Audiobooks FAQ

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Q. What does Per Finished Hour (PFH) mean?
A. “Per Finished Hour” is the way payment is usually calculated in the audiobook industry. Generally, narrators are paid for every hour of finished recording, rather than by studio hour. While the total amount of time necessary to prep the book and make any needed corrections following recording can vary considerably, many narrators estimate an average of two hours of recording to get one finished hour.

Q. Are health and retirement contributions made on all audiobook earnings?
A. If you are covered under a SAG-AFTRA audiobook agreement, AFTRA Health and Retirement contributions will be paid on your earnings at a percentage stated in the agreement. “People covered” varies from contract to contract, so please check with a SAG-AFTRA staff member if you have any questions.

Q. Will my audiobook health and retirement contributions go to AFTRA H&R or SAG P&H?
A. Contributions for audiobook work go to AFTRA H&R because this work fell under AFTRA’s jurisdiction before the unions merged.

Q. Does recording an audiobook make me eligible to join SAG-AFTRA?
A. If you are not yet a member of SAG-AFTRA, and you record an audiobook under a SAG-AFTRA agreement, this work will make you eligible to join the union. Audiobook narration is principal work, so you will need to record and be paid for one audiobook to gain eligibility. Non-union audiobook recording will not provide eligibility. Ask your employer if you are working under a SAG-AFTRA agreement.

Q. How can I find information about audiobook companies that I can work for?
A. If you are a member of SAG-AFTRA, you may contact an audiobook staff specialist to request a list of companies that have agreements with SAG-AFTRA. Other resources include Audiofile Magazine and the Audiobook Publishers Association, as well as union-sponsored and private workshops. As in many areas of work in SAG-AFTRA’s jurisdiction, audiobook narration is a competitive field that requires skill and tenacity to enter. (*Note many companies will bring narrators into a studio to record with a director or engineer, but many will ask narrators to record from a home studio.)

Q. If I record from home, what is expected of me in terms of production? 
A. This varies by producer/publisher but it is not industry standard to ask narrators to deliver a fully mastered, retail-ready product. If a fully produced book is requested, additional payment should be offered or negotiated. Audiobook companies often pay for other pre and post-production work as well, such as research for complex books or proofing. It is standard for audiobook employers to expect “clean” WAV files from the narrator.  A majority of the SAG-AFTRA contracts outline what services are included in the minimum rates.

Q. Do I need an agent to audition for audiobook companies?
A. Although some members book audiobook work through their agents, many have direct relationships with audiobook publishers and do not use an agent for this type of work.

Q. Will I be paid the Sound Recordings Code rate for recording an audiobook?
A. The company that hires you for audiobook work may pay you under the Sound Recordings Code or under a separate audiobook agreement, depending on the project. If you have questions or concerns about the terms of the agreement under which you are hired, please contact a staff specialist, listed on the Contact Information page.

Q. Will I be paid the Commercials Code voiceover rate for recording an audiobook?
A. Audiobook narration is not covered by the Commercials Code.

Q. How can I have a say in the audiobook contracts I work under?
A. SAG-AFTRA members can have a say in the contracts they work under by attending meetings held specifically to discuss changes to the contracts when they are renegotiated. If you work for a specific company on a regular basis, you may want to attend a meeting (often held via tele-conference) when that particular contract is up for renegotiation. In addition, you can attend general narrator meetings in your SAG-AFTRA Local. Staff needs to hear from working members to know what is needed in the contracts, so we encourage you to attend. Please be sure the audiobook staff specialists have your contact information so that you can be invited when meetings are held. Also, your democratically elected union representatives approve all SAG-AFTRA contracts. Contracts are first recommended by an advisory committee of working audiobook narrators, before being considered for approval by the SAG-AFTRA National Board. Participating in union elections is an important way to have your say in the contracts you work under on a daily basis.

Q. How can I get involved in the union?
A. The union is only as strong as its members, and member involvement is the key to all successful unions. There are many opportunities to get involved at SAG-AFTRA, including attending contract/organizing meetings, joining committees, volunteering to help with outreach to narrators, leading workshops or seminars in your area of expertise, etc. Please contact a staff specialist if you would like to get involved!