How to get a publishing house to publish a translation
Thread poster: norwegianblue

norwegianblue  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 05:35
English to Polish
+ ...
Sep 12, 2011

Hi all

there are a couple of books that I would like to translate from English to Polish. Needless to say I'm a total beginner in this respect and need advice from more experienced colleagues.

My original idea was to translate the books, and then find a publishing house in Poland that would be interested in publishing it (I live in the UK).

But then the more I think about it, the more doubts I have: should I contact the original publishing house first? Who takes care of copyrights? Should I contact a publishing house in Poland first and present the idea?

I would much appreciate any suggestions from someone who knowsicon_smile.gif


Take care
Agnieszka


 

Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 05:35
Member (2008)
Italian to English
How about this? Sep 12, 2011

I've worked quite a bit with publishing houses. The way they do it is: they prepare a leaflet and other info about the proposed book, perhaps with a couple of sample chapters already translated, and a description of what the book will be about, why it deserves to be published, and why it will sell. This description should follow the standard "book proposal" format all publishers recognise.

Then you have to attend one of the more important international book fairs, and go round the stands talking to the publishers about your proposal. In the UK it's the London Book Fair but if you are proposing to publish in Polish you would need to go to the equivalent Book Fair in Poland.

Alternatively you could look for a literary agent of the appropriate kind, and they will do all this for you (they'll want to be paid, of course) and will make sure you get a good deal in the shark-infested waters that are the publishing world.

Some of those sharks can seem very charming, too. I've been seriously ripped off by publishers who commissioned books from me but then never paid me any royalties, sold on the rights to third parties etc. I've seen one of my books published in China, and I never got any money. That was because I didn't have a literary agent to look after my interests.

So you need to be careful. You're entering a den of thieves.

[Edited at 2011-09-12 13:23 GMT]


 

David Hayes  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 06:35
Member (2009)
French to English
Don't worry too much Sep 12, 2011

I have published two English translations of French books (both with the same publishing house, although the second book was almost accepted by a different publisher). The main interest in contacting the original publishling house yourself is to find out if they are aware of any existing projects to translate the same book. They can also put you in touch with the original author if he/ she is still alive. For my first book, another translation was already in progress! I made contact with the translator and he willingly abandoned his attempt due to lack of time.

Rights etc., at least in my case, were delat with by the two publishing houses. I had no role in these discussions.

You need to target the subject and style of your book to the publishing house. Most are very proud of what they consider to be their target audience and only publish books likely to be of commercial interest. You will get many, many refusals. Literary agents are needed for blockbusters, but they probably won't be interested if the book is of limited interest.

Always sign a contract with any publishing house BEFORE delivering your translation. This enables you to get things clear regarding royalties etc. The bigger publishing houses may even pay an advance.


 

Olga Hatzigeorgiou  Identity Verified
Greece
Local time: 07:35
English to Greek
+ ...
my experience Sep 13, 2011

Agnieszka hi,
I am from Greece and had done the procedure Tom describes. But I found it difficult and time consuming. And you will get too many rejects before you find anyone that would be interested. Also here in greece, is not so much worth the trouble. The money for the translation of the book are nothing (about 1000 euros for a book of 250 pages) considering the time consumed for its translation. And the royalties ..... I will tell you if I get something at the end of the year (my first book translation came out in April, I waited almost a year after the end of the translation for the editing and the printing). At this moment I have three books in my hands, semi-translated and awaiting for someone to buy the rights in order to print it here.
You must always at the beginning contact the author or his/her publishing house in order to declare your interest and to find out if there is already a translation in the language you are interested in. Then you prepare sample, along with details about the author and his/her work and at least a covering letter stating why you are finding it interesting. This is the "proposal". You will send the "proposal" through regular and electronic mail to as many publishers as you can in the target country. If it is feasible you can go and visit as many publishing houses as you can or meet them in a Book Fair and give them your samples. And then you wait for their evaluation of the book. They are making the negotiations about the rights (this may take from one week to months). After you find anyone who is interested to buy your translation of a specific book, the only thing you have to do is to translate the book (which you can do during your free time and while you are awaiting for answers). When you get answers, either yes or no, it is o.k., you have some feedback. If you don't get any, you must resend samples and await again and again and again. The first book came very easy, the next ones ..... I am chasing them about a year.
Anyway, I agree with the gentlemen. You must always sign a contract BEFORE delivering the final translation. You must find all the publishing houses in the target country (I think it might be difficult, you living in UK and trying to find publishing houses in Poland) and you must contact the author or his/her publishing house. You must know what you will get before handing the translation. But above all, you must not get anxious, you must be patient and something will come out
About the literary agent, I think that you might need him if you were the writer. As a translator I don't think that you need one.
In your case, the most difficult thing is the target country I think!
Wish you success in your endeavours!


 

Stefanie Sendelbach  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 06:35
Member (2003)
English to German
+ ...
What do you do... Sep 13, 2011

...if the publisher likes the book, decides to publish it, but chooses another translator? Afterall he is not obliged to accept your offer, even though you might have given him the lead to that particular book.

Has this happened to anyone? Is it somehow avoidable?

Just curious.

Stefanie

[Edited at 2011-09-13 16:02 GMT]


 

Olga Hatzigeorgiou  Identity Verified
Greece
Local time: 07:35
English to Greek
+ ...
my fear too Sep 13, 2011

@ Stefanie,
this is my worst fear. It didn't happened, but I am always afraid that it might happen. If someone gets interested and I don't have a positive answer after 10 days, I will send a reminder and I will start to see the new releases in their website.
I think that you might avoid it if YOU contact directly the author and his publisher, in order to declare your interest.
MAYBE....


 

Stefanie Sendelbach  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 06:35
Member (2003)
English to German
+ ...
Thoughts Sep 13, 2011

Olga Hatzigeorgiou wrote:
I think that you might avoid it if YOU contact directly the author and his publisher, in order to declare your interest.
MAYBE....


Hi Olga,

I, too, am interested in translating a book, and I have actually written the (US American) author a while ago. She was interested in a German translation of her book and even offered to get me in touch with her publisher.

But having her consent and even the contact to her publisher doesn't help me if I haven't yet found a German publisher who signs the contract with ME. Maybe they will think I'm too expensive or they won't like my style or maybe they have simply have enough other translators on the line...

Due to these thoughts (and the fact that I am also too busy with other work) I haven't yet made the effort to prepare a nice presentation (abstract, sample translations, cover letter, etc.) of "my" book project. Maybe I'll do it one day. The book would be worth it!icon_smile.gif

Stefanie


 

norwegianblue  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 05:35
English to Polish
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thank you! Sep 14, 2011

Dear all


many many thanks for all the insights. As I feared, it is a complicated business and there is even more to think about than I expected... I will definitely take all your warnings seriously - many thanks again.

Agnieszka


 

jarmen
German to English
+ ...
Thank You! Feb 10, 2012

... for the advice and tips. I am in a similar situation as Agniezska, and you have pointed the way out to me. Thanks!

 

Olga Hatzigeorgiou  Identity Verified
Greece
Local time: 07:35
English to Greek
+ ...
better late than ever..... Feb 11, 2012

@ Stefanie,
I am in this difficult position. I have the consent of the authors but I cannot find a publisher here to publish the books, I am trying for a year and a half - for the same books - they are showing some interest, but afterwards nothing. They tell me they have their own translators, they have closed their publishing program for this year, or that they have difficulties with the foreign publishing house (they don't answer, the rights are too expensive)............... and so on. If you have other job to do, do it and leave the books out.... they are paying too little...........
Have a nice weekend
Olga


 

Neil Coffey  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 05:35
French to English
+ ...
If the authors have rights... Feb 11, 2012

Olga Hatzigeorgiou wrote:
@ Stefanie,
I am in this difficult position. I have the consent of the authors but I cannot find a publisher here to publish the books


I'm confused: If the authors have the translation rights and have agreed for you to do the translation, then couldn't you consider self-publishing?


 

Olga Hatzigeorgiou  Identity Verified
Greece
Local time: 07:35
English to Greek
+ ...
@ Neil Feb 11, 2012

Yes, there is the possibility to self-publish, but it not so commonly used here in Greece. Also, you can do it ONLY if the author has the rights. If the rights are owned by a publishing house, it will be too expensive

 


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