Category Archives: translations

India – The Race For Local-Language Internet Supremacy Has Begun. Indie Authors, Prepare Now For The Opportunities Ahead.

India e-commerce

There are three major e-commerce players in India right now. Flipkart, Snapdeal and Amazon.

Of those only one – Amazon – is now selling ebooks, but don’t give up on this story yet, because what Snapdeal is doing right now is going to alter the Indian e-commerce landscape.

So far the internet in India has been very much an English-language affair. India may be the second largest English-speaking nation in the world, but English is spoken by a substantial minority of Indians.

And for those that don’t speak, read or write in English, the internet – and especially the field of e-commerce – has been of limited interest.

There are great sites in local languages, of course, and some ebook retailers specialize in local-language titles, but English has been the driving force in internet take-up in the country thus far.

But not for much longer.

As Google’s South Asia VP said earlier this year, the next 100 million internet users will not be in English.

The proliferation of smartphones has made internet access a global phenomenon in a way that was quite impossible even five years ago. Globile (global mobile) has allowed nations to simply skip the desktop era of cable internet access and go straight from no internet to 3G/4G internet pretty much overnight.

In India, the fastest-growing smartphone market, globile is changing lives as internet access becomes available to even the remotest parts of the subcontinent.

But with English a minority language (a mere 150 million speakers) the shift to embrace local languages on the net was always just a matter of time.

That time has come. And Snapdeal is the first of the big Indian e-commerce sites to grasp this nettle.

Snapdeal, generally acknowledged as the second largest player after Flipkart, is rolling out the Snapdeal site not just in English but in Hindi and Telegu with immediate effect, and by end January will have Snapdeal options in nine other regional languages – Gujarati, Tamil, Marathi, Bengali, Kannada, Malayalam, Oriya, Assamese and Punjabi. (LINK)

Flipkart will follow suit in no time at all.

Amazon? Well, this is going to be interesting to watch.

Amazon’s focus is on the middle class niche who largely coincide with the English-speakers, not the whole population. With its limited payment options in a country where over 90% of the population do not have bank cards that’s unlikely to change.

In the Kindle store Amazon currently supports only one local language, and there are just a handful of titles available.

That’s not so important right now, when over 50% of print titles sold in India are in English. But that’s more to do with availability and affordability than reader preference.

As innovative local-language digital players like Rockstand and Dailyhunt are clearly showing, when local language ebooks are made available and affordable, Indian readers are snapping them up.

And now Snapdeal have just opened the door to local-language engagement with the internet in India at a whole new level.

It seems unlikely Snapdeal will be selling ebooks in the foreseeable future, but the idea that the internet in India will remain the preserve of English-speakers is now redundant.

More and more Indians will be coming online looking for local language content, including books and ebooks.

And many – probably most – Indians who do speak English likely do so as a second language learned at school, rather than their family conversational language at home, and will welcome content in their first language.

There are fantastic opportunities here for internationalist indie authors willing to go the extra mile and seek out translations in as many local languages as possible, for ebooks, print, audio and beyond.

By beyond I mean, for example, promo, blogging, social media engagement, etc.

It’s not commercially viable for me to have The International Indie Author blog and FB pages translated into other languages right now, but it’s certainly something I’m looking at for the future. if we want to fully engage with the world we will have to address translations not just of our books but of our wider social media presence.

But let’s focus on books for now.

Earlier this year India leapfrogged the UK to become the second largest English-language book market in the world. It’s now the sixth largest book market on the planet overall.

And it will get much bigger as smartphones make internet access available to literally hundreds of millions of Indians who previously had no way of getting online.

Many will be buying ebooks, and many more will be using their smartphones to buy print books from online stores.

We are going to see a big surge in local language take-up of books, across all formats, over the next five years.

Savvy indies will be positioning themselves now to enjoy the ride.

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Mexico is Publishing’s New El Dorado, Draft2Digital to Distribute to 24Symbols, and other Hot Tips for Internationalist Indie Authors.

There’s so much happening on the global scene right now it’s hard to keep on top of things. And that’s before the Frankfurt Book Fair kicks off.

To keep you up to speed, here’s another batch of short posts on how the global markets are shaping up.

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Regulars will know how excited I am about the Spanish-language prospects right now. With a half billion Spanish speakers around the world this is a huge market to tap into, and because of the concentration of Spanish speakers in Spain and Latin America it’s also a relatively easy market to tap into.

Two Spanish literary agents have just this past week launched a new venture called The Spanish Bookstage. (LINK)

The more observant will have spotted that’s in English, and so is the site – a reminder as ever that we Anglophone authors have a built in advantage in tackling the global markets even when the markets are in another language.

I’m a big fan of Babelcube – it’s a great way to find translator-partners. But… And it’s a big but… By going through Babelcube you hand over the distribution rights for that language to Babelcube and, at this stage in their game, that can be a frustrating experience, as Babelcube’s distribution leaves much to be desired.

Which is why, while I use translator-aggregators like Babelcube and Fiberead, I also seek translator-partnership arrangements independently. Not least for when opportunities like The Spanish Bookstage come along.

“The new platform,” says Publishing Perspectives (LINK) “comes at a time when the Spanish publishing industry (both in Spain and Latin America) is gaining stronger visibility in the global marketplace.”

While this is the first major platform dedicated to Spanish-language titles, there are plenty of similar operators which savvy indies should be keeping a close eye on that cover the global markets generally. I’ll be taking a close look at some of them as we wind up this year.

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Publishing Perspectives is always a good bet for global publishing insights, and especially so this month with the Frankfurt Book Fair almost upon us.

In an article on Publishing Perspectives few days ago Özkan Özdem offered some very useful insights into the exciting Turkish market. (LINK)

Again, regulars will know Turkey is high on my list of priorities, so I found this post very instructive. You may too.

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Moving on to that headline. Mexico is publishing’s new El Dorado?

Well, so says Diana Hernández Aldana from Turner Libros, a major Spanish-language publisher. (LINK)

Aldana expresses surprise at “the size of the markets in Mexico and Latin America and at their growth.”

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Over at The Digital Reader Nate reports that 3M is out of the library distribution business. (LINK)

From Nate’s post:

3M’s library division has been bought by Bibliotheca, a company that describes itself as “the largest global company dedicated to the development, deployment, and support of self-service library solutions”.

Nate assures us the 3M library distribution will continue without interruption, just under another name. Which hopefully means there will be no interruption to Babelcube’s distribution to what is currently called 3M.

3M supply mainly the US library system, and had ventured into Canada. There was talk of an international network along the lines of OverDrive, but that came to nothing. It remains to be seen what will happen globally.

Meantime be sure to be in OverDrive’s library catalogues. OverDrive have extensive international distribution and with Rakuten now owning them it’s likely they will be expanding further as we hit 2016.

OverDrive library access for your titles can be gained through the pay-as-you-sell aggregators Smashwords or StreetLib . as well as many pay-up-front services.

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Staying with StreetLib, a reminder that StreetLib now gets you into the key Latin American ebook retailer Bajalibros, which has stores across the region, including Brazil.

“In recent years,” opens Publishing Perspectives in a post on opportunities in Brazil (LINK) “while European book markets have remained almost flat or have even declined, the emerging countries are seeing a new chapter of the global business of books emerge in terms of exposure, opportunities and sales.”

Hardly news to regulars here, of course. Brazil has long been on my priority list.

Apparently only 25% of Brazilians have read a book in the past three months.

Plenty of reasons for that. Not least Brazilians being too busy playing on those beautiful beaches, or exploring the Amazon. Or, far more likely, that books have been a) unaffordable and b) unavailable.

But that is changing fast. Very fast.

And anyway, before we dismiss that 25% as too small to bother with, let’s bear in mind that 25% of Brazil’s 200 million population is 50 million.

Liana Suppressa, an Italian rights agent who specializes in children’s and YA titles, says that in Brazil there is a very strong enthusiasm and openness of publishers and of readers towards international authors,” adding, in Brazil “there’s a growing interest for middle grade and YA titles, both fantasy and contemporary realistic stories.”

Savvy internationalist authors will be looking to partner with Brazilian publishers to get a share of some of that growing enthusiasm, and of course making their own luck by going direct with their digital titles. Amazon, Apple, Kobo and Google Play are in Brazil,.

And not forgetting POD.

Babelcube is a great place to find (with some effort sifting through) some very competent Portuguese translators for both Brazil and mainland Portugal.

And longer term there are prospects for Portuguese translations in countries like Mozambique and Angola. As I’ll be exploring in a dedicated post shortly, Africa is an exciting emerging prospect.

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Speaking of Africa…

As I’ve reported many times, one reason I’m so excited by the global opportunities unfolding is because of the way some cyber-companies are investing in global internet reach.

I summarised the wonderful work of Google (Internet Saathi, Loon, etc) and Facebook’s Aquila project over on the Anne R. Allen blog last month (LINK), and also mentioned satellites.

Both Google and Facebook are investing in satellites, and this post over at VentureBeat this week adds further details of what Facebook have planned for us. (LINK)

Facebook have just partnered with Eutelstat Communications to deploy geostationary satellites  that will cover vast expanses of sub-Saharan Africa, starting in 2016.

The five ton Amos-6 satellites, built in Israel, will orbit above Africa (in sync with the Earth’s orbit) and facilitate broadband internet reception across the region, linking to African ISPs and direct to consumers. Crucially working with standard off-the-shelf devices like regular smartphones and tablets. No specialist equipment needed.

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Next, some words from trad-pub industry commentator Mike Shatzkin.

Shatzkin’s posts often get picked up by the indie blogosphere with the intent of ridiculing everything trad pub is doing. Usually with scant regard to the reality that trad pub is doing rather well.

This post from Shatkin covered backlist and export. (LINK)

That’s global sales, to us folk for whom international is a frame of mind, not just an ambition. Of course the indie blogs seized upon Shatkin’s thoughts on backlist and totally ignored his thoughts on export.

Shatzkin reports on an Ingram-hosted conference recently where one US publisher, Diversion Books, had launched its own ebook store app for its romance titles.

Shatzkin reports that Diversion are now seeing almost half – 49% – of English-language sales coming from outside the US, and perhaps most significantly of, 43% of sales coming from outside the US, UK and Canada.

A safe bet that 43% is not all from Australia and New Zealand, and very likely India is playing a significant role. But even so, a substantial portion of those “export” sales will be coming from other markets around the world.

Why?

Because they are being made available and buyable.

As I’ve said so many times here, trad pub (big and small) is raking in the cash from the global New Renaissance while most indies are still partying like its 2009, fighting each other for a share of the ever more competitive US market.

Indies can already get very profitable global reach from the mainstream retailers, but there are still vast tracts of the world off-limits by going this route.

Diversion’s ebook store app is one way in which small publishers – and indies –can reach a far bigger audience. And earn more from each transaction. And have access to the customer data.

Direct to consumer sales are something all indies with a decent-sized portfolio need to be looking at as we enter the second half of this decade.

I’ll be exploring this more as we head into 2016.

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Finally, let’s end with the second half of that headline somewhere above.

Yes, Draft2Digital is about to announce a distribution deal with the Spanish subscription service 24Symbols.

24Symbols is a subscription service in Europe that has been happily managing to survive with the subscription model since 2011.

Draft2Digital currently supplies the US subscription services Scribd and Oyster (Oyster will be closing early next year), tas well as the European ebook operator Tolino, the global Page Foundry (Inktera and Versent ebook stores) and the usual suspects Apple, Kobo and Nook.

As best I can see, the new addition will make D2D the only English-language aggregator getting indie titles into 24Symbols (if anyone knows another, do let me know). UPDATE, With great embarrassment I have to admit I somehow missed the fact that StreetLib already supplies 24Symbols. Sorry guys! So Draft2Digital will not be the first or the only.  🙂

And with Smashwords having recently dumped Flipkart, the addition of 24Symbols will make D2D a first-option for ever more indies frustrated by Smashwords’ antiquated system.

I’ll be running a comparison of the main pay-as-you-sell English-language aggregators shortly, looking at the pros and cons of each.

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We have unprecedented opportunities before us as the second half of the second decade of the twenty-first century unfolds.

Don’t let them pass you by.

Think about the next five years, not the next five weeks.

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The Intercontinental Indie Author

WestAfricaPt1-SpanishCover

When it comes to being an international indie author I like to do it from both ends.

The cover for the Spanish translation of Part One of my West Africa travelogue series, “West Africa Is My Back Yard, came in overnight. Now to format, upload and get it distributed around the world. But it already has more global credentials than you might expect.

Written right here in The Gambia in West Africa, it was translated into Spanish by a translator in Argentina in South America, and the cover was made by my regular designer in Indonesia in Asia. The English-language version has already seen sales as far apart as France, India and Brazil, but I’m looking forward to getting this title into multiple languages.

Most indies never give translations of their works a second thought because they believe

a) translations are unaffordable,

b) getting new covers in lots of different languages will require a second mortgage

c) no-one knows what ebooks are in the rest of the world, and

d) that the overseas markets are the exclusive preserve of the big-name authors with big-name publishers behind them.

Well, this particular book is pretty niche. A Spanish translation of a West Africa travelogue by a British ex-pat in one of the less-travelled parts of the world is hardly likely to set the charts on fire.

Is it worth an indie spending thousands on translators and hundreds on covers? For a proven bestseller, yes. For a niche title like this, no.

Which is where translator-partnerships and shoestring budgeting comes in.

I’ve covered the translation options before. (LINK)

For this title my Spanish-language translator in Argentina comes courtesy of Babelcube. No upfront costs.

And the cover cost me just five British pounds (about eight US dollars) from my Indonesian designer who plies his services on Fivesquid, the UK equivalent of Fiverr.

A few days ago I needed an update to another cover I’d first bought several years ago and paid $150 for. When I approached the designer she said it would cost me another fifty bucks to make the alteration and it would be a week before she would get to do it.

So I sent the cover to another designer I use on Fivesquid, in Romania, and the cover came back within four hours exactly as I wanted it, and cost me just a fiver.

Which is the same price I pay for all my translation covers and many of my originals now.

So far this month I’ve bought ten covers for my translated titles. At $100 a time that would have cost me a grand. At $50 a time that would have cost me $500.

Using the fiver sites I get ten covers for my translations for just $50.

As I do my own formatting that means each translation that goes live costs me just $5, and even a niche audience title like this one, aimed at a nascent market where ebook take-up is embryonic, can earn out in no time.

As I’ve said before (LINK) you can turn one title into six just by partnering with a translator and getting that title translated and selling in five different languages as well as English. One title becomes six without you writing an extra word.

Do that for two titles and those two titles become twelve.

Get five titles into five languages plus the English originals and your five title portfolio is suddenly a thirty title portfolio.

And somewhere down the road you’ll not only have new income streams but may just find yourself a truly international best-selling author.

It’s 2015, not 2009. The opportunities open to indies today are a world apart from just a few years ago when KDP launched and was only available in one country.

With two billion smartphones out there across the globe, each one capable of holding your ebooks, we have unprecedented reach and unprecedented opportunities.

Don’t let those opportunities pass you by.

Invest in the future, now.

Think about the next five years, not the next five weeks.

E Unum Pluribus – Going Global Part 2. The View From The Beach: Mark Williams At Large

Gunjur-Coastline-Gambia

Last post I sketched a simple but very effective outline of how to vastly increase your global reach by adding substantial numbers of new titles to your catalogue without writing an extra word.

For anyone who missed it, go here (LINK) and get the background.

E Unum Pluribus, for those who flunked Latin, or simply prefer to live in the modern world, is an inversion of the US motto E Pluribus Unum, meaning From Many, One. The inverted version therefore means, From One, Many.

Get your bestselling English-language title translated into another language and you have two titles instead of one without writing an extra word. Get that same book translated into ten other languages and that one book is eleven titles.

Do that for three books and your three English-language titles become over thirty titles, all potentially selling around the globe to readers who would never know your English-language version existed.

And as I said last post, it needn’t cost you an arm and a leg.

Since then, as this follow-up post is running late, many have emailed asking for more info. Apologies for that. Real life here in West Africa has an annoying habit of interfering with my schedule.

This post will be a brief outline of the options you might want to consider. In future post I’ll present a detailed how-to for the various options, but the more ambitious or impatient among you will find plenty here to get you off to a good start.

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By chance I was researching Thor Heyerdahl for my newly-launched travelogue-memoir series West Africa Is My Back Yard. The first of the series should be available in Spanish in late August, in Portuguese and German later this year, and a half dozen more languages sometime in 2016.

Which sounds exciting until you consider Thor Heyerdahl’s flagship book The Kon-Tiki Expedition has been translated into seventy languages.

Of course, Thor Heyerdahl wasn’t an indie author charting the unexplored waters of global self-publishing. He had a publisher behind him able to take care of all that.

Which brings me to Option # 1: Trad Pub.

Back in 2012 my flagship title Sugar & Spice, marketed under the Saffina Desforges brand, was picked up by a small French publisher, who found the English version on a French retail site, loved it, and offered a rather nice advance, translation and promo package for the French-language rights.

The indie die-hards said it was crazy to hand the foreign rights to a traditional publisher. Pay for a translation, upload from home, and get 70%, they cried.

Yeah, right. The problem with that is that the rest of the world is not the United States or the UK. Had serious money been spent on a translation the chances are it still wouldn’t have earned out today.

France isn’t big on ebooks even now, and back then was even less so, so ebook sales were negligible, especially given the ebook price was just a fraction below the 20 euro price for the hardcover.

Obviously if it had been self-pubbed the price would have been a lot less, and ebook sales might have been better. But by how much? The French ebook market is still, in 2015, nowhere near where the UK ebook market was in 2011.

And the best print alternative would have been a POD version.

No hardcovers in French bookstores.

Not so important in the US, perhaps. Critical in a country like France that has yet to embrace ebooks in any meaningful way.

Instead a French publisher took control.

The advance alone was substantially more than it would have cost for the translation. The book then sold a respectable 50,000+ hardcovers and might have gone on to do far better had the publisher itself not encountered problems elsewhere in its business and was forced to call it a day. So rights reverted last year.

And it has to be said, current French ebook sales even at the far cheaper price currently on offer, are lightyears away from the hardcover sales the traditional publisher was able to bring in. And I don’t expect that to change any time soon.

Bottom line is, for most of the world print ebooks have yet to reach even 10% of the local book market, so a focus on print as well as digital should be a key part of any self-respecting indie’s going-global strategy.

No matter how much we may loathe the idea, the reality is trad pub is by far the most effective way of gaining traction in the print market on foreign shores.

November marks my fifth anniversary as a digital author, and for my “relaunch” for the next five years global print availability will be a key part of my plans.

That means reaching out to trad publishers large and small across the globe to see what might be on offer.

But here’s the thing: it does not mean you need to compromise your indie position back home if you are doing well with digital in the more mature ebook markets like the US and UK.

Global rights should always be viewed in the plural.

Not one all-encompassing “world rights” deal, but myriad deals for each and every language, country and territory you can make happen.

Seek out and approach trad publishers big and small in as many places as you possibly can. Most countries do not have literary agencies, so a direct appeal to the publisher is often the way to do it. A sometime-in-the-future post on how best to go about this – everything from finding publishers, to best ways to approach them, to clinching deals, and to protecting your rights. But for the impatient among you, savvy use of Google or your preferred search engine would be a good place to start.

The downside with Option # 1 is of course that having a publisher take on all the hard work will result in lower royalties per unit ebook sale. And when your target audience is your home-market in the ebook-mature US and UK that has to be a serious consideration.

But most of us are not even selling that well in the other key English-language markets like Australia and New Zealand, let alone the foreign-language markets. So a pragmatic approach should take precedence over any ideological fixations along the lines of self-pub-good-trad-pub-bad.

Here’s the thing: can you realistically do it on your own?

If a trad pub deal with a publisher in France or Fiji, Morocco or Malaysia, Oman or Outer Mongolia, gets your titles in front of an audience in a country where you cannot by any reasonable, cost-effective means get to yourself then it really should be a no-brainer.

At its simplest, x-percent of something is a whole lot better than 100 percent of nothing.

Yes, in five or ten years time there might conceivably be an easy-access self-pub portal in Outer Mongolia and you might conceivably be able to top the charts in the Kindle Mongolia store and be signing your books for avid readers in Ulan Bator.

But by then you’ll have a ton more books written to go down that route with, in the unlikely event that scenario was realised. Meantime you could be gaining traction and establishing your author brand in readiness, with the help of a traditional publisher and a presence in the global print market.

But this post is about translations with ebooks the key focus, so let’s look at Option # 2: Buy Your Translations Outright.

At first glance, this seems by far the best choice if you have the cash to splash. It’s just an extension of what most indies already are doing to get covers designed, to get editing and proof-reading done, etc. Pay a fixed sum for the job and reap all the rewards down the road. A no-brainer, right?

Well, maybe. Maybe not.

First off, it’s a huge up-front expense. Translations do not come cheap.

Over at the translators’ café (LINK) http://www.translatorscafe.com/ a rate of $0.05 a word is about average for non-technical translations.

Not too bad for a translated tweet, perhaps, but a 5,000 word short story will set you back $250. Selling at 0.99 on Amazon you’ll need to clear well over 700 sales just to break even. And that’s without paying someone to check the translator’s work, and paying for the foreign-language cover, and other costs like formatting. And then there’s getting the blurb and keywords translated, and…

An 80,000 word novel at that rate will set you back $4,000. Not bad if you are already established in that language and can command a premium price on the foreign retail sites. But a helluva risk if you are barely ticking over in English and a total unknown globally.

Selling at 2.99 you’ll need to sell 2,000 copies before you earn out, again without taking account of other expenses. And that’s assuming you are collecting 70%. Which you ,most definitely cannot assume when it comes to going global.

This is where things get complicated.

Supposing you spend four grand on a Spanish translation and you are in KDP Select. You may be thinking you’ll be picking up 70% from sales in Spain and all those Spanish-speaking Latin American countries, but the reality is rather different.

Amazon will pay you 70% in Spain and Mexico. For the rest of the Spanish-speaking world, where Amazon allows downloads at all, you’ll be getting just 35% of list price. And to complicate matters further, list price will not be what the reader is paying. Amazon will be imposing a $2-$4 Whispersync charge on top of your set list price, of which you will see nothing. So even if a reader does pay $6.99 for your $2.99 title you’ll only see a dollar of it.

No, none of this is anti-Amazon. This is simple fact.

When thinking globally, the Amazon Whispersync charge and the 35% royalty outside of the dozen Kindle countries are things you need to take account of when investing serious sums for outright translation deals to reach the global markets.

The upside of the pay-up-front model is, once you’ve earned out the fee all the royalties will be profit.

But…

The downside is, that book is out there on its own. Probably just the ebook and maybe a POD, and with few exceptions (Germany, China) in a market where ebooks are just beginning to gain acceptance.

Let’s assume you’re savvy enough to be able to get access to all the key ebook markets for that language. That’s pretty easy for the German language, with Germany, Austria and Switzerland the key players.

Not so easy for Spanish where, Spain aside, the key market is Latin America. Amazon considerations as above. Mexico aside you’ll be getting just 35%, and you’ll only get 70% in Mexico if you are exclusive with Amazon.

Apple and Google Play are in some Latin American countries (Apple paying 70% and Google Play just over 50%) and Kobo is a token player. With Txtr and Nook out of the international game you really need to be looking at the domestic retailers in the region. But getting your books into the key domestic Latin American retailers is not at all easy.

And even if you can get your titles there, how will anyone know?

How do you promote and market your foreign language title in a foreign language you don’t speak or write? How many twitter followers and Facebook friends do you have in Argentina or Chile? In Guatemala or El Salvador? In the Netherlands or India? How would you get any?

How do you answer emails from fans in Spanish or Dutch or Hindi if you don’t speak that language? How do you take advantage of the self-pub portals in foreign lands (everywhere from Mexico to Vietnam right now and more coming) if you can’t navigate the foreign-language site?

There’s no question you should be available in these places, and in local languages it at all possible. That early start could transform your prospects down the road, quite apart from bringing in useful income trickles now. But does it make financial sense to pay outright translation fees for even one book at this stage, let alone several?

To my mind, no. Even with a proven international bestseller like Sugar & Spice that has topped the charts in several countries I’m simply not convinced this option is worthwhile at this stage in the game. Not when there are so many alternatives that can help you get a foothold on foreign shores.

Presuming you’re not a one-book wonder you’ll have plenty of future opportunities to go down the pay-up-front route, and as these foreign markets mature that will probably become cost-effective. But for now, I recommend a focus on getting maximum reach and maximum exposure without taking out a second mortgage.

Which brings me to Option 3: Translator Partnerships.

For my partnership arrangements I offer the partner translator nothing up-front, but a tasty 50% of net proceeds for the life of the foreign-language title they translate.

In return I ask for far more than just a translation. I want partners who will not just translate, but also help market and distribute afterwards, for the lifetime of the book.

The incentive is all on the translator. They undertake the task because they believe in the book and they believe they can not just render a great translation but also help market it effectively in their language.

The more it sells the more they make. If it dies a death after the first week you’ve lost the cost of the cover and whatever. They’ve lost months of hard work.

Crucially the partner-translator understands that from day one and if they climb on board with your project they do so not as a day-job to be done, dusted and forgotten, but as a financial investment.

Again, it may at first glance seem like collecting 50% less money just to save on paying out a lump-sum for the translation is a dumb idea. But, unless you are able to competently handle ALL the issues arising from having a foreign language title selling in a foreign land, then it makes a lot of sense.

By which I mean not just the translation, but local uploads, blurbs, keywords, cover and back cover translations, tweets and other promo, press releases, responding to queries from readers and possibly publishers, making sense of reviews, engaging with foreign book clubs, finding a local POD operator, talking to bookstores in that country about stocking the title…

A translator-partner will understand all this, and while they may need some help making sense of the self-publishing world, they’ll be keen to learn, because every sale you make is a sale they earn on too.

Again, don’t confuse profit-sharing with giving your hard-earned cash away.

The translator will be getting 50% of something you never had before, and wouldn’t otherwise be getting now, so it costing you nothing in real terms. And crucially you’ll be getting the other 50% where before you had nothing for sales of your book in that language. And they are doing all the hard work!

How to find a partner translator? You can ask around on sites like Translators’ Café and Proz, for starters. There are a ton of sites where translators can connect, and while pretty much all are set-fee focused, there are plenty of opportunities to negotiate.

But better still you should, if you’ve been making yourself known on the international circuit with your English-language titles, and have been using your social media presence wisely and not focused exclusively on the US market, have a wealth of contacts to draw upon to find the right people.

The downside of this type of arrangement is sorting contracts, handling payments, etc. This can be quite challenging.

So wouldn’t it be great if there were such a thing as a translation aggregator along the lines of Smashwords or Draft2Digital that could connect you with a translator, handle all the distribution, collect all the monies and share out the rewards on a pre-agreed basis while you just sit back and put your feet up?

Say hello to Options # 4 and 5: The Translation Aggregators.

There are a small number of outfits out there that fit the bill. I’ve tried a few and can recommend two of them: Babelcube and Fiberead.

Both are translation aggregators, but they work on slightly different models and have different reach, so I’ll briefly deal with them separately here in outline. In future posts I’ll offer a detailed breakdown of how each one works and how best to use them.

Fiberead.

Regular readers will know that late last year I became the first and so far only western indie to hit #1 on the Kindle China store. The Mandarin Chinese translation of Sugar & Spice also charted on numerous other Chinese ebook retailers.

This came as a big surprise to the many indies that didn’t even know China sold ebooks, let alone that Amazon has a Kindle store there. In fact China is the second largest ebook market on the planet and will soon be bigger than the US.

But, being China, access is strictly controlled. To sell your books in China you need to distribute through a domestic operator, which is why the Kindle CN store is not part of KDP.

As has been reported here on the Ebook Bargains UK blog many times, interest in English-language ebooks in China is soaring, and trad pub is doing all it can to get a slice of the action. There are only about ten million competent English speakers in China right now, but English is the lingua franca of the world and there are three hundred million English-language learners, many of whom will be eagerly buying the few English-language books that are available.

But of course that number pales beside the number of Chinese speakers who will be buying local-language titles. And while they may well gravitate to Chinese authors, all the evidence suggests the same desire to learn English and engage with western culture means they will also swarm to competent translations of English-language books.

My own Sugar & Spice makes the point. An extremely dark crime thriller about the hunt for a child killer, set in small town Britain, went from nowhere to #1 on Kindle China within weeks of release, and is still hovering in the top 500 in store nine months later.

And it got there thanks to Fiberead. (LINK)

Fiberead are a China-based translation-aggregator that lets you load up your English-language titles and if approved Fiberead undertake, at no up-front cost to you, to have them translated into Mandarin Chinese and marketed not just across China’s myriad ebook stores (many of which are much bigger than Kindle CN) but globally, reaching Chinese readers around the world. The Chinese version of Sugar & Spice, for example, is available not just in the Amazon US store but also in Books-A-Million, Nook, etc.

But of course it is the prospective China sales that make this so exciting. Not just right now, when the Chinese ebook market is still in its infancy, but for the future when the Chinese ebook market will dwarf the US ebook market.

I know some authors who have had books on Fiberead and have been disappointed with the results, but Sugar & Spice is living proof that Fiberead can deliver. At the end of the day there are no guarantees for any book in any language. Some will do well. Some won’t. One more reason to keep the pay-up-front option at arms-length until you are well-established.

The one thing you can guarantee is that if your book isn’t available for sale in a given country it won’t sell there.

So when an operator like Fiberead is offering the chance to reach the extremely lucrative and extremely fast-growing China market with no up-front cost, when there is no other realistic way in, it really is a no-brainer not to give it a try.

A detailed break-down of the Fiberead operation soon.

Here just to say that, while up until end 2014 Fiberead were actively seeking new authors, there’s now a long waiting list to get accepted.

Babelcube .

Babelcube (LINK)  runs on different rails.

Babelcube is a multi-language translation-aggregator, but with the key difference being that whereas Fiberead finds translators for you, Balelcube acts as an interface between would-be translators and authors.

You load up your titles to Babelcube and either wait for a translator to make an offer, or you can approach listed translators and pitch direct to them.

The deal is that no money changes hands, but when a translation has been agreed and completed it will be published by Babelcube through their not-insignificant distribution network. Babelcube will then, like Fiberead, share the proceeds among author and translator on a pre-agreed basis, plus of course a percentage for Babelcube.

Does it work?

Well, I’ve not emulated the China success just yet, but I’ve now had several titles translated and published through Babelcube, and am seeing sales from them that I would otherwise never have had, in languages I was not previously available in.

It’s working for me!

I’ve got a dozen more titles currently at various stages of translation in my Babelcube account, and the plan is to get translations of all my titles in all the available languages (currently ten) on Babelcube just as soon as it can be done.

Babelcube is a great idea, and while there are some minor irritations and of course there are ways it could be improved, it’s unquestionable a great way to connect with prospective translators and get your titles widely distributed.

~~~

 So there you have it. Five ways to get into the global ebook marketplace with translations of your works.

Which is the best? Well, aside from the pay-up-front option, why not try them all?

Fiberead is the obvious (and pretty much only) choice for China.

But why not hunt down a traditional publisher in India or Indonesia, Poland or Hungary, Nigeria or Turkey?

And sound out your contacts to find a translator-partner for another language.

Then pop along to Babelcube and try get a translator and let Babelcube take the strain for a Spanish or Portuguese or Italian translations, for example.

Before you know it your 1 title could be in 5 other languages. From 1 title, 6. E unum pluribus.

But why stop there?

Thor Heyerdahl has set the bar for me. It’s 71 languages or bust!

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E Unum Pluribus – Going Global. The View From The Beach: Mark Williams At large.

Gunjur-Coastline-Gambia

As I sat down to write this post this morning a serendipitous email came in telling me I now had a new translator for one of my books, from English into Ukrainian.

No, E Unum Pluribus is not the Ukrainian national motto. Nor is this a Latin-challenged Brit messing up the famous United States motto.

What it is is an insight into how we indies can all engage with the global New Renaissance unfolding right now, and be in with a chance of becoming truly international bestselling authors.

Lest anyone is unfamiliar (it’s possible!) the US motto E Pluribus Unum translates as From Many, One, a reference to the creation of one country – the USA – from the myriad colonies that fought the British for independence back in the 1770s.

E Unum Pluribus, therefore, translates to From One, Many.

No, I’m not advocating chopping long books into short ones just to game the system. But rather turning one book into many, pretty much without writing an extra word, and at a stroke increasing your potential audience reach by literally hundreds of millions.

~~~

Translations is the name of the game, and if you haven’t been thinking seriously about translations so far, I can promise you will be by the time you finish this post. Here’s why.

My flagship title, Sugar & Spice, has sold close to half a million copies in the English language, mostly in the UK. In the New Year I’ll be re-launching the title and actively targeting the other English-speaking markets. Not least the US, but also Canada, and of course Australia and New Zealand.

But I’ll also be targeting India, Nigeria, Pakistan, South Africa and the Philippines, as well as key English-As-Second-Language countries like Germany, Poland, Romania, South Korea, etc.

No translations needed. Just focus, targeted marketing and wide distribution. As has been said repeatedly here on the EBUK blog, English is the lingua franca of the world. It is our single greatest asset. Don’t waste it by ignoring the immense reach we indies have simply by writing in the world’s most widespread and popular language. Trad pub is raking in the cash from English-language titles selling in non-English-speaking lands right now.

But beyond that reach are not just hundreds of millions, but literally billions of readers who do not speak English at all, or at least not well enough to read our books.

Five years ago, when the self-publishing movement began to build momentum, most of those readers were off-limits even to the elite trad-pubbed authors with big corporations able to get their books translated and distributed to bookstores around the globe.

Because the vast majority of those potential readers lived where print books were either unavailable or unaffordable.

Today that remains largely true. Print is actually gaining ground around the globe – the global New Renaissance is driven by digital , not limited to digital – but not in a way that makes much difference to most indies. The logistics of global print production and distribution simply does not allow for more than a handful of big-name authors to become international print bestselling authors.

That’s not to say it can’t be done by lesser-known authors without a Big 5 backer. The French translation of Sugar & Spice had sold some 50,000 hardcover editions in France and Belgium last I heard, and I’m currently looking at getting the print version out in China. But my focus is and will remain digital.

But to get back  to E Unum Pluribus.

~~~

Sugar & Spice is a proven bestseller in English that went on to conquer the charts in French and Chinese (in China the first and so far only western indie title to hit #1 on Kindle China). As I write this post, translations are well-advanced in Spanish and Portuguese, with an eye not just on the obvious markets of Spain and Portugal but, more significantly, on Portuguese-speaking Brazil and the Spanish-speaking countries that comprise most of Latin America.

Finding translators for a 120,000 word novel is, for reasons I’ll go into in a follow-up post, more difficult than finding translators for shorter works. Clearly it can be done, but for several reasons you would be advised to focus on shorter titles first when going down this route. And no, they don’t need to have been bestsellers in English first. I’ve gpot translators right now fighting over new releases that have yet to hit even an obscure category chart, let alone the in-store top 100.

At which point you may be saying,

But hold on. Why bother at all? We can count on one hand the global ebook markets with even 10% market share compared to print. Isn’t this just going to be a lot of hard work, a lot of money up-front, all for no reward, because no-one outside the US and UK even knows ebooks exist?

Well, regular readers of this blog will be in no doubt the readers are out there. As for reaching them. This is where E Unum Pluribusfrom one, many – comes into its own.

For my part, as well as Sugar & Spice I have another dozen titles currently with translations either complete or underway, and a dozen more being lined up. But let’s take a more probable scenario – say two titles in a series, being given the translation treatment.

Here’s the thing:

2 titles in English is, obviously, just 2 titles in your global catalogue.

But get those 2 titles translated into French and you suddenly have 4 titles available, and have added literally tens of millions of French-speaking readers to your potential audience, pretty much without having written an extra word. Potential readers not just in France, but in Belgium, and the European principalities, and in Canada, as well as across much of North and West Africa, etc, etc.

Now get those same 2 English-language books into Spanish. Your 2-book portfolio has suddenly become 6, and you have the Spanish speaking audience of readers in Latin America and Spain, the many Spanish-speakers in the USA, and countless more around the world.

Add Italian and German translations to your repertoire to increase your 2 book portfolio to 10 titles and added a ton more readers to your potential audience.

But why stop there? Do what I’ve done and add Dutch and Japanese translations to the list. And why not go for broke and throw in a Chinese translation too?

When complete your 2 titles will have become 2 x English, 2 x Spanish, 2 x Portuguese, 2 x French, 2 x German, 2 x Italian. 2 x Dutch, 2 x Japanese and 2 x Chinese.

Your 2 English-language titles have suddenly become 18 titles. E Unum pluribus. From one, many.

And since you ask, yes, all those languages have associated Kindle stores, although of course Amazon is just one of myriad retailer options to reach readers in these countries.

~~~

But chances are you’ve got 3 English language titles. Get those into 8 languages plus English and you suddenly have 27 titles in your global portfolio.

5 English-language books?  How does 45 titles in your global portfolio grab you?

I’ve got a dozen titles going through translations right now, with more to come. And not just in those eight languages. Ukrainian I mentioned above. Fresh in today. Two different Indian-language translations are currently underway. Hindi and Urdu since you ask. I hope to have translations into Russian, Danish, Swedish and Norwegian on-going by the end of this year.

High priorities beyond those are Indonesian, Tagalog (Philippines), Korean, Turkish, Polish, Hungarian, Romanian, Afrikaans and Arabic.

None of these are random choices, but rather driven by the way the nascent global markets are shaping up. And regular readers here will know the global markets are indeed shaping up.

~~~

That’s all very well and good, But I can’t afford to get even one of my books translated into one language, let alone all of them translated into more languages than I’ve had hot dinners. How much is all this costing you?

Fair question. And yes, of course there are costs.

Covers, for example. Every translated title is going to need a new cover in the relevant language. But it’s only the title wording that needs changing, and chances are your regular cover designer will do that for a token sum or even for free.

Translation costs? Well, no question they can get very expensive. Serious money.

I know some indies who went that route very early in the evolution of the digital markets and still are nowhere near recouping their costs. Ebook take-up around the globe is still in its infancy. Paying big money for a translation that you cannot easily distribute or promote in the relevant countries is probably not a good idea.

Which is why I’ve long advocated the partnership model, where the translator takes on the task with no up-front payment, instead working on the promise of a share of the royalties when that title sells. This gives the translator the incentive not just to do an outstanding job, but also to help promote and market that title in the local language once the job is done.

At which point you’ll be asking,

But how do you find even one translator, let alone dozens, willing to work for nothing on your book in the hope they might get paid down the road?

It’s actually a lot easier than you might think. And I’ll tell you exactly how in the next post.

~~~

Until then, ponder those numbers once more.

3 English titles into 9 languages gives you 27 titles in your global portfolio, without writing a single additional word of text and without paying out a penny in translation fees.

Oh, and did I mention box-sets? Bundle those three English titles into one box-set and you have four titles. Bundle those translations and your 27 title global portfolio is suddenly 36.

Now imagine doing that with a dozen titles into nine languages with nine box-sets…

~~~

As the global New Renaissance gets into second gear we should all divest ourselves of any straight-jacket notions about what will sell and where, and what will be commercially viable. If you’d told me this time last year that my very dark psychological crime thriller Sugar & Spice, set in small-town Britain and about the hunt for a child killer, would hit #1 on Kindle China within weeks of going live I would have laughed.

It happened.

Likewise we should all divest ourselves of any straight-jacket notions about marketing and promotion. Bookbub is great and Bookbub is in several countries now, but only for English-language editions. But there are plenty of other ways of reaching readers abroad, and crucially your translator is one of them.

And finally, let’s divest ourselves of any notion that translations and global distribution are the luxury of trad pub and a handful of super-successful indie authors with money to burn.

Going global with multiple-language translations of your works needn’t cost you a penny.

I’m doing it right now. Next post I’ll show how you can do it too.

 

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