Raymond, I’ve just learned that you are having your debut novel, Awakening, translated into Spanish. Why is that?
There are numerous post online about the importance of getting one’s book translated into other languages. Spanish and German are the most important.
After averaging 4.8 stars on Amazon, almost 4.7 stars on Goodreads and receiving all 5 star reviews on Barnes & Noble, I was wondering why sales for Awakening, my epic fantasy, weren’t exploding. Then I learned that Amazon.com has 3.6 million English language titles, of which more than 458 thousand were published last year and more than 600 thousand new titles expected to be released in 2015 with more expected every year after.
Then, when I learned (1) next to Mandarin, Spanish is the most widely spoken language on the planet and (2) Amazon has only 93 thousand Spanish language titles and that (3) Game of Thrones and Twilight had recently been translated into this language—thereby indicating demand for the kind of book I write—I decided there might be a way out of my predicament.
How did you begin this process?
Initially, I thought I could let translation software handle the bulk of the work, then have a human translator tweak it. After buying the highest rated app on the market, I translated a chapter and sent the result to an editor friend who now teaches Spanish at an Indiana university. Even though I did not reveal what I had done, he got back right away saying, “Your translator isn’t telling you this was produced by translation software. Not only that, it isn’t even grammatical Spanish.”
I gather, then, you have hired a human translator. Is finding a qualified translator difficult?
Certainly, finding the right person takes a great deal of time and effort. But this is not the only obstacle. Getting a book translated into another language is anything but inexpensive. At just a few cents a word, the price quickly moves into thousands of dollars. At professional rates, Awakening’s 109 thousand words would require me to dish out a five figure fee and I don’t have that kind of money. You can imagine my delight, then, when a professional translation firm that wanted to move from business and legal work into literary translation expressed interest, offering to take a significant portion of their fee from the book’s royalties as an inducement. Naturally, I jumped at the chance. It was a game changer.
It sounds as if they approached you.
Not exactly. Actually, it was a case of serendipity. In the course of conversation with one of my clients—I am a high-end hairdresser who has many well-connected individuals in my chair every week—when I mentioned my sales dilemma and my desire to find a Spanish language translator, she told me she knew someone who might be qualified to handle the project. After she had contacted her friend, he got in touch with me right away. He did so because, after reading the book and appraising its reviews, he believed Awakening has the potential to become an international best-seller.
So you hired him.
Actually, I ended up hiring a team.
Really? Will you tell us about them?
I was counciled by several experts to ensure my translators were native speakers, educated at the university level, so I am pleased to describe what a stellar a team I’ve assembled. The director of the translation firm, which has offices in both Boston and San Juan, hails from Barcelona and has a PhD from Harvard University. And though he is certified to interpret in Federal court—a level of proficiency for which very few qualify—he did not feel he was the one best suited for the job. Instead, he chose to oversee the work of one of his editors, a published poet who resides in Puerto Rico. He gave her the assignment because he felt she could produce the most literary result.
Yet, despite even this pair’s amazing qualifications, they made some missteps early in the game. In the first chapter, when one of the characters exclaims, “What in the world have you been doing?” they translated it as, “What have you been doing in the world?” This is very different and it occurred because this figure of speech does not exist in Spanish. As a result, I’ve added a third member to the team: a native English speaker who is professor of Spanish at a college in New Mexico. My instinct was right. Because she is more sensitive to English language nuances and idioms than my primary translators could ever be, Awakening is receiving a world class translation. This also illustrates why an author should have at least a rudimentary understanding of the language in question. If I did not speak as much as I do, I would have missed that initial bobble and the end result would have been the poorer for it.
How do the characters in El Despertar differ from the those in Awakening?
Actually, the books are identical except for an issue or two that cropped up right away. Let’s see. How do I explain this without spoilers?
The first one involved a prophecy. In the English version, it was misunderstood because the accent of the character who related it caused the one to whom it was delivered to misunderstand what was said. As you well know, many English words can sound like other unrelated words. The problem here was that the corresponding words in Spanish could not be similarly confused. We solved this by renaming both a land and one of the characters.
The other issue evolved out of my sailing background. Awakening has several chapters set at sea on a sailing ship and I was not confident my translators could arrive at the appropriate Spanish terminology. For example, in English we call the controlling lines for sails “sheets.” I did not want them to end up sounding like bedding. Taking a sailboat to windward is called “beating.” I could only imagine what mistranslations that might cause.
Consequently, I went online and found several Spanish/English sailing glossaries. I located the appropriate terms and gave them to my team.
Does this begin to illustrate the kinds of problems a translation can pose?
So you are pleased with whom you’ve hired.
I’m beyond pleased. I am privy to all their emails, so when they spend time debating the advantages of such minor details as using Lo versus Le—two pronouns meaning him or to him—because one has a more literary quality while the other feels more dynamic, I know that I am blessed.
How excited are you to have your work translated? Congratulations!
Thank you. I can say, without reservation, I am beyond excited.
How are you enjoying the marketing of the series?
Now THIS is the fifty million dollar question.
My research is indicating that neither Iberian nor Latin American readers are as prone to shop online as are we Americans. Casa del Libro, Spain’s largest brick and mortar bookstore is still huge, such that Internet travel sites directing travellers to Spain list prominently hotels near every Casa del Libro location. Even so, in anticipation of Amazon’s incursion, Casa del Libro is putting up their own Internet sites with ebooks formatted for their preferred eReader, Tagus. I am currently working to get El Despertar listed.
I am also in the process of creating Spanish language Tweets and have several Spanish speaking friends who are looking for other ways I can create buzz.
I am also about to launch a Goodreads Giveaway, targeting readers in Mexico, all of Central and South America, as well as Spain itself.
Finally, El Despertar will be featured in the New Titles Showcase at the Guadalajara Book Fair which runs from November 28 through December 5, 2015. It is the world’s largest for Spanish language books and is attended annually by more than 20,000 Spanish language publishing professionals, as well as—get this—over 750,000 attendees from the general public! THAT’S what I call visibility.
It’s a bit daunting, but I am trying my best to rise to the challenge.
Thanks so much for chatting to us today, Raymond. We wish you all the best with your Ydron series.
Links to connect with Raymond and view his books
Website & blog: http://www.raymondbolton.com