Calculating Your Audiobook Production Budget Based on PFH rates
Professional narrators typically produce audiobooks using the industry-standard “Per Finished Hour” (PFH) rate. This means, the narrator is paid by the total length of all finished audio files combined.
To estimate your total production budget you'll need to know the total word count of your manuscript that you wish to be recorded (exclude the word count of any pages you wish to omit from the recording - like the table of contents or glossary).
The average narrator recites at about 9,300 words per hour (155 words/minute).
Word Count / 9300 = Estimated Audiobook Length (in hours)
Estimated Audiobook Length (in hours) x The Narrator's PFH Rate = Estimated Total Cost to Produce your Audiobook
So, what goes into each finished hour of your audiobook?
Everything it takes to create professional retail-ready audio files:
- Meticulous time spent researching and reading through your transcript before recording
- Studio fees if applicable (though many narrators now record in a home studio)
- Time spent recording
- Hiring someone to edit, proof, and master the final files
- Uploading the final retail-ready files
Each finished hour of audio typically takes around 3+ hours of work. A 10-hour audiobook may take 30+ hours of actual work to complete.
The DIY audiobook production also requires quite a bit of equipment. When you hire a professional narrator, you’re gaining their years of experience performing, and temporary access to their professional equipment that typically includes:
- Sound booth or sound-treated space
- Professional microphone and pop filter
- Microphone stand
- Over-ear headphones
- Audio interface
- Laptop and a reading device like a tablet or iPad
- Hard drive or cloud service to backup projects
- Digital Audio Workstation
Audiobook narration is a highly specialized skill. Anyone who has attempted the DIY method of audiobook production can tell you it’s no walk in the park. It’s more than just reading words on a page—it’s a performance that brings your work to life.