Book translation services are unique from most other types of translation for a variety of reasons. Mainly, it’s because they aren’t really translation services—they’re “re-authoring.” The linguist essentially acts as the author for a given market as they recreate the voice to appeal to a new demographic.
If you’re not prepared for this process, it may be wise to forgo these types of translations or seek out assistance from your publisher. However, if you think your book could resonate in a new market, it could very well be worth the effort.
Pros and Cons of Book Translations
Translating a book requires a special type of process. The writer needs to understand the voice, demographic, and cultural nuances in its source language. The original author may also need to accept that much of that will have to change. But with the right strategy, a number of benefits can be reaped:
- Additional revenue streams: There are only so many sales opportunities in the U.S. once a publisher exhausts hardcover, paperback, and e-book options. Expanding to additional regions provides a new option for revenue.
- Increased market reach: Authors need a fan following to stay relevant and gain attention for subsequent works. New markets enhance that following and build anticipation for new releases.
- Bestseller opportunities: Being a bestseller is cyclical; it gives books the visibility needed to continue sales that make them bestsellers. Unfortunately, competition is hefty in English-speaking markets. There may be more opportunities to reach those lists in other regions.
- Low distribution overhead: Today’s e-book platforms mean that authors do not need a manufacturing or distribution presence in a country to sell their work there. They can upload it to an electronic medium in that language and enjoy immediate connections with readers.
While it is easy to just focus on the benefits, there are quite a few different pitfalls to consider before translating for a new market.
- Lengthy process: It is highly inadvisable to try and work with multiple translators on a single book because of how quickly the tone changes from person to person. However, working with a single editor and linguist will likely extend the project beyond a standard translation duration.
- Cultural mismatch: Attempting to translate a book from one country to another can often result in market failure because of changing politics or social norms. Whether fiction or nonfiction, an extremely left-leaning book may create controversy in more conservative countries. In some cases, that content may be enough to get it banned.
- Demographic incompatibility: Just because a book works for children or teens in one market doesn’t mean its success will carry over in new countries. Authors may need to reevaluate their target market before launch to determine if they need to make adjustments.
Book translation services need to be fluid. The best translation agencies will offer multiple samples to review before deciding on a single linguist. That way, the author or publishing house can make an informed choice regarding the translator they think will best reflect their voice.
Crucial Components of Book Translation Services
Book translation must combine a human component with some type of business management program. This is necessary to complete the translation and measure the ROI from it. You must also ensure the linguist is a fantastic writer because they’re not just translating content; they’re authoring the book in a new language.
They must also have a profound understanding of both the cultural market and the demographics in the intended market. Through this, they can alert the original author of any cultural mismatches that could lead to issues or even a banned book. They’ll also need a high level of adaptability to develop solutions when those problems arise.
The technical components center on deadlines and returns. Publishers must follow stringent deadlines for marketing and promotions. Unfortunately, when trying to work with multiple translations and many different intermediaries, this process can become especially challenging. The alternative is to use a localization management platform to control the project from start to end. The most capable one will allow for real-time monitoring of project statuses and directly connect to the translators to enhance collaboration efforts.
When the job is over, it’s also necessary to keep track of the ROI on the project. A program with granular-level reporting connecting to billing or business management software helps publishers and authors discover where the highest demand lies and hone in on it.
Not all agencies can offer both a human component and the accompanying technology needed for truly supportive book translation services. Many can’t even provide the ability to work with the same translator from beginning to end. Seek out the agency that furnishes technical and linguistic expertise for the best chance of success.