My partnership with Amber Kell made me decide to write a post about why having your own, personal translator is good for you. So here we are.
Now, the world “exclusive” might sound a little scary, especially for hardcore indies. “What’s with the exclusive deals? I self-publish because I don’t want to get exclusive with anyone!” Commitment-related jokes aside, an exclusive translation deal is nothing more than contracting a single person to translate a number of your books (notably one or more series) into a certain language. The difference with a more traditional, book-per-book deal, is that an exclusive translation deal creates more than a commercial accord: it creates a relationship. This is what, as an author, you have to gain from it:
If all your books are translated by the same person, then the style will be consistant. Translators (the good ones, that is) stick to their choices and will make every book of yours look like they have been written by the same person. Which, of course, is true – but when several books from the same authors get translated by different people, sometimes it looks like they have been written, too, by different people. Do I have to explain why this is bad for you as a writer?
Your personal translator is your friend. They will keep a constant communication with you, and if you need them for anything, they are just one e-mail away. If you are dealing with multiple translators, it can be a pain to keep in contact with all of them. Having just one person to dialogue with is much easier.
A partnership with a translator is just what it sounds like: a partnership. They are interested in your success. They want you to be popular and to sell thousands of books. The more successful you are, the more they will earn, especially if they are working for royalties – and for you to be successful, they need to work hard.
At the same time, you are interested in your translator’s well-being, since a good translator is a steady source of income for you. People like well-written books in their language, and this is what a good translator produces: well-written books in the target language. The story may be yours, but it’s their prose that the readers are going to get. If you disagree, try putting your books through Google Translate and see if the “translation” makes any sense. There are dozens of ways to translate the shortest sentence, but only one or two are good enough to entice new readers. A good translator is the one who finds those.
Having multiple translators would mean that each one of them is of little importance for you, and at the same time, you aren’t very important to them. An exclusive deal turns this up a couple notches.
What does the translator get from an exclusive deal? A client that will guarantee them work for a long time. Hell, it may be forever! If you really like working with your translator, and you don’t plan to stop writing anytime soon, they won’t need to go hunting for other clients anytime soon. Which is a great thing for a freelancer. It’s in your translator’s best interest to make sure that they never, ever screw up on you. You are important to them.
Of course, “exclusive deal” doesn’t mean “stuck forever with this guy”. Nor does it mean “This guy will necessarily get to translate all my books”. As usual, everything depends on the contract you sign. You can contract your translator for a number of books (“Book A, B and C”), for a series (“Every book in the Most Awesome series”)… whatever you want. In the case of my deal with Amber, I only get exclusive translation rights for two of her series (including future books), and there are several options for both of us to end the deal. This ensures that you, as an author, keep control of your creations.
As a sidenote, remember that exclusive translation deals should always concern one target language (ie. Italian or French), and that they should always confer nontransferable rights – in other words, the translator should not be allowed to sell them to the highest bidder. Granted, the kind of person who would do that is probably not a good translator to begin with. But the point is that, just because the word “exclusive” is involved, it doesn’t mean that you are losing anything fundamental to your writing career or your own peace of mind. Like a marriage, an exclusive translation deal should enhance both parties, never diminish any of them. And when it’s done properly, it does. Astonishingly.
Do you want to know more about translation deals? Perhaps are you looking for one? Contact me or leave a comment to this post. 🙂