Thinking of Doing the Audiobook Version of Your Book? Part 2 by Holly Adams

Audiobook VersionLet’s welcome back Holly Adams as she shares with us “Thinking of Doing the Audiobook Version of Your Book? Part 2 .” Enjoy!


Congrats on making it this far!! Okay, so you’ve got a narrator and a publishing platform.

What Next?

The next steps are a little stickier.

Contracts and Fees

Your platform probably has a standardized contract they use—double check for how many years your audiobook book will be available (ACX/Audible is 7 years). Also look at the options for paying your Narrator/Producer. You’ll see PFH, which stands for Per Finished Hour (meaning a rate of x dollars per listening hour) and RS, which I am sure you all know stands for Royalty Share. What percentage you receive form royalties varies from platform to platform. Be sure you know what you are getting! Why? Because if you are paying your Narrator/Producer with a RS contract, you are essentially splitting YOUR royalty income with the Narrator. In addition, many platforms offer a “Hybrid Deal” or a “Stipend plus RS” option. This means a RS deal PLUS an additional $100-$150pfh. Even if it is not officially offered, you can still request this type of contract—it is sometimes a win-win.


Because the rate for good narrators who are also producing the audiobook begins around $300 pfh, and the bottom rate for a contract to be SAG-AFTRA eligible is $325 pfh, and many terrific narrators want a minimum of that rate….. and often are unlikely to make that in a RS deal alone. It can take 5 hours of work for 1 listening hour, more if there is a lot of research involved or a cagillion languages (more stops and starts!). Moreover, many narrators like myself hire outside Quality Control and Sound Mastering pros, and need to not LOSE money producing your audiobook book! Can you hire a good narrator for less? Yes. Many of us will opt for a RS-only deal if we feel strongly about a project or think it will sell well, and some terrific actors who are new to the audiobook world need titles to launch themselves and learn this version of their craft.


How things typically go

* Usually, the Rights Holder sends the Narrator a manuscript


the character (or main character) list with notes that the will help the narrator. People that the character might remind you of, qualities of speech (“talks really fast”; “bubbly”; “gravelly”; “deep voice” etc)


a pronunciation list of anything that might be confusing. For example, “Houston” is pronounced HOW-ston when you are referring to the street in NYC but HYOU-ston when referring to the city in TX; Albany is ALL-ban-ee in NY and AL-bunn-ee in Georgia; Hannah could be HAN-nah or HAH-nah but is occasionally hah-NAH.

* Then, the narrator prepares the script, practicing the text, getting character ideas etc

* Then the Narrator records “The first 15”, the first 15 minutes of the book. It does not need to be the actual first 15 minutes!! YOU choose a section or sections (it can be more than one!) that include the main characters of the book, and a couple different “tones”. One author with whom I work regularly gives me four sections of the book in order to cover all the tones and characters.

* Then, within 4 days to a week (depending on the contract) the RH/author gives directorial input, especially on tone and character interpretation, and the narrator re-records and resends within 10 days. The RH/author then either requests more changes or approves the recordings.

* Now comes the long stretch when the narrator is busy recording, editing, and getting the chapters Quality Controlled and mastered.

When that is done, chapters are loaded onto the platform as finished, or mailed via large file transfer to the RH.

The RH/author listens to it and either approves it or requests changes.

Types of changes typically requested:

* if I and QC missed a mistake (like a pronoun switch)

* if the RH/author feels like the narrator misunderstood the meaning of a sentence. (for example, I have had to read sentences like “She knew it was hers” and it was not clear whether the owner was the speaker or the other woman).

* if, in a sequence of unattributed dialogue between multiple parties, the narrator thought person A was speaking a line, when the RH intended it to be Person D

Types of change-requests that are frowned upon in the Audiobook world:

* The acting/emotional truth of a particular moment

—–in the same way that no play, even with the same actors, is the same every night, moments can be true and real and alive but still be different. We are performing live, and working very hard to access each character’s truth and motivation etc, and how the moment comes out may not be how you imagined it, but can still be very powerful or effective for the listener!

That being said, if something is really important to you, let the narrator know, and often you can figure it out together. Narrators do not want to be micromanaged and do have a living to earn, BUT they also want you to be happy!

* Writing changes.

You’d be surprised how many people want to re-write a section after they hear it. Yes, it is doable, but the industry standard is for the RH to pay extra for that.

Finally, it is finished, goes up for sale, and the world is your oyster!

There has been a lot written about this stuff, and this blog is just my own point of view. For more info, check out Karen Commins blogs

Narrator Blog

There are other terrific ones out there, too!

I hope I have thought of everything. I am happy to answer questions, send links to info, any of that. Know that at the end of the day, we want your audiobook to thrive as much as you do!



Holly AdamsA SAG-AFTRA performer, and a stage and film actress for many years before joining the audiobook world, Holly Adams began her VO (voiceover) career doing radio plays and full-cast audiobooks. Since then, she has narrated books in multiple genres, including romance, mysteries and classics, and has been nominated for Best Female Narrator.

The Spirit Tree by Kathryn M. Hearst is narrated by Holly Adams. Available here.

Connect with Holly Adams




Twitter: @hollyshearwater


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