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Opinion: Working With Babelcube

Opinion: Working With Babelcube

Would you like to see your book translated into another language, but feel you can’t afford to? One answer — relatively easy, but not completely pain free — is Babelcube. Ann Richardson, ALLi author member, has been working with Babelcube for about a year and this post recounts her experience to date.

Babelcube

Ann Richardson headshot

Ann Richardson shares her thoughts on Babelcube

Babelcube is effectively an online dating agency for writers and translators. Authors can post their books (together with a description and some paragraphs from each) and translators can post their availability (as well as their experience and author ratings).

You can approach a translator at any time and translators can approach you.

All translations are undertaken completely free, but the translator gets 55% of the royalties, the author gets 30% and Babelcube itself gets 15%. These rates become more favourable to the author once you sell books to the value of $2000. But, in general, it is not a way to make a lot of money.

You, as author, retain the rights to the book, but the distribution rights to the translation remain with Babelcube for five years, after which they revert to you.

The system is very clear, with a set of stages for checking, and contracts at each stage.  Initially, the translator must offer a translation of a few paragraphs. If this is accepted, he or she is expected to submit ten pages. If this is then accepted, the translator is deemed to be good enough and continues to translate the book in full, with a set deadline.

When the final version is accepted, the author arranges for the cover to be translated and uploads it for publication. Distribution is very wide, covering Amazon but also other major distributors, such as Apple, Kobo and so forth. You can also do a paperback.

Working With Babelcube

Portuguese Cover

I signed up with Babelcube because I was looking for a French translation of one of my books (on hospice care), which a French friend was keen to promote in France. But I put all my books on the site, since why not? I have contacted ten French translators, but have had no luck to date. I keep trying from time to time.

But much to my surprise, I had approaches from a number of translators in other languages. I now have two published translations of Wise Before their Time (about people living with HIV/AIDS in the early 1990s), available on Amazon and elsewhere. One is in Portuguese by a Brazilian translator and the other is in Spanish by a Mexican one.

I also have Spanish translations of my other two books due to be completed soon.

My real concern throughout the process has always been the accuracy of the translations. A bad translation would be pointless. Of course, they should be grammatical, but they should also read well in their new language. As my books are full of personal quotations, the language needed to be easy and colloquial — not stiff or formal.

The Quality of Translations

Competence in translation certainly cannot be taken for granted. Those purporting to be translators may or may not know what they are doing. This is not surprising, since they are mostly amateurs, although some have been through some form of training.

Spanish Cover

At each stage, I asked a native speaker of the new language to check the submitted text. No translation fell at the first hurdle, but four fell at the second. The rejected submissions were littered with grammatical errors, suggesting either limited literacy in their own language or, possibly, the use of a translation programme. With regret, I cancelled the arrangement in each case. Yes, you do need to be tough.

But I found the whole exercise to be a lot of fun. Translators and writers can communicate as often as they like and I always made an effort to learn a bit about those working with me. I asked about their location, backgrounds and motivations. This made the process seem much more friendly, but also harder when I had to turn someone down.

Such communication also means that any confusion can be sorted out quickly. One translator asked a host of sensible questions and even pointed out my own occasional spelling error (I always had problems with ‘ophthalmologist’).

And getting a cover in a different language is a huge thrill. It makes the whole process seem very real.

The management at Babelcube has been helpful when needed, including arranging the publication of one paperback when the site gave me problems. The publication process is very slow, however, with the latest taking three months from submission.

Getting Sales

 Of course, the real point of any translation is getting new sales. But this is a discussion for a future post.

For more information on Babelcube, see https://www.babelcube.com/

 

Ann Richardson

Ann Richardson has been a professional writer and researcher for many years. She is fascinated by other people’s thoughts, experiences and emotions and loves to write books where they
talk about issues of importance to them, in their own words. Her three ‘live’ books are about people living with AIDS/HIV when it was a life-threatening disease (Wise Before their Time), people providing end-of-life care (Life in a Hospice) and being a grandmother (Celebrating Grandmothers). She is currently preparing a book of short pieces about growing older (originally blogs), together with some memoirs about key moments in her life. She lives in London with her husband of over 50 years. Website: http://www.annrichardson.co.uk

This Post Has 17 Comments
  1. Hello Ann,
    Please I have a problem. I’m a trilingual translator and interpreter I have been working as a freelancer but I received an ads about Babelcube.
    I’ve succeeded in translating 3 novels so far but haven’t received any royalty so far please how long will I need to wait before receiving royalties?
    I’m eager to know please until then stay blessed.

  2. Hi Ann, just wondering, I have multiple books up on BabelCube for translation, and have several in progress. But the books were formatted as 5×8 with headers including page numbers, etc., and the translations are coming back to me as default word documents with different font sizes, no headers, no formatting really.

    I’m certainly willing to reformat them back to the print-ready 5×8 word document, but wanted to know if that is my burden or if BabelCube formats the internals, and all I’m responsible for is the cover?

    1. Chris Solaas, Apologies. I only just saw your comment. I think formatting is your responsibility, but you can always write to them to ask. I have always used a formatter to be sure my books are well formatted (not my skill at all). Good luck, Ann

  3. Hi Ann! I’m working as a translator for Babelcube and I wanted to know about your experience with the royalties, can you tell me a little about that? When did you start making royalties? Because I’ve already translated four books into Spanish and I didn’t have any royalities yet, altough I’m translating two more so I can see what happens.

    1. You will not get royalties until you get sales. You will not get sales unless someone markets your book. Best to discuss with the books’ author how you can work together to publicise the book. It is a problem for authors to market their books in another language. I have not found a great solution. Sorry not to be more helpful,

  4. I am unable to upload the book after 31 book, what could be the reason and allow me to upload the book further

  5. What about the book cover through Babelcube process ? Can I as the author provide one ?
    What would be the best format to provide the cover ?

    1. Yes, you can provide your own cover. The ones shown in the article were done by the cover designer of the original English book. They tell you the format and everything else.

      My apologies for the late reply, but I only just now saw your question.

  6. I have been told that one big problem with Babelcube is double taxation. Apparently you need to pay 30% US taxes even if you have never been to the US, plus local taxes. This (in the case of Brazil) means that over half what you receive goes to governments. Could you please confirm if this is the case?

    PAUL

    1. Paul, I haven’t had enough royalties yet for this to be an issue, but it sounds unlikely to me. I think there is a form to tell the US that you are exempt from their taxes, but I can’t promise that.

  7. I m publisher and I do also publishing on Babelcube. Babelcube send me this message I can not understand this message what I do?

    To prevent abuse of our platform, limit the amount of books that you can add to 30. If you have a larger genuine catalog, please send us a message with a link where we can see this catalog and request that we lift this limit

    1. Adamgilbin, I have had very good experience when I write to Jona Gonda at the babelcube email address. He always replies to me (especially ever since I published this post!). Write to [email protected] but address the email personally to him. You can use my name if you like, but I think he will reply in any case. I. hope that helps. Ann

      1. I am not sure if something has changed recently in Babelcube but the service over the last couple of months has been terrible. I have had a number of issues, (paperback not being published for one book, another books blurb being published in the wrong language etc) and Babelcube are just refusing to reply to my emails, Facebook msgs, or posts. I am not sure if they are still in business but I have started the process of voiding the distribution contract with them as they are refusing to engage with me to resolve the issues.

  8. The article is a tad confusing even if informative. An excellent appraisal yes. Pitfalls noted. Mistranslation aired. Then the comment that it was all good fun.
    Makes no sense considering the author also informs us bad translations are – well – self defeating.

    1. I am sorry that you found this article confusing. It all depends on your enjoyment of risk. If you want a risk-free life, this would not be fun. But if you like to take a chance and see what happens, then it can be fun. Yes, it is annoying to find that some translators are not good at all. Yet it is wonderful to see your words translated into another language and to know, because you have checked it out, that it is a faithful translation. Not all my translations were bad,

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