Promoting a client's book in the USA
Thread poster: Robert Dunn

Robert Dunn  Identity Verified
Local time: 13:09
Member (2013)
German to English
+ ...
Aug 14, 2013

To make a long story short, I am currently in the final stages of translating a book for a client from Europe.

I already have been paid the relevant milestones for the work and am now doing a final proofreading/editing job before I can call it a done deal.

He now wants me to help him market/promote the book in the USA by contacting publishers, and potential sponsors, which goes beyond my work as a translator, even though he has said he would introduce me as the translator in the book.

This, of course, would mean extra publicity for me (if the book is successful), but it means a bit of work besides my normal translation duties and other things I have to do in life, and as freelancers, time is money.

Would it be worth it? What would you guys do in my position?


Kevin Fulton  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 13:09
German to English
Contact a literary agent Aug 14, 2013

If this book has already been published, you should be able to find a literary agent willing to market the book to publishers. Back when I was publishing articles and fiction, I used Writer's Market, (look up the URL) to look for possible publishers/agents. Crafting a query letter to an agent/publisher is an art in itself.

Based on my experience, I would do this on a paid/royalty basis only, with a fee up front for composing the query letter and contacting agents, as there's a lot of work involved. Why use an agent? You don't want to be the middleman in the negotiations.


S P Willcock (X)  Identity Verified
Local time: 20:09
German to English
+ ...
more details please? Aug 14, 2013

It depends on a number of factors, mostly what kind of book it is and how that relates to your future plans. I'm cheered to here that you found a client who wanted an English translation without a publisher's contract in place, but I understand your concern about the next step.

If the book is a rip-snorting thriller that has sold in the hundreds of thousands, and you want to translate genre fiction for the rest of the decade, then it makes sense to put a lot of time into promoting this title. If the book is a tourist guide to some little patch of Europe where you've never visited, and now that you're done you'd rather go back to lucrative legal clients, then less so.

More context please!


The Misha
Local time: 13:09
Russian to English
+ ...
It's a fool's errand most likely Aug 15, 2013

Not to undermine what the other two gentlemen said - it is all true - trying to sell a previously unpublished foreign book in the US is a waste of time and effort, unless you have some huge media syndicate behind you. I am assuming it is unpublished because otherwise the author wouldn't be paying for the translation out of pocket and you, most likely, wouldn't be doing the translation. Unless you are charging by the hour and getting paid up front, there's easier ways to make a buck.


Woodstock  Identity Verified
Local time: 19:09
Member (2005)
German to English
+ ...
I have been in a similar position, Aug 15, 2013

but it was years ago when I was young and naive. I quickly realized that a) with no experience in that field, I had absolutely no qualification to do that kind of work, b) it would be all-consuming and c) unlikely to be successful without connections (usually built up over years of experience and networking). If you have time to experiment in an enormously competitive and complex field, fine, but if you don't - it will probably be a waste of time and frustrating to boot. Publishing print anything (books, newspapers, magazines, etc.) in the US is a rapidly shrinking field, so the long-term prospects are dim. Finding an agent is another thing, but that in itself won't be an easy task, either, I would imagine, and no guarantee of success. The biggest elephant in the room: The American economy. With the US still in very slow recovery from the worst recession since the 30s resulting in there not being much money among the (millions of unemployed) masses for books, finding a publisher in that kind of economic environment would be daunting, I imagine. I'm pretty well-informed on this kind of stuff because I'm active on political and other blogs in my native US where a number of writers also post, but I'm still no expert. However, a little research on the state of the publishing industry in the US would probably confirm what has been written here, in case your client is not convinced by what the other commenters and I have said.

In my case it was a favor for a friend whose book for a niche market I was to translate, providing I found a publisher to pay for it since he was in no position to do so. Well, I decided that it was not such a great idea, and he was ok with my decision. We' ve lost touch in the meantime, so I don't know if it was ever translated. I will try again with my recently deceased aunt's wonderfully entertaining travel book, but only when I have a lot of spare time, and then I will most likely publish it as an e-book.


Graham Poole  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 13:09
Member (2008)
Russian to English
Gently back out... Aug 15, 2013 what I would do. In a way that won't offend the client, of course, but if you have no skills as a literary agent (a highly specialized area in itself), then it would likely be a fool's errand, as The Misha said.

I was once also in a similar situation, asked if I could help publish a book in the U.S. that I had translated from Russian into English. This would have been extremely time consuming, with no guaranteed results, so I politely declined (yet still got paid for the translation) on the grounds that I was simply not qualified to help and wouldn't actually know where to start.

No more than I am qualified (which I didn't mention) to extract teeth or launch spacecraft. Alas...


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