Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Thinking Global

I've touched on this before, but due to recent news I feel it needs to be addressed as its own blog post.

The recent news is that Amazon is launching Kindle in India early next year.

This comes on the heels of Amazon's Kindle launch in Germany a few months ago.

This is a Big Deal. And yet, the only writer I know of who has capitalized on it is Scott Nicholson, whose German translation of his thriller The Skull Ring (Der Schädelring) is now the #246 bestseller on the German Amazon website.

My own legacy published books have appeared in ten or eleven countries (possibly more--it's easy to lose track.) Foreign advances are usually small, ranging from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars, and most midlist writers just regard these as bonus income, if they're lucky enough to sell these right in the first place.

Kindle is going to change all of that. The Internet, and digital downloads, has allowed self-publishers to become part of a global economy. And the globe is much bigger than just the US, Canada, UK, and Oz.

In the past, foreign sales were small and largely out of an author's reach.

Times have changed. The potential to make money world-wide is an unprecedented opportunity for vast riches that makes current ebook sales pale by comparison. There are billions of people in 196 countries. More and more have acquired computers, cell phones, and mp3 players. Ereaders will come next.

Here's what we need to do:

Find translators. They're expensive, but it's a sunk cost, and ebooks will sell forever.

Or...

Let your estributor handle the translations. I have enough work on my plate just deal with English-speaking countries. If my agent, who is assuming some estributor responsibilities for me, can handle the translations and uploading to foreign territories, I'd offer more than 15% for that service.

This is low hanging fruit, waiting to be plucked, and no one is taking advantage of it. Foreign markets are going to be starved for good novels. Those who get in early, like Scott Nicholson, are going to make a fortune.

This is an even bigger deal than when Amazon launched the Kindle back in 2007. That gave writers an opportunity to bypass the clunky old gatekeeping system run by legacy publishers, and reach readers directly. Guess what? The gatekeeping sytem for foreign sales is even clunkier and more inefficient. You have to deal with multiple agents and publishers, I've never earned out a single foreign advance except for UK (no doubt due to the inability to track sales in foreign markets), and there are many countries I'm simply not available in because we never sold the rights.

Now distribution is going global, and the writer can be in charge. I joke that I spend a lot of time "managing my empire." When Kindle is available worldwide, it will indeed be an empire. I won't have 40 titles for sale. I'll have 4000.

Think about that. Forty ebooks available for sale in one hundred countries.

It will require work, and an initial investment, but I can't imagine a brighter future for the self-pubbed author.

187 comments:

Jim Bronyaur said...

Do you have any companies you'd rec. for translation?

Seems like all valid thoughts here... strike before everyone else does.

I love the idea of Amazon expanding and doing it the right way. Nice, slow, and easy. It'll be all over the world sooner then later, i'm sure.


-Jim Bronyaur

www.jimbronyaur.com

scott neumyer said...

Great ideas, for sure. Now... just have to find someone to translate into German... Hmmm...

www.scottwrites.com

Bob said...

Exactly. I think this is huge for indie authors. We're working on translating one title into German and several others into Spanish already. I'm seeing all right sales on UK DE for my English titles.
Right now those markets are small, but so was the US eBook market just a few years ago. I think eBooks will explode in many countries and plan on being in the leading edge of that.

Michael E. Walston said...

Great. I'm learning art so I can do my own covers. Now I have to start learning other languages?

Robert Burton Robinson said...

Also, keep in mind that as many as 30% of Indians speak English, making India the #2 English-speaking country. This is very exciting!

Joe Konrath said...

Great. I'm learning art so I can do my own covers. Now I have to start learning other languages?

Or you can focus on writing and hire others to do that stuff.

Joe Konrath said...

Also, keep in mind that as many as 30% of Indians speak English, making India the #2 English-speaking country. This is very exciting!

The only downside, as far as I can tell, is having to add six musical numbers to every novel. Those singers and dancers cost money.

Kendall Swan said...

This is so exciting!! What a great time to be a writer.

Last Saturday, I was at the Dallas RWA mtg that featured a local writer comparing traditional publishing with self publishing. Nevermind that she has never self published herself and most of her self pub facts were wrong. It was bias, pure and simple.

But one of the reasons she touted traditional publishing as being better was foreign sales. When pointed out that Amazon had very aggressive rollout plans for the next 18+ months making it effortless to reach these foreign markets, she responded by saying 'oh' and continuing on with her talk. And I got a couple of dirty looks for contradicting her.

My head hurt from pounding against that immobile wall.

Continue your good work getting the word out, Joe.

Kendall Swan

Sarah Woodbury said...

And that 30% in India? Equals the entire population of the US. Many educated, tech-savvy people there.

Now to get China on board . . .

Barbra Annino said...

"Also, keep in mind that as many as 30% of Indians speak English, making India the #2 English-speaking country. This is very exciting!"

That was my first thought.

I used to work for a translation agency. For folks interested, it's usually a per word basis and depends on the language as far as price. Spanish is the cheapest usually, followed by French. And if anyone is considering a computer program to translate a novel, I highly suggest you DON'T.

I do wonder how much of a story gets lost in translation. Especially when it comes to humor.

Good stuff, Joe.

Barb Annino
www.barbraannino.com

Barbra Annino said...

Bob, can you share your translation experience? Did it go pretty smoothly for you?

I'm wondering too, since Amazon automatically pushes the book to it's sister sites, how do you upload the translated version? I'm sure I can research on my own, just thought someone might have a quick answer.

Barb

Melaine said...

Dang. And I had to take Latin in high school.

So what language(s) do the other 70% speak in India?

Eloheim and Veronica said...

Two days ago, as an experiment, I ran my latest book through Google Translate and sent it off to my friend in Mexico so she could see just how much work it would be to get it into shape.

I know it will take some human intervention, but perhaps it will be faster with that much of it done.

We will see!

Thanks for the reminder about Amazon Germany....food for thought.

Veronica
What Will Happen in 2012 and Beyond?

Michael E. Walston said...

My remark was tongue-in-cheek, Joe :)

I.J.Parker said...

Actually, I have earned out my advances in several foreign countries, most notably in France where my publisher gave my books the sort of push no American publisher gave them. Still this is good news. I could translate my books into German, though the thought makes me shudder. Perhaps I could pay the original German translators a token fee. India is great for English, so let's hope for that to work out.

Rob @ 52 Novels said...

To say that translation is expensive is an understatement. Most outfits --- whether a corporate service or freelancer --- charge by the word... 10 to 30 cents per is not uncommon.

Some places to start:

http://www.translia.com

http://www.translationcentral.com

Sariah S. Wilson said...

Just recently moved to Utah, and I'm thinking how grateful I am for that move given this announcement. Do you have any idea how many translating services we have here? (Within my own immediate family we have fluent speakers of Spanish, Portuguese, Tagalog and Russian.)

frankpalardy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
David Gaughran said...

Joe,

I thought that article was fascinating for a number of reasons.

I've been to India. Every street corner has a guy selling pirated print books - mostly in English. And they do a brisk trade, with all the latest international bestsellers - some are paperbacks that are still in hardback in the US and haven't even been released at all in Europe.

Print book piracy thrives in India because of the high relative cost of print books in stores (very pricy for a tourist, let alone a local) compared to the low cost of pirating them.

There is a huge (and growing) middle class in India. There is a huge thirst for English books. Once the initial cost of an e-reader is overcome, the market for English e-books there could be huge.

People may worry that e-book piracy will become rampant. But how many e-books are you selling in India right now?

Not so many, I would wager. The cost of importing a Kindle makes it an unattractive purchase. And India is also one of the countries where Amazon currently imposes a $2 surcharge on most e-books.

Once a Kindle Store is launched there, those two impediments to e-book sales will be removed.

As a side note, the article doesn't actually say that Amazon are opening a Kindle Store in India, just that they will "enter" India.

Remember, they have websites and presences in France, Italy, Spain, China, and Japan which don't have Kindle Stores.

However, that should change soon. The internet is full of rumours of Amazon hiring staff for a Spanish, Italian, and French Kindle teams.

Spain must be near top of the list, especially with the potentially huge market in Latin America, and the competition they are facing there from local players.

Exciting times,

Dave

Stefan said...

C'mon you guys, a bit of foreign language won't do you any harm...

It is a timely post, although I think the German e-book market is still running low, mainly because Amazon's Kindle hasn't learnt German yet either.

For those interested, there are national associations of translators that also provide databases. For German a database can be found on the homepage of the Association of German Literary Translators:
http://literaturuebersetzer.de/pages/verzeichnis/Suchen_h.htm
It’s in German only, but you should type in keywords like “Englisch” and for example “Thriller”, and you will get a list of possible translators. Every translator has reference works given.

The European Council of Literary Translators' Associations (http://www.ceatl.org) provides links to its member associations.

James D Kirk said...

Does anyone know if the translated versions will require separate ISBNs? I would think so, but since I'm just finishing up the Kindle and CreateSpace publishing process on my first book, my head's a little warbled ;)
James.

The Perfect Meal

Darley said...

I hadn't even considered the global market. As you're saying though, it'll likely be expensive and an incredible amount of work but worth it. An independent author can't afford not to consider it.

The trick will be to find quality translators. I would think Spanish is probably the best first step for an author in order to completely take advantage of the U.S. market first.

And those films from India, no matter the genre they somehow work a musical number in there. I have yet to learn why they do this.

Jeremy Robinson said...

Joe,

I've been researching this subject, looking into Spanish translations for my books after hearing that Spanish speakers are the #1 demographic buying e-readers (I can't back this up, it's just what I heard from someone in the biz). I got several quotes on a range of word counts from 65k - 110k. The average rate was .10 per word, so $6500 - $11,000. With no way to quality control that translation (I don't speak the language)I think this is way too hefty an investment. And given the much slower rater of my UK Amazon sales, I think it would take even longer to make that money back from a market I can't effectively market to (because I don't know the language). That said, I would love to hear how Scott did it, and how much it cost. I'm skeptical, but will try anything (in publishing) at least once...if it doesn't cost 6k to do.

-- Jeremy

Marie Simas said...

Joe-- thanks for the idea. I just called one of my old college professors. He's an expect on German history, and I'm hoping he'll be open to earning a few extra thousand bucks. Cross your fingers for me.

Natalie said...

You're right as usual JA. This is HUGE and great timing for self-pubbers. The MAJORITY of the fans of my FB page are from India and Malaysia and these fans speak English. My thought is that even before you have your book translated, there are folks in foreign countries who will buy the English version, especially via digital. I've checked into it a bit and there are ways I'll be able to sell English version to peeps in other countries but it will be a bit more difficult for them to acquire without Amazon available in their country. Amazon Germany & India is exactly what I need.
Amazon going to India is a great move for them and for us. Thanks for the post.

J. Viser said...

I agree that the global market opportunity is huge!

Questions for those who have sold works outside the US - Do some genres sell better than others? Meaning, if you have a strong following in the US, could you expect more (or less) sales?

W. Dean said...

I work in and with several languages and I can tell that you need a professional, preferably another writer. And I mean a real professional to translate your books, not any of the following:

1. My friend/brother/cousin “knows” language x. There are many gradations of bilingualism, and I’m sure this person seems clever and knowledgeable when uttering foreign language phrases.

But unless your friend (etc.) is a native speaker of that language (or has academic level knowledge), he or she doesn’t know squat. Your book will come out sounding like it was written by a nine-year-old with a mental impairment.

2. Translation software. This stuff is more of a novelty than anything else. It will not work and, depending on how you use it, it may make things worse (I’m talking to you Veronica). It doesn’t understand the vast differences in meaning introduced by context, for example, so you can be mislead that the word choice is the correct one.

3. Online translation services. If you don’t read the language, you have no way of telling what the service did or didn’t do. It’s a waste of money.

The best place to look for a translator is through your local university’s language department. For a German translator you can contact you nearest Goethe Institute for advice. I wouldn’t advise going to the local ethnic community center, because you need someone who knows, not someone who thinks he does.

You’ll need someone who’s a native speaker of the language you’re translating into or someone with a very advanced knowledge of the language (which is even harder to find than the first).

Personally, I think you’d be better off leaving it in English, because the second language of Germany, France and India is English.

Shelly Thacker said...

Exciting news indeed! I would love to find what I'm thinking of as a "Subsidiary Rights Manager" -- someone to handle foreign sales, and potentially domestic and foreign print sales as well. I'd be happy to pay him or her 15% of those sales, but not a penny of my English-language digital rights, since I'm comfortable handling those myself.

With all the tectonic shifts in publishing, there must be a few Subsidiary Rights Mgr.s who've lost their corporate jobs. They have contacts with foreign publishers, and experience negotiating foreign-rights contracts. I'm hoping one of them will think of offering this service and hang out a shingle.

William KIng said...

India is an exciting development because of the English language connection. With foreign languages unless you actually read the language you are being translated into you will be in no position to know whether your translator is doing a good job. This is definitely an area where local publishers have an advantage. Once the Kindle store etc are up and running I imagine that there will be plenty of local competition who actually do write in the language. It's certainly the case in the Czech Republic where I live.

I.J.Parker said...

I've had bad translators for my German editions, so it can happen anyway. However, it's absolutely true that you should get a native speaker with some literary experience. Keep in mind also possible technical knowledge that may be required. My feeling is to leave well enough alone. Many Germans and even more Indians are fluent in English. Germany is additionally a small country. Even if you throw in Austria and parts of Switzerland, you're still talking about fewer customers than many other countries. In India, of course, the numbers may be very different. Our great advantage is that we write in English.

Rob @ 52 Novels said...

"Does anyone know if the translated versions will require separate ISBNs?"

Yes, they do.

Christopher Taylor said...

I'd pay people to translate my books, but I wouldn't pay very much. The sales in these markets don't promise to be very significant (except maybe Japan) and most American writing doesn't carry over well into other languages because of cultural and colloquial patterns most writers aren't even aware they engage in.

I write fantasy, in which I deliberately attempt to strip out any cultural traces, but as we swim in our culture like fish in the sea, its very hard to catch it all.

Eloheim and Veronica said...

@ W. Dean

I hear you. I know that Google Translate is not the end of the road. However, I think it's an interesting starting place.

I speak enough Spanish to see that at least some of it is right already! I would never take the GT output and publish it. I've seen enough crazy XYZ to English to know that isn't a good idea.

It's an experiment. It will be fascinating to see how it goes.

Penny Wright said...

I work for a language school, and all of our instructors are native speakers. (We teach Spanish, French, Mandarin Chinese, and Japanese.) It's actually not that hard for us to hire people (French is the most difficult to find) and our teachers have varying degrees of bilingualism. I've thought a lot about asking one or more of them if they're interested in translating. After this blog post I decided to take the plunge and ask one of our Spanish teachers what she would charge for a translation. I think Mandarin Chinese might be incredible, but I don't know how e-books are sold in that language...I suppose I could ask one of our teachers, they'd probably know! :) Thanks for a great post!!

W. Dean said...

Hold on. Let me take the very last statement in my comment back because it probably won’t apply to genre fiction. Being able to speak English in France, Germany and India is common, but reading for pleasure in English is not. If you’re aiming for this audience, you’ll need to translate for France and Germany (less so for India).

W. Dean said...

Veronica,

The problem is not so much the complex stuff as the simple. Novels use everyday speech which is filled with idioms and metaphors that the machine translator can’t match in the foreign language. So highly technical scientific prose will sometimes look okay, but something as simple as “He took a taxi,” will come out “He stole a taxi” in the foreign language because the language doesn’t use the verb “to take” with taxis.

Helena Pérez-Mejías said...

I wrote a novel, and I speak Spanish (1st language) and English. I don´t find myself able to translate my novel into english so I´ll have to get a translator.
I´ve always thought the English market is HUGE! and with the self publish and kindle thing. It´s gonna be wide open for novel writers

Eloheim and Veronica said...

W. Dean

Yep, you are right. I don't write novels so maybe it will be easier, maybe it won't. I will post an update as soon as I have one.

Derek J. Canyon said...

I've done a little bit of research and posted on my blog about translation costs into German and Hindi. You can see the post here.

Bottom line: very expensive. We're talking $5,000-$20,000 per book per language, depending on the language.

Adventures in ePublishing

Michael A. Boyadjian said...

It will be interesting to see how this develops.

If it really takes off, I wonder if we'll see greater emphasis on learning other languages in the US.

J. Steve Miller said...

I say start with reaching the English speaking market in these countries, since English has emerged as the "must know" global language.

And I don't understand why we have to wait for Kindles to come out to start thinking global access to e-books? Can't everyone globally download the free Kindle for PC or Mac and start purchasing books with a credit card?

Write books with the world in mind. If you're writing from America, include a hero from India.

I've lived in another country and used translators. Please understand that you need a translator who's not only a native speaker, but one who understands your original language fluently AND who can write well (as an author) in their own language. Imagine that you're a Chinese writer hiring someone to translate your book into English. You don't want someone who merely grew up speaking English and knows Chinese. You want someone who knows how to write. That tends to get expense.

J. Steve Miller
Author of "Sell More Books: Book Marketing and Publishing for Low Profile and Debut Authors"
http://wisdomcreekpress.com/press_kits_sell_more_books.html

Christopher Wills said...

Great news thanks Joe. Something else worth noting is that I believe in China, English is the most learned second language and many Chinese can already speak English because in business it is very useful to be able to get on. Exciting times.

josephine wade said...

A couple of weeks ago I wrote a brief list of translators that might be useful. You can go here:

http://josephinewade.wordpress.com/2011/07/14/lost-in-translation/

As far as cost outweighing rewards, I'm personally still on the shelf. Most writers who give their foreign market numbers make it sound like it's not that big an influence over all and most writers don't have deep pockets.

However, we are still learning about what the world reads and it may come to pass that we'll be happily surprised to learn they like the same kinds of reads there as we like here (wherever here is).

Jochen Rathmann said...

I am an self-publishing writer from Germany and I can tell you that I was excitited as hell when Kindle and the Kindle-Store launched in Germany.
But it is a fact, the numbers of eReading Germans are low. And in the near future, it doesn't seem to explode. I have now published two books in German and one in English. I sell them - everything starts slow - but from what I have heard of, Amazon Germany is not happy with their numbers.
As an advice, chose other languages first to translate your work in and wait a couple of months before you start with German Editions.

-------------

The Day I Finger F***** Robert Pattinson - A Short Story by Jochen Rathmann

http://www.amazon.com/Day-Finger-Robert-Pattinson-ebook/dp/B005DLKXOY/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1311715619&sr=8-1

Alain Gomez said...

Considering how many I have sold to the English speaking portion of Germany.... a big fat 0... I don't really think forking over lots of money for translations would be the the best course of action for me at this point.

I do have one story up in Spanish. It sells occasionally. I think having books in multiple languages sounds nice but you have to consider if those language speakers have ereaders.

Watcher said...

@Melaine - the most common language in India is Hindi - most Indians speak it as a secondary langauge. After that there are literally hundreds of local languages.

@Darley - as to why Bollywood movies almost always have musicals - it's really not that different from how movies used to be in this country. Breaking into song was simply part of the convention. Then in the sixties and especially seventies, we got some grittier, more "realistic" movies, and tastes changed. But you'll note that even today, US movies tend to have background music all the time. Most of the time you don't even hear it, it's so ingrained - but it's a weird convention when you stop to think about it.

Mark Asher said...

How many different languages are you going to have your worked translated into for the Indian market?

Robert Bruce Thompson said...

W. Dean said...

Veronica,

The problem is not so much the complex stuff as the simple. Novels use everyday speech which is filled with idioms and metaphors that the machine translator can’t match in the foreign language. So highly technical scientific prose will sometimes look okay, but something as simple as “He took a taxi,” will come out “He stole a taxi” in the foreign language because the language doesn’t use the verb “to take” with taxis.


I remember the story about the translation software commissioned by a US intelligence agency for translating Russian to English.

One of the first attempts was to translate the Russian for "the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak" to English. The English output was "the vodka is good, but the meat is rotten".

Chris said...

Indians can buy ebooks through Amazon.com already can't they?

J.M.Cornwell said...

Amazon opened Denmark a couple months ago and that is yet another opportunity for sales. I know someone who speaks Swedish, but not Danish. Need to find more native speakers of more countries.

Also, India has been a great place to sell books, even English and American books, and a couple of my books have been selling well there for a while. Onto to bigger and better every day.

Walter Golden said...

There may a lot of problems getting your book translated however there is one thrill that comes out of the process.
After I sold my first copy of my novel in the UK I made sure everyone knew I was now an internationally known writer

E.C. Belikov said...

It's definitely a great idea, but I can imagine a lot of people running their novels through Whitesmoke, or even worse google translate or Babel fish and self-pubbing to these other markets.

I speak a little Russian, enough to know these programs at best get the gist and bare bones of your idea across, and at worst twist what you're saying entirely around. Well for Russian at least, I can't speak for any other languages.

Paul Pender said...

A good translation is essential. I once saw a French film where the cops were chasing the bad guys and screaming "Pull over! Pull over! " The subtitles said "Sweater! Sweater!" and the audience erupted in laughter.

author Scott Nicholson said...

As we talked about recently, Joe, a matchmaker role managed by a good third party with a progressive bent could really help some creative entrepreneurs make some money. I recently emailed with a Chinese company doing this. Findingt he translators is the toughest part.

I have three and soon to be five foreign translations. Our Der Schadelring (translated masterfully by author Christa Polkinhorn who is translating her own books now) was knocking on the German Top 100 until a pricing snafu caused it to be removed, So it's actually climbed the charts twice, suggesting there aren't many German Kindle books yet.

Most trad publishers and agents won't bother to market your foreign rights at all unless you get a huge US deal (yes, sadly, it's hype that sells over there just like here--in this case, the hype is sold on the other guy's hype). I just got tired of hearing that. "No" doesn't get far with me.

The race is not to the swift, nor...oh, wait. The race IS to the swift in this case.

Darlene Underdahl said...

My husband speaks German. Hmmm...

Ruth said...

Joe, I normally lurk instead of posting on your blog, but I wanted to say thank you for sharing so much of what you know. I recently started self-pubbing romance novels and I don't think I'd be doing as well as I am without your advice.

Grateful fan of yours in Rhode Island who is once again taking note of one of your ideas,
Ruth Cardello

Claudia Lefeve said...

I agree with @ W. Dean. Using your friends, relatives, known associates to translate = disaster.

I grew up speaking both English and Spanish and it's not easy folks! I translate brochures and presentations for work all the time and it's difficult when it comes to context, idioms, tenses, and sometimes, there are several words that depict the same thing, but can carry an entirely different tone if translated incorrectly...use a translator that can write/read well.

I wouldn't even attempt to translate my own work!

tmsouders.com said...

If we hired an agent or estributor to worry about finding someone and doing the translation for us, wouldn't we still have to pay upfront costs for translation aside from the agents commission? Just curious. If not, I'd jump on board in a heartbeat.

Madison Johns said...

I'd say if you have the money it may be good to invest, but how exactly you'd track it is beyond me. I'd think it would be better to have someone represent you in this matter.

Madison
http://cheryl0117-randomrantings.blogspot.com/

Cheryl Tardif said...

To those asking about ISBNs, the answer is YES. You need a new ISBN for each language translation. ISBNs are used by retailers and others in the book biz to track sales.

I just got a quote from Translation Central for a work of 89,759 words. They quoted me $15,472.66 CAD delivered by Jan. 25, 2012 or $23, 208.98 if I wanted it faster - Dec 2, 2011. Um, yeah...no.

You're better off finding a freelance translator than going through a major service.

Cheryl Tardif,
Publisher, Imajin Books and bestselling indie author

chris said...

https://www.onehourtranslation.com/bulk/custom/

I've only used these guys for online advertising... very convenient. Not sure how a book would go. Far more expensive!!

Anonymous said...

Indian entrepreneurs are very savvy. I'm sure many of your titles will appear in Indian soon. Not sure if any of you will see the profits of that though :-)

Elizabeth Edmondson said...

I've had several books published in Germany, and they sell extremely well.

In the last year, my German publisher has come back to me for e-rights, which are granted for a limited period. They don't expect great sales of ebooks, but are keeping a close eye on it. Germans are great readers & book buyers, by the way.

My books have been translated into several languages, including Russian & Estonian, but the actual translation is handled by the publisher in those countries. I get an advance, which can range from hundreds to thousands, but it means no extra work from me. I love foreign sales.

Re translation: it takes more than being a native speaker of the target language to translate a novel. Good translation is a skill, honed (like writing) by years of practice. A poor translation can kill a good book.

And remember that a book you indie publish in another language not only has to be translated (for German reckon on $8000+), but proofed and checked post-conversion in that language.

Greg said...

I'm a fluent speaker of German and my books are written in English. I live in Switzerland.

My wife is a university trained German translator (that is English to German) yet we don't bother to translate my works into German as yet. Why? Because so many people are happy to buy my books in English (including my Swiss and German colleagues) that the outlay of cost just doesn't seem worth it at this early point.

Perhaps after 5000 copies of a particular item have sold, then I would consider it more carefully.
But, at the moment, I can say that only 10% of the German speakers I live and work with every day have decided not to buy based on the book being in English.

India, having been a colony and from my experience with Indian friends back in NZ, would at my guess be much the same. English is taught in schools there too.

David said...

Hi Joe, hie to everyone on the track here,

kindle opening the market in india is indeed good news, still it has it downfalls and i dont want to be the party pooper here, bnut there is a huge cultural difference between india and the west - i know it because i loived in the region for quite some time - i am afraid some of the stuff we here might enjoy, will be seen as rather offensive in india, even among the tech savvy younger mniddle classes. India is hindu country - in india openly descriped violence even in form of a novel is consideren offensive, same goes for too openly detailed descriped sex ... so there is a massive ebook market waiting to be conquered, but it's not entirely the same sort of market as it is here ....

Jude Hardin said...

Here's a paragraph from a German novel translated to English by Microsoft Translator. Hehe.

On this Lenten nights of the year 1794, where tapered life of nature not yet to the joyful awakening had come, step a still young, gutgekleideter man in Hunter and hunting floor wohlversehen, accompanied by a servant and a Brown Hühnerhunde by the Vareler Busch the town to. The young man liked have not completed yet the nineteenth year of life; the servant was only a few years older and a son of the village, a strong Frisian figure, more sturdy than slim, of chirpy look and an expression of loyalty bieder begins. He wore the bounty of the hunt, several species of snipe, Rails, and Bekkasinen. His him over increasing master was a delicate, slender figure who promised even greater growth. The thoughts of the youth schweiften to a distance, but after an undetermined. A Lenten feel moved by the young chest full of hope ability and Thatendrang; How to's mysterious suggested in the maternal Schooße of the Earth, as the young green powerful and unstoppable to the light of the rejuvenated Sun urged - as those birds the young Weidmann returned home of their hunting, already again northward canceled following the Almighty Wandertriebe, as well those Crane cables, on the day, he sees, and that Güüsvögel and Himmelsziegen, whose greyish Stimmen scare the night walkers - and all [5]gehorsamten laws of only the an irrefutable nature - so it moved also the youth on from these uniform Regions, from a circle of each Thätigkeiten; He yearned to learn to live.

David Gaughran said...

@Chris

Indians can already buy e-books through Amazon.com but (like most international customers without a Kindle Store) they must pay a Surcharge of $2 on all e-books.

As you can imagine, this, along with the high import taxes/delivery costs for a Kindle, have a dampening effect on the market.

Dave

Anonymous said...

as a german reader i can say: the numbers of e-reading germans are low, but so are the numbers of well written and moderate priced ebooks.
there aren't enough good ebooks out yet to tempt me buying an ereader device.

there isn't a lot of competition yet, so if you are thinking about translating your book into german, you should do it now and have it out there from the beginning.
It's just a matter of time till sales are going to pick up. (might take a few years but who cares.)

the translation will be a set cost, but you'll earn forever.
and forever is a long time.
;)

-kat

trickaduu said...

Howdy folks,

Used to run a translating company back in Ireland. The good old days. Translating German gun documents for the Irish navy. Tremendous fun!

W Dean is spot on. You need to be careful who you hire. Still early, I know, but just in case anyone was rushing in, wailing and screaming at the first translator that came up on Google.

Google Translate, not a hope. Even if you do it sentence by sentence, too much will still come out wrong.

Software, useless. Splatters words out randomly. Almost reads like a drunken translation.

Even asking someone who is fluent in the language is tough.

I was asked to translate a chapter from my first book into German for the Berlin Book Fair. Realised sayings and phrases don't travel well at all. Jokes are completely lost (or maybe mine were just horrendous). Had to rewrite large chunks of it to suit the German reader. Needless to say, it lit the Book Fair on fire. Ahem.

Anyway, just a heads up. Translation can be a nightmare. Make sure you choose wisely!

Ideal translator: Someone who has read your book in English. Understands exactly what it's all about. Able to re-write it in their native tongue as close as possible to the original. And. Preferably will do it for a good price. Obviously. Dime a dozen!

All the same, new markets are always mighty. Even better when I somehow already have a following in India. I knew letting that university use some of my blogs for free would come good some day. I just knew it!

Go on the wonderful world of blogging!

Cheers,

Mark

Jussi Keinonen said...

The tide runs both ways, of course. I mean that there will be a tidal wave of foreign books self-pubbed and translated into English, as well. Hundreds of thousands of new titles, I'd guess.

And because the English speaking market is the largest and most e-readerized, I would guess that's where we'll see most of the action at first stage. But in the long run, opportunities are vast for everyone.

However, expect to pay at least $10,000 per translation (as evidence above suggests) and, like Jude Hardin demonstrates, don't even think about doing it automatically.

Archangel said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Eleanor Beaton said...

Thanks as usual JK. I was interviewing a guy the other day who flew over this huge abandoned seaside quarry every day for work (Flew? Yes. Long story). Thousands of other people drove past it every day too. One day it dawns on him that, hey! This is an awesome opportunity to make some money - a quarry right on the water, easy to load ships etc. So he makes a lowball offer on it. He ends up shipping millions of bucks worth of rock all over, and then sells t for probably tens of millions more than he paid for it a few years later.

Where others saw an eyes sore, he saw potential.

My point: we need more writers like the ones I see on this blog recognizing the huge opportunities out there right now - rather than moaning about the "death" of print.

W. Dean said...

RB Thompson’s and Paul Pender’s examples perfectly illustrate the kind of problem you get with machine translation. You can test the Google translator yourself. The long way is to find identical texts in French (or whatever language) and English, then run the French side through and compare it to the English. Usually, it does a good job with straightforward discursive prose.

But the real test for a novelist is how it handles idiomatic speech. So try rendering some idiomatic English expressions into French, then cut and paste the French back into the object language side. You’ll notice they rarely turn out.

For example, I entered “I hate what it's done to me,” which was translated as “Je déteste ce qu'il a fait pour moi” (which is wrong). I then entered the French into the object side and received “I hate what he did for me” back out. As you can see, it’s not even close to the original (but it’s actually a correct translation of the French). I also tried “We’ll bring the fight to them.” It came back from the French as “We will engage in combat for them,” which has more or less the opposite meaning.

Keep three things in mind, however: (1) the machines do recognize some common expressions (e.g., clichés you’d rarely use like “Don’t bite off more than you can chew.”), (2) some expressions are identical in both languages and (3) some come from the other language (or a third language, usually Latin or Greek).

As others have said, quality translation is time-consuming and therefore expensive. The translator is usually also the editor for the new language, or he must get someone else to edit. At the same time, anyone who speaks another language can call himself a translator, in much the same way that anyone who can speak English can call himself an editor. That makes it tempting to go low-rent, but you’ll get what you pay for.

Traci Hohenstein said...

Try Elance.com for translators. You put up the job description and receive bids from qualified people.

Christopher Hudson said...

Well, the global thing is interesting and exciting ... but I can't figure out how to market my books in my own country.

T.K.Murphy said...

Amazon already has a huge development center in india, so it should be relatively easy for them to open up kindle. India is one of the fastest growing markets in wireless right now.

Should be interesting to see how it goes.

Robert Bruce Thompson said...

I usually agree with Joe's take on things, but this time I think he's really out in left field.

Someone commented that those of us who write in English are ideally positioned for expansion into the global market, and I agree. For now, and I think for the foreseeable future, paying the heavy costs for translation and editing into a foreign language are likely to be a major money-losing proposition for nearly all authors.

The vast majority of potential ebook purchasers either speak English natively or are used to reading books in English rather than their native languages. As a college freshman chemistry major in 1971, I learned to read German, because the majority of the literature was then in German. Nowadays, German chemistry students learn to read English, because things have shifted dramatically. Science papers are now overwhelmingly in English, even those from countries in which English is not widely used.

Even for major languages with 50 million or more speakers, such as Spanish, French, German, Italian, and Chinese (which Chinese?), I think a novel would have to be a kick-ass, top-of-the-charts bestseller for a long time to even earn back the cost of translation.

There are more than a billion people who speak/read English as a first or second language, and the vast majority of those who don't aren't candidates for ebook purchases, if only because many of them don't know where their next meal is coming from.

Steve said...

I'm an author who's done very well from foreign publication (far better than in English), so I'm not disagreeing with the potential of the markets. Two things though:

1) "Foreign markets are going to be starved for good novels."

What on earth makes you think that? It's not like the only good novels are written in English.

2) Other commentators are quite correct to point out the cost of professional translation. W Dean is spot on. It's hellishly expensive, and I imagine beyond the means of 99.99% of self-published authors to undertake on their own.

Professional translation will set you back at least $10,000 for a novel-length work - and a lot more for certain languages. eBooks might be forever, but that's an enormous outlay for most people, especially if you're planning a low price to encourage sales. I imagine most self-pubbers would love to sell 10,000 copies of a book in English, never mind German, French, Gujarati and so on.

Even you, Joe, who is very successful and perhaps has access to this kind of cash. 4000 eBooks - 40 titles in 100 countries. Let's be astonishingly conservative and say only 20 of those countries require translation, and assume an average of $5,000 per translation (as some of your works are not novel-length). That's 800 x $5,000, so it will cost you $4 million to build your empire. (In reality, it will be a lot more, as each title will require editing, proofing, a new cover, etc).

You may - for some reason - be confident you can recoup that. I'm not. Different markets respond to different books. But maybe you can. I'd suggest it's a world away from what the average self-published reader of your blog can hope to achieve.

Maril Hazlett said...

My comment might go a bit off topic, but it is related - I note that you have found it easy to lose track of previous foreign editions. This does not appear to be uncommon :) I have seen several longtime authors say something like this when discussing past rights sales. They haven't quite had the tools they need to keep track of every rights sale and edition, especially with books published via multiple agents.

My question: Does anyone know of any author-friendly rights management and tracking software? I don't think I can face another Excel spreadsheet, especially if I have to format it myself. I know I won't start out at a level where I can afford what another commenter referred to as a subsidiary rights manager. Not unless you can pay that person almost like an accountant, to manage certain business tasks.

Wait. Is that an agent? No. Yes. Hmm. No. ?

This gets complicated.

(And yes, I only allowed myself to read your blog this morning after writing and revising for three hours straight. I also rewarded myself with chocolate.!)

Joe Konrath said...

When I first got started on Kindle in 2009, I did the formatting and covers myself. I started to make some money, but my ebooks weren't professional quality, and I wasn't yet making enough to hire pros.

Then ebooks began to ctach on, and I paid tens of thousands of dollars to hire artists, proofers, formatters, and layout artists, to do the work for me.

I'm very much ahead of the game, profit-wise.

I'll start with a few titles, pick a language, and see how it sells. But I do expect to earn back my investment, even if it takes a while. Ebooks are forever.

Steve said...

Well, Joe, you are an exceptional case. And yes, taking one market at a time, you can probably afford to do that.

Listen. My opinion of you overall, as you may or may not know or care, is mixed. I think you're an okay writer and a phenomenal salesman, and that much of the advice you offer here, along with the reputation you've garnered, is primarily a tool to promote yourself. Neither of us really cares; the world continues to turn.

But there's a big difference between encouraging people to self-publish (for which the financial risks are smaller, even if sales may turn out to be predictably limited) and this. Think on, seriously: you have a responsibility to your audience. It doesn't matter if someone self-publishes their novel because of your advice and sells three copies. It matters a great deal if they pay out 10k because you've implied there's gold in the hills when there isn't.

Look at the translation issue another way. Would it be worth self-publishing - for most people - if it cost 10 grand to put your book on Kindle? For you, maybe. Not for most.

Joe Konrath said...

that much of the advice you offer here, along with the reputation you've garnered, is primarily a tool to promote yourself.

And you'd be wrong.

I get a lot of fan mail. None of those people mention my blog, and most don't know who I am before they discovered me via my writing.

This blog caters to writers. Readers don't give a shit.

Feel free to read through the 650 posts I've done here since 2005, and count how many are devoted to selling my books. Very, very few. This blog is a poor tool for selling, because its readers aren't my audience.

It matters a great deal if they pay out 10k because you've implied there's gold in the hills when there isn't.

You know there isn't? Do you have 6 years of experience predicting trends to back up your opinion?

I do. Foreign sales will be a gold mine.

Those who aren't selling well now won't be able to afford translations. Those who are selling well, should give it a shot. They're recoup their investment--it just may take a few years.

There is no downside to this. Writers have an unprecedented opportunity to break into a global market. This is all good.

Would it be worth self-publishing - for most people - if it cost 10 grand to put your book on Kindle? For you, maybe. Not for most.

You gotta spend money to make money. Publishers take this risk all the time, and they spend more than $10k to bring a book to market. Then they give you 15% royalties, or less, because they took the risk. Do you think that's a better deal than assuming the risk yourself and taking 70% royalties?

German reader said...

@ I.J. Parker
Why do you think Amazon launched their first foreign language Kindle store in Germany?

There are 90-98 Mio. native German speakers + another 80 Mio. speak German as a second language.

According to this article German and other foreign language ebooks are selling VERY well at B&N.

Joe Konrath said...

Side note: I'm amazed by how many authors on Twitter continue to suckle at legacy publishing's teat.

Suck hard, kids. The milk is drying up fast.

I feel bad for you folks. Seriously. Hopefully you'll figure it out soon.

Until then I'll be here if you need me, getting rich and continuing to give out advice that you foolishly ignore.

Steve said...

Joe -

"This blog caters to writers. Readers don't give a shit.

Feel free to read through the 650 posts I've done here since 2005, and count how many are devoted to selling my books. Very, very few. This blog is a poor tool for selling, because its readers aren't my audience."


How many hits does your blog get? Just writers who comment here? A few hundred a month then. Rubbish. Obviously, self-promotion takes various forms. It's not about blog posts that say "buy my book!", it's about name-recognition. And you have positioned yourself as the eBook rebel, the guy whose advice can make you - yes, YOU - a success too. Sales tale alongside that. It's very clever, honestly, but it's blatantly self-serving. It's also, as I said, a side-issue. Best of luck with it.

"You know there isn't? [success to be had with foreign sales] Do you have 6 years of experience predicting trends to back up your opinion?"

Do you? Go on - let's see your figures predicting success in the, say, German market? I sell better in Germany than the UK. Lee Child doesn't. You just can't predict foreign markets; it's practically a truism within the industry.

The facts are basic and obvious. It will cost you at least 10 grand for a translation. Which means, with competitive pricing (the only real advantage a self-pubber has) you need 10,000 sales just to break even. So is that a worthwhile investment? You tell me, since you have "6 years of experience predicting trends". What percentage of self-published eBooks earn 10k at all? Is it more than 50%, or less than 1%?

It comes back to the initial point. You're promoting yourself by telling people want they want to hear. If somebody, upon reading this blog, spends 10k translating their book on the promise of riches, that's on your hands. A lot of what you say is fine, as it goes, but be responsible and think more carefully.

You're a guy who thinks nothing of buying an extra kindle on a family vacation. You're probably not aware anymore that a lot of people are saving up to buy one.

Joe Konrath said...

How many hits does your blog get?

I've gotten up to 30,000 hits in a single day--which is more than enough proof that this blog does buttkiss for my sales. I'll selling between 500 and 1500 ebooks a day. Perhaps some writers buy my books based on my blog, but they're in the minority. I've done polls before. The overwhelming majority don't. If they did, I'd be selling more ebooks that I already am.

The average reader doesn't care about publishing. My average reader doesn't read this blog.

you have positioned yourself as the eBook rebel, the guy whose advice can make you - yes, YOU - a success too.

To quote Webber, that's what you say, say that I am.

I haven't positioned myself as anything. I turn down interviews and speaking engagements on a weekly--sometimes daily--basis. I'm not in this for the notoriety, or fame, and I don't blog to increase my wealth, or because I want to raise my standing in the writing community. I could not care less what people think.

I give advice, based on my experience, but make no unrealistic claims, and never have.

I've written over 500,000 words on this blog. Find me 1000 that say otherwise. Hell, find me 100 in context.

It's not my fault you make snap judgements without reading carefully.

Go on - let's see your figures predicting success in the, say, German market?

Sure. I'll bet you that I can publish a novel in German language and recoop my investment within a year.

But then, I really can't bet you, because I don't know who you are. You're an anonymous coward.

What percentage of self-published eBooks earn 10k at all?

All of mine have, or are on track to.

Good books will find readers. It may take a decade or more, but ebooks are forever.

It sounds like you're advising people to do nothing. Or wait and see.

Neither of those approaches will make money. To the victor, the spoils. To the onlooker, nada. Have a nice safe life, waiting in the sidelines for something to happen.

You're promoting yourself by telling people want they want to hear.

We can end the dialog right there. If that's what you think, you're an idiot, and I can't change the mind of an idiot.

Believe it or not, there are people who try to help others and not ask for anything in return. There is no agenda, other than sharing experience. That's its own reward.

It's natural to want to cut down someone successful. It's a weakness we have a species. We want to see the mighty fall, and to think that the powerful are bad, and to think that the rich are self-serving. It's genetic.

It's also ignorant as hell.

Joe Konrath said...

You're probably not aware anymore that a lot of people are saving up to buy one.

Apparently you're unaware that while I was trying to get published I'd go days without eating because I was so poor.

I'm done with you. Go play somewhere else.

Alan Tucker said...

I recently had a fan offer to translate my first book into Polish. Definitely not the first thought that entered my head when I typed, "The End!"

The Internet has definitely made the world a smaller place and it's only pure ignorance that allows anyone to think foreign markets shouldn't matter to US writers.

Professional translation may not be in everyone's budget, but I bet there are some hungry college students out there who'd be happy for the work.

Joe Konrath said...

What part of "go play somewhere else" don't you understand?

My house, Steve. Stay out.

J L Borges (Argentina) said...

I am sincerely hoping your books are making it into translation into my native tongue, namly Spanish, Sr Konrath. They sound round up my avenue. Please too excuse English. In mu country we are seeking more reasons to explore the wonderful world of reading, especially in English, our favourite of all the languages.

Joe Konrath said...

Keep on being a whiny little name-calling bitchboy on Twitter, Steve. It's winning you a lot of fans.

Just noticed your Kindle sales on Amazon. Ouch. No wonder you're so bitter.

Here's some free advice: insulting folks in public forums doesn't make you look smart. It makes you look petty and envious, and people will dismiss anything smart you might say when it's so cluttered with vitriol.

Good luck in life.

Jeff said...

Did you ban someone for politely disagreeing with your assertions about foreign language sales?

Wow.

At no point did he resort to name calling or trolling. He put forward his argument and because you didn't like it, you ban him...

I was on your side for a while, I like the way you've rebelled against the industry and put your career on the line (at the beginning). You've become successful and you do offer some good advice to other self-publishing writers. Lately though, I have to agree with 'Steve', the whole buying an extra Kindle whilst on holiday was a bit over the top for my liking, but I can forgive that.

But banning someone for disagreeing with you...that's low. I know this is your 'house' as you put it, but if you're getting '300,000' hits on some days as you say, you have to expect people to disagree with you.

'Steve' put forward his point, backed it up with facts and invited discussion. It's really sad that you couldn't engage further and back up *your* claims of untold riches with some facts of your own.

I sincerely hope no one takes a leap of faith based on your advice and loses a lot of money on this. I sincerely hope you're correct in your assumptions about foreign sales, because if you're not, I'd say you will have a lot of disappointed and poor writers who follow your advice blindly.

Also, to the person who suggested using Google Translate to translate an entire book...please go and do a bit of research using it first!

Joe Konrath said...

At no point did he resort to name calling or trolling.

I purposely didn't mention his name, because I'm not a whiny name-calling little bitchboy. But he is. If you read some of his tweets, the guy is a 14 karat asshole.

No assholes in my house. Period.

the whole buying an extra Kindle whilst on holiday was a bit over the top for my liking

Context. Take it in context. That post was about Kindles soon becoming disposable, like cell phones and mp3 players. The price will continue to drop, and soon they'll be available in drug stores for $40--like cell phone and mp3 players.

'Steve' put forward his point, backed it up with facts and invited discussion.

I refuted Steve's points. When he posted again, I deleted without reading it. Go away means go away.

He's more than welcome to start his own blog. I wish him much success. But he's not welcome here.

I sincerely hope no one takes a leap of faith based on your advice and loses a lot of money on this.

As I've said many times, anyone who blindly follows what the so-called experts say is foolish. That includes me. I've told my readers, often, they need to get data from many sources. Experiment. Try new things. Figure it out for yourself. Your mileage may vary.

If I have to tell someone "be smart" then that someone probably won't listen.

I write this blog to inform writers. I use myself as the guinea pig, then post the results.

I'm not responsible for anyone's failures or successes, though I've been thanked too many times to count by successful writers.

Anyone following anyone blindly gets what they deserve. But those who listen to me with open minds may learn something.

Eloheim and Veronica said...

Steve said,
"If somebody, upon reading this blog, spends 10k translating their book on the promise of riches, that's on your hands."

I don't get the connection.

From what I have read here, Joe blogs about his experiences and his ideas about where the publishing world is headed.

Sure, lots of people read his blog, but that doesn't mean they will follow his advice blindly nor does it mean that Joe is responsible if they do and it doesn't work out the way they hoped.

It just means that Joe has a new idea and he is telling us all about it!

Take it, leave it, modify it, or just mull it over.

This dovetails nicely with the conversation of the other day about "be deliberate."

Run the ideas that Joe - and all the other people out there with an opinion about anything - give through your own brain, sensibilities, and beliefs.

Veronica

Eloheim and Veronica said...

Proof that Joe is a faster writer than me! He posted his response while I will still typing!

Joe Konrath said...

I don't get the connection.

There is no connection, Veronica. The guy was dropped on his head.

He's been insulting me on Twitter for months, and then he expects me not to kick him out? Seriously?

I've kicked people off my blog before, and I'll do it again. Life is too short to deal with morons. I can find plenty of healthy debate without public name-calling.

Jeff said...

"I purposely didn't mention his name, because I'm not a whiny name-calling little bitchboy. But he is. If you read some of his tweets, the guy is a 14 karat asshole."

Yet, you do resort to petty namecalling. This paints you in a bad light. Instead of intelligently refuting his claims, you've instead resorted to calling him a 'bitchboy'. Just because he disagrees with you. He had some good points about the cost of translation (you have people on here talking about running novels through Google Translate!)yet you didn't answer any of those points. You seem to advocate taking a 'leap of faith', yet for most people 10K is a 'put everything on Red and hope for the best' leap.

"Context. Take it in context. That post was about Kindles soon becoming disposable, like cell phones and mp3 players. The price will continue to drop, and soon they'll be available in drug stores for $40--like cell phone and mp3 players."

But they're not as yet. We're talking a few years before they drop in price, not the next three weeks.

I think you're underestimating the value of your advice to the many writers who follow this blog. They see your success and want to emulate it. By saying what you did in the above blog post, it could prompt someone to spend money they don't have on a completely untested market.

Thanks for replying, I do have one question that has been playing on my mind for a while...

Out of the many writers who have thanked you for their own success, how many are selling anywhere near the numbers you sell at?

Eloheim and Veronica said...

@Jeff

I mentioned using Google Translate as a starting point and as an experiment.

I also said: I would never take the GT output and publish it. I've seen enough crazy XYZ to English to know that isn't a good idea.

Christine Carmichael said...

I worked for a British international organisation for many years who is one of the largest companies in India employing tens of thousands of people.

EVERYONE who is educated in that country speak English as their first language. Dare I say, they can be more English than the English as far as grammar and spelling are concerned? Why do you think millions of jobs from call centres in the UK, USA and Canada have gone to India?

Their growing middle class are educating themselves and their children exponentially. They adore gadgets and gizmos.

Don't forget Pakistan too, English is the business language in that country.

Harlequin's romance ebook arm are rocking in India, China and the Middle East, with consumers downloading stories to their laptops and phones. Kindle will only increase sales.

Amazon will be the launch pad for the self published author through Kindle being sold in the Asia pacific rim as well as India, Pakistan and the Middle East. And don't forget Singapore, Indonesia and Malaysia. English is the common language for business and education.

All African countries use English as their main language. Take Zambia for example, there are 72 African dialects in that country, therefore English is the language taught in schools - I lived there I know this to be fact.

I've also lived in Kenya where Swahili is the main language. They may be poor but they are forward looking , I remember seeing a Masi warrior coming out of a hut with a satellite dish on the roof, wearing reebok trainers and clutching a cell phone. Kindle will rock in that country.

But the written and business language in Kenya is English first. A friend of mine who wrote a book on how to be published was the number one best seller in Swahili for two years as well as in English in that country. There's a huge interest in writing fiction/non fiction as well as reading. Believe me, the Kenyans love gadgets. Kindle will cream the market. And Kenyan writers will be at the forefront of the self publishing thrust, they're an innovative bunch and are quick to pick up on a trend. Same with Tanzania, Botswana and let's not forget South Africa.


I have many European writer friends, including Spaniards and Germans who are busy downloading books on their Kindles from around the world. Especially Harry Potter for the kids.

Joe is perfectly correct, there will be plenty of niche markets for the nimble footed writer to thrive in.

German reader said...

Like Alan Tucker was contacted by a fan, I have also thought about contacting my favourite e-pubbed or self pubbed authors but haven't done so yet.

But I have done some research of translation services and translator fees from English to German.
In Germany the cost of literary works is usually calculated by norm page. A norm page has 1500 characters. The average price per page is 17,83 € (poll of 2008).
BUT ... a German text is approx. 20% longer than the English original. So the price can be based on source or target text. A 70k word English novel equals appr. 233 norm pages.
233 x 17,83 = 4154,39 € / ca. 6000 USD
A translator can appr. manage 7 pages / day, so it takes almost 7 weeks just for the translation.

If the translator works freelance for an agency, they keep a min. of 30%, then the author has to pay social insurances and taxes. Full time literary translators in Germany only earn 10-13000 € net per year, which is poverty level.

Copyright for the translation belongs to the translators, so they must be mentioned in German books and are entitled to additional compensation or royalties if e.g. additional rights are sold and the number of books sold exceeds 5000. But those percentages are very low.

So looking for translators among foreign reader fans might be the easiest and best solution.
Fans would certainly be willing to translate for a lower price, accept payment in instalments and / or percentage of royalties. The author can ask other readers to proofread or the translator has friends who can do that.
AND ...the translating fan will also spread the word and do the marketing in his/her native country.

Joe Konrath said...

Yet, you do resort to petty namecalling.

No, I don't. I erased his post because he mentioned his name. Much as it might amuse me to publicly debase the poor sap, I won't. Not on Twitter, not here.

Just because he disagrees with you.

Today on Twitter he called me a cock and a twat. He's not allowed here. If he wants to blog about his points, he can on his own sad excuse for a blog, and I'm sure his seven followers will agree with him.

By saying what you did in the above blog post, it could prompt someone to spend money they don't have on a completely untested market.

Wow. I had no idea I could get someone to spend ten thousand dollars just by mentioning in.

Next blog post: JA Konrath Tells Everyone To Send Him $10,000.

Out of the many writers who have thanked you for their own success, how many are selling anywhere near the numbers you sell at?

I can name eight that I'm aware of that are selling equal or better than me, and another twenty how are now able to write fulltime, and hundreds who are paying their mortgage, or big bills, with their new income.

As for those who are happy to be striking out on their own and claim I inspired them, that's in the thousands.

This blog is not a religion. It's not a cult. I don't want to be the figurehead of any movement. I don't want fame. I don't want notoriety. And I'm not doing this blog to boost my sales.

This is the blog I wish existed when I started out. It didn't exist, so I created it. It's a place for writers to learn, and to exchange ideas, in an asshole-free environment.

People are encouraged to disagree and debate me. That doesn't make them wrong. Their inability to back up their opinion with logic and facts is what makes them wrong.

There are a handful of assholes I've encountered, on the Internet and in person, that aren't welcome here. This isn't a democracy. It's my house, and I invite people I like. If I don't like you, it's probably because you've stepped waaaaay over the line.

Jude Hardin said...

Anyone who blindly follows anyone is an idiot. If I give someone a tip on a horse race and they bet $10,000 and lose, is that my fault?

I do think that having a novel professionally translated to another language is beyond most writers' means, though. To me, it would make more sense to have an agent sell to a foreign publisher and go for a decent royalty split on ebooks.

Joe Konrath said...

To me, it would make more sense to have an agent sell to a foreign publisher and go for a decent royalty split on ebooks.

My agent just sold Bulgarian rights to one of my books. It was for $500.

The most I ever made on a foreign deal (not counting Afraid) was $3000 to Japan.

I can spend $5000 to get a novel translated, and I'm betting I'll recoup that within a year. That's better than selling the rights for $1200 and never seeing another penny.

Jude Hardin said...

That's better than selling the rights for $1200 and never seeing another penny.

Why would we never see another penny? Foreign publishers don't pay royalties?

I think what you're probably saying is that you never earned out the advances on those foreign sales. But with Amazon (i.e. Kindle) in the picture, the dynamics of foreign sales are bound to change.

I would rather take a 50/50 split on ebook royalties than gamble ten grand per book per language. Get real, Joe. Nobody has that kind of money to burn.

Except you, of course. ;)

Sirre K. said...

So Joe tells how to become an indie writer. (At least to you guys, my 3k-5k short stories don't count)

But how do you become an indie translator?

I'd sure give it a try, sound a lot more fulfilling than just translating company intern documents, as I do most days at the office.

Joe Konrath said...

Why would we never see another penny? Foreign publishers don't pay royalties?

I think what you're probably saying is that you never earned out the advances on those foreign sales


It's very easy not to report foreign sales for royalties. I've never gotten a single royalty, and I find that hard to believe, considering the advances were small, and I've had dozens of foreign contracts, and all of my US novels have earned out.

I would rather take a 50/50 split on ebook royalties than gamble ten grand per book per language.

My first "gamble" will be with Serial Uncut. Splitting costs with Blake, about $2k each.

We'll see how it sells and go from there.

Nimbus2k said...

@Jeff

Steve doesn't like Joe and he has stated that in so many words (along with namecalling) on his own blog. Given this, a reasoned and fruitful discussion about Joe's thoughts with him was unlikely to develop and that proved to be the case. His dislike of Joe (for whatever reason-- I suspect a good bit of professional jealousy but that's my own opinion) makes him unwilling to consider that Joe may actually have a point. Steve ends up confabulating Palin-esque reasons why Joe's reasoning is completelty absurd.

For example:

Joe said: "Foreign markets are going to be starved for good novels."

Steve's response:
What on earth makes you think that? It's not like the only good novels are written in English.

Huh?

I think it's safe to say that EVERY market is starved for a good novel (I include America in this statement. That Steig Larsson guy's books did pretty good in America, if memory serves). Maybe it's because Steve is from the UK that he made a leap of reasoning that Joe is some ego-centric American who thinks that everything not from the USA is crap.

I interpret Joe as saying that a good book will sell in any market-- markets are starved for them (but then again, I'm American myself and don't assume that all Americans are self-centered egomaniacs. And I don't have an axe to grind). He said nothing about the only good books being written in English; that was Steve's own erroneous leap of logic.

Oh, and I love this part where Steve says:
Even you, Joe, who is very successful and perhaps has access to this kind of cash. 4000 eBooks - 40 titles in 100 countries. Let's be astonishingly conservative and say only 20 of those countries require translation, and assume an average of $5,000 per translation (as some of your works are not novel-length). That's 800 x $5,000, so it will cost you $4 million to build your empire. (In reality, it will be a lot more, as each title will require editing, proofing, a new cover, etc).

Yes, I'm sure that Joe is planning on doing this all at once. There is no reason why he is going to translate one book into one language first and test his hypothesis that his sales in the new market will justify the expense of translation and the attendent costs before moving on to another translation. Further, he is absolutely suggesting that all aspiring Kindle self-publishers have their unpublished and unproven novel translated at a cost of $10,000 so that they can upload it on day 1 along with the original English version before seeing how well the book first sells in America alone.

What, this sounds ridiculous? I'm just following Steve's line of reasoning here. Because that's what he's saying-- or did I miss something?

Joe Konrath said...

But how do you become an indie translator?

What languages can you translate? Email me and we'll talk.

Joe Konrath said...

Because that's what he's saying-- or did I miss something?

Nope, you're right on target. And thanks for not naming names. I see no reason to send anyone to his blog, even if it is to mention how wrong he is.

Being a public figure means opening yourself up to criticism, and in many cases outright abuse. I can handle it. Doesn't hurt me in the least.

But I'm not going to welcome those folks with open arms. Nor am I going to waste time debating someone so obviously flawed.

Jude Hardin said...

My first "gamble" will be with Serial Uncut. Splitting costs with Blake, about $2k each.

$4,000 for a novella. I don't know. I hope you guys do well with it.

It seems, though, if spending that kind of money is the only way to succeed in foreign markets, the playing field is now weighted heavily toward the wealthy. In fact, if you don't have a bunch of cash, you don't even get to play.

Joe Konrath said...

$4,000 for a novella. I don't know. I hope you guys do well with it.

I got my word count wrong. It'll be about $1000 each. And we sell it for $2.99. We've made a mint off of Serial Uncut--tens of thousands of dollars. Germany already has two Kilborn books, so this will be a nice, low-priced addition.

the playing field is now weighted heavily toward the wealthy.

Maybe. Maybe not. I'm certainly not going to apologize for my success.

But being one of the first $2.99 authors in a market flooded with $9.99 seems like a good gamble.

David Gaughran said...

Joe,

I'm sure Serial Uncut will make back its investment in a reasonable time. In fact, I'll bet you will be getting a few more translated soon enough.

I'd say keep an eye out for a Spanish translator too. 400m Spanish speakers worldwide, a good chunk of them just south of you. Spanish e-book prices make the Big 6 look like John Locke - you're talking hardcover prices for e-books. A good indie could clean up as soon as Amazon open a Spanish Kindle Store (which is sure to cover all of Latin America).

In fact, I think Bob Mayer is getting a couple of books translated into Spanish.

Dave

Joe Konrath said...

In fact, I'll bet you will be getting a few more translated soon enough.

I'll be sure to post numbers. ;)

Robert Bruce Thompson said...

Joe Konrath said...

What languages can you translate? Email me and we'll talk.


I do Latin, if you're interested in expanding the market for your books to Latin America.

Joe Konrath said...

Do you do Greek? Then we'll talk. :P

W. Dean said...

I translate Attic Greek. Sure, it’s a dead language, but I’m banking on a comeback any time now… any takers?

Pat Chiles said...

Okay, okay, I got the message! I will never darken your internet doorway again.
For today, at least.

Cranked out about 500 words today on the 2nd draft of a novel. Yay!

Jude Hardin said...

I'm sure Serial Uncut will make back its investment in a reasonable time.

I'm sure it will too. I'm just questioning how relevant those numbers are going to be when the majority of authors are struggling just to pay the rent.

I'm not asking anyone to apologize for their success, just saying this foreign language thing might not be feasible for most of us--unless we sell the rights to a publisher and let them incur the costs involved.

Pat Chiles said...

Well, that was embarrassing.
I thought this was the "stop reading my blog and get back to writing" post!
Rookie mistake...

W. Dean said...

Jude,

I suggest that you try thinking outside the box before pooh-poohing the idea. Find a graduate student in German at your local university (they’ll be a dime a dozen). Agree on a price, and offer to pay half in advance and 50% for however many copies it takes him to earn out—or more, it’s always better if he has skin in the game too. Or come up with a different deal.

S.J. Kamber said...

What languages can you translate? Email me and we'll talk.

German and Swiss German (talk about niche market)
Not as fancy as Latin ;)

Jude Hardin said...

Find a graduate student in German at your local university

Do you really think a grad student studying German (but who grew up speaking English) is going to be able to adequately translate a novel? That's a recipe for a slew of one-stars if I ever heard one.

Or come up with a different deal.

I have an agent, so my different deal is going to be through a publisher with an advance and an equitable ebook royalty split.

Joe Konrath said...

I have an agent, so my different deal is going to be through a publisher with an advance and an equitable ebook royalty split.

It's better than nothing.

But say you sell German rights for $750, and they price the ebook at $12.99. Then you read a blog post from me saying my $2.99 German self-pubbed ebook has sold 15,000 copies in a year, earning me $30k. Won't you want to kick yourself?

Every time I get a royalty statement from Hyperion and Hachette I want to kick myself.

Jude Hardin said...

But say you sell German rights for $750, and they price the ebook at $12.99. Then you read a blog post from me saying my $2.99 German self-pubbed ebook has sold 15,000 copies in a year, earning me $30k. Won't you want to kick yourself?

No, I'll be happy for you, and I'll know I did the best I could with what I had to work with at the time. :)

Joe Konrath said...

No, I'll be happy for you, and I'll know I did the best I could with what I had to work with at the time. :)

Except we both know you really won't.

I've spoken with my agent about translating. I hope she considers it. It is potentially more lucrative than selling the rights.

Joe Konrath said...

Just had an evil Googlebomb thought in the Rick Santorum vein.

My blog is popular enough that if I blog about something specific, like someone's unique last name, it often results in the very first Google search result.

In other words, if I did a post called "Jeff Ratzenfratz is a gigantic asshole", anyone who Googled "Jeff Ratzenfratz" would get my blog as the #1 hit.

That would be bad for Jeff Ratzenfratz. Certainly wouldn't help his book sales.

But like Uncle Ben said, with great power comes great responsibility, and I would certainly never do something like that.

Nice to know that I could, though.

Jude Hardin said...

I've spoken with my agent about translating. I hope she considers it. It is potentially more lucrative than selling the rights.

Of course I would be interested in the most lucrative path...just can't spring for translations myself right now.

A.Rosaria said...

English is the second official language in India. To get added sales you don't need to translate your work. (no immediate need)

Most who are able, and probably willing to buy ebooks online, will be able (and I hope want)to read English perfectly well. There are about 125 million who speak English as a second language.

David Gaughran said...

@Jude

I can't spring for translations either. Maybe in time.

I was just wondering if some kind of new business model will spring up.

A collective of translators taking a cut from your book in exchange for a reduced up-front fee. Or if you didn't want to fork over a percentage, a sliding scale where they get paid X if you sell under 1000 copies, 2X if you sell up to 5000 copies and 4X if you knock it out of the park.

That could be more viable for people, and I think the translators could be interested too. One of the commenters on my blog said that German translators are paid poverty level wages because of the huge fees that agencies take etc.

If we could get around the middleman, we could get creative. Now, this isn't something that I will be able to pursue in the short term, but maybe next year.

Lassal said...

As a German who grew up in Brazil and is currently living in an English speaking business environment, the topic of "Thinking Global" is very much on my table.

For those who fear the heavy costs of good translations, consider having the stories pay for themselves!

You have the tremendous advantage of serving the huge English speaking (reading) market first. So you could put your stories out there to generate revenues for their own translations. This way you will end up having the most successfull story translated first, which might be a good test & business solution if you choose the order of languages (& connected cultures) wisely.

It is certainly not THE perfect solution, but it might be a good strategy for those who are a bit tight on the money.

Just my 2 cents. :)

Cheers,
Lassal
(so far, reader only ...)

Lassal said...

As far as I am informed, translators are considered as "authors". They get a fee AND a cut from sales.

I will have to check the source, but I have come across this several times while doing a basic research for my own how-to book about storyboarding.

Might be a German thing.
Better to check this in advance, or expect to get sued later, if your story does well ...
There are some new laws out here, which practically let you sue if you signed a contract that is set up to screw you. Some publishers have already been dragged to court and I guess there is more to come.

Donna said...

Joe - you said:
"In other words, if I did a post called "Jeff Ratzenfratz is a gigantic asshole", anyone who Googled "Jeff Ratzenfratz" would get my blog as the #1 hit."

I know that later in your comment you say that this is not something you would do, but it certainly seems like a childish and nasty threat. Having seen you on panels at Bouchercon, and how disrespectful you are to the other authors on those panels (one of the reasons I don't normally read your blog), I really don't feel you are doing yourself any favours with comments like this. It takes away from any merit that your argument may actually have.
Donna

Andy Conway said...

I can sympathise with Joe on this. Let's remember, this is his house and we're all guests in it. You throw shit at him, you get shown the door.

I've experienced a similar attitude in the screenwriters' bulletin I run. It goes out to 11,000 people every day and almost everyone is nice and pleasant. But there are a dedicated handful who, because they pay an annual sub, think it gives them the right to snipe at me and any other staff member and make snide digs, knowing that, because I'm employed to moderate, I can't tell them where to go.

No one has outright called me a twat (that I wouldn't mind, to be honest), because they know it's much easier to get away with making snide digs very similar in tone to the 'you're an okay writer but I'd never read your crap books and you're coining it in off our gullibility' comments above (I'm paraphrasing, I know).

There was a private exchange recently with a member who made outrageous accusations and no matter how much was answered politely and with logical arguments, resorted to offhand snide comments. Other staff I showed it to were shocked at the shit I had to put up with. Kind of thing that if anyone said it to your face in a bar they'd be asking for a punch.

They do it because they know they can get away with abusing people on the internet, a land where they carry their enormous sense of entitlement along with an equally enormous chip on their shoulder.

Unfortunately, as en employee, I have to be polite to them.

Joe doesn't have to.

Andy Conway
Publishing 11 titles before 11.11.11 on Amazon and Smashwords : 4 down, 7 to go
The Budapest Breakfast Club, a Euromcom, out now...

Joe Konrath said...

how disrespectful you are to the other authors on those panels

The only authors I've ever been disrespectful to in public are friends who are in on the joke, or assholes. Feel free to share whom you think I was disrespectful towards.

I don't take shit from people. Ever. Being a doormat is not the way to live life. Neither is caring if everyone likes you, understands you, or reads your blog.

You don't like me? Cool. Don't burden yourself with the terrible bother of reading me. Somehow I think I'll survive.

It takes away from any merit that your argument may actually have.

An argument either has merit or it doesn't, no matter how many times I call someone an asshole.

it certainly seems like a childish and nasty threat.

When provoked, I defend myself. What do you do?

puravida said...

This is going to open up so many opportunities. I wonder if there is an English market in India. If not, perhaps more affordable translation services will be available soon.


Happier Than A Billionaire

T.K. Murphy said...

Interesting thread. One of the reasons, I started self-publishing is because of this blog. Now I am not saying, that Joe is some great Guru or some such.

I have always enjoyed writing and sent a few submissions way back in 2000, 2001. Got rejected. I had a full time corporate job and so didn't really push at it. Then of course the economy happened and writing was always a means for me to pour out my feelings-my heart and my soul.

I researched further and thought why not self publish? So now I have two books up, getting ready to put the third one up and writing the fourth one.

When you start as an indie-blogs like this and now I have found kindleboards are very helpful. But as with anything-it is your choice. You should know what your goals are, then research, find information, cross check , fall and tumble a few times and then move on. That's life. Just surprised at a few people saying Joe is responsible for 10k-if people chose to translate and it doesn't work out. Shouldn't it be our responsibility to see if it is a fit for us??

Douglas Dorow said...

I know a traditionally published midlist thriller author who writes full-time. The only reason he can do this is because of his foreign sales. He couldn't make it on his US sales alone.

His publisher pays for the translations. There's definitely a market out there, the question is, does the indie author want to pay for this? As Joe's said, the book is forever. As authors, we need to decide how we want to engage with the global readers.

W. Dean said...

“Do you really think a grad student…”

No, I always think the exact opposite of what I write. Seriously, most doctoral candidates in languages who specialize in German will know the language better than the natives.

So here’s a defensible list of people who know. The descending order reflects the likelihood of getting it right:

1. Native German writer + PhD in the humanities.
2. Non-native German writer + PhD in languages and specialty in German
3. Native German writer, no formal education.
4. Non-native German writer + bilingual
6. Native German, no formal education
7. German shepherd
8. Jude + copy of “Helpful Helga’s Learn to Speak German in Six Weeks”

All I’m saying is that writers who are interested shouldn’t be lead to believe that the only alternative is an expensive translation agency.

W. Dean said...

Almost forgot. David mentioned that there were 400 million Spanish speaking people in the world. When you compare that to the 90 million German speakers, it seems obvious that a writer would go with Spanish translation before German. It’s worth bearing in mind, however, that 375 million of those 400 million live in poverty (e.g., Mexico, Bolivia, Cuba). They don’t even have internet access, let alone an e-reader, whereas all 90 million Germans share US living standards.

David Gaughran said...

W Dean,

I take your general point, but I think you are grossly overestimating the amount of Spanish speakers below the poverty line.

Spain, for starters, has 45 million - and much of their population can afford e-readers and e-books.

I've also traveled extensively around all of Latin America (and lived there on a couple of occasions), and one thing I can tell you is that most of these countries have a reasonably sized middle class - especially the more populous ones like Peru, Mexico, and Argentina (who would also speak good English).

I lived in Buenos Aires for a while. There are poor areas, sure. But there are very, very rich areas too, and plenty of parts inbetween where everyone would own a nice cellphone, a nice TV, and a nice computer.

I think the image of most of South America living in grinding poverty is a little outdated. There are parts - Bolivia, Cuba, and part of Central America, that are very poor. But there are burgeoning economies there too.

The Buenos Aires Book fair is on every April. Do you know how many people attend? 1.2 million. That wasn't a typo.

Dave

Ann Voss Peterson said...

"the playing field is now weighted heavily toward the wealthy."

The playing field in business is ALWAYS weighted toward the wealthy. Money makes money. Publishing is no different. SELF publishing is no different.

Remember, writing is about art and craft. Publishing is business. Business is unfair. If you can't deal with unfairness, don't publish.

Paul Pender said...

You think you've got translation issues? As a Scotsman with a heavy brogue who lives in California I spend much of my life lost in translation.

Last week I told a woman at a dinner party I was a writer and she kept asking me what restaurant I worked in. Yes, she thought I was a waiter.

I was in a furniture store the other day and I asked the assistant "Are all your bookshelves in pine?"

He stared at me, baffled, and replied,

"Are all our bookshelves in pain?"

Can anyone translate Scots-English into American-English? It would make my life so much easier :)

David Gaughran said...

I hear yeh Paul.

I remember telling someone I was a writer, but the Irish lilt must have thrown her. It was only after ten confusing questions about the upkeep of horses that I realized she heard "rider". It was easier not to correct her.

Eloheim and Veronica said...

Hi David,
Perhaps you should say you are a writer AND a publisher?

;)

Veronica

David Gaughran said...

Ah but this was 2009, when I was but a pup with sand in my toes and dreams in my hair.

Nancy Beck said...

He stared at me, baffled, and replied, "Are all our bookshelves in pain?"
Can anyone translate Scots-English into American-English? It would make my life so much easier :)


@Paul Pender: That reminds me of when my husband and I went on a trip to England and Scotland. Just for the hell of it, we decided to take a train somewhere well off the beaten path, so we headed up to Aberdeen.

As soon as we got off the train, we headed for the closest pub. When we entered, the bartender had such a thick brogue, we had to ask him multiple times what the heck he was saying; we eventually just looked at the beer taps and ordered that way.

English subtitles would have helped, lol.

He had no problem understanding us, though. :-)

frankpalardy said...

I just had a thought. Countries like China have all sorts of piracy and copying. So if you write something they might like to read they'll probably translate it for you and put it on the internet. So all you need to do is take that and put in on Amazon. It'll probably be full of errors but the Chinese don't seem to mind.

Jude Hardin said...

The playing field in business is ALWAYS weighted toward the wealthy. Money makes money. Publishing is no different. SELF publishing is no different.

Wrong.

As far as publishing goes, the playing field is level for the first time in history. Anyone with a computer can now compete with multi-billion dollar corporations. That's pretty exciting.

But the discussion on this post is about translating books to foreign languages. THAT costs more money than most writers can afford. So, the fact that people in BFE will soon have Kindles is irrelevant if you can't afford to have your book translated to Arabic. UNLESS, like I said, you can negotiate an equitable royalty split with a publisher who will incur the upfront costs.

Ann Voss Peterson said...

I said: "The playing field in business is ALWAYS weighted toward the wealthy. Money makes money. Publishing is no different. SELF publishing is no different."

Jude said: "Wrong.

As far as publishing goes, the playing field is level for the first time in history. Anyone with a computer can now compete with multi-billion dollar corporations. That's pretty exciting.

But the discussion on this post is about translating books to foreign languages."

So you're saying that everything is perfectly fair EXCEPT that some people have more money to invest in translations (and covers and marketing too, BTW) and therefore it's not fair.

The playing field as far as digital publishing goes is -more- level than it has ever been for authors, but it's still not fair. People who have more to invest, stand to make more money.

That's my point.

Jude Hardin said...

I see your point, Ann, but ask Joe how much money he had before this e-book thing took off. Ask Amanda Hocking. You can be penniless and still compete with Random House.

Ann Voss Peterson said...

I don't know what you're talking about here, Jude. I never said an author can't be successful self publishing unless they have a lot of money. You're trying to gin up a false argument. Go back and look at my earlier post. I don't know who you're arguing about this with, but it's not me.

I'm self publishing after having made my living as a traditionally published author since 2000. I know how much the publishing landscape has changed. And you do realize I've been friends with Joe for years, right?

Jude Hardin said...

I never said an author can't be successful self publishing unless they have a lot of money.

You said self-publishing is weighted toward the wealthy. You said:

The playing field in business is ALWAYS weighted toward the wealthy. Money makes money. Publishing is no different. SELF publishing is no different.

I said self-publishing is NOT weighted toward the wealthy. How is that trying to gin up an argument?

There is no argument. I'm just stating a fact.

Fingers Murphy said...

This is definitely huge news. India's large English speaking population will mean no need to translate. Although if you did eat the cost of translating into Hindi you'd reach another 400 million readers, add Bengali and you get another 250 million. Just with those languages and English, you get to about a third of the world's population who are either native speakers, or second/third language speakers. It's really a huge deal.

Though the cost of translations are high and out of reach for many to self-fund, a few who already have big sales and get in early, can do very well with this.

The biggest deal though is that major Western publishers have no real advantage here. They sell through affiliates in India and most Western authors are unknown there. Even huge names here in the U.S. mean little to the average reader in Mumbai with a Kindle or iPad. So everyone starts out on much more equal footing.

W. Dean said...

David,

Isn’t this book fair in Buenos Aires famous? I think I’ve read about it somewhere. It would be something to see firsthand. But let’s get down to brass tacks. Compare the nominal per capita GDP of the US and Germany with the countries you mentioned (rounded figures):

US $47,000
Germany $40,000

Peru $5,000
Mexico $9,500
Argentina $9,000

I don’t doubt there are wealthy and vibrant communities in the major cities in each of these countries, but there’s really no comparison between them and the German and French markets. The bottom line is that books are luxury goods, not something you sell to poor folk.

Marilyn Peake said...

This is very exciting! Since self-publishing three novels and three short stories and pricing them for 99 cents each on Amazon Kindle in March, my sales have steadily increased. Very recently, my daily sales have begun increasing at a much more rapid rate, reaching 17x the original number of books sold per day. The possibilities for sales of inexpensively priced self-published books in India and other countries seem immense. It’s an awesome time to be a self-published author!

Douglas Dorow said...

I used a Canadian editor to edit my last manuscript. I didn't notice her accent at all in her comments and hope that the changes will help my Canadian sales :)

I am thinking about the Spanish avenue for a translation for my book. Like any business decision I need to weigh the costs, the potential sales and the benefits of getting into this market earlier rather than later.

David Gaughran said...

W Dean,

You're making the mistake of thinking the cost of living is the same in the US or Germany as it is in Latin America.

When I was living in Buenos Aires in 2009, I could go to my normal neighbourhood steakhouse and get a big fillet steak for five dollars. Great steak too.

What you also have to remember is that in some of these countries the "black" economy dwarfs the official economy (which is what GDP measures).

Finally, GDP is an imperfect measure of economic activity. For example, the cost of maintaining the enormous prison population in the US is included in GDP, when it doesn't really contribute a whole bunch to the economy - but that's whole other argument.

As I said, I've lived in Buenos Aires, although unfortunately, I wasn't there for the book fair - which is said to be a sight to behold. The city is the size of New York. And it seemed like there was a bookstore on every street corner. No joke.

Argentina is one country that LOVES books. And people can definitely afford them. I can't remember how much books cost, but I was only buying English-language titles, and they were more expensive. But from what I remember, books were cheap.

But there are new bookstores and used bookstores everywhere. There will be a market there for cheap e-books. That's just one country in Latin America - 40m people - and probably the one that loves books the most.

But Chile wouldn't be far behind (16m) or Mexico (110m), and that's to say nothing of all the US-based people of Hispanic heritage that would enjoy work in Spanish.

Spain itself is quite well off with a population that love to read.

The Spanish publishing conglomerate Grupo Planeta is the seventh largest publishing company in the world with over 100 imprints (with revenue exceeding 1 BILLION dollars per year). They have significant interests in Latin America.

The Spanish carrier Telefonica is the fourth largest communications provider in the world (with revenue exceeding 60 BILLION dollars per year) - larger than AT&T and Verizon combined.

They have just moved into the Spanish language market with a local language dedicated e-reader and e-bookstore. They have a physical store network that will be able to sell their products all across Europe and Latin America.

The "Big 3" Spanish Publishers have just banded together to form an e-bookstore to sell their titles all across Spain and Latin America.

You are right, there is no comparison with the French and German market, the Spanish-language market dwarves both of them. And the potential is staggering.

Books are a global $80bn business. The US market is just one, albeit important, market.

Dave

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trazado de recorte

Ellen Feder said...

It's a terrific idea! My money is with Amazon, if anybody can do it, it's them!

Ann Voss Peterson said...

"I said self-publishing is NOT weighted toward the wealthy. How is that trying to gin up an argument?

There is no argument. I'm just stating a fact."

Jude,
If you have two self published authors and one can afford to have his books translated into different languages to take advantage of new markets and one can't, the first author is going to make more money.

This is YOUR quote that I originally commented on.

"It seems, though, if spending that kind of money is the only way to succeed in foreign markets, the playing field is now weighted heavily toward the wealthy. In fact, if you don't have a bunch of cash, you don't even get to play."

You weren't comparing a self published author and a publishing company. You were comparing yourself and Joe. And I said, that is always the case in business. Business is not fair.

So what if many authors can't afford to translate their stories right now (me included, btw)? That doesn't mean Joe's post isn't relevant to writers. Joe's post is about the possibilities of new markets. That's relevant. W. Dean and others shared many ideas for finding translators. That's relevant. The fact that some people are in a position to take advantage of this RIGHT THIS MOMENT and some are not, that is just the way things are in any business. Don't you still want to know about Joe's experiment? Don't you want to see how it works for him? Wouldn't you like to try it yourself if your economic situation changes or you find an investor?

If you choose not to go that route, don't. If you decide to sell foreign rights to a publisher, go for it. But to complain that some people have money to exploit these opportunities and some don't, therefore this post isn't relevant to most writers is silly.

Jude Hardin said...

Wouldn't you like to try it yourself if your economic situation changes or you find an investor?

Absolutely. Good points.

Karl El-Koura said...

It seems, though, if spending that kind of money is the only way to succeed in foreign markets, the playing field is now weighted heavily toward the wealthy. In fact, if you don't have a bunch of cash, you don't even get to play.

But wouldn't an indie publisher want to make sure their work has commercial viability in English-language markets before looking to expand to non-English markets? No foreign traditional publisher would be interested in a book that has few sales to show in its native market, right? (Well, maybe I'm wrong, though - are there any stories of books being successful in translation when the original didn't sell well?)

An indie publisher, I think, should focus on generating sales in their home market. As far as I know, Joe didn't win the lottery and he didn't get rich gambling; he sold a lot of books. Now he's taking the money he made selling those books and reinvesting that profit in his business by expanding his product to reach non-English readers. Anyone else can follow the same path, whether they're wealthy or not at the start of the process, assuming they can sell lots of books at home. And if they can't sell lots of books at home, I don't think they should be thinking about translating those books just yet.

David Gaughran said...

Karl,

There are plenty of examples of books which took off in translation before they sold in any numbers in English. But you have a point. If a title is not selling well in English, you should think twice before considering translating it. There may be some exceptions, such as if you have set a thriller in Paris and you are confident you will recoup the French translation costs, but in general, sure, you would want to be selling well in English first.

Translation could be something you could consider investing in from the profits you make, but I wouldn't think it's prudent to put yourself in the hole on a blind roll of the dice.

Dave

Isabella Amaris said...

Hmmmm, may I just say: it's about time!:DD And yes, there's a huge middle class in India (for one) who speak perfect English, so translations needn't be a huge deal. Having said that, I can see the logic in getting work translated if you can afford it in the future, because hey, at some point, the use of ereaders will spread from those who are comfortable speaking in English to those who would enjoy an alternative in their mother tongue.

I don't see this happening at the speed of light though. At least, not in Asia. English has become far too strong a second language in much of Asia (esp in the countries Christine Carmichael mentioned in her comment) for readers to need alternatives urgently. There will be a window, I think, for books in English to carve a market in Asia before multi-lingual readers demand alternatives, after which author's profits from those sales would probably be able to finance translations into other languages etc anyway.

I guess, if you can really (and I mean, really, really!) afford translations now, you really don't lose anything in the long run... but maybe it would be too early right now to make that decision? Perhaps translations would be cheaper to obtain in the near future?... or is that wishful thinking?:)

kathleen shoop said...

My good friend is Indian, but has lived in America for decades now. She had a book published by an Indian company a few years back and it was published in English. There was never any thought for publishing in any other language even though it was an Indian company. I'll have to ask her more on this topic...

Karl El-Koura said...

That's interesting, Dave. I wonder how those books achieved enough visibility that someone was willing to pay for their translation.

But absolutely the point is that a self-publisher starting out shouldn't be thinking about accessing foreign markets right away; they should invest their resources on good help (with cover art, editing, etc.) and maximizing their home sales, then use those profits to launch their books in other languages. No one needs to go bankrupt self-publishing … you can start small and when (hopefully it's a when) you start seeing some success, you can build off of it.

David Gaughran said...

Karl,

Traditionally, it would have involved a rights sale by a proactive agent, or some horse trading at a book fair, well in advance of the book's publication in English.

Nowadays, you have all sorts of foreign agents and scouts for publishing companies scouring Amazon for self-published stuff that they think might sell well in their markets and contacting authors directly.

Obviously, a book that is selling well will attract more attention, but I have seen cases where the book wasn't doing so well and foreign publishers were interested for whatever reason

Jude Hardin said...

Has anyone ever heard of a Canadian author named Linwood Barclay? His U.S. sales appear to be lackluster, but I was browsing Amazon.fr and noticed he has five books in the top twenty mystery and thrillers--in English.

So it might be that self-published authors can cash in on foreign markets without even having to have their books translated.

Does anyone know how to get a book placed on the foreign versions of Amazon?

Jon Olson said...

Thanks for the post. Your #1 news kindle news source!

Mumbai, here we come.

Jon Olson
The Petoskey Stone

learn chinese said...

used to work for a translation agency. For folks interested, it's usually a per word basis and depends on the language as far as price. Spanish is the cheapest usually, followed by French. And if anyone is considering a computer program to translate a novel, I highly suggest you DON'T.

Danica said...

I'm British and I've heard of Linwood Barclay. He is pretty popular in the UK and his books get quite a bit of media attention and good placement in Waterstones and Blackwells.

I'm currently living in the Middle East and I've seen his books in the bookstores here too. Although I haven't spotted an arabic translation yet.

Many people in arabic countries speak excellent english, and I often see people reading english language newspapers rather than the arabic editions.

I attended the Dubai literature festival this year and most of the books were written in English by British or American authors. Tess Gerritsen and Mark Billingham gave talks on their books.

Dubai Mall has one of the biggest bookstores I have ever seen, called Kinokuniya, and most of the books I have seen on sale are written in English.

Marie Simas said...

don't take shit from people. Ever. Being a doormat is not the way to live life. Neither is caring if everyone likes you, understands you, or reads your blog.

I just bought 2 iPads this week, all self publishing money. But I'm still getting emails from authors who are spending untold hours formatting their own manuscripts in Word. People who design their covers in MSPaint. One email was from an engineer, another a doctor. They oils afford it, they just didn't feel that the writing warranted the $500 expense. And that is an epic fail.

Joe, I'm listening. I remember a few weeks back when someone was giving me some shit about my sales; something about "selling a few thousand copies does not make a bestseller" or something like that.

I've taken all of Joe's advice. It's a formula, and it works. There's no mystery to it. Don't write shit, and produce a professional product . So simple, and people still don't get it.

I've published under 4 different pen names, and I am making money with each one. Last month I sold over 3,000 books, (including audiobooks, nonfiction, and fiction). I made 18k.

Stop making excuses and just fucking do it.

Anonymous said...

Self-published translations are a great idea. Not everyone in the world is able to read English comfortably. Also, make sure your books are at least available in English *all over the world*.

I'm pretty resentful of the fact that I can't buy many German Kindle books in German because of 'geographic limitations. Publishers can't possibly be having some wetdream fantasy that I'd buy it in English translation, can they? Translations are for books in languages I *don't* speak. I hope those who are predicting that this will change are correct. 'Geographic limitations' make as much sense for e-books as they do for the wind.

By the way, Michael E. Walston, don't 'learn other languages'. The language is only part of the equation: Translation is a specialized craft -- always hire an expert.

sincerely,
thorn

Sell your house fast in the UK said...

Thanks for the blog post. it was really interesting.

W. Dean said...

David,

“…cost of living…”

Your books are imports; that means they’re bought in US dollars. And that’s why I used nominal GDP instead of purchasing power (which is slightly higher). Even if domestic goods are cheaper there, they still need to pay for your e-books in foreign currency.

“…the "black" economy dwarfs the official economy”

The underground economy is everywhere. British Columbia’s largest per dollar export, for example, is supposed to be marijuana.

Besides, if the black market was disproportionately large in Latin America, then the real cost of living would be higher than it is. But you’ve already conceded that it’s lower, so the GDP numbers must reflect the real state of the Latin American economy.

“…GDP is an imperfect measure of economic activity.”

It’s also the only one. The size of the local telecommunications firm is hardly a more reliable economic indicator.

“…Argentina is one country that LOVES books.”

I’ve heard this, and I have no reason to doubt it. But so do Germans. They’ve one of the most bookish cultures to have ever existed.

“Mexico…Spain…Argentina…Chile… [etc.]”

If you’re talking about one man in all this (namely, yourself), then I’m sure you can find enough fans to make it rich in Spanish, and I sincerely wish you well. But if the question is a general one regarding market potential for a luxury good (i.e., books), then you don’t count heads, you count disposal incomes. And on that score, the German market wins hands down: the combined GDPs of Mexico, Spain, Argentina and Chile are a little less than Germany’s, and they’re still spread over four and a half times more people.

Amy said...

I'm working on getting my debut novel onto Kindle but I'm feeling a bit in over my head with making my book cover/manuscript are set to Amazon's requirements. Do you have a website or company that you would recommend that could help me with this?
Writing the book was the easy part...all of this techinical stuff is WAY over my head.
Thanks.

Walter Knight said...

Why is it that Amazon.com foreign sales only pay the author a 35 percent royalty. We get 70 percent here in the U.S.

The UK is the only overseas market I have sold books to in volume. Someone in Germany bought a couple books by accident.

Because India has a huge English speaking population, that market has a lot of potential. I have already noticed Dndian authors selling their E-books here in the United States.

Nancy Beck said...

Does anyone know how to get a book placed on the foreign versions of Amazon?

@Jude,

I know that books are available on the Amazon UK and Germany sites; I set up my Author Central on those sites after reading somewhere about doing that.

Although my last name is German, I married into the family ;-) so the German site might have been a problem (it's all in German, naturally), but as I was doing the Author Central thing from the U.S. to the UK to Germany, they're all set up the same, so it was fairly easy to remember what to do.

As for the French and other Amazon sites - I have no clue.

thebigeasy78 said...

Dave ... you said:

[i]Books are a global $80bn business. The US market is just one, albeit important, market.[/i]

The US is the biggest book market in the world, in terms of revenue. Followed by ... Germany.

In 2010, the US had around $16.5bn in revenue, in 2009 Germany had around $13.5bn ... so $30bn of that $80bn you mentioned comes from 2 markets!

This is also directed at the people kind of dismissing the 90 million people speaking German, in comparison to the spanish speaking countries ... Germany was and is the second largest book market in the world. Don't forget that.

Right now, the ebook market here in Germany is miniscule. But Amazon just opened their kindle store. Kobo just entered the market a few weeks back.

Sonys ereader and a few others are already in the market for quite some time now. The rise of tablets and smart phones makes more and more ereader devices available.

Right now the German reader is slow to adapt. But Germany lags about 2 years behind the US in terms of developement and widespread adoption. Once Amazon offers a German Kindle version (right now they only sell the English version, although directly through amazon.de) and it drops in price a little (right now the just switched the $ sign for the €) - 99€ would be a great price point, maybe at Christmas - Germans will adopt it more.

Also very important is that more novels are available in German. And that their prices drop as well.

David Gaughran said...

@bigeasy78

I wasn't questioning the size of the German market, I was just saying that the Spanish language market had huge potential.

Frank R. McBride said...

Narf ... it didn't publish my Name right :)

And that last paragraph was kinda wonky. I wanted to say that it is important that German publishing houses get their back lists into electronic form and drop the prices while they are at it.

Anyways ... anyone in need of an "indie translator"? :))

Mark Yarwood said...

The world is our lobster. That's the great thing ebook- no shipping- your books around the world in seconds.

I got a new book out: Welcome To Killville, USA: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Welcome-To-Killville-USA-ebook/dp/B005DEYS1U/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1312451780&sr=8-1

You're an inspiration. Keep it up.

Mark Yarwood

A.G. Claymore said...

Funny, for once I was ahead of the curve. I posted about this three days before Amazon's announcement.

Amazon still needs to get this move right. I saw eReaders for sale in India for close to $400 USD. That's more than 13% of per capita GDP over there.

They need to take an early loss on the readers or else partner with a local firm (HUGE tech industry over there) to produce an inexpensive local unit. If they don't, a local company will jump in and steal the market. (Just look up who owns Jaguar if you are still skeptical).

If you count internet cafes, India probably has more regular internet users than the US. They are ripe for the eBook Revolution!

Declan Conner said...

I uploaded 2 short stories with German and two English versions to Amazon DE and both hit the number one spot for their catagory.

Das ende, oder eine neuer Anfang amd Der feind Innern.

Sales are low but last month I am sure that's what helped me seel 20 English shorts.

As for India, I was sure the talk was that Amazon was opening for printed books and not yet for kindle. India has enjoyed an 11% growth in printed books this year. The problem with india for ebooks is the readers beign able to afford to buy eReaders.

I am currently working on translating a short to Brazil Portuguese. Brazil is another market poised to take off for eBooks.

Micheal William said...

Great Post!!!! I wonder if we'll see greater emphasis on learning other languages in the US.

Peggy Trentini said...

I actually made the leap as soon as I saw that Amazon .de on my dashboard. I found a German translator to do it at a reasonable cost. Her name is Renate Volz and she did an amazing job. I then formatted it and had it up on Kindle .de in One day. You can check it out at https://www.amazon.de/dp/B0061NCH4W
I'm hoping it will do well as I had a lot of publicity in the German market. I wrote a Celebrity kiss and tell called "Once Upon a Star". I was told their is a big market in Gemany for this genre. I'll keep you posted.

~Peggy Trentini

Keelytm said...

I agree with you about the potential for eBook sales. More and more people are finding the idea of keeping all their reading on one slim device very appealing, especially in other countries, as eBooks tend to cost significantly less than their counterparts made of paper. But, like you said, it does require document translation. I think it's a good idea to let you agent handle that type of stuff. Much less stressful to you as the author.