Or How to make sure your book does not get lost in translation
There are some books whose success is very local,” says Adam Freudenheim, the publisher of Pushkin Press. “But the best fiction almost always travels well, in my view.”
He’s right. Nowadays, what matters is simply publishing a book worth reading, a book that sells, a book that is just great. The fact that it is translated is not what readers pay attention to. Let’s be honest, the only time when translation and not the book itself becomes the subject of discussion is when the translation is….painful. Translations must be and usually are works of art in their own right.
What do you need to know about book translation?
Your book has been published and you would like it to be translated and published to another language. Your publisher does not necessarily support your idea and you wonder what it would take to have it translated independently. In fact, what are the basics that any translator and author should know about book translation?
How much does it cost to translate your book?
The first question that ever comes up is, how much will it cost to translate a text that has X number of words from language A to language B?
Ideally, the translation of any text is calculated based upon the number of total words from the source text. In some cases, such cost is calculated according to the number of pages (usually 220-240 words per page, which is about the text contained in a double-lined, letter-size page), which at the end comes out to about the same price.
In addition to the actual translation cost of the text in itself, you must consider the topic and the research time it will take the translator, as it may influence on the price.
You will also need to add the editing and proofreading costs. Ideally, editing and proofreading costs are charged anywhere from 1/3 to ½ of the cost per word of the text and are, of course, charged independently. When in the editing phase, it is important to find an editor that will determine not only that the translator was successful at being faithful to the original language, but also that the translation sounds like your original manuscript and/or it transmits the “feeling”, the message of the book.
In order to give you an idea of what the average standard translation cost per word is, you can take a look under Writers Boon’s Translators topic. You will find experienced book translators who kindly offer to all Writers Boon author members 15% off their translation price.
It is important to note that the negotiation of translating, editing and proofreading costs ends up being something to be agreed between the individual translator and client.
The actual payment of translation costs may also depend upon which model of payment is agreed between both parties. The usual payment agreements are:
- Payment by word (standard payment): Usually, a deposit is paid, followed by agreed installments upon the delivery of a chapter or as decided between parties, and final payment upon delivery.
- Pay depending on how the book sells.
- Copyright share: Payment of translated text with an additional percentage out of copyright proceedings, and or payment out of fixed copyright share.
- Translation on credit: The translator is paid as a percentage of sales.
- Finally, sometimes translators decide to pick a book, which they are interested in translating and they approach the author and request for the license material from the author. In these cases, the translator is responsible for finding a publisher,
How to choose the best translator for your book?
Choosing the best translator for your book really depends on you, the author.
Personally, I believe it is important that there is a good bonding between author and translator. Besides the potential research involved of the actual topic, there may be many times when the translator will come back to you for clarification. If it is a novel, she or he may want to further understand what message you wish to come across in a specific paragraph or phrase. Or, if you are writing on a specialized subject, perhaps a translator personally familiar with the topic of your choosing might be ideal.
Maybe you find a translator who is ideal in costs, but not necessarily is the best for your book. Ideally, of course, you should also believe that if your book sold in the language you wrote it, the book should sell equally well elsewhere… provided it is well adapted to the language and culture of the country you wish to sell it to.
Here are some of the things I suggest you consider when selecting a translator.
- Experience and/or personal interest on the subject.
Sometimes a translator might not have experience on the topic but he or she might have a personal interested in it. This often happens when it comes to translating novels, for example. Maybe you find an experienced translator who has little or no experience in translating novels or in that particular genre. However, the translator is very keen on your book or the topic of your book.
These are good signs for a potentially good translator for you as she or he might be very able to connect with you and what you wish to transmit.
For instance, I might not have translated a novel, but I love reading and I find your book fascinating… I may be a much better translator for your novel than a highly experienced translator who is not hooked on your book.
- Subject pair.
I do not believe that the ideal translator is the one whose native language is that in which the text needs to be translated. One does not master the language because she or he was born and raised into it. One masters the language because she or he has a good knowledge of the culture and the grammar of your choosing, both the original and the target language and culture. Personally, I believe this is highly important.
- Compatibility (or chemistry) between author and translator.
When looking for a translator, ask her or him to read a selected passage/pages of your choosing from your book. Discuss the subject/passage and see whether she or he has a full grasp of what you wrote and/or wish to transmit. Speak with the potential translator. Find out more about her or him, particularly if it is a novel. There must be “chemistry” between the translator, your book, and you.
The translator is your mind, tongue and hand.
- Alignment of skills and knowledge.
In some ways. this is similar to what we’ve discussed above.
It would be important at all times that both of you are comfortable with consulting the other one in relation to the book translation.
Next week's article: How To Get Your Book Translated - Part 2