SPS-271: How to Avoid Getting Lost in Translation – with Tanya Anne Crosby
Tanya Anne Crosby has been both traditionally and independently published. She is now also a publisher herself, shepherding others’ books into bookstores. Additionally she has experimented and learned the ropes around how translating books works.
- An update on James’ book
- On the pros and cons of AMG ads
- Suggestions for how to start with translations
- Tips on which languages to focus on
- How to market books in a language you don’t speak
- The process for working with a translator
- On the complexities of languages spoken in multiple countries
Resources mentioned in this episode:
COURSE: Self-Publishing 101 is open for enrolment for a limited time.
HANDOUT: Tanya has created a handout for those interested in translation
PATREON: Self Publishing Formula Show’s Patreon page
MERCH: Are you a ligneous beetle or a yawning hippopotamus? Get your SPF hoodies and t-shirts in the brand new SPF Store.
SPS-271: How to Avoid Getting Lost in Translation - with Tanya Anne Crosby
Voiceover: On this edition of The Self-Publishing Show.
Tanya Anne Crosby: Really what it boils down to is if I can make a living writing the books that I want to write, then I find that's my definition of success.
Voiceover: Publishing is changing, no more gatekeepers, no more barriers, no one standing between you and your readers. Do you want to make a living from your writing? Join indie bestseller Mark Dawson and first-time author James Blatch as they shine the light on the secrets of self-publishing success. This is The Self-Publishing Show. There's never been a better time to be a writer.
James Blatch: Hello and welcome, yes it is The Self-Publishing Show with me James Blatch.
Mark Dawson: And me Mark Dawson.
James Blatch: Sounding very melodic and hunky. Have you done something to your microphone? It's not the wrong way round is it?
Mark Dawson: Probably. I can see the blue light, I'm not sure. Yeah, I think that's right.
James Blatch: You can see the blue light, that's good. Good, excellent.
Well, let us before we do anything else, talk about anything else, and there are a few things to talk about, let us welcome our Patreon supporters, we have a new one actually, Tia Lindstrom.
And it's also that time of year because the 101 course is now open for its summer airing for two or three weeks, selfpublishingformula.com/101. But if your name is Julia Vee you don't need to go there, because Julia Vee is a Patreon supporter of ours and she has been plucked from the hat as a winner of the 101 course, we do that every year for Ads for Authors as well. Julia Vee, well done. And I think you've been a Patreon supporter of ours since July 2017 my notes say here, so thank you very much indeed, and I hope you enjoy the 101 course.
So yes, selfpublishingformula.com/101 is the place to go, you can learn everything about the course, everything that's in there, and then decide whether it's for you. And we've still got that 24-month COVID special payment plan in place, might be the last time we do that, but it's there at the moment.
The 101 course, Mark, we should just recap, this is the course when we sat and had that coffee in the BFI in 2015 and you said, "I've got this idea for an online course."
This really was the course you had in mind wasn't it?
Mark Dawson: Yes, I think it was. It was certainly part of it, the main part in terms of what to do if you're writing a novel about Vulcans, what you'd do to turn that novel into a finished product and get it out there. So, I decided in the end it was a bit too big for me to think about doing that as a first project, and then so what we said was make an even bigger course about advertising.
James Blatch: Yes.
Mark Dawson: But no, this is the course that goes from the moment you finish til... well, to getting the book out there and starting to sell copies, building your mailing list, your foundations, that kind of stuff. But it's super detailed, it's hours and hours and hours of content. And generally it seems to be quite well-received.
We've had a nice email in this morning actually. I sent an email out today about husband and wife teams, that wives typically who've retired their husbands, and I got an email back from someone, it's another husband and wife team checking in, the wife had just retired the husband and was thanking us for the course. So, that's always lovely to see that.
James Blatch: That is excellent, yes. It's the platform builder for those of us about to launch a book, this is having everything in place to try and make a commercial success of that. It will be open for two to three, probably two weeks beyond this podcast. And once again, selfpublishingformula.com/101. We do have a few short courses coming up, we'll talk more about those in the future weeks, one of them on launching a book.
So my book, little update. I got my edit back from Andrew Lowe, he's done a really good job. I don't know how editors work with other people but I was really happy with the way Andrew set things up. He gave me first of all a style sheet where he suggested and we agreed formats for various things such as numbers and dates and so on, and ranks and so on and aircraft names and capitalization and all that stuff that goes into my book as well.
He then gave me a completely unexpurgated set of edits, so this was a lot of them, and this was every comment that's been moved, every full stop, in a Word document. It's 500 odd pages, the book.
But in addition to that, he gave me a second version of it where he'd accepted and implemented all the stuff we'd agreed on from the style sheet. So, I didn't have to really worry about a lot of that stuff, having looked through it the first time and just made sure I was happy. And the second one's just left in there the stuff that I really need to action where he's made a change, like take the last sentence out of a scene because he thinks it works better without it, so that I can review that.
And in quite a few places I do a little bit of this. I don't know whether you did this in your early days of skipping conversation a bit, summarising, "So-and-so brought him up to date with where they were and then they went on their jolly way." And Andrew says, "Do you know what? We're reading this book to live these moments, and there's important little character developments. I'd rather have that conversation in the book."
So, he's made those suggestions quite often in my book, so I'm writing these little scenes, they're not taking long and I'm really enjoying it. It's a pleasurable part of the process having not to worry too much about the bigger structure, just polishing these scenes. And I am, as of this morning, 352 pages through the 500 odd there are. So, making good progress.
Mark Dawson: Have you booked a proofreader?
James Blatch: He is the proofreader as well. He's doing copy and proof.
Mark Dawson: So, is he going to see your changes?
James Blatch: Yes, they go back to him.
Mark Dawson: Okay, great.
James Blatch: Yeah, I've got little notes going back to him as well about what I've done. Which means at some point, because sitting in the corner staring at me and I haven't touched since I posted onto Facebook is the blurb.
Mark Dawson: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
James Blatch: Which I posted on your advice into our community group, and got slightly traumatised as a result of that. I didn't realise how traumatised, I thought... I can take criticism, that's fine. I don't think it was that, I think what it was, was when I came down... it was so all over the place, the criticism, and so relentless of it, that I'm paralysed now trying to write the blurb again. I can't write a sentence without thinking, "Everyone's going to hate it." So, that's where I am, I can't do anything, I've left it. Now I'm finished.
Mark Dawson: Right, okay. People are not going to like everything you do, but I think the thing to take away from that exercise was that it wasn't good enough.
James Blatch: Well, this is the sort of things that's paralysed me. That kind of vague, "It's not good enough."
Mark Dawson: Well, you had plenty of reasons why it wasn't good enough, and I agreed with most of them. But you're just going to have to write it. I'd make it much shorter, I said I'd help you with that.
James Blatch: Yeah.
Mark Dawson: If I can find the time.
James Blatch: Karen Inglis and a few other people have offered to help me as well, and I think Karen would be good as well. So, I will finally, when I get these edits done I will dig that out again. I'd like to get it up on pre-order soon, it needs a blurb for that. I've got a cover, fantastic cover from Stewart. And I'm looking I think-
Mark Dawson: It doesn't need a blurb.
James Blatch: Doesn't need a blurb for pre-order?
Mark Dawson: You could put a one sentence, "The debut novel by James Blatch."
James Blatch: Okay.
Mark Dawson: Full stop. "Pre-order delivery in whatever." You don't need to have the blurb for that. You'll get a lot of people from the community who'll pre-order it. You could have anything on the blurb, wouldn't make any difference. If you look at some of the blurbs from my very long pre-orders, it will just be, "Ignore the date."
James Blatch: "Book seven."
Mark Dawson: No, usually I'll say, "Ignore the date you'll see below because it's not..." I talk about this in the launches course that I've just finished. I'll have very, very long, year long pre-orders, but they'll never go that long, I'm just pushing out as far as I can to minimise the stress of having a date that I might not hit. I know that I'll hit if I have a year to write a novel, that's not a problem.
But what I wouldn't want to do is have the date I think it will go live, which may be three months' time, and then find I have a deadline that could be challenging if things happen. But if you look at those ones, I don't think I've actually got any live at the moment, but they would just be one line, nothing to do with a blurb, it would just be, "This book will be delivered sooner."
James Blatch: Oh well, that's a intriguing proposition. Good, okay. It's been a bit of a journey this, hasn't it? People listening to this podcast since 2015.
Mark Dawson: Well, the podcast comes to an end as soon as you publish it. Oh sorry, you'll still be a rookie author.
James Blatch: Yes, exactly.
Mark Dawson: You'll be a rookie author for the next decade.
James Blatch: We actually rebranded this when we got Huey Morgan in to do the voiceover. We took into account that I might actually publish the book with the wording of it, so.
Mark Dawson: Did we?
James Blatch: We did. That's why it says, "And first-time author", rather than...
Mark Dawson: Oh, yeah. Okay.
James Blatch: Newbie or whatever.
Mark Dawson: Or what about when you're a second-time author?
Actually, I don't think you have to worry about that. That'll be an issue for 2022, we can deal with it then. No, 2032, I don't even know what year it is.
James Blatch: I lay awake in bed last night. I had my jab yesterday, felt a little bit funny in the evening. Just lay awake in bed and I just talked through the second novel completely. I'm still trying to refine it to try and make sure the story works before I go too far on the writing.
I am quite excited about that, I think that's one I don't want to distract Andrew Lowe from his task at the moment of getting this over the line. But once that's done I think it would be useful for me, because he does development work as well, to have a chat through with him of where I am with the structure and just so I can write it a bit more confidently for me I want to be. I'm not the Marie Force, "Oh, I wonder what's going to happen today?" Sit down and write. I am somebody who likes to know where we're going with my writing, so.
Very exciting indeed. And today something that might be down the line for me, and certainly is something a lot of people think about. One of those things, a bit like audiobooks, there's work to be done but there's potentially money on the table for the work that you've already done, repurposing that manuscript you've got. And this is translations. I will talk to you, Mark, off the back of this interview about your translations experience, and there's a lot of overlap. And certainly when it comes to particular countries, our guest today, Tanya Anne Crosby, has found the same I think as you have found in your recent experience.
Tanya's carved out a little niche for herself here being an expert in this area, and has gathered quite a lot of contacts who can help you and perhaps circumnavigate some of the research and effort that goes on, to the point where you can get your books done by experts and done properly.
And before we actually go to the interview I'm going to tell you that Tanya has very kindly put together a PDF for us with a lot of resources on it to get you established on the translation treadmill, and you can pick that up if you go to selfpublishingformula.com/translate, nice and simple. Okay, let's hear from Tanya, and Mark and I will be back for a chat.
Tanya Anne Crosby, welcome to The Self Publishing Show. I just had a little bit of information on your name, maybe we'll come to that later on. We're going to talk about translations. I know it's an area people think about a lot, it's like money on the table if you don't do it, but people are also anxious about the mountain to scale and the costs involved and so on.
So, we'll try and demystify the process a bit if we can with you, and also get a handle on the practical side of it, like how much it's going to cost and so on, the economics of it. But as is the great tradition of The Self Publishing Show, we love to talk to authors and their cats by the way, your cat's making a guest appearance at the moment if people are watching on YouTube.
Tanya Anne Crosby: Oh, he's here? He's here, yeah.
James Blatch: He's very welcome to be here, we like cats. But we want to talk a bit about you as an author first if that's okay, Tanya?
Tanya Anne Crosby: Sure.
James Blatch: Why don't you tell us your background in writing?
Tanya Anne Crosby: I have actually been doing this for quite a long time. I guess you might say I'm a veteran in the industry. I sold my first book in 1989, and I sold it to Avon Books, I think they published my first 14, 15, something like that, I have no idea. I should know that number because people ask me all the time. And I have no idea how many books I have, those numbers escape me. But I think they did like my first 14 or so, something like that.
And then the politics of the business really got to me, I won't go into that. So, I took a 10-year hiatus from writing, and that turned out to be one of the best things that I could have possibly done because I found my joy again, my joy of writing, I rediscovered that.
But also during the time that I was out, during the hiatus, I took jobs as an editorial director for a stable of magazines in Dallas, Texas. I ran five magazines. And then I also went to work for Match.com in the marketing department and was their senior writer there. So, I got all this wonderful experience that has actually helped me. It's almost like serendipity, it all sort of led to exactly where I am today.
James Blatch: That's interesting, the commercial writing, kind of copywriting, Match.com I think is a dating service, is that right?
Tanya Anne Crosby: Yeah, yes.
James Blatch: Online dating, yeah. I immediately thought of Paris Match, I thought you were working for Paris Match Magazine. But no, Match.com.
Tanya Anne Crosby: Yes.
James Blatch: And quite different though, and I found this going from the BBC from a newsroom to novel writing, it's a very different style of writing. I think it is helpful.
How did you find it helpful for your novel writing?
Tanya Anne Crosby: I don't really think it helped me so much with my actual... well, maybe it did. At times, it helped me to write a little more concise, really narrow down, hone in on what I'm trying to say. But beyond that it really has helped me with email marketing and SEO and that sort of thing. Just how to speak to my readers, not just as an author but as a marketer.
James Blatch: Yeah, the bits of writing that a lot of authors don't find so easy. Writing the emails, writing the blurbs and stuff like that.
Tanya Anne Crosby: I don't like it.
James Blatch: Fair enough.
Tanya Anne Crosby: But I have to do it, so I might as well know how to do it.
James Blatch: Tell us a bit about your books, Tanya. What did you first write for Avon?
Tanya Anne Crosby: I cut my teeth on historical romance. And I think that's actually all I ever did with them. It wasn't until I came back from my hiatus that actually I ventured into suspense. I did two books for Kensington and those were my suspense titles. And then that didn't quite work out the way I wanted it to. And it wasn't really what I wanted to write. So, I moved into women's fiction, that is where my heart is, women's fiction. But I am still writing historical romance but now it seems to be metamorphosing into historical fiction/fantasy with a dollop of romance.
James Blatch: Yeah. Because women's fiction's quite a broad term really isn't it? And I find a friend of mine is published writing women's fiction and I think her books are mystery really, they're kind of family mysteries.
Tanya Anne Crosby: So, my women's fiction don't lean toward the contemporary romance, they're more literary but with... My publisher who published those particular books called them Gone Girl with heart.
James Blatch: Okay, yes. That sounds in genre.
Tanya Anne Crosby: I mostly self-publish now. Although women's fiction is really a tough market to break into yourself as a self-published author, so I don't really have designs on that at all, I will sell my women's fiction to a publisher. I have my agent for those now.
James Blatch: So, you're doing romance yourself?
Tanya Anne Crosby: Yes.
James Blatch: Or as you say, not contemporary romance, historical romance still.
Tanya Anne Crosby: No, right. I have written contemporary romance and suspense. I've just really been all over the place. And with my historical fiction I've actually done every sub-genre there is.
It's been a good thing in that it's kept me fresh, and I think it's also been kind of a bad thing in that it's really tough to really grow yourself in any particular genre when you're skipping all over the place. And here, this is a lesson I've learned, I'm 30 years down the line, so I don't know. I'm still skipping around so I guess it's a bad habit I can't seem to break.
James Blatch: It is sometimes easier when you have one genre, one set of books, one author name.
Tanya Anne Crosby: Right.
James Blatch: People do sometimes make life harder, it doesn't necessarily mean it's the wrong thing to do, you've got to write what you want to write really haven't you?
Tanya Anne Crosby: Yeah. Well, and these days I think that's the way I define my success, is that I've made the list, I've done the things that... There are still things on the horizon that I want to accomplish. But really what it boils down to is if I can make a living writing the books that I want to write, then that's my definition of success. I'm really happy to be able to do that, and I'm doing fairly well. And I should also mention that I'm writing a little less these days, I'm a pretty slow writer, I'm writing a little less these days just because I started a publishing house. So, I'm actually publishing like 17 other authors.
James Blatch: Wow.
Tanya Anne Crosby: So it happened, and it snowballed into what it is right now. But really that's also a way that I measure my success. Is that if I can actually help them, as long with myself, then I really love all the little successes that they have along the way also, and they kind of motivate me.
James Blatch: I published two authors and that's busy enough for me. At 17, I am trying to scale up a bit at the moment, but I'm slightly daunted by... that's a lot of figures to go through every morning, and then people to talk to and so on.
How do you find running that business? That must be taking over a bit?
Tanya Anne Crosby: I keep telling myself I'm not going to take anybody else on. I keep taking more people on. One of my authors I keep telling her every day, I don't know if you know Kerrigan Byrne, but so I keep telling her, she's one of my dear friends as well, and I keep telling her I'm not taking anybody on, and she just goes, "Uh-huh, uh-huh."
James Blatch: She knows.
Tanya Anne Crosby: She just doesn't believe me at this point. But the truth is that I never really foresaw this being very big. I don't see it as a publishing house, it's more of a white glove publishing partnership with my authors. And so, once it gets to the point where I'm not finding writing time, which I'm about there, then it's time to leave off bringing anybody else new aboard. And that's kind of where I am.
James Blatch: So, you do the marketing. What are your marketing avenues for your authors?
Tanya Anne Crosby: We do a little bit of everything. Little bit of Facebook ads, AMS ads, Twitter, BookBub, and also AMG for specific authors, so.
James Blatch: Oh, okay. Yeah, that's big investments, AMG.
Tanya Anne Crosby: Yeah.
James Blatch: How'd you get on with that? Just a little sidetrack here on AMG. Is it something that's working for you? I think it's a bit more difficult to measure isn't it?
Tanya Anne Crosby: It is a little difficult to measure. I don't find that they worked so well for me or my books or any of my authors' books outside of KU. I do know authors who have used AMG ads for books that are not in KU and have found some success. But the thing is with the AMG ads is that it's just not a panacea at all. You're not going to put your books in and just... it's not magic.
It works for some books, it doesn't work for all books. I have found just within my own list that the results vary widely. So, you have to be really choosy about the books that you put in and the series that you're promoting, and you're really going to make your money mostly on the page reads I find, so.
James Blatch: Yeah, okay. We should explain AMG is a in-house service offered to you. So you pay Amazon, and their experts on the inside of Amazon do the marketing for you and report back.
But it's a big buy-in if I remember rightly, tens of thousands of dollars to start up with AMG.
Tanya Anne Crosby: Yes, each ad is about 10,000. I mean you have to commit for one ad, one book, $10,000. But I think that the buy-in for new authors coming in is something like... I want to say it's like 40,000.
James Blatch: Yeah, I think that's about right. Yeah, good. Okay, well look, let's move on to our core subject.
Tanya, we want to talk about translation. Is this something you had experience of from your traditional world?
Tanya Anne Crosby: When I was published with Avon all of my books ended up... I've had them translated into Russian, Italian, Chinese, you name it. And so, when I came to the indie world, and from my genre fiction I don't think I ever will go back to New York because I love the control I have just way too much.
I do have an agent, and she does sell my foreign rights on occasion. But I just felt like when I first came to indie, I did this thing where I was mad at the whole world and I fired my last agent and I went agent-less for quite a while. I just felt like it was me against the world and just was rolling up my sleeve just to see what I could see.
When I came to the indie world I just decided I wanted to do the translations and it seemed like there were no avenues for this unless... I mean there were just none unless your agent sold them. And at the time I didn't have an agent. And most agents didn't want to take you on just for your foreign rights because they're hard to sell. And so, I really didn't want to hear the word no. I just felt like there had to be a way.
Five years ago I went through a health scare and I was not well at all. And it was right about the time that people were writing more and more and faster and faster, and that's just not me, I just don't write that fast.
One of the reasons why I started this publishing partnership was so that I could slow down a little bit because I can write fast, I can write 10,000 words in a day, but I need my stories to percolate, percolate back there, and I just need time, so that was just never going to change. And so, I started thinking, I wasn't feeling very well, I wasn't writing as much, and I thought, "This is now the time for me to start looking at translations and how to figure this out." It's just a puzzle that I had to find the solution for.
James Blatch: Yeah. And I think it is a puzzle to people. It's a bit of an unknown area isn't it? People don't really know where to start.
Tanya Anne Crosby: Right.
James Blatch: And I often see people posting into a Facebook group saying, "Can someone help translate my book into German?" Which is like a very broad question for the path you've got to go down. So, let's get into the detail a little bit.
What should we be doing? How have you approached it?
Tanya Anne Crosby: So, obviously for 30 books, if I sat down and did the math for it we're talking about... if I'm doing all of these direct it's like 750, $100,000, and that's if you pay the minimum like $5,000 a book or something like that. So, that was just not going to happen.
So, the way that I decided to approach this, and the way that I think is the smart way to approach it is... And I've actually counselled some of my author friends to do the same. And that is to use services like Babelcube, and there are a couple of different ones that are similar. And I actually have a list of them that I think I can give you after. I did a presentation at RAM a couple of years ago and there's a link on my site that has a good presentation and also some... So, all of those are on that list.
I advised choosing a couple of languages that you know that sell well, but maybe you won't benefit more by actually doing them direct. In other words, maybe choose Italian, and go to Babelcube with your Italian translations because they still sell well, but not so well that you're going to regret having tied them up for five years.
James Blatch: Okay. Better just explain what Babelcube is for us.
Tanya Anne Crosby: Okay. So, Babelcube is basically an ACX-type... I kind of think of them as they basically just handle the money. That's how I think of them, they're my money handlers. They're the ones that are going to figure out the finances and pay the translator and pay me. And the translator does get the majority upfront with Babelcube, but that's only fair.
They're the ones that are putting a risk into your product, your book, without any pay upfront, and so it was perfectly okay with me for that to happen. I think they make upfront like 65% while you make maybe... I can't remember what it is, 30 or something, because I think that Babelcube takes their share as well.
And the other thing is that you get your books back after five years. So for me it was a way to put nothing down, get these books translated, bring in some income, and then I would take that income and place it toward the direct translations that I wanted to do, and those would be the German translations.
James Blatch: So, Babelcube would be a way in to this, but ultimately you would want to fund your own if you can.
Tanya Anne Crosby: Yes.
James Blatch: So, you're using Babelcube which is obviously a profit-sharing or revenue-sharing service.
Tanya Anne Crosby: Right. Royalty share, yeah, basically.
James Blatch: Yeah.
Tanya Anne Crosby: And it goes up by tier. I think if you sell like 2,000 books then the translator's share goes down a little bit and yours goes up a little bit. Just it's done by tiers. You do want to eventually do your own translations, but I still don't think I would pay direct for certain languages.
For example Spanish is just a really hard sell. I don't know that I would ever, if it weren't for Babelcube, I don't think I would ever put the money into the Spanish translations. I actually was born in Spain and Spanish was my first language, so I feel bad saying that. But my own cousins have told me to my face that they download my books on pirate sites.
James Blatch: Oh, okay. Oh, really?
Tanya Anne Crosby: Yeah. So, those are just some languages I won't put the money into.
James Blatch: So, what are the good, you mentioned Italian, I know Mark has gone down the German route, and I'm thinking potentially Germany for my military aviation novel because I think that's still quite a big area in Germany.
So, is Germany a decent one? Are there others you would advise?
Tanya Anne Crosby: German for me is the absolute top of the heap. I think it's going to really depend on the genre. I tried to translate one of my women's fiction books and I think my suspense books as well, and those didn't do as well for me. Maybe I did something wrong, maybe I chose the wrong translator, I don't know.
My historical fiction titles I literally had to just put up, and I think I bonused on those in KU for a year and a half. So, it was a no-brainer for me. At one point I think my foreign translations were 65% of my income.
James Blatch: Wow.
Tanya Anne Crosby: Yeah.
James Blatch: So, you mentioned KU, but just explain, sorry, pretend I know nothing here because I don't think I do actually know anything about this.
KU in Germany and other languages operates in the same way?
Tanya Anne Crosby: Yeah, they do. You're just uploading through your KDP account. KU operates exactly the same way, and yes you can do print, and you can take your print wide.
Now, if you do them through Babelcube you don't get KU and you don't get to distribute your paperbacks, and you actually don't have the right to distribute your own books for five years, but then after five years you get them back. I think this year I get like 36 books back.
James Blatch: Okay.
Tanya Anne Crosby: And last year I think it was like 33. So, at the five-year mark you get your books back and you can distribute them however you want. But yes, I started actually taking my print books now to Ingram and uploading them there, and they do fairly well, they do well. They don't do as well as my US books, and definitely not as well as KU in Germany, but the market actually is getting a bit saturated in Germany as well so it's a little harder to bonus there the way that they used to.
James Blatch: Okay. So, part of it is getting your book then translated and, as you say, upload yourself or whatever to the different markets. The next thing is promoting and marketing them. And I know Mark said initially this was a bit of a struggle area for him because he likes writing his ad copy, he likes his ads to be just so, he knows everything about testing ads.
But if you're not speaking their language, that's quite difficult. So, that's a whole different area isn't it?
Tanya Anne Crosby: It is. They don't actually allow you to write your own copy in those other markets, and I guess they don't really trust us to know what we're saying. So, even through... not through KDP or Advantage, either one, you really don't have the option to write your own copy.
But you do have the option to run AMS ads, and obviously the same the AMG ads are... I haven't run any there, but I'm assuming that those are also available in foreign markets as well. And there are a number of BookBub-type promotion avenues for German in particular, some of the other languages maybe are a little further behind when it comes to marketing. But you really have a lot of the same avenues for promotion for the foreign markets as you do for US markets.
James Blatch: I was just thinking about like Facebook ads for instance. You've got your book out there in KU land in Germany in German, not just in Germany, but you then want to be running ads to German language speakers, and that's going to require more translation.
Tanya Anne Crosby: Right. But at this point I have translation teams that they're my go-to people at this point, and whenever I need something like that I throw it at them. If they have translated that book, a lot of times they'll just do that for me for free. But if not, I always offer to pay them for that. And it's a minimal cost, so you basically just throw that at a translator that you trust. And it's the same thing as you're doing for... just except in a different language.
James Blatch: Yeah. I guess it'd be worth being organised from the beginning to make sure that when you get your book translated you also get a load of copy alternatives translated, and then keep a spreadsheet so that you know what the English version of that is.
Tanya Anne Crosby: Right, right.
James Blatch: I think that would be doable then, yeah. But you basically need somebody. So, at this moment I have no translator in German. I can go I guess online and start trawling for one, but it's useful to have somebody who you regularly deal with.
Tanya Anne Crosby: Right. So, I guess this is where I probably should say how I approached the ABCs of it. So, like I said, Spanish was my very first language, I didn't actually know a word of English until I was like five years old. My mother is Spanish, and most of her friends were Italian and German and French, and I was very comfortable around very multicultural group of people. And so, I didn't feel intimidated by the idea of going to someone I knew who was a native speaker who I knew was also a reader and I could say to them... felt comfortable asking them to vet translations for me. So, that's kind of how I started.
I didn't go on to Babelcube expecting to find translators there, although you will. Most of them will want to translate your book in like 10 days, and that's a red flag, it's an absolute no-no. Sometimes some of these translators are using software, which is not a bad thing.
I have a translator who started out with me with German translations who did it all by hand and then bought the software, and then of course she went through it and gave it the personal touch. So, the software is not a bad thing, but I would definitely stay away, be aware of people who are promising to turn your book around, even in 30 days honestly.
James Blatch: Yeah, okay.
Tanya Anne Crosby: So you have to do the legwork, you have to find the translators outside of Babelcube, and then ask them if they will come to Babelcube with you and agree to do this royalty share, and that's how I approached it. I didn't really go to Babelcube looking for translators because I didn't feel like I would get the quality translators that way.
I went to Amazon and I literally made an Excel sheet and I started going through the books that I knew that were translated, started with trad books, my trad books, and started writing down names of translators that were available. And then I did the legwork research on them. And I don't think you have to work quite this hard anymore, they're a little more of a known quantity these days. But at the time nobody was doing this. So, I went to I think it's TranslatorsCafé and... I can't remember the site names right now because it's been five years.
But I literally looked up their resumes and then reached out to them and then asked them if they would come to Babelcube with me. And some of them were like hell no, and some of them were like sure. So, I started small just with one translator for Italian.
And I found that, to my good fortune actually, I found that most of the French translators and German translators did not want to use Babelcube. There are lots of really quality Italian translators on Babelcube though. And I think there are lots... I wouldn't say lots, there are qualified translators for all languages.
I actually have some friends who use Upworks to find their translators. So, the thing is, let's say you go to Upworks and you... And they actually found them cheaper there than I paid for mine. I would say the cost that I paid, which is about I would say an average about 5k per book, some a little less, some a little more depending on the language. But I have friends who went to Upworks and they paid much less, like 3,000, 2,000 for German translations.
So, the thing is, you go to Upworks, you put in your ad, you'll get these translations, and then this is where you really need to find a native speaker who is also a reader, and preferably somebody who is familiar with your genre, who you can take those translations to and pay them, you got to pay them, to vet these.
Some of them will offer to do it for free, that's not really fair. I always paid them. And it's a minimal charge, just $50 because they're just looking at a couple of pages. And have them vet those pages for you and tell you whether they're viable for your books.
James Blatch: Yeah, okay. Because I've got a couple of questions about that.
Tanya Anne Crosby: Sure.
James Blatch: One, while it occurs to me, is it important to have the same translator for a series? Do translators bring their own little personal lilt to the translation that might jar with the reader if you had different people translating books in a series?
Tanya Anne Crosby: Absolutely, 100%. I actually tend to gravitate now to the same couple of groups of translators for all my books. But absolutely, it's no different from author... If you're the author of the book, the way you write a book is going to be different from the way somebody else writes it. And I learned a really tough lesson about this early on in my translations.
One of the first times that I did agree to work with a translator that came to me from Babelcube, I didn't know anything about her previously. She had all the qualifications, she knew what she was doing, the initial vetting went just great, but then she finished the book. And my historical romances tend to be, I wouldn't say that they're sweet, they're also not steamy, and they're definitely not erotica.
So, this particular translator, I started getting reviews on that book on the Italian version of the book saying, "It's a really sweet, nice story, I don't know why they have to use that language."
And as it turned out, I had somebody go through the book, and this was also the only time that I did not use a translator proofreader team. After that I decided I was not doing any more translations unless the translator was willing to work with a proofreader of my choosing.
James Blatch: Right.
Tanya Anne Crosby: So, as it turned out she wrote the book very much like an erotica book, and it was extremely gritty and it just wasn't my style at all.
James Blatch: Okay, yeah. So, you've built up a team, and to the point where you go to... Presumably if I went to Babelcube they could provide a translator, right? I wouldn't know much about their background.
Tanya Anne Crosby: No, they're not going to.
James Blatch: Oh, it's not like that?
Tanya Anne Crosby: No, they will not put you together with translators. Basically you're going to go there as an author... It's very translator-centric in the sense that in the beginning authors couldn't even search for translators. It was very much built for the translator to find the work that they wanted to find. And their contracts are geared toward making sure the translator gets paid, it's very translator-centric, which is fine. Now they've made it to where you are able to search for translators. But I think I just got off the question, what did you just ask me?
James Blatch: Yeah, sorry. I thought maybe Babelcube would supply translators, but they don't do that?
Tanya Anne Crosby: No. You will put your profile up and they will offer to do the book. And you'll put your profile up, and then you put your books up, and then there's a section for a script basically that they have to translate. And then when they offer for the book then they'll return that script in whatever language you've requested.
James Blatch: Yeah, okay.
Tanya Anne Crosby: And then that's what you vet.
James Blatch: Okay. But again, this is your route into it. The preferred way is to upfront it yourself, a bit like audiobooks I guess is the same pattern here but quite a big upfront. So, 5,000 roughly US dollars per book, obviously word count would affect that and so on.
Are some languages more expensive than others?
Tanya Anne Crosby: Yes. French is a little less than German. I have been able to get away with doing about 5,000 a book for German translations. Italian translations are more like two, three, something like that. Spanish, I haven't actually done any of those direct and don't plan on it, so I can't really tell you that.
Portuguese I also have not done those direct either, but that is another language that you can find a lot of really qualified translators on Babelcube. And the languages that I have done are Dutch... Myself. The languages I've done myself. Dutch, German, Italian, French and Spanish. So, five different languages.
James Blatch: Okay. And Dutch is for instance a big enough population to be worth it? Because it's quite a small country, I'm not sure what the population top of my head, but maybe, I don't know, I'm going to guess 20 million, something like that, 20, 30. I'll have to look it up now.
Tanya Anne Crosby: I don't really think so. I would never do a Dutch translation direct for that very reason. And actually I ended up feeling so bad about the way the performance of that book through Babelcube that I ended up paying my Dutch translator a little bit because I just felt bad.
Now that I have those particular books back, and I do have them now they've been reverted to me, I'm going to try them through Kobo, which Kobo actually says... they've told me that they do have a very active Dutch readership.
James Blatch: Okay. That's good, yeah. 17.28 million, so I wasn't far off was I on my guess, about 20 million. Okay, yeah, that's a bit unfortunate isn't it for the Dutch because they speak a language that's not widely spoken. I suppose there might be a bit of crossover with Afrikaans, but that's about all I can think of. Because Germany's a big country, French is spoken widely, Spanish I know you left Spain and by the sounds of it you're not going back in terms of writing.
Tanya Anne Crosby: No, actually I might even retire there, I love Spain.
James Blatch: Oh, okay, yeah.
Tanya Anne Crosby: But I don't think I will write books for them.
James Blatch: No. But Spanish is, next to Mandarin, probably in terms of second most widely spoken language on the planet I'm going to guess. Although that's an interesting question actually, Spanish in Mexico, Spanish in Spain, Spanish in other South American countries, although Portuguese is widely spoken there as well.
Would the same Spanish translation work across those countries?
Tanya Anne Crosby: So, especially if you're doing it through Babelcube you don't really have the option to do two. And the answer to that question is no, and it's so funny because I actually... I'm a little rusty, although my husband says that that's bull and I speak fluently. And I do, I actually... I mean it was my first language, I speak Spanish fluently.
I thought because I can that Spanish would be the easiest one for me. I can read it, and a lot of times some of the stuff that they turn in to me I will... I stopped even vetting them after a while, because I would read them and I could read it just fine. And then I would give it to my Spanish cousins and they'd go, "This is terrible."
But one of the things I found is that you can't please both the Spaniards from Spain and the South American Spaniards at the same time, you just cannot, they just are not the same dialects at all. And if you do it with a Castilian translator, then those in... I think they're more accustomed, you're safest doing Castilian.
James Blatch: Okay.
Tanya Anne Crosby: But if you do go the other way and use a South American translator, that poor translator just will get the more... I'm trying to figure out the best way to say this. The more proper Spanish speaking people will just literally crucify them.
James Blatch: It's complicated this, isn't it?
Tanya Anne Crosby: Yes, very complicated.
James Blatch: And even actually, come to think of it in Spain I remember the first time I learned bits of Spanish and obviously it's quite close for us to go on holidays to the south there. And a couple of times, one very memorable time with a waitress kind of blanking me and being a bit dismissive and annoyed that even I was speaking Spanish.
But I realised of course we were in the middle of Catalonia, and Catalan was very widely spoken, and for some people it was quite a thing and they didn't like the idea that an English person had learned non-Catalonia Spanish and was using Spanish words. So, it wasn't a common thing but it happened occasionally. So, even within Spain I can imagine this being a slightly fraught area that you've obviously tackled and have got your teeth into.
I can start to see why this is an area unexplored by lots of authors.
Tanya Anne Crosby: It's funny because even now five years down the line and more than 130 translations into this, Spanish terrifies me more than any of the other languages. It doesn't seem possible to please everybody with that language. And I thought that I would find some issue with French and Canadian French, and I just did not at all. I actually even had it translated by a French woman, one of my books by a French woman, and then read by a French Canadian woman, and it was just not an issue at all. There was none.
James Blatch: Yeah, that's funny isn't it?
Tanya Anne Crosby: And even with German, High German, there's no issue. It's just with Spanish.
James Blatch: Yes. Quite particular. Well, there you go. Okay, so you've given an outline for a good progression into this, and Babelcube's a really interesting one to look out at. Is it getting easier for people? For instance if somebody thought, "Well okay, I can upfront this. I want to do this myself."
Is it easier than it was when you started five years ago?
Tanya Anne Crosby: I think so, 100%. I think that first of all there are many more translators I mean that are visible. I'm sure you know 10 people who have had their books translated and therefore you have 10 translators possibly potentially who you can go to to request a quote from. So, it's definitely a lot easier these days than it was back then.
Because back then really literally nobody was doing it. There was no visibility where the translators are concerned, they were just not out there at all. I think probably that whole initial process probably took me five, six months to pull together.
And these days there are quite a few available translators out there. I've actually at this point translated most of my list, so I've shared mine with other authors.
James Blatch: I'll ask you a bit about what you can share in a moment. But final question I suppose for this area is has it been worth it for you? It sounds like a lot of work.
What your figures are for your English markets. Ultimately is this a worthwhile endeavour for you?
Tanya Anne Crosby: Yeah, absolutely. Like I said, at one point it was easily 65% of my income. And I do well, so I mean that's saying a lot. These days it's not quite that, my translations, that's not to say that I don't think it's possible to do that, to repeat that success with new books. But at the time I was actually putting out a new German translation every three months, which I think is, as is with the American market, the US market, I think that rapid release does help.
But my prime with that is somewhat done at this point. I still make really great money there. Well, good money. But not as much as I did back then. Still worth it. At this point I don't have a whole lot to do anymore except to run AMS ads for them and occasional promos. Well, these days with 17 authors sometimes I actually forget to do that and they're just managing themselves, they're just out there doing what they're doing.
James Blatch: You've given us a lot of food for thought on this area, I think people are very interested in getting their teeth into this as you have. I think you might be able to put together some resources. So, you've mentioned quite a lot of different resources, Tanya, is that something you might be able to do for us? Maybe a one-pager?
Tanya Anne Crosby: Absolutely. I will send you a link and you can post that.
James Blatch: Okay. Well, as in the great tradition I'm now going to make up a URL for that, so if we say selfpublishingformula.com/translate, simple as that. And then we'll get people to arrive there and they'll get this PDF with resources.
Tanya Anne Crosby: So, one last thing that I probably should mention is I think that contracts really scare people. And there are so many different ways to approach. One of the things that I learned from having gone through the whole Babelcube route is the translators out there are working writers who want to work.
There are a million different ways to formulate a contract. I've done them everywhere from all the money upfront, to a certain percent upfront, and then a certain amount every month until a cap is met. There are a million hybrid contracts. Whatever you can conceive is probably possible if you find the right translator.
That, and I know that people usually ask me about your rights in Germany. And there is a workaround with that, but translators do own the rights in Germany. But there is a workaround that one of my German translators actually helped me to put together, and so it's in my contract. And I think I can probably give you a sample of that contract also, which I would advise any writer to take to their attorney. I'm not an attorney.
James Blatch: Use it as a starting point.
Tanya Anne Crosby: Right, exactly. But so long as you are paying your translator a royalty which is specified in the contract, and for me we determined that it was once we reached a cap and that cap was let's say 5,000, $6,000, then all monies would stop unless they request it from me. And the percentage they're agreeing to is like .00001, which is such a minimal amount that it doesn't even make it worth asking for. But you have to address that.
James Blatch: Right. So, the royalty becomes a technicality, a legal technicality, and that's the basis of your relationship.
Tanya Anne Crosby: Right.
James Blatch: Okay. I understand that. Well, that sounds like a really useful thing maybe to include on the PDF, or the link to that little bit of contract would be great. Tanya, time has rattled past, my camera's even stopped above me, but one other one's working so that's brilliant. Thank you so much indeed. I'm jealous of the snow that you've got out there, we have such grey, damp weather most of the time in the UK, and it looks so beautiful out your window.
Tanya Anne Crosby: Well, it's very blinding light.
James Blatch: Yeah. Blinded by the light. But that's nice. Tanya, thank you so much indeed. I'll remind people again of that URL, selfpublishingformula.com/translate. And we will see, this is obviously an area that's only going one way I think.
Tanya Anne Crosby: Yeah. Thank you for having me.
James Blatch: Tanya Anne Crosby. And just to remind you there is a giveaway. As we've mentioned in that interview, Tanya's put together for us, worth grabbing if you go to selfpublishingformula.com/translate.
Tanya said straightaway when I said what countries will, what don't. And I think she said in the interview, it's a while since I did the interview, that she's Spanish, well she was born in Spain I think. But really struggles to get works going in Spain, but Germany was the number one foreign language market as far as she was concerned, and I think you found something similar haven't you?
Mark Dawson: Yeah, I mean I've mentioned it before I think. But I mean I had three, the Beatrix Rose series translated into Spanish, French and German, and I haven't been able to get anything going with either Latin language.
James Blatch: Latin? You got it translated into Latin?
Mark Dawson: Oh, dear. Here we go.
James Blatch: That's brave.
Mark Dawson: You do know that French and Italian and Spanish are Latin languages don't you? Oh dear, okay, I'll educate you after the podcast. But yes, the Latin languages didn't take off, but the German one was a complete different ballgame. It was effective from the start and it has been really, really good. I mean usually four figures a day from Germany, and has been pretty consistent all year, and that's not even with the full catalogue yet. I think I've got 12 Milton books done, with plans to get the others ready by the end of the year.
It's quite funny actually. Someone found out the translators who's done... it's not hard to find out, the translator who did some of the books, and contacted them and name-dropped me and said that I'd recommended them. And he emailed me and thanked me for that, for the recommendation, and I didn't recommend them. I don't know who the person is, I don't recognise the name, so that was a little bit naughty.
James Blatch: But you didn't recommend them because you want to have this person available for you?
Mark Dawson: No, I told him that. I said, "Look, I can keep you busy for all the next year."
James Blatch: It's not that you wouldn't recommend him?
Mark Dawson: No, no, definitely. Once I'm out of this process there'll be three or four translators I'll be able to recommend. But at the moment I have about 15 books that need to be translated, so I don't want them doing any other work. They might want to change, I don't know, but it's not in my interests to have their focus going elsewhere. No, but that's me being selfish I suppose.
But the actual experience of doing it in German has been great. Some challenges. It's like any communication that you need that you'll just assume you can write it in English, from comments on Facebook ads, to emails, to your newsletter. So, I've got 1200 people on the list now in Germany, and I do monthly newsletters, I don't speak any German, so that all has to be translated.
And things like their email back in German, and I've found Google Translate is very good now. DeepL is another very good translation programme. So, you give it a piece of text and it works out what the language is, it will translate it into English. And then if you want to reply in German you just write in English, tell it to translate in German. And it seems to be reasonably accurate now, at least for those short correspondence. So yeah, it's going well.
James Blatch: One of the things about the Google Translate, and you do see some hilarious examples of this, is that we structure sentences very differently don't we? I mean Germany famously if somebody speaks word for word the German translation of English, the sentences sound hilarious to us because they're very strange. But you reckon the AI behind these translation bots now is getting good enough to reorganise that aspect of the sentence so it makes sense at the other end?
Mark Dawson: I think so. What I do is I'll put a P.S. at the end saying, "Translated by Google", just so that that's known. But I think, yeah, they are getting better.
I know DeepL is pretty well-regarded in that form. I don't personally think we're quite close enough for software to translate something with nuance like a novel. But for a very, "Thank you for your email, enjoy the book and keep reading", I think that's not quite so complicated.
James Blatch: Not quite at the Babel Fish stage yet. Then none of us will be needed.
Mark Dawson: No Douglas Adams references in this podcast thank you very much.
James Blatch: Lots of Douglas Adams references. I'm reading a Nathan Van Coops time travel novel at the moment and I'm very pleased to see both a Douglas Adams and Star Wars references of course in there.
Mark Dawson: Are you going to give him a really brutal feedback?
James Blatch: Ha. No, I'm not, I'm going to be very polite and go, "It's a good book, I'm enjoying it, page-turning." Great, okay. Look, thank you very much indeed.
Just a reminder, the 101 is open at the moment should you be interested in that foundation course. Tell you how to set yourself up to be a commercially successful self-published author, or put everything in place to give you that best chance of being so. Thank you very much indeed to our guest Tanya Anne Crosby this week. Don't forget the Self Publishing Formula Course 101 is open at the moment, so go to selfpublishingformula.com/101. All that remains for me to say is that it's a goodbye from me, and I'm going to say from him because he's dropped out on our little Zoom link. It's a goodbye from him as well. Goodbye.
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