Extra income potential without writing and translating a book from scratch
Who would not want a bit of extra cash? A lot of authors are retrieving their copyrights of out of print books these days. Up to now, however, these have only been original books, but it can be done with translations as well and I am currently in the process of self-publishing an out of print book as a translator.
Now you might ask yourself, why should I bother if I do not yet have a book in translation? Especially as a successful English language author you could be offered a translation contract by a foreign book publisher out of the blue. And in your excitement you may overlook the fineprint.
Or you might have tried to get a contract with a foreign publisher for a while and all of a sudden it is finally happening and you are so keen on it that you gladly accept any terms and conditions they offer.
I believe it is important to know your rights from the start to be prepared and make the most of any books you have out there – or to make the most of your translation skills as a translator.
Books in translation can easily go out of print
I said it before and I am saying it again: authors are nowadays expected to do quite a bit of marketing themselves and this is rarely possible for books in translation if the author doesn’t speak the other language.
Foreign publishers will therefore usually do a special promotion for translated books in the beginning, but they cannot keep this up. I saw it myself in Germany when books that I translated were offered in large quantities for a very short time and then they vanished from the shops as fast as they had turned up.
If the author does not have a big name, this can lead to a book being “lost in translation” rather quickly.
Out of print can mean different things, however, depending on the clauses in the contract, and in the age of ebooks and print on demand a publisher could theoretically hold on to the rights forever, even if the book does not sell any copies at all. Would you not rather earn royalties instead?
Author and translator need each other…
In order to self-publish an out of print book, nobody can do it on their own but a translator needs to come to an agreement with the author and vice versa.
In general, translators need to do more than they are used to, above all marketing, at least unless the author is able to speak the language as well, which would be even better. On the other hand, more involvement of the normally invisible translator can also lead to a feeling of emporwerment for them. It has certainly felt like that for me. And who apart from the author knows a book that well and can decide whether it might be worthwhile to give it a try?
Most translators that I know are not even used to earning any royalties at all and this can be a totally new experience.
The German translation is now available at a special price for a short time only, e.g. via this link:
I couldn’t resist using the following Star Trek analogy, especially because I translated so many Star Trek film subtitles in the past…
…to boldly go where no-one has gone before…
It is actually true: I did something new, I couldn’t find any role models for this project, despite extensive research and talking to a many people in the book industry and had to figure everything out by trial and error and. Although it was a lengthy procedure, I was determined to see it through .
Now I am happy to say I am self-publishing the out of print novel “Knowing Sophie – Die Unbekannte” by Brenda Little after coming to an agreement with the original right holders.
I have now learned more about the rights of translators and authors – or in my case the author’s heirs.
Most people and organisations that I asked for advice were encouraging and helpful, but a few experts told me I had to follow certain procedures, which according to them were essential, but they didn’t lead anywhere.
Next time I am going to tell you in detail what worked and what didn’t so that you do not have to repeat my mistakes and also what to pay attention to before signing a contract with a foreign publisher.
And if you fancy some inspiration to boldly go into new territory, I have a Star Trek music parody for you.
Warning: Only click on it if you are up for a little silliness 😉