Where can I find untranslated books to get started with book translation?
Thread poster: Will Masters

Will Masters  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 17:49
Spanish to English
+ ...
Jan 8, 2012

Hi all,

I've done translations in a variety of different fields, and one that interests me (I love to read), and yet am still to do any paid work in, is book translation. I was wondering if there was anybody that would be able to offer me any advice as regards to how best to get some experience in this particular field. I've read through many of the questions posted in this particular forum, and generally the advice, from what I can see anyway, has been to first find a book that is currently unpublished and then take it from there. Now I understand this is likely to be a daft question, but does anybody have any advice on how to go about doing that? Are there any websites, for example, that have lists of books in different languages that are yet to be translated?

Thanks in advanceicon_smile.gif

Edited to correct title of post

[Edited at 2012-01-08 18:36 GMT]


 

xxxS P Willcock  Identity Verified
Local time: 18:49
German to English
+ ...
varies by language Jan 8, 2012

The situation with literary translation into English varies greatly by source language; in my own experience, New Books in German from the Goethe Institute is an excellent resource which many UK/US publishers follow with... let's say mild curiosity, if not outright interest. The Slovenian Public Agency for the Book is new-ish and not very busy, and the Romanian Cultural Institute has the terrible bad habit of giving the bulk of its work to L2 translators. I've never even looked into the Czech situation...

Things *will* be different in your languages. Try the Cervantes, the Instituto Dante Alighieri and the others, see if they have a New Books programme which runs to a website and even (as Goethe has) a magazine. If you're lucky, they will even be willing to take you on as a reader to produce précis descriptions of new titles, or sample chapter translations, to show to interested publishers.

The very best way however is to follow the foreign press directly, read book reviews and then get in touch with the publishers of titles you find interesting. Ask their Foreign Rights department which books have recently been sold, then turn to the English-language publishers who bought them, and offer your services as a translator. More often than not you will be turned down, because a translator has already been assigned, but at least you'll have made contact and the UK/US house may then think of you next time they buy a title.

The other option is to try to "sell" a book directly to an English publisher yourself, and to some extent this is increasingly becoming part of the literary translator's job description - scouts and spotters, as well as simple translators. I've never tried it because, living where I do, I find it very hard to get to the London Book Fair, and am too diffident to try this sort of sales push by email or telephone contact. One of my New Year's resolutions is to get myself a website, though, and try to get a reading blog going.

Then there's also the way-out-there option of going the self-publishing route, less risky in these days of the internet than it used to be given funding models where you needn't start work until you are assured of the sales; I've never seen anybody punting out a literary translation via Kickstarter, or the very new Unbound Books, but it is in theory possible, especially for older works that are in the public domain and you think a new translation might hit a chord.

Best of luck!


 

Usch Pilz
Local time: 17:49
English to German
+ ...
English to German - the other way round ... Jan 8, 2012

Hi,
in my experience (English to German) things happen the other way round. Publishers decide on a book they want translated and then find a translator or take it to an agency who will find a translator.
Even if a book has not been translated YET, this doesn't mean it has not been sold to a publisher for translation or even as an option already. It may just be sitting there for a while. So it is hard to find out the status of a book.
I have tried suggesting books for translation to publishers twice but never even heard back from them.
(That doesn't mean, it cannot happen, of course!)
For me, work usually arrives in the way described above.
Maybe things will be different in your language pair?
All the best!


 

Johanna Timm, PhD  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 08:49
Member (2002)
English to German
+ ...
German contemporary fiction available for translation Jan 9, 2012

Check this site: http://www.new-books-in-german.com/english/273/273/129002/liste9.html


Enjoy and good luck!

johanna


 

isabel murillo  Identity Verified
Local time: 17:49
English to Spanish
+ ...
Exactly the same in Spain (English to Spanish) Jan 9, 2012

Usch Pilz wrote:

in my experience (English to German) things happen the other way round. Publishers decide on a book they want translated and then find a translator or take it to an agency who will find a translator.


The same happens in Spain: publishers decide the books they want translated and then choose a translator from their translator's pool. So my recommendation is to get in touch with the publishing houses, send them your cv, translated samples, etc. and try to get into their pool.

In my case, and I have 20 years of experience as book's translator, work always arrives in this way.

All the best!


 

JoFP
Local time: 17:49
French to English
+ ...
Go to the library Mar 4, 2012

Go to the library; check out an anthology (an older one, preferably) of stories in a language you translate from. Are there any stories you particularly liked? If so, check the library for more books by the authors of those stories. Have these books been translated into English? No? Well, get started.

Other posters have suggested keeping an eye on the literary pages of the papers in the relevant countries or visiting the sites of the national literature promotion agencies; these aren't necessarily bad suggestions, but both papers and agencies will probably be stressing new, popular releases that, for any number of reasons, will never be entrusted to beginning translators; these books will be agented commodities.

In the U.S., the big publishers know what they want to bring out (dreck, basically) and they hire from their stable of translators; the smaller publishers are more receptive to books proposed directly by translators--but you'll still never get published.

For a lot of reasons, it might be better to work with source material that's in the public domain (if you think it's hard getting translated work published, you haven't tried getting the translation rights from a foreign publisher). You can then publish the translations yourself, "à compte de traducteur," as it were, and sell them as e-books on Amazon or other online retailers. It's far more gratifying than submitting pointless proposals to publisher after publisher.

The United States Pen website has (or had) a page listing books in several languages that several Pen member-translators thought should be translated into English. The list isn't tremendously helpful, partly because you get the feeling that the books that the translators nominate are books they want to translate themselves and partly because it's old and some of the books listed have since been translated. But it's still interesting.


 

Gulnara Krokhaleva  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 17:49
Member (2013)
Spanish to Russian
+ ...
The same Engilsh-Russian Mar 4, 2013

JoFP wrote:

Go to the library; check out an anthology (an older one, preferably) of stories in a language you translate from. Are there any stories you particularly liked? If so, check the library for more books by the authors of those stories. Have these books been translated into English? No? Well, get started.

Other posters have suggested keeping an eye on the literary pages of the papers in the relevant countries or visiting the sites of the national literature promotion agencies; these aren't necessarily bad suggestions, but both papers and agencies will probably be stressing new, popular releases that, for any number of reasons, will never be entrusted to beginning translators; these books will be agented commodities.

In the U.S., the big publishers know what they want to bring out (dreck, basically) and they hire from their stable of translators; the smaller publishers are more receptive to books proposed directly by translators--but you'll still never get published.

For a lot of reasons, it might be better to work with source material that's in the public domain (if you think it's hard getting translated work published, you haven't tried getting the translation rights from a foreign publisher). You can then publish the translations yourself, "à compte de traducteur," as it were, and sell them as e-books on Amazon or other online retailers. It's far more gratifying than submitting pointless proposals to publisher after publisher.

The United States Pen website has (or had) a page listing books in several languages that several Pen member-translators thought should be translated into English. The list isn't tremendously helpful, partly because you get the feeling that the books that the translators nominate are books they want to translate themselves and partly because it's old and some of the books listed have since been translated. But it's still interesting.


 

Gulnara Krokhaleva  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 17:49
Member (2013)
Spanish to Russian
+ ...
Thank you very mauch! Mar 9, 2013

SoyGulnara wrote:

JoFP wrote:

Go to the library; check out an anthology (an older one, preferably) of stories in a language you translate from. Are there any stories you particularly liked? If so, check the library for more books by the authors of those stories. Have these books been translated into English? No? Well, get started.

Other posters have suggested keeping an eye on the literary pages of the papers in the relevant countries or visiting the sites of the national literature promotion agencies; these aren't necessarily bad suggestions, but both papers and agencies will probably be stressing new, popular releases that, for any number of reasons, will never be entrusted to beginning translators; these books will be agented commodities.

In the U.S., the big publishers know what they want to bring out (dreck, basically) and they hire from their stable of translators; the smaller publishers are more receptive to books proposed directly by translators--but you'll still never get published.

For a lot of reasons, it might be better to work with source material that's in the public domain (if you think it's hard getting translated work published, you haven't tried getting the translation rights from a foreign publisher). You can then publish the translations yourself, "à compte de traducteur," as it were, and sell them as e-books on Amazon or other online retailers. It's far more gratifying than submitting pointless proposals to publisher after publisher.

The United States Pen website has (or had) a page listing books in several languages that several Pen member-translators thought should be translated into English. The list isn't tremendously helpful, partly because you get the feeling that the books that the translators nominate are books they want to translate themselves and partly because it's old and some of the books listed have since been translated. But it's still interesting.


 


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