The best way to approach a publisher about a translation
Thread poster: Efriedeman
Japanese to English
+ ...
May 20, 2008

Hi all,

I have a fantastic book that I want to translate and then get published, how can I go about this?
Do I submit a few chapters directly to publishers?
What is the legal issue? Can I submit a translation without permission from the original publisher?
This particular case is further complicated because I'd be translating from a previous translation (I don't speak the original language), but I'd appreciate any general help, too.

Thank you,


[Subject edited by staff or moderator 2008-05-20 16:17]

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ViktoriaG  Identity Verified
Local time: 02:22
English to French
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Translation rights May 20, 2008

First, you need to check if the translation rights for the language you want to translate the book into are available. They may have already been sold or they may not yet exist. In case they have been sold, you would need to contact the publisher/editor who has bought them to see if they have already taken arrangements to get the book translated. If they haven't, you can offer to translate the book.

You need to keep in mind that the original publisher is not really the one you need to be dealing with, since in the overwhelming majority of cases, the foreign-language edition is published by a publisher who works out of the country where the target language is spoken.

In case, the translation rights are available, you need to find a publisher in your country who may be interested in piublishing the translation. You need to sell them the opportunity of publishing your translation. If they buy into it, then they will contact the publisher who has the translation rights, and if they succeed in their undertaking, they will buy the translation rights. Then, they will propose to you to translate the book.

So, in a nutshell, it is with a local publisher that you would deal, and it is to them that you would need to present your translated excerpts. This often involves buying a copy of the book and lending that to them along with your translation samples.

All the best!

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Tina Vonhof  Identity Verified
Local time: 00:22
Member (2006)
Dutch to English
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It doesn't work that way May 20, 2008

Hello Elizabeth,

Many of us know of fantastic books that we would just love to translate but it doesn't work that way. First, there are copyright issues to consider. Secondly, it is usually the publisher who initiates the translation of a book. Most publishers already have a stable of experienced translators they rely on and it is very difficult to get accepted into that. The only way might be if you knew the author and he or she would recommend you.

Most importantly, you should not translate a text that is already a translation without speaking the original language - an absolute no-no in my opinion. That's a bit like playing the game where one person whispers something to the next person, that person passes it on to the next person and so on and so forth, until the person at the end of the line hears something completely different from what was originally said.

Concentrate on becoming a good translator in your language pairs, maybe even try to specialize in literary translation if you get a chance, and who knows what opportunities may present itself in the future.

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D BANNON  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 02:22
Korean to English
Excellent Guides Available May 20, 2008


The American Literary Translators Association (ALTA), of which I am a member, has published 4 excellent (and free) guides on this topic. Hope this helps!

ALTA Guides to Literary Translation

In 2000, ALTA published the first brochure in the series, " Breaking into Print."

In 2001, ALTA published the second brochure in the series, " The Book-Length Translation Proposal."

In 2002, ALTA published the third brochure in the series, " Promoting Your Literary Translation."

In 2003, ALTA published the fourth brochure in the series, " Getting Started in Literary Translation."

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Japanese to English
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Thank you May 21, 2008

Thank you for the alternating encouraging and discouraging advice, it's all helpful. I'll check out those ALTA guides and see what they recommend. And thank you Viktoria, for the practical info, I would've thought to deal with the original publisher.


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