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Top Tips on Publishing Translations

Headshot of Faiz Kermani

British author Faiz Kermani’s books are available in a growing number of languages

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.

Getting Going

cover of English editionBefore 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

space-creatures-FRThe 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.

Why Bother?

Cover of German editionIn 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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15 Responses to Top Tips on Publishing Translations

  1. Steve N. December 10, 2016 at 10:46 am #

    Hi Faiz: I like and greatly value your “Top Tips on Publishing Translations” of 19 Feb., 2015. I have published well over 15 books and ebooks in English on Lulu.com, and need these books to be translated into other languages: German, Spanish, Mandarin, French, Spanish, Hindi, Portuguese, etc. Some of my titles include: “Is Religion Healing or Plaguing the World”?; “Africa: Source & Origin of Human Beings on Earth”; “Catechism of Religions’ Holy Books’ Mythologies, Superstitions, Delusions & Deceptions”; Twenty-First Century’s Fuel Sufficiency Roadmap”; “Global Tourism & the Environment: The Necessities for Clean Energy & Clean Transportation Usages”; “Climate Change, Global Warming, Ecosystems & Fossil Fuels”; etc., etc. Translators in these languages, can please, contact me. I live in Hamburg, Germany. Best Greetings. Steve

  2. Mike Wells July 13, 2016 at 8:15 am #

    Good article, but I’m afraid that translating a book into a foreign language is a waste of time unless there is someone who understands the foreign market and is going to aggressively promote the book in that market with promotional content in that foreign language. Authors often forget that crucial ingredient and wast a lot of time and money.

  3. ASHOKKUMAR.A.R February 7, 2016 at 3:02 am #

    Dear Sir,
    I am a native Tamil translator (Tamilnadu, India) working as a full time freelance translator for the past 6 years.
    I am a proz certified translator with 71+ve WWA (Willingness to Work Again) entries from my clients.
    http://www.proz.com/wwa/1122026

    My proz profile:
    http://www.proz.com/translator/1122026

    I do have good experience in translating few books:
    1) ”Predictable Results in Unpredictable Times”
    2) ”ABC’s of Speaking”
    3) ”Read & Get Rich”
    4) “It only takes a minute to change your life”.

    I am flexible with the rate you offer & assure you industry best quality.
    Looking forward to work with you.
    Email: [email protected]
    Phone:91-9443159882

  4. Isabel November 7, 2015 at 1:18 pm #

    Hi, I´m a Portuguese translator and I have found Babelcube. With this website authors can translate their books without paying a dime. http://www.babelcube.com

    • Debbie Young November 7, 2015 at 5:28 pm #

      But what quality are the translations, Isabel? I’m wary of automated translations which can often be very funny and inaccurate, and wouldn’t want my carefully honed prose mangled by a machine!

      • Annemarie February 8, 2016 at 11:01 am #

        Debbie, most translators on babelcube do the work themselves, though I also found robot translations. It’s forbidden, but babelcube doesn’t control the quality. It’s up to the authors.

  5. Michaela February 27, 2015 at 12:18 am #

    Hi Faiz,

    thank you very much for your post. For me as a translator it is great to hear how highly you regard your translators. And I totally can relate to your experience: I also translate mostly business related content, because it pays so much better than literary translation. But on the other hand the thought of translating a book is really fascinating.
    I think many translators would be willing to accept a lower rate in exchange for royalties. I just think it takes a lot of trust on the translator’s side when working with a self-publishing author for royalties.
    Since I always wanted to translate a book, I just recently offered to translate a book into German on babelcube. I don’t get paid an upfront fee but will receive a share of the royalties once the translated book is sold. I offered the auther a very long deadline, just because I still have to work on my regular (instantly paying) translations assignments and will do the translation as a side project.

    How good do your translations usually sell in comparison to your English books?
    Michaela

  6. Elena February 20, 2015 at 10:11 am #

    Hi Faiz, I am a children author too! I am publishing a bilingual book in Italian- English, German-Italian and Mandarin-English. I do agree with you to work with a good translator is a MUST!

    I think a good start is to understand if they llike your work….If they like it well…you are in good hands!
    Ciao Elena
    PS Good luck Karen

    • Faiz February 21, 2015 at 8:28 am #

      Hi Elena
      Your projects sound great! It’s good to know that other people are doing translations.
      Mandarin is one language I am interested in for the future. I think the more languages the better 🙂

  7. Karen Inglis February 20, 2015 at 12:31 am #

    Great post, Faiz – and welcome to ALLi!

    I am currently having the first three chapters of my children’s book Eeek! The Runaway Alien translated into Portuguese and will blog about my experience when done – and of course share with ALLi. I’m not going the whole hog yet as I want to get a sense of what’s involved and perhaps bounce the first three chapters off a few sites for feedback from Portuguese speaking children (and editors…) Clearly in my case I feel that Brazil and Portugal have a strong interest in soccer and so it felt a good match…

    For the translation I’m using the Brazilian wife of someone who worked part-time in our local independent bookshop (where my books are stocked). A casual conversation last year when I went in to top up their stocks of Eeek! revealed that his then Brazilian fiancee was just completing her translation degree over in Brazil and was looking for work.

    They have since married and she has moved here – and I’ve discovered they live diagonally opposite our house….She got a First – she’s not done children’s books but is keen to try different formats. But she’s bright and young – and her husband loves UK soccer..

    So we’ve been able to meet and agree a figure that I can afford and gives her some initial experience and she’s close enough to talk through nuances… If it goes well I’ll be interviewing her on my blog to give her exposure… So…all watch this space! (Excuse the pun!)

    Karen

    • Faiz February 21, 2015 at 8:26 am #

      Thanks Karen
      I think it’s great that you’ve selected Portuguese. It would be great to hear about your experiences. I think Brazil could be a particularly interesting market. It’s also fun to explore new markets.
      Most translators started because they love languages so literary translation is going to naturally be connected with their general interest in languages. It just so happens that the other types of translation pay more and so to make ends meet they have to also focus on those areas too 🙂 If you find a translator who is enthusiastic about your work then that’s half the battle in my opinion. It’s more than a technical job as they need to understand the “spirit” of the book.

  8. Tina T. February 19, 2015 at 11:16 am #

    That’s very interesting, Faiz. I bet your foreign language skills come in very handy when it comes to publishing in different countries and marketing the books. I have a question: Did you pay your translators a flat fee or do they get any royalties? And are they contributing to the marketing? I am asking this as a book translator who did a royalty split with an author.

    • Faiz K. February 19, 2015 at 7:44 pm #

      Thanks Tina 🙂
      Most translators ask for a flat fee. It’s not too dissimilar to how you might set up things with an illustrator. I think that, generally, it would be hard to arrange a deal involving royalties that would work for both sides. What has your experience been?
      My translators are really friendly and have been so helpful in spreading the word about the books. They often give me tips on where I can generate publicity in their local markets. I still handle the main marketing (and hope I might be able to contribute a post on that topic in the future). Translators tell me they like the fun of being involved in something like this (I guess it makes a change from translating official legislation!) and it’s good for their professional profile to include as part of their experience.

      • Tina T. February 25, 2015 at 6:59 pm #

        Hi Faiz,
        It is also my experience that most translators ask for a flat fee. I have asked many colleagues and almost everyone tells me the same: it takes a long time to translate a book, if you do it properly – at least adult fiction – and they can’t afford to do a royalty-split, unless they are beginners and need the experience. I think if experienced translators do a royalty-split, they must have long-term goals, for example be interested in self-publishing in general like me. I am currently trying to self-publish another book that I translated for a publishing house. It is out of print and I managed to get the rights back as a translator. It is fun to do something that nobody else seems to have done before (at least as far as I know) and I am learning a lot every day 🙂

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