Mark O'Neill

Spy thriller author, creative entrepreneur, daydreamer

Find a translator for foreign book markets

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When you publish your book, you need to quickly start thinking about foreign translations. Obviously English is the dominant language in the world. But other countries have big book-buying populations too, and the eBook market is booming worldwide. So you need to find a translator for all the top languages, otherwise you’re just leaving good money on the table.

Germany, for example, has its own eBook platform called Tolino (meant to rival Amazon), and getting your books into Spanish will instantly make you sellable in multiple Spanish-speaking countries (including the United States.) In fact, ironically, the vast majority of my book sales today come from my German translations. They are far eclipsing my English book sales by a rate of 5-1.

So although a translator can be expensive, the costs can be recouped very quickly if you’re writing in a popular category, and you have the right book cover. Germany is the second-largest eBook market in the world. So it is absolutely essential to get your books into German as quickly as possible. Then Spanish.

French is also supposed to be a good language to get your work translated into, as it not only gets you access to France, but also the French-speaking Quebec region of Canada. I’ve also heard it said that Chinese is the up and coming language to get involved with for book translations, but I haven’t yet seen any convincing evidence that Chinese eBooks are selling well enough to justify the cost of hiring a translator.

How do I find a translator?

  • Do you have any foreign friends? Do they know someone that can do it, if they can’t themselves?
  • Ask a local language school or language department at the local college or university.
  • There is also a website called Babelcube, but I am not too thrilled by them. They have my Italian and Portuguese rights locked up for five years, and their marketing efforts are next to zero.
  • Google for translators. So, for example “German book translators.” I would be VERY wary about hiring someone on Fiverr, Upwork, or a similar site, as quality varies wildly. Usually downwards. Instead, look on places like Reedsy, which have a better vetting process.
  • Search and/or ask on social media. Use hashtags such as #germanbooktranslator (change the language, depending on the one you want, and try different variations on the word “translator”).
  • My preferred method is to rely on personal recommendations from people I trust. So reach out to your network.

A caveat when looking for a foreign language translator

There’s one thing you need to remember. Not every foreigner can do translation. They may be able to speak the language, but they also have to be able to capture the atmosphere of the story. There’s a big difference – it can’t be a literal translation.

It requires talent and experience to pull it off. But if you get it done right, you’ll be reaping the financial rewards for a long time to come. My current German translator went to film school, so he knows about plotting, pacing, atmosphere, characters, etc. That’s the kind of person you want. Or an author – my first German translator is an author herself.

If you want a Spanish translator, hire Natalia Steckel. She does my Spanish translations, and she is simply the best.

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