Friday, April 6, 2012

Are translations the next frontier in e-book self-publishing?

In October 2010 I was interviewed for my hometown newspaper back in Germany. I had just started to make money in self-publishing, but had no idea that only two months later, things would really turn in my favor, making me into a ‘self-publishing e-book rock star’ as Joyce Lamb from USA Today  calls me.

One question, the journalist from the Bayerwald Echo in Cham, Germany ask me was, why I didn’t write my books in German. At the time, I laughed and told him that there was no way I would find the right words in German. After all, I now think in English - living in English-speaking countries for over 25 years can do that to anybody!

But the idea of having books out in German didn’t quiet down. At first, discouraged by the high prices some translators were quoting, I decided to contact foreign rights agents to see if they would consider selling my self-published books to foreign publishers. That way, I wouldn’t have to take on the daunting task of finding a translator, an editor, and proofreaders. Alas, no foreign rights agent wanted to touch me.

A few months passed before I decided to just jump in and do it on my own. I searched long and hard for translators in three languages: German, French, and Spanish. It took me a while to put the right teams together. After all, you can’t expect a translator to turn over a perfect product: there’ll always be words and sentences that could be translated to sound better, there’ll always be typos and grammatical errors. 

It was lucky that at least with German and French (which I speak fluently, but not perfectly), I could check up on the accuracy of the translations myself. In German, I do even more: I now edit the text that comes back from my translator. And I think this really helps: my voice comes through in the German editions of my books, turning my books into what I want them to be. And this might be one of the reasons for my success in Germany: so far, I’ve published the first three books in my bestselling Scanguards Vampires series in German, and all three of them have hit the Top 100 Kindle Bestseller list on 

That’s something I never expected. Now, my income from from three books alone is a nice salary on its own. And if the French and the Spanish markets develop in the same direction, I’ll be ecstatic.

Germany is one of the largest romance market in the world, and US self-publishers should not ignore this market, nor the rest of Europe or Latin America. There are untapped areas here that have still not been exploited. Publishers are slow to move into those areas, but self-publishers can act quicker. And maybe it’s time they should.


  1. Thanks Tina for this insight! I think you're right that translations are the next frontier in e-book publishing! For those of us who do want to see if foreign rights agents are interested in our work, how do we get started? Thanks!

  2. I checked who the sub-rights agents for romance literary agents were and contacted them. Many literary agents show on their websites who they work with for foreign rights, so that's where you can start. I'm not aware that there's a directory just for foreign rights agents.

  3. WOW Tina. That is really awesome. Hard work, and I am so glad you got something accomplished! Congrats!

  4. Thanks Chrissy! It's a lot of work, but definitely worth it!

  5. If you ever need a native Spanish translator who is also a writer that publishes with the main publishing houses in Spain, and at a very reasonable fee, don't doubt contacting me at