Writers! Should You Have Your Writing Translated?
You put down your pen (or close your laptop) and breathe a sigh of relief—the last word of your masterpiece is finally on paper!
But what’s next? Whether you write articles, fiction, or poetry, you might have considered having your work translated into another language. If you’re with a publisher, they will usually take care of this process. But if you’re self-publishing, like many freelance writers, you’ll have to weigh up your options and investigate the process yourself.
Why consider translation?
Let’s go through some reasons why you should consider translating your content:
You can reach more people
Publishing your work in another language allows you to connect with those who don’t speak your native language. Your readership has the potential to increase significantly, depending on what language and target markets you choose.
You can boost your exposure
You’ll be read by more people and profit from improved sales rankings. More people will know who you are and be familiar with your work. So more recognition is on the cards—if that floats your boat!
You can earn more
You’re selling your writing in additional markets, so you’re going to draw in more revenue from those sales that you would have otherwise missed out on.
What about copyright?
Some countries may consider the translated work the property of the translator and grant them copyright and the right to all royalties. In the US, for example, a translation may be considered a derivative work, granting the translator copyright ownership. So make sure you sign a legal agreement with your translator which safeguards that you will retain the copyright to all translated versions of your text. However, it is customary for translators to receive a share of the royalties brought in by their translated version. This also needs to be agreed upon and covered in your agreement before any work commences.
How to find a translator?
Once you’ve made up your mind, it’s time to find a suitable translator. You can find professional translators via directories of translator associations in virtually every country (e.g., the ATA in the US). These folks all have a recognized qualification or other credentials and adhere to their association’s code of conduct. This gives you some reassurance that you’re dealing with a trusted expert who knows what they’re doing.
Once you’ve found a translator, make sure you stay in close contact. It’s a good sign if they‘re asking lots of questions about your text. That shows that they’re proactive and have your interests and the best possible outcome in mind. Silence is suspicious, and you may want to follow up with them to see if everything is in order or anything is unclear.
It’s worth having a professional proofreader lined up to check the translator’s work. If this is beyond your budget, at least have some beta readers readily available to take a look for you. These should be native (ideally bilingual) speakers of your target language and can be family or friends. At least you’ll get an idea of whether the work is as good as you’d expect.
If you’re still unsure into which language(s) you should have your text translated, UNESCO’s Index Translationum, an international bibliography of translations, can offer some inspiration. It lists the most popular source and target languages for books translated and published in about one hundred of the UNESCO Member States between 1979 and 2009.