Authors: Translate Your Book for More $$$ … But Do it Wisely – By Bradley Hall

Authors: Translate Your Book for More $$$ … But Do it Wisely – By Bradley Hall

As a self-published author, one of your main goals is to get your writing into the hands of as many readers as possible. You may take out ads on Facebook, create “book trailers” on YouTube, or any other myriad ways of advertising the written word in the 21st Century. No matter how many views or likes your book page may get, you are limited in the number of readers who will buy your book. However, if your book is published in English, you have a potential audience of “only” around 360 million people, according to the language learning website Babbel.

In contrast, over 420 million people speak Spanish across 22 countries. By having your book translated to Spanish, you open your book up to a market larger than the one for the English language version. But, how do you translate a book into a language you do not know? And, of course, having a book translated to any of the Chinese or Indian dialects opens up millions more potential readers.

Individual translators can be found on freelance websites such as WritersWeekly’s Author Service Center, Upwork or Fiverr. However, the latter two sites have may have translators whose credentials are uncertain. Translators can also be found via the American Translators Association. The ATA states that the minimum rate a translator should earn based on their experience is $0.12/word. (By contrast, WritersWeekly’s English to Spanish translator charges $0.02/word to $0.05 per word.) Using the ATA’s rate as a base, translating a 50,000 word book would cost $6,000. (Through WritersWeekly’s translator, it would cost, on average, $1750.) Utilizing a service such as Upwork or Fiverr may yield a translation for far less, but the quality of the translation may be questionable.

Another option would be a group like Babelcube. which acts as a translation broker, matching authors with translators. Like Fiverr or Upwork, there is no way to vet the translator’s translation.

Translating a book is about more than just substituting one word for another. In many instances, this does not work. One of the books I worked on had a line whose straight translation was something like, “She drank a glass of water to bolster her circulatory system.” I read it in context with the rest of the passage in which it appeared. Before long, it dawned on me: She drank a glass of water to “calm her nerves.”

In another book I worked on, I was asked to help answer a few questions for a German book being translated into American English. One passage discussed two characters meeting in a mall the day after Thanksgiving. I had to explain the concept of Black Friday to the author and the translator because the book did not adequately describe the chaos associated with Black Friday.

Translation can help an author sell more books but it has to be done right. You cannot toss a book into the blender known as Google Translate, and expect to receive a marketable book. It requires a human touch – a human who will suss out the nuance, and render the proper idioms, flourishes, and attention to your book.


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Bradley Hall is a freelance writer and translator (and banker) living in the mountains of Western North Carolina. In addition to translating, he has been published in 2600, Military Heritage, and Linux Journal.


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5 Responses to "Authors: Translate Your Book for More $$$ … But Do it Wisely – By Bradley Hall"

  1. Wendy Jones  November 14, 2019 at 11:51 am

    Thank you, Angela and Brian for your input.

    This is truly an issue for those involved in the Highlander Imagine series. Since posting the initial comment, I have been fortunate enough to discuss it with those who are Spanish speakers from various places around the world, as well as professionals teaching bilingually in the USA.

    The issue I mentioned was reaffirmed by all I have spoken with. There are significant differences in word usage, expressions, and writing styles between Spanish speaking countries. This will naturally affect the marketability for the final product if I am pitching to the US Spanish speaking market.

    I believe that the best option for me, and those seeking a Spanish language market in the US, is to have a Mexican, bilingual translator. The majority of those US, Spanish language readers are going to be of Mexican origin (except, of course, those in Florida).

    I have always wanted to offer a Spanish language version of the Highlander Imagine series to the US market. In this case, I will have to search for a reputable Mexican translator.


  2. Wendy  November 10, 2019 at 12:08 am


    This is a very important article to me which has shown up at a very good time.
    Once you have read my reply, I would hope to get some serious feedback.

    I have been asked, on several occasions, to offer the ‘Highlander Imagine’ series in a Spanish language version of the books. However, the co-author in this series — a person who is a native Spanish speaker in Argentina, has repeatedly cautioned AGAINST doing it. The reason for her steadfast reluctance to see it done has always been the question, “A Spanish translation — coming from where?”

    The impression I have gotten from every discussion we have ever had on this translation subject is that there is a written Spanish that is considered from the ‘right side of the tracks’ and everything, done anywhere else, just doesn’t measure up.

    My comeback has always been,
    “Then, from which country is the ‘correct’ Spanish supposed to be from?”
    Does a native speaker in Spain have the right stuff?
    What about translators from Mexico?
    How about a country south of the equator?

    I do not understand the Spanish language in the first place so, I have no clue what the written differences are from any one Spanish speaking country to the next.

    Let’s assume for a moment we were discussing translating a foreign romance novel into English. The author chose a British English translator over an American English translator. Now here is a problem I can understand. If your market is America, this romance novel translated by a native British speaker could end up sounding very awkward to the average American reader.

    So if the difference in Spanish translations is that stark (Spain Vs Mexico, for instance), she has a good point. Then my logical question is, “Which Spanish translation style is most often sought?”

    If someone can shed more light on this translation dilemma, I would appreciate it.

    • By Angela Hoy - Publisher of  November 11, 2019 at 12:38 pm

      I would assume that people buying translated Spanish-language books know that the translation might not be a perfect fit for their region and I’m sure they are accustomed to that. I encourage any of our Spanish-language-speaking readers to let us know what they think about this. I certainly would not advise to not offer a Spanish-language edition at all because of this!


    • Brian Whiddon - Managing Editor  November 11, 2019 at 8:13 pm

      Just my two cents on your question. My brother is fluent in Spanish, was stationed in several Central American countries during his military career, and married a retired Mexican naval officer. So, between the two of them, they have a bit of experience in the various Spanish dialects. What they have told me in the past is that the “Peninsular” or Castillian Spanish can generally be read and understood by most Spanish speakers in Latin America and other Spanish speaking nations. But there are true differences, such as you or I reading British literature. It’s the same language with different terms and spellings used. Our “Fries” to them are “Chips.” What we call chips are “Crisps” over there. We get deliveries by truck – they use “Lories”, etc.

      I don’t speak Spanish either, but if you are concerned about getting the best bang for your buck, you may want to research what style of Spanish is spoken by the greatest number of people, and consider that translation for starters.

      Hope this helps.