A thought about an experiment in translation

This is on my personal blog instead of the RIDE blog because it’s just me thinking aloud.

Any literary translators out there?

So I was thinking it would be nice to have RIDE available in other languages, but then I thought, No, each translation would probably cost too much to make sense.

So then I thought, what about a royalty split? Translator gets a percentage. But then I thought, No, I had to stop doing royalty splits with authors because the accounting is so impossible, plus it’s kind of insulting to say, Hey, do all this work and you might get a fraction of what I get out of it.

So then I thought, what if the translator just gets all the sales income and I don’t get any part of it?

And then I thought, I’m not actually seeing a down side for anybody here. I wouldn’t make any money, for either my editing/design/production or my own story, but that’s not the same as a loss. The story authors and the artist would be in a similar situation: they’ve been paid and aren’t seeing anything more coming in after that anyway, and any author/artist who didn’t want to participate could just say no thanks. The translator wouldn’t get paid up front, but they wouldn’t have to spend anything, either, and after doing the work, they’d be the foreign publisher. So the first penny that came in on that edition would go directly to them—and so would the ten-thousandth penny.

Since we’re not dealing in physical copies, but rather in .epub, .mobi, and .pdf files, and I’d do the production work (slotting the translated stories into existing files where the English stories currently reside, changing the title on the cover from RIDE to whatever word now goes there, sending the files to the translator) without compensation as part of the experiment, there is no out-of-pocket expense for anybody, just some work for me and some work for the translator.

Translator starts their own accounts at Amazon, Lightning Source, B&N, iBooks, etc., uploads the files, talks it up online, and gets some money. How much money? I have no idea. Not a ton; RIDE isn’t The Hunger Games, and it only exists because I love bikes and wanted to read short stories about them, not because I did any market research. But the money also wouldn’t be zero.

But that’s the experiment’s main question: Is this a viable plan? Would everyone benefit enough to keep doing it? Would there be any kind of “rising tide floats all boats” effect? Would the expansion of the series into more languages help each edition sell more because the series itself becomes better known? Would anybody but the translator end up getting anything out of it? Would the translator get more than a few bucks?

I don’t know. It’s all question, no answer, at this point. But that’s my half-formed idea. What do you think?

If you comment, please include who you are, where you are, and what you do, so I can understand what perspective to read your comment from: Writer, publisher, translator, reader, know-it-all (pick just one, please), continental U.S., Fiji Islands…

translation_idea

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3 Comments

Filed under Anthologies, Books, ebook production, Fiction, Short stories

3 responses to “A thought about an experiment in translation

  1. Kevin q. Callahan

    Nice idea. Go for countries / languages with robust bike cultures, racing, commuting, randonneuring, etcing. I think maybe a split (80/20?) with translator on top is better than all for translator. You have an awful lot invested there; don’t give it away.

    • 80/20 does sound fair, but that brings in accounting and paperwork and stuff I just don’t want to deal with. (Plus…see “Not Hunger Games,” above. 20% of a small amount is even less worth it. I’d rather see more people get bike stories and be happy.)

  2. Joe DeCanto

    Reader from South Florida. Great idea that could lead to more income for you. You would have sales figures for sales of Bike 1 and 2 in different languages. You could then offer future translators a set fee to translate, since you now have a reasonable idea of how many Bike 3′s will sell in German and Italian.
    Best of luck.
    Joe

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