The start of a new year brings out the fortune-teller in all of us. With a blank calendar before us, we’re often eager to predict how the story will unfold.
I’m determined to look at our profession through a lens of positive optimism, so some of what I offer here might be more “wish list” than pure “prediction.” The following is what I hope will be, and consequently what I will work toward achieving.
That said, the predictions are all based in reality. After attending writers’ summits and book fairs, voraciously reading publishing news, and interacting with authors and publishers on a regular basis over the past seventeen years, my thoughts on literary or book translation are based on facts and trends.
<waving hands over crystal ball>
This is what I foresee:
- Hunger for Diversity
The two most powerful English-speaking countries in the world (the United States and the United Kingdom), among many others, seem to be heading toward an era of narrower, more insular perspectives. This is certainly cause for alarm, on the one hand; but on the other, I believe the educated, progressive, liberal sector of society—writers and readers—will be even more eager for diversity, for different, more international perspectives on the world and humanity’s place in it.
We will see the hunger for books from diverse authors and works in translation grow.
- More Opportunities
This hunger will need to be fed. And that is our job, as literary translators, writers, editors and publishers: to offer readers a variety of voices, genres and storylines.
Small, independent publishers have already been addressing this need. Presses like Deep Vellum, Two Lines Press, And Other Stories and QC Fiction publish only works in translation. All of these have garnered serious and widespread recognition over the past several years.
We will see publishers that focus on world literature continue to grow and champion works in translation.
What’s more, self-publishing has become a serious option for many authors. Both debut and successful authors are pursuing it, either exclusively or as part of their publishing model. As those authors delve into self-publishing, they become more entrepreneurial. And every entrepreneur learns that one of the most viable ways to earn more is to repurpose existing content.
Authors will become increasingly aware that translation and international sales can bring additional earnings.
- Multiple Talents
As literary translators, we have always worn more than one hat. Our work doesn’t start or stop with writing. We are often advocates for our profession, our authors and our books; we are agents of a sort, helping authors find publishers; we are publicists for our books and books in translation in general.
We will continue to be the driving force behind international literature and, as we become more involved in self-publishing, we will add one more hat to our repertoire, becoming consultants and advisers, as well.
Publishing with a big or small press, or even self-publishing, is never a given, however. We will not be able to sit back and wait for work, or for our rights to be respected, or for authors and publishers to do the heavy lifting, or for our books to get the attention they deserve.
We will have to put our talents and our passion into overdrive if we want to publish and prosper, if we want to contribute to diversity in literature and turn opportunities into reality.
- Collaboration & Collectives
By its very nature, publishing is a collaboration. With publishing in translation, an author needs a translator and a translator needs an author. Both then need an editor and a publisher (or publishing platform), quite possibly also a proofreader, a designer and a publicist. It takes an entire team of individuals to bring a book into the world. This is nothing new, but our role will become even more crucial.
We will have to make connections and build relationships if we are to truly serve our authors and publishers.
We will have to go beyond the “us” and “them” divisions that can exist between translator and publisher, and truly understand their needs and challenges to ensure the books we champion can be published.
Within our profession, multiple challenges still exist. There is often a lack of understanding about our art and our role in the process; our rights are not always recognized or respected (royalties and copyright); pay can be low or even non-existent.
We will need to work together, to stand strong as a collective and advocate for ourselves. It is the only way we will be in a position to ensure that new books can reach new audiences and we can receive our due.
I believe the future of book or literary translation is bright, and will work hard in 2017 (and beyond!) to ensure this is so for myself, for Intralingo and my colleagues, and most certainly for my publishers and authors, not to mention the books and the power of world literature that I so believe in.
What are your thoughts on these predictions? What are some of your predictions for the year ahead? What will you do to work toward positive growth and change for publishing in translation? I hope you’ll contribute to the conversation!
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