In early April of last year, while on a business trip to China, I had a number of my friends and business associates ask me when I was going to publish my new book in Chinese. The question was innocent enough - my friends simply wanted to be able to read my work in their native language, but the task of having my book translated to Chinese seemed like quite the challenge.
Never one to walk away from a challenge, I started looking at the possible ways to have my novel translated from English to Mandarin. I could have hired a translator, but there were two significant problems with that:
1) It was expensive.
2) I had no real way of validating the translation to ensure that the meaning of the story was not translated incorrectly.
I started to research alternative ways to have my book translated in to Mandarin and found the website "Fiberead.com".
Fiberead is a quasi crowd sourcing site that uses several Chinese students who are well versed in English to translate author's works into both Traditional and Simplified Chinese (the two forms that all Chinese can read and understand - there are many different dialects in China). The students work together as a team along with the author as they translate the original English book in to Chinese. Along the way the translation team may ask questions of the author to ensure that the translation is not just literal, but translates the meaning from English to Chinese.
Fiberead acts as the broker, distributor and publisher of the work once it is translated to Chinese. The finished version is then distributed throughout various Chinese sales channels in an e-book format, as well as in Taiwan. The sales price is set by Fiberead based on similar works, and while the per book selling price in China is generally lower than in the US, there are over 300 million active e-book readers in China, and that number is growing every year. The Chinese e-book readers are hungry for Western writing translated to their native language.
The payment of royalties is shared between the author, translation/editing team and Fiberead. The author receives 30% royalties, the translator receives 30%, the editor receives between 5-10% and the balance is paid to Fiberead.
It has taken a little over a year for my first novel to be translated and distributed in China, so you have to pack your patience with the translation process! Communication is also sometimes less than stellar, but if you ask a question, you will get a response (though sometimes you may have to ask twice).
My first book was only launched yesterday, and only in the Taiwan marketplace at this point, so it is too early to tell how profitable this venture may be. Then again, my only investment has been time, and most of that time has been spent waiting, not working on the translation, so any sales will be a bonus for me.
The way I see it, China is a large market hungry for Western stories, and even if the per book sale royalty is small, the volume should make the exercise worthwhile. After all, isn't it better to have 30% of something than 100% of nothing?
You can check out my Chinese version of Bloodlines: Cove Point Manor on sale in Taiwan at: https://www.pubu.com.tw/ebook/122077