1. Translator

    Translator New Member

    Apr 18, 2016
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    Have you got any of your book(s) translated?

    Discussion in 'Publishing' started by Translator, Apr 18, 2016.

    I am a linguist, translator and owner of a translation agency that specializes in the translation of books. I am currently researching if translating a book can increase the probability of success (i.e. profitability) for an author. Usually authors tend to get their books translated when they are already famous. I want to check if it is possible to start in the other end.

    The underlying math is quite simple and straightforward, the bigger the market the higher the probability that a certain number of people will show interest. However, a theory do not always coincide with the reality ... I would therefore like to ask authors here who have already translated one or several books if it did help you in reaching out to a bigger market and, simply put it, earn more money? Was it worth it or did you consider it to be a complete waste of money and time?

    Yours Sincerely,

  2. TWErvin2

    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

    Nov 30, 2006
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    Ohio, USA
    I have had one of my works translated, from English into Spanish. My publisher worked through Babelcube, with one of my novels, along with a handful of others that have been published (by Gryphonwood Press).

    I cannot say that it really helped me reach a larger audience. Only a handful (less than 10) copies as of my last royalty statement of my ebook version have sold. Although available via many vendors, it's only been successful on Amazon's Kindle, and then only in the USA and Spain. It has not sold well enough to merit a print version.

    In comparison, the novel in question (Flank Hawk) has sold over 2000, approaching 3000 copies in English (so it's nowhere near a best seller), more ebooks than print, and more print than audiobook.

    A problem is that if the publisher (and those that do the marketing efforts for the publisher) and/or the author are not fluent in the language into which the work is translated, it is difficult to gain traction and readership.

    Large publishers (like with 'famous' authors) have distribution channels that assist in a translated work finding readership, as well as marketing folks fluent in the language, if not located within the country/region of the foreign language (from English) distribution.
  3. BayView

    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

    Sep 6, 2014
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    I didn't pay or arrange to have my books translated, but it's been very profitable for me that one of my publishers does! The translated versions usually come out about a year after the initial publication, and for the first quarter or two at that point, the translations generally outsell the original book. Like, for example, say I had a book that sold: Q1 - 4K copies; q2 - 2K copies; Q3 - 1K copies; Q4 - 500 copies; Q5 - 400 copies; Q6 - 300 copies... then the translation would come out in Q5 and sell more than 400 copies, and in Q6 it would sell more than 300 copies. When those sales numbers are multiplied by the book being translated into several different languages, it can be quite profitable, especially considering there's absolutely no extra effort required on my part. I love translations!

    Now, my publishers are spending a fair bit of time and money marketing to each new language the books are translated into. I'm not sure I'd be set up to do that if I were working on my own.
  4. Inks

    Inks Contributing Member

    Aug 24, 2015
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    While I may not be your targeted respondent, I do have some valuable insight that I might be able to provide.

    Translation is a costly venture and the established interest of even a niche product needs to be carefully calculated if you are to turn a profit. Considering hourly or contract costs of a good translator, this part of the investment could be several thousands of dollars itself. While BayView might say that it requires not additional effort for the author, I tend to disagree because I would like to make sure that anything with my name is translated with care.

    Translation, publication, marketing... The number of copies likely will be several thousand just to break even and that is a big chance on someone who is not already established. There are certain niche markets which exist whereupon a publisher might instinctively invest based on the market conditions, but I can only think of a handful of examples that really stood out from some niche writers... The company takes a bit of a gamble in their venture, but the overhead costs of the material is less for short stories. Companies based on this tend to be around for a few years and disappear and others tend to have separate arms to take these chances in hopes that they get lucky.

    With that being said, do to the excessive length of some works - translation from a niche market to an even more niche foreign market is a tough venture. One of the works I want to read is about 3x longer than Lord of the Rings and its been a decade without a translation, another long work was promised to have each part released from 2015 on, but halted after the second 'episode' when sales did not materialize.

    Even for popular writers, some works will simply not be translated even when their previous material was a success - the main reason being shifting interests in the genre or the original reception. Such is the fate of works which have >30,000 copies sold. It all comes down to risk and whether or not to make the investment in an untested product.

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