Should you translate your book for international markets?

Cases where it makes sense to Translate Your Book for An International Market

  1. If you are wildly successful with a book or a book series, and want to expand to international markets
    1. This makes a lot of sense, actually
  2. If you have written a book that is a very good fit for a particular country, and you translate it for that country
    1. If the country/market is big enough, then it is worth doing
  3. If you are making a decent amount of money with your book, and want to invest some of the profits into expanding into additional countries
  4. If a Publisher wants to buy rights for an international market. They will cover everything, in return for a share of the money it makes in that market
    1. This is a win win. Definitely go for it, if they are covering the costs
  5. If you find a good quality translator who will work for a share of the book sales, or for a combination of small translation fee and a share of book sales
    1. Again, this is a win win. Definitely go for it if they are willing to work for a share of the expenses, or if they are willing to take a small fee upfront (and rest from book sales)
  6. If there is big demand for similar books in a market, and that demand is unfulfilled
    1. There are markets like Christian Romance and Thriller that are not served fully in many large markets around the world. In such cases it makes sense (if you can afford it) to translate your book for these markets

You have to think a lot about whether it makes sense for you or not. The three key criteria to keep in mind are

  1. How big is Market Demand for your book in that market? How many sales would you be able to make?
    1. There has to be strong market demand
  2. How much is it going to cost you? Can you afford it?
    1. Don’t ever go in thinking ‘i’ll make back the money’. Only spend money from your book sales profits
  3. Is it going to cost you upfront, and from your own money? Or can you get someone to cover the costs, or share part of the costs
    1. The more you can get someone to share the risk, the better
    2. The best, obviously, is if some international publisher picks you up

If any of the factors is very strongly in your favor, then it is worth going for international translations

However, if none of the factors are strongly in your favor, then you might be much better off writing more books for the markets where you are currently selling. Remember, it is MUCH easier to sell new products to your existing customer base, than it is to find a new customer base

Cases where it does not make sense to Translate Your Book for An International Market

  1. If your book is not selling well in your home market
    1. First, succeed with your book in your main market. Before, you try and make it a hit worldwide
  2. If your book is very country specific or very culture specific
    1. If a book is very America centric, it is not going to work internationally
  3. If you can’t afford to translate it
    1. Don’t chase the pipe dream that somehow you will make back what you invest in translations. Vast majority of translated books are not hits
    2. If you cannot afford to translate your book, then don’t take on debt to get it translated
  4. If you can’t find a very good translator
    1. This is something a lot of authors overlook. You have to find someone who is very, very good at translating both the words and the story
    2. If you don’t find a very good translator, the book will not succeed
  5. If you don’t want to translate
    1. Truth is, some authors just don’t care about the international market. Heck, some don’t even care for anything other than their home state. If your heart is not in it, then don’t do a translation
    2. Sometimes authors feel they should ‘explore the international market’, or get pressurized by their agent or publisher or friends into doing it
      1. That’s a terrible decision
    3. Focus on what you enjoy. If you are very happy writing for your main market, and don’t care about international markets, then just focus on your main market
  6.  If you are not 100% sure you want to take on all the additional work
    1. It will be a decent amount of extra work
    2. It might not pay off. In fact, it is rather unlikely to take off
  7. If you’re short of time, or already working on a new book
    1. Getting international translations for an existing book can be a full time job
    2. If you are in the middle of writing another book, or if you are short of time, don’t take on the additional responsibilities of getting international translations for an existing book

Wish there was some very optimistic scenario we could paint for you. There is none

Getting international translations of your existing book (or books)

  1. Usually costs a considerable amount of money, which you are unlikely to earn back
  2. Is almost a full time job
  3. Has a low chance of paying off

So make sure you can afford the time and energy and money required. Most of all, make sure you have a strong international market, a good chance of succeeding, and a high chance of making back the money you invest

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