barbara-freethy-exactement-comme-tu-es-oSelf-publishing writers traditionally have to do or contract done everything themselves: writing, editing, layout and graphic design, and so on. Now you can add “translation” to the list. On PaidContent, Laura Hazard Owen reports on romance author Barbara Freethy, who has had three novels translated into foreign language editions that she can self-publish alongside the English versions.

“I hired a translator and a separate proofer to proof the translation for each book. In some instances I used a second proofer as well to make sure the translation was as accurate as it could possibly be. I went through for a couple of the translators and another was referred by an author to me. It’s a complicated process, but I do believe the global market is going to grow and I would love to make my stories available around the world in as many languages as possible.”

She has also licensed seven titles to a Brazilian publisher.

This is the first I’ve heard of self-publishing writers going quite that far, but it makes sense: translation is just another thing to have done to a manuscript, just like editing or layout. If an author thinks it will be worth it to have their work available in a foreign language, it seems to be a fairly simple process.

Of course, translation of books is relatively rare these days as most of the time there are enough books available already in a given language that publishers don’t feel like spending the extra money on translation even of popular foreign novels. But given how many fewer foreign-language e-books are around right now, perhaps Freethy has the right idea.


  1. Translating is always a complex task, but creative expression of any kind is by far the most difficult to translate. It is full of assumptions about the cultural “frame” through which its readers view the world. This frame varies significantly just between cultures speaking the same language (think US-UK), let alone between those which don’t.

    If you want to have your creative work translated, remember that it also has to be interpreted. The translator has to understand what you are trying to say, how you are trying to say it, and how to express that to a quite different audience.

    Independent proofreaders are a good idea, but so is an independent group of test readers in the second language. Get their feedback as the work is being translated. If your work is aimed at a wide audience, make sure your test group includes people of different educational backgrounds, and from different regions of the target country.

    (Disclosure: I have been involved in voluntary internationalization for many years.)

  2. The thing I’d most like to know is: how did she pay upfront? What did the royalty agreement look like? Why did she choose the languages she did? I agree. It would be hard to find a good literary translator (or to even know a talented one when you see it).

  3. Say you find a translator who understands what you are trying to say and then interprets it well for your target audience. You must be discerning in your choice of translators, but it is not so hard to find one who can do this, as this is their job. Then say you have good proofreaders and beta readers. What do you do next? Discovery is the real issue for books. Just putting a book up for sale is not enough on any market. You need to market it, and marketing is truly a cultural experience. Even your choice of book cover needs to be made with the target culture in mind. We translate French books into English, and in addition to translating, we copyedit them and work with the authors and translators to adapt them culturally if necessary. And then we have an intensive, targeted marketing plan. Yes, getting a book out to an audience in another country is a complex task.

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