Today, we’re proud to share with you another GUEST POST! If you’ve ever [or never] considered the possibility of having your book translated into other languages, there’s great info here for you! Please read up and glean some valuable advice from Lisa Carter, a professional literary translator! Please share your thoughts below in the comments section.
Author Blog Challenge post to follow!
The 5 W’s of Having Your Book Translated
by Lisa Carter
So you’ve written and published a book. Have you ever then considered having that book translated into one or more languages? If you have, but never made it past the thinking stage because you’re not sure how to proceed, this post is for you.
Below are the 5 W’s – the who, which, when, where, and why – that will help you on your way.
WHY should you consider translation?
Beyond the bragging rights and real marketing benefits from saying your book has been translated into x languages, there are two main reasons to consider translation.
- Your words will reach a wider audience. We write and publish in order to be read. It is only through translation that you can reach readers around the world.
- You can earn passive income. You’ve already put the hard work into writing your book, let it bring additional earnings through publication in other markets.
WHERE do you find a translator?
Translation is a form of writing that requires time, skill and a good measure of art if it is to be done well.
Professional associations offer the best place to find a qualified translator. The American Translators Association (ATA) and the American Literary Translators Association (ALTA) are U.S.-based but have an international membership, with nearly every language represented.
If you start with a Google search for translators, the top hits will be free online machine translation engines, large agencies, and freelance bidding sites in that order. Avoid all three.
The technology behind machine translation is far from advanced enough for any publication purposes, and while the latter two are valid options for many types of translation, I do not recommend them for books.
With an agency, you pay needlessly for a middleman who will shield you from direct contact with the actual translator. Quality and consistency of the work may also suffer, as large projects are often divided among several individuals.
Freelance bidding sites, meanwhile, tend to view translation as a commodity. The lowest price usually wins and, more often than not, this goes hand-in-hand with a distinct lack of quality.
WHO should translate your book?
The unique nature of every title and every author means there is no one-size-fits-all. You may want to converse with several candidates before making a final decision. Trust will be essential in this professional relationship; not knowing the language your book is being translated into means you will need to feel confident in the translator’s abilities and choices.
Apart from that, keep in mind that:
- Translators work from their second language into their mother tongue. I, for example, lived in Spanish-speaking countries for a decade but am a native English speaker. I therefore translate from Spanish into English and not vice-versa.
- Translators have areas of expertise, just like writers. If your ebook is on marketing techniques, try to find someone who has experience in that industry, not someone who is specialized in medicine.
- Translators can be certified by a professional association. Those who invest the time and expense involved in passing a rigorous certification exam like the one offered by the ATA are more likely to have the necessary skills to do your work justice.
WHICH books are good candidates for translation and which languages should you consider?
All books are possible candidates for translation, just as they are for publication. Different genres and publishing formats, however, may have varying levels of acceptance or availability in particular countries. You or your translator may want to research how popular your genre is in the target culture. Crime fiction, for example, is extremely popular in Scandinavia, while fantasy is more popular in China.
If you are considering digital publication only, note that ebooks are not yet as pervasive in all countries as they are in the U.S. In Russia, for example, they represent only 0.25 percent (one-quarter of one percent) of all sales and face enormous challenges before they will become truly viable.
One aspect in your favor is that translations are much more widely accepted internationally than they are North America. In countries like the Czech Republic, 80 percent of all new works of literature published each year are translations. You, thankfully, do not have to face the situation most foreign authors face when trying to break into our market, where only 3 percent of all new books published each year are works in translation.
WHEN is a good time to have your book translated?
It is entirely up to you, as the author, when to have your book translated. Perhaps you would like a simultaneous release in two or three languages. This will allow you to capitalize on the time you spend marketing. On the other hand, you may want to stagger the release. This will give you an opportunity to find the right translator, and the translator can similarly be assured that your work has a certain track record in the original language.
Keep in mind that, translation cannot be rushed. It takes time to produce a full first draft, which then needs a certain amount of time before revision.
Regardless of whether your book is a new release or was published some time ago, translation is an opportunity to breathe new life into it and earn more from it. Here’s hoping these answers help set you on your way to publication in other languages!
Lisa Carter is a Spanish-to-English literary translator, with six published titles and a seventh forthcoming in 2013. She was nominated for the 2012 International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award for her translation of The Einstein Enigma: A Novel, by José Rodrigues Dos Santos. You can find Lisa on her professional website at www.intralingo.com, where she blogs about literary translation and offers an occasional Advice for Authors column. You can also follow her on Twitter at @intralingo.
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