skills for publishing

Getting found in translation

In 2015 there was a much needed push for works in translation. In October Amazon announced it was making a $10m (£6.5m) investment in AmazonCrossing as a “commitment over the next five years to increase the number and diversity of its books in translation”.

According to an article in the Guardian late last year, ‘How Amazon came to dominate fiction in translation’, 2016 will see AmazonCrossing publishing Pierced by the Sun, the new novel from the Mexican author of Like Water for Chocolate, Laura Esquivel, as well as Jesper Bugge Kold’s Danish Book Forum Debut prize–nominated Winter Men. Plus the award-winning Polish crime writer Zygmunt Miloszewski’s Rage, the 2014 winner of the Glass Key for Scandinavian crime fiction Gard Sveen’s The Last Pilgrim, and a number of Indonesian writers, including Abidah El Khalieqy, Nukila Amal and Laksmi Pamuntjak. It has also translated fiction into German for the last three years, started translating fiction into French earlier this year, and has recently announced its first translations into Italian.

This reflects some positive strides within the translations market and, from our experience here at IPR License, we are seeing more and more international publishers both eager to sell their existing works for translation and secure the rights to relevant titles.

A question we are often asked by smaller publishing houses, enticed by the idea of this particular market, is where and how do other publishers discover such works.

Well, this can happen in a variety of ways.

It could be by word of mouth, a conversation or observation at a book fair, a tip off from a translator, a glance across an international bookshelf or from an online platform showcasing works from around the world.

Finding an interesting title is only the beginning. There are then a number of relevant conversations at be had and questions to be asked, such as:

  • Is the title available in my language/market of choice?
  • Has it already been translated into any other languages and was it successful?
  • Could I source a suitable translator?
  • Where can I secure the rights?
  • Can we sell it?

These questions illustrate that acquiring works for translation isn’t always straightforward, and that’s even before the sales process. However, thanks to technological advances it has got easier. Challenges do remain but there is growing evidence that 2016 will be a year in which more works in translation will come to fore.

acquisitions, Amazon, AmazonCrossing, IPR License, rights, Tom Chalmers, Translations, translator

Comment

  • I have been reading (or at least trying to read) books in translation for years, with mixed results. i’ve always loved Anna Karenina out of all the Russians – my problems with the other Russians being the cast of thousands, all with multiple names and simply trying to keep track of things.

    There’s been some books I’ve had to abandon, and since I havent read them in the original, I dont know whether it’s the author or the translator (or, gasp, me!) that’s at fault here. “The name of the rose” and “The antiquarian” being examples where the books have been DNF’d.

    Meanwhile, I understand that the Andrea Camilleri books can be difficult to translate, due to his use of Sicilian Italian, which can be difficult even for Italians to understand. I’ve read a couple of his Montalbano books, translated by Stephen Sartarelli, and found them easy to follow. I’m going to try one or more of his non-Montalbanos and see whether I can still complete it (helps they’re short).

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