Indie author of children’s books Faiz Kermani shares advice on self-publishing foreign language editions of your work. His top tips on translatlion for authors is based on his own experience.
Writing children’s books started off as a one-off project away from my day job, but through self-publishing I have been able to expand it into a fun hobby that has literally given me a worldwide audience.
I write in English, but due to my interest in travelling and foreign languages, I soon became interested in getting my books translated. At first I had no clue how to go about this, but over time I think I have developed a straightforward and enjoyable approach that anyone can easily adapt for their writing.
To date, my books have been translated into French, Spanish and German and I am currently involved in the exciting process of finalising a book in Russian. Each language project has presented me and the translator with some unexpected challenges, but we have also had tremendous fun in dealing with them!
The good news is that translation is quite do-able and affordable, but you need to be patient and willing to see through the process involved. Translation forces you to look at your book from completely different angles, as the story needs to be communicated to a new audience and each language has its own unique characteristics.
Before embarking on any translation project, make sure that you are happy with the latest version of your book in its original language. This is important as the translator needs something definitive as a reference to work from. The last thing you need is any unsatisfactory aspects of your work being reflected in a foreign language.
Next consider your language options. Although you can have translations into almost any language, it is obviously better to have a well-thought out reason for a particular one. This can range from accessing a particular foreign market all the way through to simply the sheer thrill of seeing your book out there in a very different language.
How to Choose the Best Translator
The most critical step is choosing your translator – and when I say that I mean a human being. Star Trek may have offered us the enticing prospect of a universal translator, but at present such technology does not exist. If you attempt to use current online translation software for your book, you will undoubtedly end up with bizarre gibberish that will cause you embarrassment.
Similarly, do not assume that just because someone speaks a language fluently that they are qualified to be a translator. Translation is a highly technical field, and after spending so much time in writing your book you should be looking for an experienced professional to help you.
If you do not already know a professional translator, there are several websites where you can search for one. On the translator profiles you will be able to see information on areas of specialisation, experience and often rates. Since you will need to interact quite closely with your translator, choose someone you feel you can get on with and ask the difficult questions about rates and conditions during your early exchanges. There are a lot of translators out there and, like other partners you may work with, such as illustrators, it is important to select the right one.
What I have found is that most translators are eager to work with writers.
Most commercial translation work is in areas such as legal and scientific. For translators it is a refreshing experience to focus on the more literary aspects of language. On the whole, literary translation does not form much of their work, so you may be offered extremely attractive terms and rates. Furthermore, through the close interaction you have with your translator, you will probably gain a new friend, adviser and supporter of your writing ambitions.
In my case, I initially concentrated on French, Spanish and German, as those are languages I speak, and I already had some contacts in areas where they are spoken. As I write children’s books, I often visit schools and libraries for education and literacy projects. Having translations has given me exciting opportunities to meet new young readers and educators. Knowing that my books have generated the same enthusiasm among children in different countries has given me great motivation for my writing. Best of all, these interactions and experiences give you extra confidence when dealing with some of the more frustrating and challenging characters that you can meet in the world of publishing and marketing. If you know that your work can appeal to people in different countries, then do not let the doubters dampen your spirits.
Everyone is going to have their own personal reasons for why they might consider translation. For me, the investment of time and energy has paid off in ways I could never have imagined. Sure there are potential commercial benefits to be had, but overall, the main pay-off has been the fun factor and the chance of a culturally-enriching experience. Developing a book in a foreign language is almost like traveling. I have met a lot of amazing people through the new versions of my books, and through future translations, such as my current project in Russian, I am sure that I will meet more.
OVER TO YOU
Do you have experiences – either good or bad – of getting your books translated? Do you have any questions you’d like to ask Faiz? Please join the conversation via the comments box!
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