Book translation – where to start

book translation
This guest post was written by Louise Taylor manager of content for Tomedes, a translation company that provides translation services around the globe, covering over 90 languages.

Publishing your book in your native language (we’ll assume for the sake of this article that that’s English) is a huge undertaking, but once it’s complete, the sense of accomplishment is well worth the effort. While the English reading audience is enormous, there is also a potential market for your book outside of English-speaking countries using book translation. As the world becomes more globalized, demand for literature in translation is growing.

Having your book translated into other languages by a translation agency creates an opportunity to increase your revenue, as well as to become an international author. However, there’s not much easily accessible information out there on how to get started. This article will attempt to guide you through the practical side of book translation. With a little effort, you can add another income stream and open up new opportunities in other markets.

Getting Started with Book Translation

If you’re just beginning to consider your book translation, start by being certain that you are satisfied with the most recent version of it. Make sure it has been proofread and edited, and that you are happy with the final product. After all, you don’t want parts of your work that you’re not satisfied with being translated into other languages!

Next, figure out who your intended audience will be. While you can get your book translated into any language you want, you should have a solid reason for doing so. Perhaps you want to access a particular target market because of the revenue possibilities. Or maybe you are intent on spreading a specific message so that it has a more global reach. Whatever the reasoning behind your literary translation is, having a clear and well thought out “why” in mind before you begin is essential.

If you have a lot of foreign readers visiting your book’s promotional blog, or asking if you will be translating it into other languages, this will help sort out which language to translate it into first. After all, it makes little sense to translate your book into a language where nobody is interested in your subject matter. A little bit of marketing research should precede any book translation project to determine if it will be worth your investment.

Beware Machine Translation!

The most important thing you will need to decide upon is which translator you will use. Translation software like Google Translate is not up to the task of book translation. Any attempts at using this kind of machine translation engine to translate an entire book will result in an inaccurate and potentially embarrassing translation, which is unlikely to sell well or garner good reviews. While machine translation is a helpful tool for understanding certain words and phrases in other languages, it is simply not an option for a proper translation.

Technology has advanced in significant ways so far as translation is concerned. There is some excellent software our there that professional translators can use to work faster and smarter. These serve as aids to those who undertake translation – they don’t undertake the translation itself. There is no substitute for human translation, whether it’s through a freelance translator or a translation agency.

Using A Freelance Translator

Translation is highly specialized and requires someone who is a native speaker in the language you want to translate your work to. This is an absolute must. A bilingual native speaker of the language will be able to translate your book with its meaning intact.

It is helpful if they live and work in the area where your target audience resides as well. Every language has variations and rules that may change your translation for your target audience. A translator who understands these differences and can edit your book to make sense to the locals is called a localization specialist.

For languages or cultures where your book will need a great deal of localization if it is to convey your sentiments adequately, be sure to hire a localization professional and explain that pure translation will not suffice. This is a good move if you know nothing of the language and culture of your target audience. Jokes, metaphors, slang, comparisons, and much more may need to be altered so your readers can understand them in another language. Translators who are also localization experts have the job of translating your book as authentically as possible so that it compares well to the original version. This can cost more than a straight document translation, but it is the best way to achieve a translation that the new readers will be able to relate to.

Quality Control

You will need a native editor who can review your book translation, both to see how it stacks up with the original and to assess it in its own right. The editor will need to be bilingual, so that he/she can compare the work. This is a crucial step in the literary translation process. Editors of books in translation will help with the flow and accuracy of your words, ensuring that your book is of the highest quality for its new audience.

You can find translation and localization professionals, along with bilingual proofreaders and editors on freelancing platforms like Upwork, Fiverr, and Freelancer. Be sure to read their reviews before hiring. You can also search online directories found on translation organizations’ websites, or seek these individuals out on social media sites such as LinkedIn.

Working with A Book Translation Company

Another way to publish your book abroad is to work with a company that specializes in hiring the best translators for the job. If you’re going to translate your book into multiple languages, a translation agency is probably your safest bet. Sometimes the cost of these services is slightly more, but using one will save you the time and effort of having to locate and hire a freelancer.

Translation companies focus on projects like book translation every day, so they have plenty of expertise to bring to the process. They are also well-staffed with teams of translators, localization experts and proofreaders (as opposed to a freelancer, who could get halfway through translating your book and then break an arm!). Many translation companies even have project coordinators to help keep things on track and make sure everyone is on the same page. Hiring a professional translator, securing your own bilingual proofreader or editor, and drawing up contracts can all seem much easier when you work with a company that offers all-in-one translation services and can take care of these tasks for you.

Before hiring a translation agency, you will want to tally the entire cost of the project. It’s also worth establishing who your contact person will be, how frequently you can speak with him/her, how long the project will take, and that you will retain full rights to your translated book.

As you can see, there are a few things to consider before you translate your book into another language. Each individual will have different and sometimes very personal reasons for wanting to undertake their book translation. While it is a financial investment to consider carefully, it can have many benefits. Translating your book can expand your world and put you in touch with people you would never have met, paying off in rich cultural experiences. It can also serve as another source of income from your writing. Finally, there’s the thought that you can call yourself an international author – and who could possibly mind that?

Author Bio

Louise Taylor manages content for Tomedes, a translation company that provides translation services around the globe, covering over 90 languages. Louise has worked in the translation industry for many years. She holds qualifications in multiple languages.

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