Now, I know the title of this post was maybe just a little mean in that you likely clicked on it expecting (or at least hoping) to find a one-two-three approach that will take you from the dream to the reality of being a published literary translator. I’m sorry to say you won’t find that here… or anywhere, frankly.

I honestly do wish it were as easy as setting out an infallible step-by-step approach for you to follow, but it’s not. There as many avenues to take as there are translators. Rather than being a negative, however, the range of options means a variety of methods to try and so one or more will surely speak to you.

Over the next seven weeks, each Monday, I will take a look at the following approaches to establish a career as a published literary translator:

* Build a portfolio of smaller pieces
* Take the traditional publishing route for book-length works
* Consider self-publishing as an option
* Contact the author directly
* Network with agents and editors
* Establish a mentoring relationship
* Listen for a knock on your door

I will examine the hows and whys behind each of these methods, including examples from my own experience.

My aim is to help get you started or continue your career in literary translation. None of these ideas are limited to budding literary translators: any of the approaches can be used at any point along the way to increase your opportunities to get published.

You may have to try a few of these methods all at once or in the order of your choosing before you are eventually successful. Only one thing is key: in order to succeed, the approach you choose must suit you and your personality. It is fine and, indeed, good to step out of your comfort zone, but if any one tack overwhelms or frightens you, I don’t believe it’s the route you should follow.

I have mentioned this before, but feel it’s important to repeat here again that serendipity often plays a significant role in any writer or translator’s life. This, too, offers hope. If you are intent on becoming published and take one or more of the steps I’ll outline, really put yourself out there, you never know what might happen:

* Clifford E. Landers published one short story in a literary journal that was read by Thomas Colchie, himself a renowned translator turned literary agent, and thus embarked on an illustrious career.

* Margaret Sayers Peden reached out to author Carlos Fuentes and went on to translate six of his books, as well as countless others.

* Edith Grossman was asked by a friend, the editor of a magazine, to translate one short story and never looked back, becoming one of the most recognized translators today.

For more information on how to get published as a literary translator, I encourage you to read “Breaking Into Print,” on of the ALTA Guides to Literary Translation published by the American Literary Translators Association.

In the meantime, have I missed an approach to getting published that has worked for you? What is it? Is there anything specific you would like to read about the methods I have outlined? Do let me know in a comment!





Lisa Carter is an acclaimed Spanish>English translator. Her work has won the Alicia Gordon Award for Word Artistry in Translation and been nominated for an International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award. Lisa offers translation, editing, professional development and promotion services through her company, Intralingo Inc., at

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