I was asked to write about translations and my experience in them. So, I’m going to discuss the general methods of getting translations and my own experiences and what I do.
Let’s start with the basics.
Translation Contracts (Trad Publishing)
Translations via publishing companies in other countries and languages is, by far, an area that trad pubs excel at in comparison to indie publishers.
The vast majority of contracts to get your work translated happen via agents or publishing companies pitching such work. I do not have any experience in that, so I’ll just say that if you do get a trad published contract, it’s possible that you will get translated contracts signed even before your work is complete.
Now, indie authors do get approached by traditional publishers in other language to have their work translated. This is much more common in the romance and thriller genres, due to the higher percentage of indie authors dominating those markets.
From what I understand, to even be considered for a trad translation contract, you need to sell about 50,000 copies yourself.
Obviously, that’s out of reach for the vast majority of people.
Knowing that, you are generally left with one of two options. Translating your works via a royalty share agreement with a translator or paying for the translation direct.
Royalty Share / Split Agreements
Babelcube is by far the market leader. There are certain issues with Babelcube (outdated interface, really slow reporting on sales and lack of clarity on its side, inability to use translations for audiobooks, etc.) but it is also by far the market leader right now. I use them for most of my translations (see below for exceptions) since they do a royalty split agreement (with an adjusted $ amount) that can make getting multiple translations completed easy.
This is particularly useful when you want translations in languages that are more obscure or you know won’t do well for you if you paid for it direct. In this case, the translators are taking on the risk as well.
The biggest negative? How slow it can be to get translation offers. You can make offers to translators, but it’s hard to tell who is still active, who is interested, who is good, etc. And there are a LOT of machine translated work being shopped around as ‘translations’.
The other major options (that I have not personally tried) is TraduzioneLibri ( TekTime). It has better distribution and, as I understand it, the ability to do audiobooks, so I might end up switching over and testing them out soon.
I also understand that with Bundle Rabbit, you can upload your work and distribute it, with the upload and sales then being split across yourself and the translator. You’d have to make the agreement off-site first, but it is certainly viable.
Work for Hire Agreements
In this case, you pay upfront for the translation. The cost of such efforts can vary greatly, though ‘pro’ work is generally in the US$0.08-0.12 per word range. Obviously, that’s a significant chunk of change, when you are talking works in the LitRPG genre where most work is 100k words or more.
That being said, there are ways to get cheaper translations. Schools are a great way to find translators. Of course, many of the students might not be that good or might not be cognizant of the amount of work involved. So, in many ways, you pay for what you get.
The advantage of a work for hire agreement is that you are paying for the full translated work and own the copyright. That means your cost is fixed and you can then do things like create audiobooks, license podcasts, etc.
Common ways to find translators:
– browsing author groups and forums (Kboards and the like) for translators
– using freelance job sites (e.g. Upwork)
– asking author and publisher friends for recommendations
– visiting your countries professional translating organisation’s website (warning, can be VERY expensive).
– rarely, you can find an indie translating publisher
There are also translator groups. I have no experience with those, nor do I know of anyone who has used them (in the publishing sphere).
The Quality Question
How do you deal with the quality question? This is particularly important for amateur translators and places like Babelcube.
Here’s what I do:
– I verify translations via Google Translate to start. If I run a Google Translate on my work into the target language and then do a direct comparison, (Word can do this for you automatically), if it’s nearly the same (or close to it); I reject the translation without further ado. The translator (especially with LitRPG and our gamer terms!) is NOT doing translations correctly.
– I then check with my friends for native speakers. They can then do a readthrough of the work, letting me know if there is an issue
– Lastly, if the second part does not work, I get a paid translation verification via a place like UpWork. Since this is often only a few hundred words, it is often quite cheap. And with a place like Upwork/etc, you have a much higher ability to verify translations and the individuals involved.
Return on Investment and Sales Returns
All that said, which markets should you target?
I’d recommend reviewing your current sales first to see which countries you are doing well in. Those markets are a good start since you might be able to acquire additional readers. For example, I do well in Germany so that’s my first choice for paid translations.
On the other hand, while I have numerous Portuguese and Spanish translations, I only chose to go with those options because I had the translations offered to me via Babelcube. I do not get significant sales from there, so I have kept those to a royalty share distribution method.
In terms of returns, I have to say that in the LitRPG market at least, current returns on translations are low. The 3 translations done for the System Apocalypse has yet to return their capital expenditure, even after 9 months. Now, I DO expect to eventually make back my capital, but it is a long-term game when you hire a translator on a work for hire basis. At the earliest, I expect I’ll have earned the capital spent in 2 years. It’s quite likely going to take 3-5 years for a full return.
At least in my experience.
I know of other authors who have done much, much better in other genres.
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