Translation for Indie Authors – Where to Begin

Translation for Indie Authors – Where to Begin
May 27, 2019 No Comments » For Authors Phoebe Darqueling

Thanks to modern technology, independent authors have more creative license over their own works than ever before. With this boom in self-publishing, it is now possible for writers to publish their books to an international market if they choose, as well as to a domestic readership. Once a daunting project reserved for big publishing houses and best-selling authors, you can these days accomplish the translation of your manuscript into another language quickly and easily with help from professional translation services that specialize in literary translation. If you are itching to have your manuscript published in a foreign market, this article will provide you with some basics on how to begin.

How to Find the Right Translation Company When You Don’t Speak the Language

When you don’t speak the language of your target audience, it can be difficult to evaluate which agency will provide the best translation of your work. Most translation agencies have testimonials on their websites, but you should look for one that will also give you references that you can contact on your own, as well as seeking out online reviews. Another way to judge the quality of the work is by looking at the other clients for whom your preferred agency provides language services. You can see an example of translation services like this here. If the agency is working with well-known corporations or other businesses with which you are familiar, the chances are good that their level of service is up to par.

You may also want to find out what type of certifications the translation company holds. The European Union Associations of Translation Companies (EUATC) and the American Translators Association (ATA) are just two of the organizations that provide professional certifications in the translation industry. A language services agency that holds these certifications or requires their translators to obtain certification can generally be relied upon for producing high-quality deliverables.

Why Localization Is Vital to Your Foreign Language Translation

As an author, you’ve likely worked diligently to bring your personal style and tone into your work and would like to retain as much of your own voice as possible in the new translation. However, writers face several unique challenges when they decide to publish in another language. Certain words in English may not exist in other languages, so the translator will need to change them in order to reflect your meaning without distorting it. We rely heavily on idiomatic phrases in the English language. Expressions like “hit the books,” “sit tight,” “cold turkey,” “blow off steam,” and hundreds of others can’t just be translated word for word in a foreign language without completely confusing the reader. This is where localization services come in.

Your professional translation service should provide you with native translators who understand the cultural nuances of your readers and can take these idioms and find a proper way to convert them into your target language. These translation and localization experts will identify nuances and subtleties that you are unaware of that, but that might enhance your writing and make it more suitable for your foreign readers. Similarly, cultural traditions vary widely, and a native professional translator will be able to pick up on any subject matter that might be taboo or offensive to the target audience.

Why You Need a Foreign Language Editor for Your Translation

As a writer, you already know how important an editor is when it comes to fine-tuning your manuscript. It is equally important to have a foreign language editor check your translated work. Ideally, the translator will have done such an excellent job that very little will need to be altered. But a translator, no matter how good they are, is no substitute for a professional editor.

Like your translator, your foreign language editor should be a highly skilled linguist and a native of your target audience. They should be able to retain your style while correcting grammar and syntax so that your main story or subject remains mostly unchanged.

When it comes time for final editing, you want to be sure that your translation flows seamlessly to the reader. A professional translation agency that specializes in literary translation will have access to vetted, competent, editors who can help you put the finishing touches on your manuscript in many different languages.

Maintain a Highly Productive Relationship with Your Translator

A translator is, in some ways, like a co-author of your book, so establishing a great working relationship with them from the start will help you both achieve perfect results. People who have never had translation work done for them are often unaware of the amount of time and effort that goes into this highly specialized occupation. So, before you begin, here are a few tips that can help the process to run smoothly:

  • Submit the final draft to your translator whenever possible
  • Submitting the first draft only to have to go back and forth with your translator on revisions can be derailing and may lead to burnout. Whenever possible, make sure your manuscript is complete and ready to go before handing a copy over for translation. Not only will this save time, but it will also save you money in the long run. Plus, it helps your translator understand the expectations up front. Few things are more frustrating than having to re-do work for clients who keep changing their minds.
  • Provide a style guide and glossary

If you have a specific style guide or glossary of common terms and abbreviations used for your English manuscript, provide a copy of this to your translator. These documents can help provide more structure to your translator and may be helpful to refer to as they work.

Be patient

Translation is complex and time-consuming. Allow ample time for your translator to complete the project. A translator uses an enormous amount of mental energy trying to get things just right, so make sure that your deadlines and expectations are reasonable. Checking in with your translation professional frequently to see if there is anything they need from you is a great way to foster warmth and friendliness while keeping tabs on progress.

Louise Taylor is the head of English content for Tomedes, a translation agency specializing in literary translation. She has written about language and translation for several years, covering a variety of subjects related to the language services industry.

Phoebe Darqueling Phoebe Darqueling is a speculative fiction writer who also runs You can find her writing in contributions to the Collaborative Writing Challenge, including their newest Steampunk release, Army of Brass. During the academic year, Phoebe is the Creative Director and curriculum writer for a creativity for middle school students, which has given her an understanding of and appreciation for intelligence and creativity of all shapes and sizes.

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