How is an audio book produced and what are the costs?

Woman listening to audio booksRecording and producing an audio book properly is a long and involved process for both voice over and audio producer.  This article explains what the process involves and covers ball park costs.

Who is involved in your audio book production service?

We use professional voice overs and audio producers on all projects. Typically, an audio book project will involve a voice over, audio producer and project manager.

How long does the voice over recording take?

For 1 hour narration, the voice over recording generally takes about 1.5 – 2 times as long to record. In other words, one hour narration can take anything from 1hr 30mins to 2 hours to record or even longer for complex characterisation and medical reads.

When you think that many books can be in the region of 100,000 words plus, understandably the recording time can become lengthy and tiring for the voice over. Voicing for more than 5-6 hours is a long shift for a voice over and at that point they could still have 5 to 10 times those hours to record depending on the length of the audio book.

As you can understand, a professional voice over will want to charge accordingly for the recording sessions and will also consider the fact that you may sell tens of thousands of copies well into the future.

The fee for hiring a voice-over artist will depend on a number of factors including current career position, current workload and the style of read required.

What happens after the voice over has finished recording?

OK, so the recording has finished, you may think the job is done… not quite. The voice over recording now needs a thorough de-breath. What is this?… Basically, the removal of all breaths, pops, clicks and spit noises. Find out more about de-breath.

Yes, there are audio tools out there to help remove breaths but they are not 100% reliable and do not always work well enough. The only way to remove breaths properly is by an audio producer listening to the recording and removing the breaths manually. Yes, completely manually.

Could you not just leave the breaths in?

Sometimes, people wish to cut corners and not have the de-breath, however, we don’t know any voice overs that will allow audio to go out with breaths in it.

The other thing we hear is people telling us it’s not needed as people breath naturally in speech. Yes, they do but how many people speak a couple of inches from your ear? Not many, but voice overs have to get this close to a microphone to achieve a good signal level.

What happens next?

A professional audio producer is needed to achieve a clear sound. Producing an audio book is about 10% the tools you use and 90% experience.

The next stage of the process is to produce the recorded and de-breathed audio with EQ and compression so that it sounds the best it can for its delivery format. e.g CD, mp3 download. Additionally, you may wish to have licensed music and sound effects mixed with it to provide the finishing touches.

What happens if changes are needed after the recording and production has finished?

It is inevitable that mistakes will be made on a large project and there are usually a few retakes that need blending into the audio mix.

If there are any mispronunciations or misreads, re-records and editing are scheduled in.

After this the audio book is finished and ready for you to send to CD duplicators or sell as an audio book download.

How much does this cost?

There are many variables involved in pricing audio book production. These include who the voice over is, the complexity of the read and production and the projected audio book sales.

The ball park figures for our audio book production service range from £195 – £600 (+VAT in the UK & EU) per produced hour of audio book.

We consider this to be good value for the quality of service and professional job we provide.

To conclude…

Hopefully, this has given you a better understanding of the amount of work involved in recording and producing an audio book.

The process outlined does not go into the project management aspect and logistics of organising such a project but gives a fair account of the process.

When you consider the amount of time and work involved (recording, production and project management) 1 hour of finished audio book can take anything from 3-6 hours to complete.

You have probably put a lot of time and effort into the content of your printed book so if you are thinking about creating an audio book version it makes sense to get the best quality result available.

If you are interested in finding out more and hearing some samples, please visit our audio book production section.


  1. says

    I agree about de-breathing! My pet hate is hearing breathing in full volume! :) Thanks for sharing this blog, it’s really informative. I’m going to send this link to our voice overs!


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