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PFH Meaning and PFH Rates for Audiobook Projects Explained

Al Black

Al Black

1 April 2021

PFH Meaning and PFH Rates for Audiobook Projects Explained - Voquent

PFH is an acronym used in the audiobook and voice-over industries.

Like any other industry, voice-over has a lot of unfamiliar terms and jargon to learn. 

These abbreviations and acronyms frequently appear when communicating rates, timescales, delivery formats and more.

When it comes to voice-over, we believe that educating those we partner with to understand this jargon better is integral to improving our work.

In this particular case, understanding the PFH meaning will give you an insight into how the costs breakdown for an audiobook narration project.  


PFH is short for 'Per Finished Hour.'

Per finished hour of audio PFH is one method (there are many alternatives) of calculating payment for narration work.

Agreeing rates Per Finished Hour makes things a bit complicated and it would be much simpler and would be better for everyone to pay per word. But I digress, it's not going away anytime soon!

One finished hour of voice-over narration is 60 total minutes of professionally recorded and edited audio, ready for broadcast or publication.

Example: If a narrator states that they charge $200 PFH, it means they will record themselves reading 7,500 – 10,000 words of text (depending on the pace of the read), then edit out mistakes, pops, and clicks to deliver a finished audio track.

So, that's the PFH meaning out of the way, but what factors go into calculating a PFH rate?

Any professional narrator needs to understand this because it will ultimately determine their hourly rate of pay. Authors seeking to hire a narrator will also want to understand what is involved.

Whilst paying a low PFH rate may seem like a good idea to an author (everyone likes a deal, right?), they may change their mind when they realise the shortcuts taken to achieve it!

Yep, let's take a deeper look next.


How long to create a 'finished' hour of audio?

Female narrator recording audiobook

Creating one finished hour of audio is not going to take one hour of work for the narrator. An accomplished narrator can probably record around 20 minutes of audio in one hour in the studio.

'Is that all?' I hear you cry.

Yes, really.

Please remember that narrating is not like speaking. When you talk naturally, you will frequently make mistakes. You will fumble words, grope for the correct pronunciation. 'Uhmming' and 'Ahhing' will intersperse your sentences, and you may find yourself repeating complete sentences to be comprehended.

None of which, of course, is allowable in a 'finished' audio track ready for publication.

To achieve 20 minutes of finished audio is quite a feat because the average person (or novice narrator) will struggle to record even 10 minutes of audio in one hour of studio time—half the content.

How do we know this? Years of witnessing it in studios. Being a narrator is much harder than it seems.

Of course, exceptional narrators, those with many years of experience and many titles to their name, will manage 30+ minutes of audio in one hour, but they are in the minority. Different audiobook narrators will have separate preferences and specialities in their performances, which will alter their approach and the speed at which they can record. 

On average, it takes approximately 3 hours for an experienced narrator to record 1 hour of audio (about 7,500 – 10,000 words depending on the pace). However, this audio is still not in a 'finished' state. The audio needs editing.

Experienced narrators will make the editing easier for themselves by clapping or finger-snapping when they make a mistake. A clap or other loud sound which spikes the audio waveform gives them a visual indication of the errors. They can then quickly scroll through the audio and remove all the mistakes and misspoken audio.

After this pass, they still need to listen back through the entire audio track to pick out accidental pops, clicks or mouth noises. Whole sections may need to be re-recorded and laid into the correct place in the audio.

There is software such as Izotope that can speed up this work markedly. Still, to do a truly professional job of editing a narration audio track, here at Voquent, we work on a metric of about 1 hour of engineering time per 10 minutes of 'finished' audio.

Putting this all together to create one hour of finished audio roughly equates to 9 hours of work.

Even an expert narrator who has invested in the best recording equipment, workstation, apps and rarely makes mistakes will need 6 hours (a full day of recording/editing with breaks) to produce that one finished hour of audio.

In summary, one full day of recording and editing time is required to create one finished hour of audio – at a minimum.


What is a fair PFH rate?

Black lady with eyes closed in bed listening to audiobook.

If you're an author seeking to get your book turned into an audiobook, the PFH meaning is vital to your success.

Knowing that it takes at minimum 6 hours – and more likely 9 hours – to create one finished hour of audio, do you think a rate of $50 PFH or even $100 PFH is reasonable compensation?

That equates to an embarrassingly low range of pay from $5.55 – $16.66 per hour. Understanding what is fair compensation for time is part of the PFH meaning.

A good narrator brings words to life. They don't just read aloud in a monotone. A good narrator will expand the audience – sometimes two or five-fold over the e-book publication.

Being a narrator is a trade, but it is not like other trades because it may catapult an author's writing to new heights. So is it fair to offer a rate less than the average pay rate for a plumber in the US ($24.60)?

And no disrespect intended to hard-working Plumbers, they are vital, but they aren't going to turn your bathroom into a money-making enterprise.

An accomplished narrator can and often will.


Our recommendations

Consider an audiobook production an investment, not an expense.

If you look at the audiobook as a digital asset, you should always consider offering more than $144 PFH (the rate equal to the average plumber's hourly rate). And always hire the best narrator you can afford.


We recommend:

  • $200 PFH minimum to attract experienced narrators


  • $300 – $400 PFH for expert narrators.

Fact: offering less than $100 PFH will only attract:

a) novice narrators with little or no previous experience

b) narrators that use cheap recording equipment

c) narrators that don't spend sufficient time editing the audio


All of which will require more hassle for you and inflict a lasting negative impression on your audience.

After all, the audiobook version should enhance the writing, not detract from it, and a sub-par audiobook will only lead to listener dissatisfaction.


In conclusion

Whether you are an author or a professional narrator, genuinely understanding the PFH meaning and what goes into calculating a fair PFH rate is crucial to any audiobook's success.

To authors setting their budgets, please remember that you generally get what you pay for. Suppose you're offering around minimum wage ($50 – $100 PFH). In that case, you're going to be working with less experienced narrators, using cheaper equipment –  a USB Blue Yeti is great for podcasting, but not so much for professional VO. The narrator will also be spending less time reviewing and mastering the audio and sometimes skipping this essential editing step entirely.

Imagine next that you're able to stretch your budget to $200 PFH or beyond. Viewing the audio production as an investment in your brand and e-publishing catalogue. This mindset will attract highly accomplished narrators to audition, and you will get to pick someone who helps take your work to a whole new audience and level—a partner.

Yep, if you intend to become successful in the audiobook sphere, treat your narrator as an essential partner and even consider cutting them in on the sales by splitting the commission 50/50 (we'll talk about the benefits of this in a future blog).


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Contact us about your audiobook project


Al Black

By Al Black

Al has over twenty years of experience in audiovisual translations. A Voquent co-founder, he has produced tens of thousands of voice-overs and translations for education, advertising and entertainment projects.

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