Friday 11 September 2015

Indie Spotlight: Translation opportunities for indie authors

Indie Spotlight is our monthly column on self-publishing. This month Siobhan Daiko explains how to get indie titles translated.

“We wish to change the publishing industry by giving authors the ability to reach global marketplaces in foreign languages.”

This is the mission statement of Fiberead. I came across this innovative start-up company when I was looking for someone to translate my novel, The Orchid Tree, which is set in WWII and post-war Hong Kong. Currently Fiberead only offers translations into simplified and traditional Chinese, but soon they hope to be able to offer many more languages and markets as the company evolves. I thought my novel would interest Chinese readers, so I decided to look into placing it with them.

The company was founded by Runa Jiang in Beijing in 2011. Jiang says she launched Fiberead because digital book platforms are growing in China and there is a strong interest in works by foreign authors, but the traditional publishing industry can’t keep up with reader demand. “There are over one million English books published every year, but only 10,000 are translated into Chinese and published in China,” says Jiang. “With such odds, getting published in China is very competitive.”

Authors sign contracts granting Fiberead an exclusive license to translate, publish, and sell the eBook in Chinese throughout the world for three years, after which all rights revert to the author. Stores listing Fiberead titles include, Alibaba,, Dangdang, NetEase, Baidu, and iBooks. Fiberead shares its income with both the authors and the translators. There are no up-front fees for authors. For eBooks: 30% is paid to authors, 30% to professional translators, 5-10% to editors and the rest is re-invested into the Fiberead platform.

Authors also have the option of allowing Fiberead to be their agent for printed editions, which pay 90% royalties. Fiberead maintains close connections with Chinese bookshops and they update their booklist monthly. They also keep an eye out for pirated versions of books in their catalogue. “We work with our authors to protect their IP in China by watching and reporting any illegal uses of our clients’ IPs,” says Jiang. “Chinese demand is high for international books and many titles are translated illegally and spread online because a legitimate translation is not available.”

Mark Williams, an indie author who has worked with Fiberead, told me, "I have nothing but praise for Fiberead. The experience has been fantastic from day one. Everything from upload, through translation, selling and getting paid. Through Fiberead my book Sugar & Spice, published under the pen-name Saffina Desforges, became the first and so far only Western indie title to reach number one on Amazon China. Give Fiberead a try and you could be next."

If you want to take the first step and start the ball rolling, email

When I myself signed-up, it took about two months to receive the invitation from them to register and to fill out an Author Central profile. I signed their standard agency representation contract, which authorises Fiberead to translate and publish my book. Now I’m working with a team of Chinese translators, and The Orchid Tree is almost ready for release in Chinese. I’m thrilled.

I took a different route with my novel, Lady of Asolo. It’s set in the historic town near where I live in Italy. Many of my Italian friends wanted to read the story in Italian. I discovered that my cover designer, who is also the indie author J.D. Smith, had her novel Tristan and Iseult translated into Spanish via Babelcube. She gave me good reports of them at the time, and now she says, “It’s easy to work with their translators, and to get my books out there in other languages. Marketing is hard though, and can't necessarily be done in the same way you would if you were doing so in an English speaking country as you're marketing a book in another language.”

Indeed, promotion is a bugbear among many authors, and even translators, on this site. Unlike Fiberead, who market your books for you in China, Babelcube leave you and your translator to your own devices. I knew this before I signed up, but it did not put me off: I filled out my profile and added my first book; again with no up-front fee. Babelcube only accept books already listed on Amazon. I was asked to write briefly about existing sales and rankings, and to give website and social media links to show my commitment to the platform, and to marketing.

The translators get paid at a higher rate until your book generates US$2000 in royalties. (55% to the translator, 30% to the author and the remaining 15% to Babelcube.) The author does better as more books are sold. Babelcube’s cut is 15% across the board. I’m happy with this arrangement as I know from experience that translating is hard work.

Within a month of uploading Lady of Asolo, I received an offer from an Italian translator. Signora di Asolo came out in mid-July and is doing well on all platforms. In the meantime, I’ve accepted offers for the book to be translated into German and Spanish.

I’ve had to grant Babelcube exclusive licenses for my translated book for five years, but that doesn’t bother me. I probably wouldn’t have got it translated without them. I’ve established good relationships with my translators and am looking forward to their translations of my other books in the future.

As an indie author, I was delighted to find I could get my books translated without agency representation. The opportunities for independently published writers seem to be growing every day.