Translating Books into Multiple Languages: A Complete Guide
You have written your book; that’s great! But what next? Have you considered the idea of translating books into other languages? When done correctly, translating books can help you reach broader audiences and share your words with the world. However, if you don’t know how to translate books professionally, the task can seem daunting.
This article looks more closely at book translation, helping you decide whether translating books is the right avenue for you. We also offer tips on getting the best book translation services possible and how to choose the right languages for your writing.
Why Get your Book Translated?
The benefits of book translation are clear: When you translate books into a new language, you increase the number of people who can read your book. This opens a new, broader international market for your book. It makes it possible to speak across generations and cultures, enriching people worldwide with your stories and ideas.
You can also broaden your fanbase by translating books. Your biggest audience might be in a language you don’t speak. With a skilled translator who is experienced in book translation, you can reach that audience and improve the success of your writing.
What Languages Should I Translate Books into?
One of the biggest problems preventing writers from translating books is not knowing how to choose a language for translation. Unfortunately, there is no concrete answer; there are lots of factors to consider, including the following elements:
- Genre Popularity: Where is your genre of book popular? For example, Swedish and Norwegian thrillers are incredibly popular in the United Kingdom. As such, translating a Scandinavian thriller into English is a good idea. Fiction is popular in Germany. Meanwhile, in France, non-fiction is popular.
- Market Size: Another thing to consider is the market size. In 2017, the USA made up 30% of the worldwide book market, while the UK accounted for 4%. English translation services are therefore a wise idea for books written in other languages. Across Europe, the largest book markets are Germany, France, Spain, and Italy. Translating books into any of these languages could equally be good for driving sales and revenue.
- Translation Budget: Your budget is also an important consideration. You can choose to translate books into one or many foreign languages. If your budget is modest, start with one language, and translate into more languages over time. Translating into commonly spoken languages is cheaper than rendering texts into more niche languages.
How Does Book Translation Work?
Now that you have chosen your language(s) for your book, the next step is the translation itself. We always recommend hiring qualified translators when translating books. Professional translators typically follow a three-step process called TEP (translating, editing, proofreading). This ensures that your translation is accurate and that the message is retained.
Professional translation services are also done with the true meaning of the book in mind. This practice involves contextualisation and localisation, and goes further than a word-for-word translation. A word-for-word translation can lose sense and clarity, which could confuse or frustrate readers. On the converse, retaining context when you translate books keeps your readers engaged and happy.
How Much Does Translating Books Cost?
The cost of translation can vary significantly depending on several factors. Most professional translators quote projects based on their length. Therefore, the length of the book is the primary consideration; a short novella will cost less to translate than a 400-page novel.
The language pairing also affects how much it costs to translate books. The language pair is the language the original content and the language you want to translate into. More unusual combinations of language pairs are often more expensive. This is because translating books into rare languages is a specialist skill with few linguists able to take on the project.
Deadlines can also affect the cost of book translation services. A short deadline will push up the cost of your book translation, whereas having a longer timetable will help keep the cost of translating your book down. If you want to a cost-effective book translation service, ensure you give as much time as possible to your language partner.
Can you Translate Books without Permissions?
You do not need permission to translate a book for personal use. However, if you intend to sell or distribute a translation of a book, you will need written permission from the copyright holder. There are a few exceptions to this in which you can translate books without copyright permission:
- If you are the author or the copyright holder
- If the copyright has expired and entered the public domain
- If the book was published before copyright laws were created
Before translating books, you may need to research copyright laws and current copyright holders. You can find information about when a book was first published on the first few pages of the book. It will also name the publisher and author. The author is usually the copyright holder. However, sometimes the publisher can be the copyright holder.
There are websites for book catalogues that you can also use to find the copyright status of a book. If the book was first published in America, the Library of Congress and the U.S. Copyright Office have information about its copyright status. Websites like Project Gutenberg also hold collections of public-domain books that can be translated freely without permission.
Trust our Professional Book Translation Services
Renaissance Translations maintains a network of over 5,000 professional translators and offers high-quality translations in over 120 languages. This makes us the one-stop shop for translating books of all lengths and genres. Whether you need a translation into one language or ten, we are here to help your reach your full audience.
Our company is member of the Association of Translation Companies in England as well as SDL LSP Partner Programme. We have helped hundreds of clients with their needs and are sure we can provide book translation services you’ll love. Click here and tell us more about your book translation project, or request a quote through our website.