One of the most amazing things about the new digital marketplace is this: Amazon and Apple (and some of the smaller publishers) have reached into places that traditional publishers fear to tread for any but their bestsellers: the international marketplace. Right now, my backlist historical romance novels (in English) are available for sale in Spain, Italy, Germany, and France, all for the 70% royalty rate. They are also available elsewhere in the world, but only for the 35% royalty rate.
This means, were I to decide to tap into the foreign translation market, I actually can reach it without needing two agents and a foreign publishing house. Of course, I’d have to put up the translation costs, as my only other language is French and it is not strong enough to do any kind of competent translation of a hundred thousand word novel. At the moment, the upfront costs are holding me back. I have my daughter’s wedding to pay for, and that comes first.
But my mind lingers on the idea like a tongue prods at a sore tooth. I have had relatively few foreign translations of my work done (one in Polish, though, which is the maternal half of my husband’s heritage). I own foreign rights of all my books, even my traditionally published YA novels that are still in print. Technically, if I had $100,000 to throw around, I could get every one of my books translated into French, or Spanish, or Italian. I could upload those books onto the appropriate sites (heck, I could load them onto every site, from .com to .it).
Here are the worries:
- how can you know a translator is good? When the publisher does it, you have some idea they know what they’re doing (though I have heard that isn’t always true). Translation is a delicate art. There are idiomatic phrases that just don’t translate. I remember when I was in England and saw a poster for a Hugh Grant movie that in the U.S. was called Two Weeks Notice. It had a different name in the U.K., because the phrase itself didn’t translate, even in the same language.
- How can you know the steep initial investment will pay for itself? (Hint: You can’t.) You need to be clear in your own business plan how much time and effort you will make in promoting your foreign edition, and when you will expect to break even and begin making a profit.
- How can you know if your genre/subject will be of interest to people in France, or Italy, or Spain? Do some research into what is doing well on the particular site. Amazon and Apple actually make that easy.
Kelly McClymer is an opinionated new member of Book View Cafe, and a cheerleader of writers reaching readers however they can. You can visit her on her desperately-in-need-of-update website; Follow her on Twitter, hang with her onGoogle+, Like her on FaceBook, and share Pinterests with her. Oh, and she’s on Goodreads, too (once a reader, always a reader)