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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