Indie authors wear a lot of hats, and for those that enjoy a challenge, writing and publishing as an indie can offer you freedoms that traditional publishing may not. Sure, you have to do most of the work yourself, but you also maintain control over your work. Part of this control involves being able to enter foreign markets and have your book printed in another language.
There are a few 'free', or rather 'royalty share' translation companies with which I have become familiar. One of the largest translation services is a company called Babelcube. Bablecube allows authors to advertise their works and then interested translators will contact you with an offer to translate your book into a specific language. When completed, Bablecube places your newly translated foreign language book on Amazon. Sales of the book are split between you, the translator and, of course, Bablecube. For the first sales under $2,000.00, you receive a 30% commission, the translator receives 55% and Bablecube the remaining 15%.
I listed my first two novels on Bablecube and got an offer almost immediately to translate the first into Spanish. I accepted the offer, mainly because I was able to verify the translation, which is a VERY important consideration, and a few months later my book was published in Spanish. That was in October, 2017 and to date, I have earned an eye-watering $3.00 in royalties. Hardly worth the effort although I feel badly for the translator as she has not recouped her time for the project.
I soon discovered the Bablecube, although the say they market your books on all sorts of different sales platforms, appear to just put the book on websites and hope for the best. I have had zero proof of any marketing efforts being made, and the horrid sales would attest to that fact. I had my second novel listed with them, but recently pulled all books from their site.
The other translation service I used was Fiberead, another royalty share platform. My main goal with using Fiberead was to make my books available in China as I have a number of people I know there that wanted to read my books in their native language. The translation process did not involve a lot of time on my part (other than writing the books in the first place!), but it was a horrendously slow process, and the communication throughout the 14 months it took to complete was non-existent.
When the two books were finally translated, the approval process to allow publication in China took a very long time (6 months) and once again, I could get no information about what was going on. The books were finally published in China and were put on sale through Amazon. The funny part was, my contact at Fiberead did not even know that one of my books was on sale with Amazon until I told her that it was.
My next frustration came with the inability of Fiberead to offer any sort of marketing or promotion of my books, even when I offered to pay to do so. They also just place your books on several websites and then hope the book sells. When the book does sell however, you don't really know. Fiberead's sales reports are at least two months delayed, the reasons for the delay are also not able to be explained to me. Receiving responses that "it takes time" and "be patient" do not sit well with me, especially when I know that Amazon has a good sales reporting system, at least when it is working (that is a story for another blog post!).
I do know that my books are selling in China as I see their sales rankings improving, but I have no idea how many books I have sold. I also had zero input in how much the books would be sold for; Fiberead made the sales price decision on their own, with no consultation and no reasons given for the prices (one is reasonably priced, the other one might as well be given away it is so low).
I have decided that I will wait and see what sort of interest and sales my books generate in China before I consider having my third novel, or any future novels, translated into the Chinese language. If they sell well, I think I will pay a translator to do the work and then sell as an indie or through a more traditional publisher. The lack of communication and transparency that I have been experiencing is not something I like.
If you are not worried about having control over your foreign language marketing efforts, and don't mind being kept in the dark for months at a time, using one of these services may be suitable for you. If however, you are like me and like to have control over marketing efforts rather than just hoping for the best, you might want to consider paying for a translator and then indie publishing your works.
I will continue to update my readers as the months go on, but for now I think I will just stick to publishing my future novels in English. If there is really a demand for my work in another language, I think I will find another way to enter the market other than to use these services.