“You’re a godsend!” an author responded enthusiastically when I introduced to her Intralingo’s translation services. I was attending the Canadian Writers’ Summit in Toronto this summer and had the opportunity to talk to many authors about #WhyWritersMatter and #WhyTranslatorsMatter, and the opportunities that literary translation offers to reach new audiences. Not everyone reacted with such enthusiasm but many agreed that, in this globalized environment, going beyond your own borders is a desirable and potentially attainable goal.

Here is a short introduction to literary translation for those of you who may want to consider it as an option for your work.

What:

Translation represents an opportunity to give new life to the text already tried, tested and true in one language by reaching new audiences in another. Publishing in another language opens up you and your work to a whole new world.

Who:

A professional literary translator is your best option as they have the required skills to recreate your work. Remember: a good translation conveys not only the content, but also the message, style, nuances of vocabulary and all other subtleties of your writing in the new language.

Why:

Publishing in a second language introduces you to a whole new audience. After investing countless hours in writing, publishing and marketing a book, translation is an opportunity to let someone else—the translator—do the heavy lifting, while you reap additional rewards in terms of greater visibility, increased recognition and higher earnings.

Where:

The answer to this depends on the specific book, but the most suitable target audience should be considered based on size and interest in the particular genre.

In Canada, you might immediately think of the other official language, but other markets may have as much or more potential. Spanish is a proven market for books in translation: about 25% of books published in the Spanish-speaking market are translations, most of these from English.

When:

It’s best to undertake translation only once your book has achieved some success in its original language, and it’s also advisable if your target audience is in the new language.

For planning purposes, it’s important to understand that translation is not a particularly speedy process; it can take several months, depending on the length of the original work. The time required for editing, proofreading, book design and production also have to be factored in, so as with all publishing endeavours it’s best not to expect instant results!

How:

Translations, like original-language works, reach an audience through two main publishing routes:

  1. Traditional publishing is the most sought-after route for all the same reasons as in the first language, and is generally pursued for works originally published this way.

Authors need to read their contracts carefully to determine whether they hold the foreign rights or their publisher does. Translation is a derivative art, meaning no translation can be published without express consent from the original rightsholder or licensee.

If your publisher holds the rights, you can always encourage them to venture into a foreign market. In most cases, publishing houses sell the rights to other houses abroad, and the acquiring party takes care of the translation, production, distribution and promotion of the work in the corresponding region. You as an author would then receive royalties on sales in the new language.

  1. Self-publishing is as viable a route in translation as it can be for an author’s original work. In this case, you as the author bear the costs of each and every step, from hiring the translator, to designing and publishing the book, and promoting it in the new market.

Our experience has shown that authors with an entrepreneurial spirit are often willing to branch out into other languages with the help of a dedicated and knowledgeable translator.

In summary, publishing in translation is an opportunity to give your existing work new life in another language. I have presented only the most elemental aspects of literary translation here to get you started. The key to such an undertaking is to work with a professional literary translator and assess the options for publishing your work abroad.

Are you an author considering translation for your work? Answer each of the W5 above to see if you’re ready to get started.

If you’ve already pursued translation, do tell us about your experience!

And if you’ve any questions, don’t hesitate to ask them here, in a comment, or contact us.

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Pilar Bolanos is a certified translator, former journalist and communications professional. Whether working in international news, international relations, as a translator and editor, the axis of her entire career has always been words. As Manager of Spanish Services with Intralingo, she helps English-language authors find their voice in her native Spanish.