Translating self-published books is a challenge
One big hurdle in translating self-published books and ebooks has been the expense. There is no doubt that the market price for translating a full-length novel is out of financial reach for most self-published authors.
An interesting model, which overcomes the expense of translating fiction, in particular, is being offered by a new site called Babelcube. 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 they state:
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 that net royalties from aggregators such as Smashwords, 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 money maker.
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, I would be very interested in hearing about your experience.