Observations after the Buchmesse, part #4. How I got my books translated into English without spending a folly

And we’ve come to the fourth article reporting my observations after being a guest at the Frankfurter Buchmesse (I’ve talked, together with Matthias Matting, German self-publisher, and Camille Mofidi, European Manager at Kobo Writing Life, about “Think Local, Act Global: How to Reach a Global and Successful Audience through Self-Publishing” at Kobo stand).
The first article was about digital publishing and self-publishing in Italy, the second article concerned the best-selling self-published genres and their readers in Italy, whilst the third one described my experience, i.e. how I have become a popular self-publisher in Italy.

In this article I’m going to tell you how an author/translator can cooperate with another author for the translation of their own book.

The omnibus of “Deserto rosso” (my science fiction series) among the books exposed in the stand of
Kobo during the Frankfurter Buchmesse 2014.

I wanted to translate my “Deserto rosso” series into English because I thought it would appeal an international readership. The theme is very current; it’s Mars exploration and colonisation. The series is hard science fiction, so it’s a kind of fiction very close to science. The characters are from all around the world and half of the series is set on another planet.
English is the obvious choice to get to an international readership. English is spoken everywhere, it’s the biggest e-book market, the one including more readers. And, last but not least, I do speak, understand and read English. Actually I professionally translate from English.

Translating a book into another language is always expensive. I’m a translator, I know well the rates, and I also know well how difficult is to find a good translator.
And we are talking about four books, not just one!
It would’ve been a huge investment and, considering that I wasn’t earning a lot from my books at that time (because of their low prices), even if I was selling well and I was popular, and that I was totally unknown in another market like the English-speaking one, the odds to get the money back in a little time were few.

So I had an idea.
I knew I could translate a book from English to Italian to perfection. It’s my work. Moreover I could do a rough translation from Italian to English of my own books. What I needed was at least one person to revise them so that they would sound as written by a mother tongue.
I found a British author interested in this kind of cooperation. I found him on Twitter.
His name is Richard J. Galloway.
He had written a science fiction book, a very good one, titled “Amantarra” (the first one in a trilogy), so I knew he was a good author, he was good with the language.
We made a deal: I would translate his book, and for each one word translated by me he would revise two from my books, translated in English by me.
And so we did it.

I translated his book in 2013. When translating it, I gave it the same attention I would give to one of my books. This is what every translator should always do, but it really doesn’t happen so often. So I did a lot of revisions (five drafts), I used my beta readers and a proofreader, then I helped him launching the book in my country and it sold quite well at the beginning, even if he didn’t have an Internet presence in Italy, except an Italian website (translated by me).

Then I started translating my books. I started with the novella (the shortest book from the series). I translated it, and sent it to Richard for revision. He revised it, I revised it again, we discussed any problems, then I gave it to a proofreader (an English proofreader, I paid her, but it wasn’t a crazy expense like the one for a translation), and I had the book translated by March. Then I published it at the end of June with the title Red Desert - Point of No Return”.
In the meantime we’ve been repeating the process for the second book, which is out since September (Red Desert - People of Mars”). We are now working on the third book, which will be out at the beginning on February (this one is big). The last one will be out by July 2015.

I must say it’s going great so far. I’m still working on increasing my readership amongst English-speaking people, but since I haven’t spent a folly at the beginning, I don’t have particular hurry. Also because I had been busy writing and publishing more Italian books.
Moreover it was also a great exercise for me to improve my English.
Finally, and this is very important, I am legally the translator of the book, not someone else, so I don’t have any translation copyright problems for the future.

It was and it’s still a lot of work, but it’s worth also because international readers are liking the books so far. And it’s just the beginning. Starting from next year I will put more efforts on promoting the series in English, also because it’s much easier to sell it when all the books are available, given that they all end with a cliff-hanger (except the last one).

Actually, the real problem now is to let know the readers my books are there. One might think that since the English market is the biggest one, it’s easier to sell a book in English than in another language. But is it really easier to sella book in the English-speaking market?
I will talk about this in the next article of this series.