How to sell your self-published e-book in a small foreign market

You have your self-published book in English and it’s probably selling well in the English-speaking market. You’ve heard about the opportunity to have it translated into another language to sell it abroad. It sounds like a good idea. You can take advantage of the foreign rights of an already written book of yours to increase your income and you popularity. Why not?

The big problem you see is to actually have it translated without spending a fortune. Let’s say you want to do this investment (and you can afford it) or you find a good & cheap translator (very hard to find) or you find a translator accepting to translate you book for a share of your royalties. Then you realise that that wasn’t the biggest problem.

The biggest problem is to sell your book.
If compared to the English market all other markets are small. That means there are fewer readers, so less potential purchasers. It also means there are fewer books, so less competition and it’s theoretically easier to become popular.
But unless you are already so popular that people know you even in another market and are interested to read your books (you need both of these), your translated book published in another market just won’t sell.

If you speak the local language you can start your indie career in that language from scratch, just like you did in your own language. It’s a hard work, you have to study the market, you have to get to know the retailers (in many countries there are a lot of important retailers able to rival Amazon), you have to start working on it way before publishing, and of course you have to reserve some time for marketing in that language. The smaller the market, the less you can count in marketing tools, even paid ones (e.g. direct mailing services like Bookbub). It’s not that they don’t work; it’s just that they don’t exist.
And, even if you think you did everything right, you aren’t sure to be successful, but if you are dedicated you’ll probably get some result.

But what if you don’t speak the local language?
The only possible answer is: you have to collaborate with someone successfully working in the local publishing industry, like another author, a literary blogger, a journalist, etc. You need an insider, someone who can tell you how things work and who is willing to help you promoting your book. You have to start a cooperation with a person like this, which means you also must have something to offer to them in exchange.
I am an author from a small market (Italy), where I sell well and I’m even quite popular, so I would like to suggest you a couple of ideas to start a cooperation with an author like me.

1. Ask a popular author from the target market in your same genre to translate your book. Of course this works if the author doesn’t just speak your language but is a professional translator. Beside the fact that having a good author (hopefully if they are popular, they should be good at writing) as translator means that the translation will be well written and your book will really read mother tongue, there’s the fact that this author is interested that the book shows the same quality level of theirs and that it sells well, because it would increase their popularity.
That is true whatever the agreement between the two of you is: you pay them, you share the earned royalties, or you offer to help them translating their book into English.

2. Ask a popular author from the target market in your same genre to write a foreword of your book. This way they will be listed as author and they’ll be interested in promoting the book amongst their readers, who would feel it must be a good one since their favourite author liked it so much to write a foreword.
Of course, you must offer something in exchange for their support. For instance, if you are a popular author in English (same genre) and this author has published a book in your language or is intentioned to do so, you can return the favour.

3. Ask a popular author from the target market in your same genre to include a short story of yours at the end of their latest book. You can give it to them for free. This way you’ll get your name listed as author together with theirs, their readers would read your short story and probably, if they like it, would click on a link provided at the end of it in order to learn more about your books. The other author gets some interesting new content to add to their book, for free.
Again you can also return the favour, just like in the example above.

4. Ask a popular author from the target market in your same genre to write a short story to be added at the end of your book in their language. You can pay them to get the rights of the short story or you can offer a royalty share and/or you can exchange the favour.
What you get is: this popular author’s readers will buy your book to read their story and also your novel/novella/novelette. If an author decides to publish a book with you, their readers would think they must really like your work. That would make their readers curious, and they would buy it.

These are just a couple of ideas to get started. Do you have more? Write yours in the comments.