FEB. 2, 2017

By Johnny Heller


Once again I have been asked to provide some background for those of you coming – or considering coming – to New York City for APAC Week. And it is a week.

Last year, APAC was in Chicago, my home town, and I convinced many of you to try Chicago Hot Dogs and those who did and who weren’t killed by the salt content were very happy they did so. Sadly, no such culinary wonders exist in New York – a town that believes it has better pizza and better hot dogs than in Chicago – a town that is, like most Republicans, very sincere but sincerely wrong.

There are wonderful things to see, do and eat in New York City and I will try to provide you with examples as well as a primer on the festivities that await you as an APAC participant.

First, APAC stands for the Audio Publishers Association Conference. See? APAC.  Many students and colleagues ask me if they should go to APAC.  Let me tell you what I tell them: yes. We shall discover why shortly. (If I tell you now, why would you buy this free blog?)

Here’s the lineup for the week:


This workshop gets its name from the fact that I run it and we’ve done it every year for two years and this is the third year so…
It is a gathering of some of the top coaches in the industry discussing all aspects of the audiobook world with a large and warm and wonderful group of narrators. We have panel discussions, lots of questions (generally followed by answers from those who know), breakfast, lunch and one on one coaching for all to see. This workshop has grown from 70 actors to 120 to a theatre space for 175 this year.  I think I can safely say that there is no other gathering that I know of that combines so much talent, guidance and good will as this one.  It is not associated with the APA and is a totally different experience than APAC – I hope you’ll consider coming.
Please follow me on FaceBook and join the Johnny Heller Workshop Alumni group to keep up to date on this event.
Here’s a few facts about this years’ shindig. It will be at Baruch College – the Engelman Recital Hall – 55 Lexington Ave (23rd and Lexington Ave.) from 9:00-4:30pm. I provide breakfast and lunch – well actually Jo Anna Perrin will be handling that –  and the wise words of the following: Patrick Fraley, Scott Brick, Sean Alan Pratt, Hillary Huber, Andi Arndt, Amy Rubinate, PJ Ochlan, Paul Alan Ruben, Simon Vance, Jeffrey Kafer and me.

Registration will open soon so stay in touch!  Oh! The one-on-one coaching: every attendee will be entered into a lottery to get a chance to work with one of the coaches. You are directed in your reading by a coach in front of the group so we can all learn together. It’s an amazing experience.  At least it has been in the past. A lot depends on Simon Vance not screwing things up.  And on Ann Richardson bringing me cookies.

(that was pure name dropping there)


We finish my thing at 4:30, giving you a full hour to apply deodorant and get over to the APA Mixer which will be held at a location to be announced.  I’ve no idea where it will be but I am certain that wherever it is, there will be booze. The mixer costs $20 and everyone gets a name tag which gives people like Peter Berkrot a wonderful excuse to stare at people’s chests while pretending to read their name.  It is a schmooze fest. They do have appetizers but you must move Patrick Lawlor and Dawn Harvey out of the way to get to the grub.

Generally, we all hang out at the party and then people break off into intimate groups of 30 or so for dinner somewhere.


APAC is the main event. It’s why we all came to New York to begin with – well not me. I live here. All my stuff is here. But you. You came for this.  The event is held at the Jacob Javits Center which is on the far west side of the middle of the island (Manhattan is an island! Did you know that? Just another fun and utterly useless fact I have stored away).  Javits is a gigantic convention center very far away from anything at all that anyone would ever consider interesting.  APAC is held there because that’s where Book Expo America(BEA) is held and audiobook producers need to be at BEA so they can buy the rights to the books we want to narrate.

The APAC schedule is put together by volunteers who work very hard to create an agenda that everyone can participate in, learn from and enjoy. It’s a very difficult task. Tavia Gilbert was the main organizer in the past and now it’s Stefan Rudnicki and a group of volunteers from the audiobook acting and producing worlds with input from the APA Board. Stefan deserves a big thank you from all of us so if you see him, thank him! And slip him 5 bucks while you’re at it.
The day is basically divided into a Producers Track with events of interest to…c’mon, you can do it…producers! Yes! And a Narrators Track for narrator stuff. You can go to either or bounce between both as most sessions are close to each other and run for about an hour.
The day begins with a Keynote Speech at some ungodly early hour so I’ve never been to one.

After the keynote speech is a membership meeting. These two events are for everyone so everyone is there – pretending to be alert – and some people actually are. (Most of these people are like Michele Cobb who have children and by law must be awake in the morning.)

There are 15 minute breaks built into the day here and there and I like to stretch these out into 45 minute breaks.  For the rest of you though, choices begin at 10:30ish or so. Which session to attend?  It all depends on what you want to learn about. Which session will answer more of your questions?  Which will provide the guidance and performance enrichment you need to move your career forward? Go to the ones that seem most likely to do that. If you think a session is worthless and stupid and icky, don’t go to that one. That’s what I think anyway.

Here are some cool ones that will likely be on the agenda:

Director Diagnostics: led by Robin Ray Eller, this is a chance for narrators to work with more experienced narrators and coaches on a prepared reading. It’s a very good thing.

Speed Dating:  I don’t know how this will work this year but, basically, it’s a chance for actors and producers to meet and chat. I wouldn’t read too much into the “Dating” part of it. It’s not like The Bachelor and you probably shouldn’t try to kiss Debra Deyan or Bryan Barney.  You might be able to smooch Paul Gagne but that’s on you.

Listeners Lounge:  Here’s a nice little event where top flight narrators perform prepared pieces for your enjoyment. It’s as simple as that. I host it, so all the presenters will be made fun of and then they will show me what’s what by reading just beautifully. It’s my millionth year doing this and its truly a swell thing.

Cocktail Hour: This cocktail hour ends the APAC day and it is much needed as a preludeto the drinking we are all likely to do after the cocktail hour ends.

There will also very likely be sessions on technical stuff, branding and marketing and other wonderful topics of interest.

Here are some rules of behavior:

  1. Dress in business casual outfits. Be comfortable but not beach comfortable. If I can see the white fleshy parts of your leg above your socks and below your pants, wear longer pants or higher socks. It can get cold in Javits so bring a sweater or a small hairy person. (I’ll already be there.)
  2. Bring business cards and freely offer them. It weirds me out when I see people judging whether they should “waste” a business card on someone they’re chatting with. Everyone will have cards and give them and take them. Maybe one day we will all get together and trade cards. “I’ll give you two Jeffrey Kafers for a Suzanne Freeman.”  “Have you got an Amanda Rose Smith? I just got a Steven Jay Cohen and I need her to have a complete tech set!”
  3. Do not hand out demos. You can hand out swag but if your swag is a toaster oven, it’s gonna be cumbersome for the lucky recipient.
  4. Do schmooze. If you forget a name, ask for it. Every one there is there to connect. Everyone is interested in knowing more people and expanding their business network. So don’t be shy. If you are shy, use it. Shy can be endearing but if all you do is stand in the corner looking sheepish, people are gonna start hanging their coats on your head.
  5. Be polite. I know that you really want to meet Chrissy Farrell. But if she’s in the middle of a conversation, you are going to have to wait your turn. Just like in real life.
  6. Put your best foot forward. I have said this time and again and it still doesn’t sink in (which is okay because it can be funny) – if you are an ass, don’t let people know it. You know you are-  if you are – but why tell them? I promise they will find out but let it dawn on them gradually. Maybe you will get a job or two from them before they realize what a stroke you are.  Say less. Smile more and hide your abhorrent side.  The only person who has ever achieved success while being an obvious douche is Trump and is that what you want for yourself?


While I have generally been successful at finding us a bar to hang out at in the past, some people have complained about the noise level.  I can probably get Characters on 54th again for the evening. But it is a little tight and a little noisy. Of course, there are about 150 people who troop in and out and everyone drinks and talks and it is a bar so of course there will be noise…
I confess I haven’t found the right place yet. I found a great one but it’s too far uptown. There’s a wonderful new beer garden near me but it’s too small. I don’t want to put us in a library because that’s too quiet and hard to sneak in drinks.  I will keep searching. Don’t forget that we don’t pay for the room – I just promise the owner a bunch of people. I think I know of a nice space around 54th and 7th that might suit us. Stay tuned.

Of course, you are welcome to do whatever you like. As you may notice there are, at last count, a veritable boat load of restaurants and bars in this city so you might just want to go to a quiet place with whoever you speed dated with.
I will announce a meeting place soon on the Facebook you kids seem to enjoy.

JUNE 1: THE AUDIES 6:30-11pm The French Institute 22 East 60th Street

Here is the night many of us have been waiting for.  If it happens to be your birthday, then you certainly have.  Nominees for Audie Awards, guests, significant others, producers – a who’s who of the Audiobook industry all don gowns and tuxes and sip cocktails and hope to be named winners in their respective categories. It is a gala. It is fun and exciting.  It really is an honor to be named a nominee and it really sucks not to be named or to be named and not to win. That’s just the truth of it.  Yet, it’s still cool to suit up and look and be wonderful.  If you’ve never gone, you should go. It’s spectacular.  I like it at any rate.
I will say this as an actor who has won and who has lost, who has been nominated and who hasn’t – it doesn’t change you or your worth. Producers don’t seek out Audie Winners nor do they stop hiring you if you weren’t named or didn’t win.  So just go and be pleased and happy and share the joy and excitement.  And after…

JUNE 1: THE NAUDIES – CONNOLLYS PUB: TIMES SQUARE 121 W 45th Street -3rd Floor 7pm-?

The Naudies was started by Melissa Exelberth, Jeffrey Kafer and me a few years back when we learned that there was no “after” party for the Audies. We also felt that all the actors in town who weren’t going to the Audies should be able to get together somewhere for a party. The “NOT AUDIES” – NAUDIES was born.  It’s a party for during and a party for after. Dress as you like. We have secured the 3rd floor – it might get noisy but it’s a damn bar! Check their website – they have a full menu for you and I think you’ll be pleased.


There is usually a union meeting at SAGAFTRA during the afternoon. It can be contentious or boring but they do provide pizza. It’s New York pizza so…

And you need to follow Amanda Rose Smith for information on this but she is currently considering a TECH WORKSHOP sometime during the day. It will focus- in depth -on the technical things many narrators need to know. Since I am not a narrator who needs to know, I don’t know what it’s all about.  But it is a great idea and I hope it happens.


  1. There is BEA at the Javits. It’s interesting and you can get lots of free bags and free books to put in the bags and then you can leave the whole of it in the back of your closet for the rest of your life.
  2. New York has some of the finest museums in the world -from art to architecture.
  3. The High Line is a lovely walk on the lower west side from 34th to Gansevoort. It’s near the Javits and it’s pretty. It runs along a disused rail line and features rare vegetation, outdoor entertainment and, if you climb back down to street level, some really nice bars and restaurants.
  4. 9-11 Memorial.
  5. Wall Street and the South Street Seaport area. This is old Manhattan with cobble stone streets and Wall Street asshats in abundance. The South Street Seaport is touristy but fun with great eats and if you follow the Island around to the west side you should take a free voyage on Staten Island Ferry and back. You can buy beers on the boat and pass very near the Statue of Liberty – which used to mean a great deal in this country. If the Staten Island Yankees (Class A) team is in town, the stadium is a one-minute walk from the terminal. If they aren’t, just turn around and come back.
  6. Manhattan neighborhoods are all quite different and all damned interesting. If you like, you can cross the Brooklyn Bridge into – Brooklyn! You’ll find yourself in a gorgeous part of Brooklyn that only Tavia Gilbert can afford and you’ll have fantastic views of Manhattan.
  7. Central Park – get a map of this amazing park and wander about.
  8. Walk! New York is a first-class city to walk around as every part of it is interesting – from the top of the Island, through Harlem and all the way down to Castle Clinton. Because it’s so much fun to walk you’ll find countless ways to avoid it. There are Citibikes, pedicabs, horse-drawn carriages, regular cabs, car services, Ubers, Lyfts, Jetts, Junos and Vias, gypsy cabs, buses and subways.

I’m sure that there is a great deal more that you want to know but you’ll have to ask for specific stuff. It’s getting late and I want my dinner and bourbon Manhattan.  (hey! Manhattan!)


See you soon!

Comment (1)

  • Helen Lloyd Reply

    Thank you so much for this … I am coming to my first ever APAC and this is such great information – all the questions I had wanted to ask are answered … even what to wear.

    I can’t wait!

    Looking forward so much to being there and meeting everyone …. I am so excited!

    February 3, 2017 at 8:16 am

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