Recently talking to someone about translations and realised, that while the step-by-step guide on translations covered how to do it, it didn’t cover how to make it profitable and the numbers side. So here’s the discussion.

Let me start that for LitRPG, right now, it seems only German translations work out. I’ve tested a LOT of other countries, almost none of them have generated any decent return. So stick to Germany, unless you have a lot of time and money to burn. 

Market Size Testing

One way to check on market size I used was translating my comics (I know, most people won’t have that) and seeing the sales of that in comparison. I sold a bunch in German, a little Chinese, and nothing else really. So, take that as an option to test markets out, maybe using a short story instead of a comic as an example.

Another way is to use something like Babelcube or Tektime, have them do a royalty share translation in the language you want and watch the sales. Negative is that it can take a while, you never know what books will get translated in what languages and I don’t necessarily trust Babelcube royalty reporting. 

Now, let’s go into German market discussion

Firstly, I should note that the German market used to be incredibly good. There were not a lot of people doing translations a year and a half ago. So whatever book came out was read. It was very much like 2017 LitRPG market.

Now, it’s gotten crowded and I would say there are more books coming in than readers. If you have a book/series that is very popular in English, you’ll likely still do well. If you don’t, it might not do as well.

Look at how you intend to spend based off the understanding of your own sales in English (it’s VERY unlikely a series that did badly in English is going to do well in German and vice versa).  

Best Practices & Recommendations

  • publish a paperback and hardcover. Germans are significantly more of a paperback/hardcover market. I make around 4-5% of my total (including audiobook) revenue from print editions. That’s thousands of dollars.
  • do the math, but you might want to consider going wide (specifically, being in Tolino and Google Play in my case, but also everywhere else you can) with German translations. Tolino is a HUGE marketplace in Germany. If you can do direct, I’d recommend doing so (and having paperbacks via them, again, because of direct sales that go to bookstores that aren’t touched by Amazon or Ingram).

Realise that KENP rates for the German market is SIGNIFICANTLY less than US rates. US rate – $0.0042 or so, EU Germany – €0.00295

Give or take.

  • Be mindful of the exchange rate. Numbers can and will change, and you are much more suspectible to major changes since translations will push Germany as a % of your market up. Don’t count on the payment till it arrives in your account. 
  • talking about that, make sure you have a Wise account to take payments in Euros. It’ll save you a chunk in currency exchanges.
  • be careful about Titles. Titles are copyrighted in German, so you cannot use the same title as another book
  • consider doing audiobooks in German. It is a LOT of work to find German 
  • understand varying laws in different countries for copyright, rights and what not for your translator (moral rights in the EU, etc.)
  • Breakeven for initial translation (ebook and paperback revenue only) – between 6-12 months to reach

For audiobooks (not including translation cost, just audiobook cost) – between 3-6 months to reach. 

Recommendation – create an audiobook with a decent selling translation so that initial translation cost earns out faster. 

  • Use AMS DE for translations including category advertising to promote your work. We’re almost always +ve ROI on our AMS for our translations.
  • consider creating a DE newsletter (but don’t worry if it doesn’t get a lot of readers. Germans don’t see them that interested in that).  

And that’s it for now. Not a lot of places to promote in the German market. But we’ve found it’s been a very nice supplement to our income on an on-going basis.

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