Ready to make an audiobook but unsure how to manage the financial split with your chosen narrator? Is royalty share the best way forward for you?
Historical mystery writer Anna Castle interviewed professional narrataor Joel Froomkin, service provider for her own audiobooks, on how royalty share works from the narrators perspective, in this eye-opening post.
We authors post our title information, audition pages, etc, and we state whether we’re looking for royalty share or paying up front; if the latter, we select a price range per hour. But how do narrators choose which projects to accept and what are the factors that would persuade them to accept the royalty share option rather than requiring an upfront, one-off fee for the voice artistry. Here's what Joel told me when I put that question to him.
It’s basically a numbers game.
Royalty share is a gamble.
- I have some colleagues who have a gift for choosing the right projects, but it isn’t easy. Usually, if a project is a strong royalty share prospect, the author will want to pay you up front because they know it’s going to sell. We look at several things:
- Most important are the existing sales numbers and the numbers of reviews on Amazon and Goodreads, particularly PAID e-book sales. (Because of this, sometimes a new release can be a risky royalty share venture. It may be best to wait until the book has a track record.)
- We also look at the author’s social media presence and how many followers they have on Twitter and Facebook.
- We look at how they market their existing work.
- If they have any previous audio, how have those sold? If they only have ten reviews and their audio has been out for a year, then it probably isn’t going to be a good financial gamble.
If you want your book in audio very close to its initial release, expect narrators to research the reviews/sales of your previous titles.
Up-front Production Costs for Audiobook Narrators
Many authors aren’t aware that we have up-front costs to produce the audio. An editor charges $75 per finished hour and a proofer usually charges $25.
So, before an eight-hour book even goes on sale, it can have COST US $800 to create.
With royalty share, the narrator is making about $2 per sale (prior to the current Romance Package debacle.) The industry estimate is that one hour of finished audio takes six hours to produce, so to make even minimum wage we have to sell a lot of copies.
It is very easy with royalty share to LOSE money from the up-front expense.
What Makes a Good Deal
If the author believes the title will do well in audio (estimate $4 per sale), they’re more likely to make their money back and see a long-term profit by paying on a per-finished hour basis.
Audio is a long game. Because people use monthly credits, you don’t get those release-day surges in sales.
But, if the book sales are strong and the author has a healthy readership, then royalty share can be a great collaboration and be worthwhile for both parties.
Keep in mind that the union minimum for audiobook narration is $250 per finished hour. That’s how we calculate the risk.
- An eight-hour book would be $2,000 in a per-finished-hour contract.
- In order for a busy narrator, who is in demand, to justify taking on the royalty share project, they have to look at that $2 royalty return.
- In order to earn that union minimum, the book must sell 1,000 copies.
With some titles that’s perfectly do-able. With others, it’s going to be a real challenge. We all have royalty share titles that have sold like twelve copies… and we have per-finished-hour titles that we WISH had been royalty share!
LOL. It’s like going to Vegas.#Indieauthors - wondering how to pay the #narrator of your #audiobook? Read these useful insights into how to persuade a narrator to do a deal with you - by @AnnaCastl & @JoelFroomkin Click To Tweet
OTHER HELPFUL POSTS ABOUT SELF-PUBLISHING AUDIO BOOKS
From the ALLi Author Advice Center Archive