Audiobook Narration for Voice Artists

As an audiobook narrator, one of the most important aspects of the performance is the ability to read the text effectively. When voicing a book, it is crucial to be able to understand and deliver the author’s words in a way that engages the listener.

There are a few different techniques that can be used when reading for audiobooks. One is to read the text as it is written, maintaining the original meaning and flow of the author’s words.  Another option is to read the text with a bit of interpretation, adding your own flair and interpretation to the performance. This can be a great way to bring the author’s words to life and make them more engaging for the listener.

It is also important to pay attention to the pacing and rhythm of the text. Audiobooks are typically performed at a slower pace than regular spoken-word audio, so it is important to take that into account when delivering the text. Pacing can also be used to create tension or suspense in the performance.

When narrating audiobooks, it is also important to maintain a consistent tone and mood throughout the performance. This can be done by ensuring that the delivery of the text is consistent with the tone of the book. For example, if the book is humorous, then the narrator should use a light, cheerful tone throughout the performance. If the book is suspenseful, then the narrator should use a more serious, tense tone.

By following these tips, voice actors can create a powerful and engaging audiobook performance.

Quoting Accurately for Audiobooks

Audiobook production costs can vary significantly depending on the length and complexity of the book, and the number of people performing the narration.

Most commonly, the cost for a professional audiobook narration is calculated by per finished hour (PFH). To quote accurately as a voice artist, you need to take the following into account.

  1. Length of the book (word count)
  2. Estimated words per finished hour
  3. A PFH Rate
  4. How long it will take you to edit/master/proof your recording
  5. Whether you are doing the editing yourself or are hiring someone else to do it for you

Firstly, calculate the length of the book. Since audiobooks are generally a little slower than regular narration, a pace of about 140 words per minute is a good place to start. This works out at roughly 8400 words per hour.

Next, apply that calculation to the word count of the book. Often, you’ll have the text in a digital format so this is quite easy. MS Word has a word count tool. You could also copy and paste the entire text into an online word counter such as

For example, a 50000 word book will end up being about 6 hours in length.

The GVAA Rate Guide recommends a Non-Union PFH rate of between $200 to $500 per finished hour (about R2900-R7270 at the time of this post). This includes production fees for hiring a professional to edit/master/proof at approximately $75-$125 pre hour (R1100-R1850).  This is a more internationally recommended guideline, and my personal recommendation is to use this.

Following this guide, our example book of 50000 words, will be $1200-$3000 (R17400-R43620) all editing/mastering/proofing included.

For South African Narrators, the recommended guidelines are a bit different.

R3610 for up to a maximum of 10 recorded minutes or part thereof, thereafter R700 for each additional 10 recorded minutes or part thereof in the same recording session.  If it’s for Free Educational Purposes Only or Tape Aids for the blind being sold, a 20% additional fee is added. Tape Aids for the blind given away for FREE does not incur additional fees. For sales, which include but are not limited to In-Store, Downloads, Subscriptions, Apps etc, an additional 100% of the recording fee is added. These guidelines do not specify any editing or mastering costs.

Following this guide, our example book of 50000 words, will be R28110, although this assumes you record the entire book in one session, which is unlikely. I’ve found that often you’d need about 2-3h in booth to record 1h of book. Going for longer than that will tire you out and affect performance. So our calculation needs to consider 6 sessions of 2-3h.  This works out at R7110 per hour of book. A total of R42660 for 6 sessions.

As you can see this is very close to the high-end scale of the GVAA rates, plus you still haven’t adding costs for editing yet or any additional usage fees. In my experience, the SA Guidelines are far higher than what most audiobook clients are expecting and could cost you the job, especially if they are casting from various places around the world.

My advice is to keep it simple for you client and quote somewhere in the middle range of the GVAA rates – around the $350 (R5100) PFH mark.

Tips for Recording Audiobooks

For clients – choose a narrator who has a pleasant voice and can convey the emotions of the characters in the book and make sure they have a good understanding of the text and are able to pronounce all the words correctly. Supply a pronunciation guide for names, places, or any words that aren’t common. As the narrator, if something is unclear, ask your client!

For artists – Audiobooks take a lot of time to produce. Prepare yourself properly, read the entire book and make notes before you even step into the booth. Develop “voices” for your characters and work with your client to approve the tone and feel of the read.

Make sure the book is well edited and proofread. This is especially important for audiobooks, as any mistakes will be much more noticeable than in a traditional book.

Budget on needing around 4x the length of the recording in time for you to edit and master the book. Some platforms like Audible, will also require specific audio specs to be adhered to. Make sure you can deliver to these requirements. If not, you will need to outsource your mastering.

Narration for audiobooks can be a great way for voice actors to make a supplemental income. However, it can also be a great way to get started in the voice acting industry. Voice artists can get their name and voice out there and begin to build a portfolio. The more books you get done, the more likely you’ll be able to charge higher fees and start outsourcing the time-consuming editing process to someone else.