ACTRA Toronto Audiobook Initiative


Audiobooks are driving the growth of digital publishing and 96% of listeners consider the narrator “very important” or “somewhat important” when selecting an audiobook. ACTRA Toronto wants to help you connect to the growing audiobook audience by using the voice talents of ACTRA narrators – the best story tellers in Canada. ACTRA Toronto. We make your story heard!

The Narrator is Key

Great narration makes an audiobook and ACTRA Toronto members are great narrators, setting the standard for audiobooks in Canada. Listeners judge an audiobook by its narrator when selecting a great listen.

BookNet Canada’s 2nd Audiobook research survey notes:

“With most audiobooks having just one narrator and the average audiobook being numerous hours long, we wondered how much listeners care about the narrator.”

“An overwhelming 95.3% of listeners consider the narrator “very important” (57.8%) or “somewhat important” (37.5%) when selecting an audiobook.”

An audiobook is more than just a reading of your work. It’s a performance that can make your book stand out from the competition.

ACTRA members have been telling stories for 75 years and have diverse voices and talents. Choosing an ACTRA professional narrator is the surest way to turn your book into a work that will be enjoyed by audiences for years to come.

CONTACT AN ACTRA TORONTO BUSINESS REPRESENTATIVE for more information on how to bring your book to life.

Audiobook FAQ

Q: Are Audiobooks “A Thing” in Canada?

Absolutely! And the industry is growing.

In the past two years, dozens of projects have been produced with ACTRA members through ECW Press and its alliance of Independent Canadian Publishers as well as Penguin Random-House Audio, and other publishers.

The audiobook industry throughout North America is booming with steady, double-digit growth.

Q: Does ACTRA Produce audiobooks?

Not directly, just as publishers don’t produce audiobooks – production companies do.

Yet, since ACTRA narrators are integral to audiobook production and the union works with members to help facilitate opportunities as well as ensuring safe and fair working conditions, there is an initiative to help grow the industry through education and by introducing employers to production options that involve our extraordinarily talented ACTRA members. To this end, we provide contact information at the base of these notes for those seeking more information.

ACTRA is the Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Television and Radio Artists, a Canadian labour union representing performers in English-language media with 22,000 members working in film, television, radio and all other recorded media. ACTRA Toronto is the largest of ACTRA’s independent branches, representing about 53% of ACTRA’s national membership.

Q: How are audiobooks made?

It starts with the author’s words on the page. Then, an actor who has the perception, skill and storytelling talent to fulfill the intentions of the author narrates the story. The recording is edited and mastered to become a retail-ready product.

The actual production is a collaboration of a narrator – a performer working with professional equipment in a studio or home-studio – and an editor – the post-production team member who edits the sound files, proofs the material to ensure accuracy and masters the actual sound files so they match professional standards. Professionally mastered files ensure a consistent listening experience so that, for example, listeners don’t have to constantly adjust sound levels as they enjoy the unfolding story.

The narrator-editor team is at the core of the production, working in consultation with the author/rights-holder.

Q: How are audiobooks sold and how do I get paid, as an author?

A produced audiobook is sold online or sometimes to libraries by a distributor who then pays the rights-holder a percentage of sales.

Opting to distribute exclusively with one network may garner the rights-holder/author a higher percentage, while selecting a wider network availability to broaden the reach usually reduces the percentage of the royalty for portions of your sales.

Q: When is the right time to make an audiobook version of my book?

Doing a web search using the terms “should authors make audiobooks” turns up numerous articles that discuss audiobook production from an author’s perspective, including timing, advantages and a variety of methods to achieve a production.

Since there is an initial financial outlay for production and it is estimated that audiobook sales can account for 5% to 20% (sometimes reportedly as high as 35%) of an author’s sales, it follows that marketing and sales of other formats of the book should be generating satisfying returns, before you can expect similar interest and sales from listeners for the audiobook version. Everyone wants to see a great product connect with its audience, but if the book (print, eBook) version is not already doing so, it’s much more difficult to calculate the timetable for recouping the production cost of the audio version.

That said, there is crossover between print and audio consumers and, in some cases, the audiobook version of a product has been demonstrated to gain new listeners and readers for an author.

When negotiating publishing deals, it’s helpful to remember that the audio rights to your work have potential value and to keep your options open.

Q: How long does it take for production?

You can’t tell a joke until you know the punch line, and you can’t narrate a book without reading it. And reading the book is only the beginning of a professional narrator’s preparation process.

Analysis and preparation of the story and characters, research of place and character names, languages, accents, etc.… the narrator devotes many hours, sometimes days, preparing before recording begins. Then, comes editing, proofing and mastering.

It often takes between 6 to 8 hours (or more) of production time to produce each finished hour of an audiobook. Multiply that by all the finished hours of the finalized audiobook (divide your total word count by 9300 words to get an estimate of the total finished hours), and you quickly see that it can take a narrator days or even weeks to produce the final product.

The narrator (and post-production team) may put in between 60-100 hours or more of production time to produce the 10 finished hours needed to listen to your audiobook. It’s long-format work which means that some actors are creating the audiobook while doing other work on set, stage or in studio. Bottom line? Expect a great product to take time.

A production is paid at a Per-Finished-Hour rate (PFH). The PFH rate may initially seem high, until you calculate the working rate for the performer/post-production team _ by dividing the PFH rate figure by 6-to-10. This calculation will confirm the importance of finding the best team possible as it becomes apparent these highly skilled and devoted craftspeople have to be both talented and efficient in order to turnaround a great project on time.

Q: How much does it cost?

ACTRA members engaged directly by a Rights-Holder/Author can provide an All-In arrangement where you set a fee and they handle contributions, so once the rate is set, you’ll be good to go. It’s part of an initiative to streamline the process.

Per-Finished-Hour (PFH) rates are negotiated with narrators – and an ACTRA Toronto Business Representative can help begin the conversation.

Remember that the narrator needs to hire a studio or maintain the equipment in a home studio, and also that the Editor (post-production person) is a key member in your team.

When estimating the total budget for your audiobook, it’s important to know:

  • Total hours for your book (divide word count by 9300)
  • What PFH rate goes to your narrator
  • What PFH rate goes to your editor/post-production for editing, proofing, mastering of the files.

Distributors are eager to work with you, once you have the finished files.

Project your sales over the next seven (7) years against cost of production. Library sales (larger, one-time purchases per library branch) are an additional source of revenue, available with some distributors.


CNIB Initiative

We have teamed up with the CNIB on a new initiative designed to sharpen our narration skills which will improve our work opportunities while giving back to the community at the same time.

You can volunteer your time at the CNIB recording books and then use excerpts from the recordings for your demo reels.

If a publisher hears your recording and reaches out to the CNIB, they will be directed to ACTRA Toronto for your contact info.

If you are interested in this initiative, please contact Robert Gordon, Manager, Audio Publishing & Distribution.