you have commissioned. It’s enough to make you quake in your boots. As Ethan Ellenberg says, “If you go solo, it’s much more complex and difficult. Conceptually, translation can work. Practically, you would have to find a way to surmount the barriers.”
A few particularly brave authors are doing just that.
It is difficult to find good translators. Translation is a delicate art and a bad translation will lose you readers forever. Furthermore, translations are expensive. A good translation can cost anywhere from $5,000 to $10,000 and if you have an extensive backlist, having yourself translated into several languages can be quite an investment, with no guarantee of a return. The potential rewards are so high, however, that many authors are experimenting with various business models.
First of all, there is crowdsourcing with companies like Kickstarter and Pubslush. Jesse Potash, CEO of Pubslush, describes the process:
“Pubslush is a global, crowdfunded publishing platform for authors to raise funds, gauge their readership, and publish successfully. The process is simple: 1. Authors submit a summary and excerpt of their work, setting a fundraising goal and campaign duration. 2. Readers financially support their favorite submissions, in exchange for a reward. 3. Authors raise money and use supporter analytics to publish successfully via any publishing route they prefer.
“Authors are free to use the money they raise to facilitate any part of the publishing process (from editorial to translations and publicity). The goal is to introduce readers into the publishing equation and provide authors with the tools (access to capital, audience demographics, publishing resources) they need to be successful.
In the instance of crowdfunding specifically for translation, an author would simply indicate on their book page that their manuscript is completed and that they wish to raise funds for a high quality translation.”
Two authors have successfully refined a profit-sharing translation mode: David Gaughran and Scott Nicholson.
Scott Nicholson is perhaps the pioneer of this trend. This is what he has to say about indie translating:
“Germany is the strongest European market right now. Italian is also growing steadily. The others seem a little behind, but I am highly optimistic about the Portuguese market this Christmas and hope to explore the Japanese markets next year. The Latin Spanish market has barely been tapped.
“I have about a dozen titles out in various languages and have more underway. I think Kobo's strong push to expand will spur other markets like Amazon to be aggressive as well, and current digital markets in Europe will be forced to open up to self-publishers.
“I pay the translator a 20 percent royalty of net proceeds, no advance. I have since developed a model where I have one agency handle everything from selecting/assigning translators to the proofing and editing, for a 25 percent cut (that includes the translator cut). In some languages, I have a project manager who oversees and proofs/edits for a 5 percent cut. I am still new in this model but I like it a lot because it ensures consistency, the participants have a vested interested in quality products, and my quarterly payments are far simpler.
I know a lot of translators are reluctant to try such a model, but that's fine with me. I only want to work with the most progressive and bold people anyway!”
David Gaughran shared his experience with indie translating on his blog, Let’s Get Digital: “I have been slowly but steadily building a foreign catalog by working with independent freelance translators… I pay a 20 percent royalty to translators and get the proofreading done through various means, often in trade for promotion.
I treat my translators as partners, because they are part of the studio and they are taking a risk with their time and talent… I am most optimistic about the Brazilian market and Portuguese e-books as the next Amazon frontier, as well as Kobo’s aggressive improvements…The way I look at it is I still have six billion potential readers out there. And I can reach them from my desktop with the click of a few buttons. The same advantages of self-publishing in English apply anywhere in the world.”
A very, very successful example of self translating is Tina Folsom, an indie romance writer who was generous enough to share some figures with me. Her most successful market is Germany. “In Germany I've already recouped all my investment so far and am making a tidy profit each month (between $15k and $20k per month). In June 2012, I’ve sold over 4,200 e-books in Germany on Amazon alone, Continued on page 16