Why You Need To Translate Your Book (& How!)

First and foremost, writing a book is an incredible accomplishment so, if you’ve already written your future (or current) bestseller, congratulations! And if you’ve just begun searching for inspiration, keep going! The process of writing and publishing a book gets better the further you go along and, in the end, you will feel an immense sense of achievement. However, one key part of the writing and publishing process many authors –old and new– seem to forget is translation. Writing your book with translation in mind, and then actually translating it of course, can have amazing benefits for you and your written ideas.

Just take the first Harry Potter book for example, a book which was only able to make it into the Top 10 on Wikipedia’s list of best-selling books and become such a worldwide phenomenon due to sales generated by its copies sold in other languages, sixty to be exact! Harry Potter would be ranked a lot lower had J.K. Rowling not authorized those translations.

While you may not need to translate your book into sixty languages up front, here are some of the reasons why you should translate your book right away into at least one other language and what to do to get started:

First and foremost, why translate?

  • Generate more sales

This is probably the biggest and most appealing reason why you should think about translating your literary work. By making your book available in other languages, your book can now be sold to an entirely new market. This will not only help you generate more income, but will also help you improve your rankings. Many websites and book ranking agencies list books by cumulative sales regardless of language so, by adding a language and selling more copies, all versions of your book, English version included, will see higher rankings in search engines, more activity, and more sales. By taking your book global, you will reach more audiences while also promoting the English version of your book too. Your book will likely get a lot of traction among ESL speakers who enjoyed your book in English but would like to read it in their native language. Conversely, you will see sales from people who were able to read your book in their native tongue but feel inclined to read the English original. Beyond the increased sales, you will also be able to watch your unique ideas spread around the world to countries where they may be even better-received than at home. Your foreign-language fans will also likely be more loyal and appreciate that you took the time to release an official translation in their language rather than making them hunt for your book and read it in their second language. There are plenty of stories out there of authors who didn’t do very well at home but went on to become cultural icons across the planet. You could be one of them! Translating your book can give it the push it needs to make it to the top of the charts and make you famous. Just think about it: the international book tour? the international wide-release film option? All become possible if you provide your would-be fans in other countries copies of your book in their language.

  • Benefit from less competition

Not only will you be able to expand your readership and generate some extra income, your book will likely see even better performance than in your original language. Oftentimes, selling your book can be a lot easier in a second language, even if you have to adjust your marketing strategy and work through a tall language barrier with the help of a translator. This is because your book will benefit from less competition, or the increased interest from readers who are fascinated by the prospect of reading works by foreign authors, or both. If you are translating into English, you will, of course, benefit from what is currently the largest market for books but, if you are translating into, say, French, you will benefit from a lot less competition. A lot less books are originally published in French when compared to English and many authors choose not to translate so, if you go out and take the initiative and translate into French, your book won’t be on such crowded shelves. Publishing in a market with few existing options means more sales for you and more choice for consumers, a win-win!

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  • Convey ideas better

At some point, you’ve probably thought: ‘I have a great idea and I know what I want to say; I just don’t know how to put it into words in a way that will make the reader feel what I’m feeling.’ Translating your book can actually help you better convey your ideas and the emotional connections behind them. In other languages like French, there are words which have no direct translation back into English. These words can work for you as a clear way of expressing your complex ideas. That moment after a conversation where you finally think of something you should’ve said in the heat of the moment? ‘L’espirit d’escalier’. That feeling of uneasiness you get when travelling somewhere new and feeling out of place, like you don’t belong? ‘Dépaysement’. By translating your book, you can unlock these French words and phrases along with many more in order to put how you really feel on paper. Yes, the people reading the English copy of your book still wouldn’t be able to benefit from these words, but, by publishing in another language, many people will be able to get a better sense of what kind of author you are and appreciate your ideas in their best form. Your book in another language may even flow so much better than the English-original that you may see more sales and more fame in another country.

But how?

If you’re convinced you need to translate your book, the next question is, well, how?

  • Use a professional, human translator

Machine translations may be good for helping you find your way around a foreign country but certainly won’t cut it when translating a full novel. That is why you must use a human translator. But, even some human translators won’t cut the mustard. That is why you need to look for a human translator with experience and from a reputable firm, not just any freelancer you found online. Machine translators and part-time translators will produce results fast, even instantly in the case of an online translator, but they will come with many, many mistakes which will make your ideas confusing at best and completely different at worst. To avoid this, make sure to only look for experienced translation firms.

  • Start early, if you can

If you have yet to finish your book or, even better in this case, haven’t even started writing, that will make it easier to translate your book. If you start looking early and find a translator up front and work with them throughout the writing process, they will be able to translate your book as it forms, saving you time in the long run. Instead of having to wait for the translations to be ready, if you give your translator your chapters and edits as soon as they’re available, you will be able to launch your book in all languages at the same time, capitalizing on its initial popularity to generate sales around the world. Also, if you work with a translator from the beginning, they will be able to work on your project gradually, taking the time needed to make sure everything is perfect rather than working under time pressure. Also, that same translator can help you with any supplemental materials you may need like a translated author bio, marketing copy, etc. along the way. Best of all, your translator can recommend changes to your sentences so that they will be easier to translate into other languages, ensuring consistency across both languages. As an example, many scholars have stated that reading the English-translation of the French novelist Jules Verne’s books is completely different from reading the French originals to the point where many argue that if you read the English version, you really haven’t read Jules Verne’s book at all. To prevent this problem from happening with your book, make sure you work closely alongside your translator to make sure your ideas don’t get mangled or lost in translation throughout the process. Be sure to pick a translator willing to work on your project gradually over time. This may result in additional costs, but it will be well worth it in the long run.

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  • Claim your copyright

Don’t forget to sign a contract with your translator to confirm that you, the author, will maintain ownership of the copyright and will directly receive all the royalties from your book, some of which you can then offer to your translator as additional compensation if you wish. Many countries, the United States included, may consider the translated version of your book a different work altogether meaning you could face many legal hurdles later on if you don’t ensure your translator formally signs off all copyright to you, the original author. Don’t do business with any translator that will not do this or calls it “unnecessary”! Even if you decide to give your translator a cut of the royalties on top of paying for their services, you should retain full control of the copyright to protect yourself, just in case.

  • Work with your translator

You might plan to just send over a copy of your book and wait for them to email you or your publisher a translated copy. If you picked a good translator, they will provide you with an accurate translation but will have to make assumptions about what tone or mood you wanted to convey in a certain scene where it may not be too clear. To prevent any of your ideas from becoming misinterpreted due to a false assumption, it is best to actively work with your translator. So, when picking a translator, pick one that is willing to work with you in order to produce the best book, in every language.

  • Make the right choice

Above all, when it comes time to finding a translator, you need to find someone who is not only qualified and patient but experienced in specifically translating books, with all their puns and alliterations in tact, as well. If you are translating your book from English to French or vice versa and don’t want anything lost in translation, Sunderland Translations is your best choice by far. They will not just translate your work but localize it as well, making sure all the words and their regional significances are translated correctly. Sunderland Translations has translators who specialize in literary work and, since they only work with the English-French language pair, all of their translators are experts in both languages, not somewhat-fluent in many languages. Sunderland Translations will ensure your book is able to reach its full potential in English and in French so that you can take your book to the next level. So, what are you waiting for? Request a quote today!

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