You can't catch everything in one go-round.

I found $150 pfh to be the sweet spot for me. The narrator was happy, she was excellent to work with, and I ended up with a good product. When I offered $100 or royalty share (before they dropped the royalty to a flat 40%), I got nothing.

 

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Length of work affects price too.  I posted a short story as a test to see how ACX work with full payment at the lowest rate - and had eight narrators jump at it.  One ACX approved narrator sent an audition 20 minutes after I posted the work.  Whether short stories sell is a different thread altogether...
 

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Question about the 'per finished hour' thing:
Suppose a narrator costs $300 per finished hour. Does that mean if you have 2 chapter tracks that are 30 mins each, which equal 1 hour, you pay $300 in total for those? What if you need the narrator to fix those two tracks due to a mispronunciation? Do you have to pay ANOTHER $300 for those two tracks?
 

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When you hire through Audible, that narrator uploads their work there, and when it's finished Audible does the math.

PFH rate * length

That is what you pay (at least, that's been my experience). The narrator will send you an invoice and you can discuss payment options with them up front. I paid mine through Paypal.

Keep in mind, if you like the narrator's work, but you are a bad client, they aren't going to want to work with you again :)
 

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RM Prioleau said:
Question about the 'per finished hour' thing:
Suppose a narrator costs $300 per finished hour. Does that mean if you have 2 chapter tracks that are 30 mins each, which equal 1 hour, you pay $300 in total for those? What if you need the narrator to fix those two tracks due to a mispronunciation? Do you have to pay ANOTHER $300 for those two tracks?
Per finished hour is exactly what it sounds like. Finished means fixed and approved. So no, you don't pay until you're happy, and pay only once.

The narrator does the book and uploads each chapter as a file, plus opening credits, end credits, and retail sample. You listen to them, download them if you want, check them on itunes and on your ipod, while following along using your pdf script. You find an error, you tell the narrator what is is, where it can be found using time, page, line number and he fixes it. Uploads a new file, you listen again.

If all is fine this time, you click approve. ACX adds all the files up and come to 5:30mins let's say. That means you pay 5.5 X $300 =$1650 (you'll have to add paypal fee) Your narrator invoices you the amount you need to pay, you pay it and click a button to say you have. Your narrator clicks a button at his end to say he received it, and ACX swings into action with its QC and retail thing. 10 days or so later, your book explodes onto Audible and sells like gangbusters... PROFIT.

PS: This isn't my book, but I have to say LOVE THE COVER!! http://www.audible.com/pd/Fiction/The-Valkyrie-Chronicles-Folkvangr-Audiobook/B00NQATNNG
 

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Greetings, all! I'm a narrator who works a lot through ACX, and I'm glad to see this discussion.

Sophrosyne's assessment of the talent and finished production quality for each payment rate is, if you'll pardon the pun, right on the money.

To clarify a few points in this discussion:

A rule of thumb is that it takes at least 6 hours for experienced people to create 1 finished hour of audio. A book with a finished run-time of 10 hours might therefore require 60 hours or more in real time to create. The time breakdown is as follows:
-- 1 hour prep (pre-read, research pronunciations, develop character voices)
-- 2 hours recording (correcting mistakes and eliminating noises as you go)
-- 3 hours edit, proof, and master audio for retail distribution

The ACX contract does not specify what constitutes a correction. Many authors think that they should give acting and vocal direction on individual lines and character voices throughout the text. However, narration is a performance art, and the narrator's interpretation of the words will always have some variance from the way the author might have heard it in his/her head. Therefore, a narrator's view of corrections is usually limited to technical errors such as mispronunciations, missing or incorrect words, etc.

To answer RM Prioleau's question, you would pay $300 total for the production of the 2 30-minute chapters. The corrections are part of the per finished hour rate.

The current royalty share split is 20%-20% between narrator and author. ACX had a tiered structure prior to 12 March 2014. Your actual payment will be less than a straight 20% of the sales price due to fluctuations in Audible member credits, foreign currencies, reduced sales prices, etc.

Many narrators will not consider a royalty share book unless your other versions are selling 1000 copies a month. The risk for little or no financial compensation for the hours spent in production rests solely with the narrator. The author earns money from every copy of other versions sold, but the narrator only earns money when the audiobook sells.

If ACX doesn't offer the $100 stipend on your book, here's a creative solution that may help you. Many narrators -- including me! -- would happily agree to a $100 stipend up front from the author and the royalty split paid from ACX/Audible. This arrangement allows authors on a budget to attract more experienced talent but is financially feasible for the narrator to offset the production expenses. The author works out the up-front payment with the narrator outside of the ACX structure.

I also encourage authors to contact the narrator BEFORE you make an offer. This way, you can work out payment and availability ahead of time. ACX doesn't have any functionality to revise the offer or for a narrator to explain why she can't accept it. Communication before the offer saves time and frustration for everyone.

Rosalind James, congrats on your success! You have attracted it by being willing to pay for a top-tier narrator. If I could offer you a bit of advice, don't put it out to the Universe that your audiobook won't be a finalist for an Audie! Instead, visualize the award and other recognition that you and your work deserve!

Finally, if you have selected a narrator but are waiting to start the project, please update your listing to indicate the narrator has been cast. Otherwise, narrators will spend their time creating a custom audition for you when they could be putting that time toward an open project.

Thanks for a great discussion!

Cordially,
Karen Commins
My ACX profile: https://www.acx.com/narrator?p=AIU2I7DKF1YUP
My audiobooks on Audible: http://goo.gl/WcqSk
 

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I feel like a thief just lurking and soaking up all this information. Thank you, Sophrosyne, for starting this thread, and thanks to everyone who added to it. I've bookmarked it for future reference. 
 

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Karen Commins said:
The ACX contract does not specify what constitutes a correction. Many authors think that they should give acting and vocal direction on individual lines and character voices throughout the text. However, narration is a performance art, and the narrator's interpretation of the words will always have some variance from the way the author might have heard it in his/her head. Therefore, a narrator's view of corrections is usually limited to technical errors such as mispronunciations, missing or incorrect words, etc.
I have to say that my narrator suggested some accents that I would never have thought of but they turned out beautifully.

The best thing to do when you are asking for auditions is specify exactly what accents you want and also describe the main characters so the narrators auditioning know pretty much what you are looking for. I also used a scene that had as many of the characters in it as possible.
 

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Just to add to Karen's excellent points: I wrote to each narrator who auditioned, thanking them and telling them I had cast the production. Just like you want to know if you got the job or not. Being left hanging always feels so rude. Plus, a couple of them were a good enough match that I'd want to go back to them if for some reason I needed to. Having that communication with them left the door open.
 

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I wrote to each narrator who auditioned, thanking them and telling them I had cast the production. Just like you want to know if you got the job or not.
Wow. It didn't even cross my mind that people wouldn't do this. It just seems like basic manners.
 

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jakedfw said:
Wow. It didn't even cross my mind that people wouldn't do this. It just seems like basic manners.
Me too! Get an audition, write a thank you and say you will review it and let him/her know asap. After reviewing, email to say they are on the short list or they are not, say why politely. Found your narrator? Email all others and say thanks. Tell them the auditions are closed, the book is cast/has a narrator etc.

It's common sense. Don't you hate it when people don't reply to your emails the next day at the latest? Ever tried to email certain aggregaters and never get a response? Think like that. A narrator is looking to you, the way you look to those aggregaters!

Tell the winner asap, work out a deal for money and start/finish times all via emails and texting. Exchange details to make comms easy. Don't resort to the ACX message system until you have things worked out before hand. It's much simpler to just put an offer forward that you KNOW will be accepted because you worked it out via email before hand.
 
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