Learn How To Translate A Book For Self-Published Authors

Translate A Book

Translating a book for self-published authors is a challenge. One big hurdle has been the expense.

There is no doubt that the market price for translating their work by a professional translator for a full-length novel is out of financial reach for most self-published authors.

An interesting model, which overcomes the expense of translating projects for fiction, in particular, is being offered by a new site called Babelcube. It uses freelance translators to help in publishing a book in a foreign language.

From the introduction to their services, it sounds promising.

Babelcube for authors and publishers

Publish Your Books In Other Languages!

Cost = $0. Just share the royalties
Sell your book in 10+ languages
Choose your translator. Or a team of them
Sell through 300+ language-specific online retail channels with ease
Earn additional income from new markets

While this sounds very interesting, digging into the fine print of the FAQs, there are a few issues that authors would need to consider carefully.

The most important, of course, is who holds the rights?


Who owns the copyright of the translated version of the book?

The rights holder of the original version of the book, typically the author or publisher, maintains the copyright of the translated book, including the associated material such as the cover.


What rights to the translated book does Babelcube have?

Babelcube owns the distribution rights for the translated book for the first five years.

After which, the rights holder can decide to continue using Babelcube’s global distribution network or sell the book via any alternative method they choose.

This ensures the translator(s) will be fairly compensated for their efforts.

Another issue is how translated versions of the books are sold.

In Babelcube’s FAQs, it answers this question:


Where will the translated books be available?

We will sell your books through numerous sales channels:

All major global retailers: Amazon, Google, Apple, Nook, Kobo, Scribd
300+ regional and country online retailers
1,000+ public libraries (for books in English)

However, when you click on the link of numerous sales channels, it looks very much like standard aggregation and distribution through Smashwords and Amazon.

When you then look at the revenue share that is offered by Babelcube, you would have to factor in net royalties from aggregators such as Smashwords that would probably be in the vicinity of 60% or less of the retail selling price.

With such a low return to the author of 30% of net royalties, plus the consideration that translated books might not sell in huge numbers, it may not be a big moneymaker over your English language version.

However, it is an opportunity perhaps for those authors who wish to test the water or expand their readership.

If you would like to investigate the pros and cons of translating self-published ebooks or books, I found there two interesting threads that are worth reading.

This conversation thread on Proz.com, which is a site used primarily by translators, looks at Babelcube from a translator’s perspective.

While this thread on Kindle Boards is obviously from the author’s perspective.

If you have used the services of Babelcube for translating self-published titles, or any other publishing houses that offer literary translators, I would be very interested in hearing about your experience.


More reading: What You Need To Do Before You Self-Publish A Book

Derek Haines

A Cambridge CELTA English teacher and author with a passion for writing and all forms of publishing. My days are spent teaching English and writing, as well as testing and taming new technology.

3 thoughts on “Learn How To Translate A Book For Self-Published Authors

  • September 17, 2017 at 10:14 pm

    As a professional translator and teacher of translation, I shudder at some of the remarks.
    Literary translation requires knowledge and dedication rather than a dictionary or software. A ‘starting point’ is not realistic in literature. It is true that a very basic functional translation might work well in a technical field. However, you require significant experience to edit a computer-generated translation effectively.
    An author keeps the right to translations unless otherwise stated in a contract. It is best to add a clause about translation to any contract to be sure.

    The feast of St. Jerome, the patron saint of translators, is celebrated soon. In that spirit, I ask that we respect and recognize the profession.

  • November 2, 2015 at 9:36 am

    A couple of minor corrections. Babelcube is not new, and they do not distribute through Smashwords.

    I use Babelcube very effectively and know plenty of indie authors who have had success with them.

    The downsides are that the translators are not vetted, and the author needs to do their homework both in selecting a partner-translator and in checking the material afterwards.

    But as an easy way into the non-English-language markets Babelcube is a great starting point.

    As to royalties, for most indie authors it is a simple matter of x-percent of something from a foreign market as opposed to 100% of nothing. But the roaylties are actually very fair to all parties.

    For those wanting a route into China Fiberead offer a similar service for Chinese translations and distribution in China.

    • January 17, 2016 at 9:58 am

      Hey Mark, Fascinating, Thanks. How does one check the translator and their work if they can’t speak the language? Does running samples through Google Translate suffice?


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