The Joys of Foreign Publishing

December 4th, 2006

I thought I’d start a topic here for gripes about foreign publishers.  I am having a bellyful currently with the French, the Russians, and possibly the Germans — though the last is the fault of the German agent, not the publishers, most likely.

First off, of course, my Russian publisher doesn’t pay.   They seem to have no intention of paying, in fact.  They’ve brought out at least 10 books and not one ruble have I received.  They did send me copies of 5 of the books though.

My French publisher has brought out 2 books and paid for one.  I have not received a single copy of the books, though I suspect they’re afraid to send them, since I can read French.  Their translator changed Nevyn’s name.  Yes, that’s right — the focus character who ties the entire series together is now Persaune, not Nevyn.  The idiots thought “Nevyn” was English and thus needed translating.  I do not have high hopes for the quality of the translations, therefore.

The Germans killed their entire fantasy line two years ago, and no one bothered to tell me.  Yet some of the books still seem to be in print, according to amazon.de.

Finally, we have the Italian government in combination with our own dear IRS.  This has nothing to do with the publishers, Editrices Nord, themselves, who have always treated me well.  But the Italian tax people, though a signatory to various tax treaties, will keep 25% of the monies owed me unless they get a certain form from the IRS by a certain date.  The IRS is now charging $35 in a “user fee” for this form — and it will take them 45 days to get me one.

I think I’m going to become a Zen nun.  It will be easier than dealing with all this . . .

How are such matters  going with the rest of you?

43 Responses to “The Joys of Foreign Publishing”

  1. Teichon 04 Dec 2006 at 7:39 pm

    Sorry to disapoint you, but Droemer Knaur stopped publisching Fantasy back in 2002/2003? Not sure about the exact date. Anyway, none of your books are in print here. Those books you can find “New” on amazon.de are not books in print, but rather books people sell as “New and unread”.

  2. Sherwood Smithon 04 Dec 2006 at 8:49 pm

    I don’t have a foreign agent, and so only the foreign sales that someone comes to us for. (I would love to sell to Germany, frex.) Anyhow, I do have 12 books that I know of in Russian, but like you, have never seen a penny. I don’t even have copies of them all. But somebody there has to be reading them, because I get several hits from Russia on my website every month. I don’t think I’ve ever seen any royalties from Denmark or Israel for the sales there, but could be the books tanked. I don’t know how my recent pub in Thailand is going–lots and lots of hits on my website, but who knows, they could all be library patrons checking out a single sold copy. I gather that there’s no way of knowing unless one has an aggressive and persistent foreign agent.

  3. Katharine Kerron 05 Dec 2006 at 12:47 am

    Teich, thanks! I don’t read German, and it was hard to tell what was what on the website. I know that Droemer closed down the Excalibur line, all right. What i wonder is why didn’t any one tell me until 3 weeks ago? My -new- Euro agent found out at the Frankfurt fair! As I say, this doubtless isn’t the actual publisher’s fault.
    .

  4. Marie Brennanon 05 Dec 2006 at 1:27 am

    I just received my first German contracts (and info on the tax hoops to jump through). I’ve been warned not to expect any royalties out of the set, since “translations rarely earn out,” but I won’t say no to the signing check. We’ll see how the publication process goes, though.

  5. TDon 05 Dec 2006 at 6:05 am

    @Katharine: Yepp, this sounds more like an issue with your old agent. I hope you can find a new publisher for your books over here, though german publishers tend to be really slow re-releasing books that already have been published even though those are OOP now.

    @Marie: Don’t know about the royalties, but the german SF/Fantasy-market is not really huge (Unless you are J.K. Rowling for instance).

  6. Tim Stoopon 05 Dec 2006 at 7:17 am

    I don’t get it, why do you want to get your books translated? I mean, I’m Dutch and I read mostly English. When I read a translated book, it’s just… yuck… A language has a timbre all of it’s own, and stories take over that sound. I’ve read Raymond E. Feist in Dutch and although the story is good, I bought the same book in English and read it again, just to get a better feel for the story.

    I think a writer is (like a poet but less) a “word-artist”. Little meanings and feelings and emotions are communicated to the reader by the choice of words. A translation can never ever catch all these small and subtle hints. I hate translations. If the book is a story (not a studybook or something ancient, like The Art of War), I buy it in the original language, to experience the story the way it was meant to be experienced. Pardon my French, but translations always suck.

  7. Marie Brennanon 05 Dec 2006 at 11:20 am

    Tim –

    To put in a really mercenary-sounding way, selling the foreign rights to a book means you earn more money off the same work you’ve already done. Given how long novels take to write, and the small sums generally involved in SF/F publishing, foreign sales can make up a sizeable chunk of a writer’s income. If we had to depend on domestic sales entirely, a lot fewer people would be able to make their livings from this profession. It sounds like we’re lazy when I put it that way, but being able to make extra money from the same novel is often a necessary part of keeping afloat.

    On a less mercenary note, I completely agree with you about the loss of artistry that can happen. I’m in a bad position to judge quality of translations, since I’m an American whose only fluent language is English (I can read Spanish, but not enough to attempt a novel in it), and translations of spec fic *into* English are kind of thin on the ground. But I can offer a one-off anecdote: I read Sergei Lukyanenko’s Night Watch this year, and while I wondered how many of my craft issues with that book stemmed from the translation, I still quite enjoyed it. Since I don’t read a lick of Russian (I only know about 75% of the Cyrillic alphabet), I never would have been able to appreciate that book if the translation didn’t exist. So translations offer a way to reach a wider audience that simply wouldn’t happen otherwise. It may not be as good as your own native-language original, but people in other countries buy and enjoy them, so I don’t think it’s wasted effort.

  8. Teichon 05 Dec 2006 at 12:10 pm

    @Tim: And as a reader I want to read Fantasy in my mother-tongue. I have to read (technical) stuff in english all day long at my job as a domain administrator.

    But when I get home, I want to relax. And reading books in mothertongue is much more relaxing (faster and easier) than in english.

    And to say translations always suck is just not true. Okay, an translation is always an interpretation of some sort, but there really really good translators out there, who do wonderfull job. The translator for steven Eriksons Malazan for instance, is a common writer on some Fantasy-forums, and provides a lot of feedback why he translated this-and-that into this-and-that. And also how much effort and thinking he put into these translations.

  9. Linda Antonssonon 05 Dec 2006 at 12:14 pm

    I think it is important for fantasy to be translated in order for the genre to be able to pick up new readers in foreign countries when they’re quite young.

    It is true that much translated fantasy is done quite poorly, but if I take Sweden as an example, fantasy is marketed primarily to a younger audience here who may not be quite so bothered by not-so-great translations.

    I know I wasn’t when I started reading fantasy at quite a young age, and the only reason I went over to reading in English after just a few years was that the translations weren’t coming out fast enough.

    I also think that the quality will improve as more long-term fantasy readers, who understand the needs of the genre, become translators. :)

  10. Tim Stoopon 05 Dec 2006 at 4:31 pm

    Humpf. Well, I guess I’m a puritan in that, then ;-)

    I can understand the money part. But instead of mere translations, wouldn’t you prefer another artist to take the story and redo it in his or her own language? Too often I encounter sentences in Dutch that I can directly translate to their English originals and which just don’t sound right in Dutch. I’ve had several books that I put down because of that. (The Lord of the Rings being on of them, a book I quite enjoyed in it’s original language.) I mean, translating should be much more than applying a dictionary to some text, I think.

    I can not really understand the “reading in your native language is easier” part, though. I’m in IT too, a niche even, so my days are spent not only reading (badly written) English man-pages, but also badly written English comments in source code. I enjoy reading either an O’Reily or an Orbit/Tor.

    Ah well, guess it’s also a market thing. I know here in the Netherlands people tend to dislike reading in foreign languages because it was compulsary at high school :| I still hear a lot of people who used to read but got a strong dislike for reading after their high school period (including my gf). But that’s another story.

    I hope the quality will indeed get better, but I’ll still prefer the original ones :) Enough ranting for now. Wishing you the best of luck in getting your dues from those evil foreigners ;-)

  11. Katharine Kerron 05 Dec 2006 at 5:09 pm

    I’d rather that people read my books in English, sure. I also wish I read German, Spanish, Russian, Chinese, Japanese, Hindi, and 10 or more other languages fluently. As it is, I can only read English, French, Welsh, and Latin. That leaves an awful lot of books beyond my grasp — except in translation. I never could have read the great 19th century Russian novelists, for instance, without translations. Or anything in Greek, classical or modern, anything from Asia, etc etc. No one has time to learn all the major literary languages, in other words. Though with SF and F, I suppose if you knew English and Russian you could get the most of it.

    The Swedish translations of my stuff seem to be very good, just by the way, according to the friend (one, count her, one!) I know who reads Swedish. Dunno about the others. The Italian one — I can sort of puzzle my way through a little Italian — seems spotty, okay in places, odd in others.

    What Marie said about the money is very very true, esp. now with book sales down as far as they are. An author needs everything she/he can get. Marie, I did get German royalties, btw, so maybe you will, too.

    I also get the impression from being in Europe now and then that many Europeans resent the dominance of English in world affairs, especially business, where the situation seems to be “learn English or else.” I can understand not wanting to use it at home and in your leisure hours, therefore. Each language, as Tim points out, has its own nuances and flavor, and is worthy of respect and use. It’s a pity when a dominant language drives out a native tongue, especially when it happens by violence and the force of law on the part of the dominant-lanaguage speakers, ie, like what happened in the Americas from the influx of English in the north and Spanish in the south.

    One of these days English as a “world language” will probably be driven out by Chinese, is my prediction of the day. :-)

  12. Teichon 05 Dec 2006 at 5:29 pm

    I can understand the money part. But instead of mere translations, wouldn’t you prefer another artist to take the story and redo it in his or her own language? Too often I encounter sentences in Dutch that I can directly translate to their English originals and which just don’t sound right in Dutch.

    Actually THAT’s what a good translator does!!!
    If it sounds bad in Dutch and you can easily translate it into english, it sounds like a lazy translator was at work. As I said, there ARE very good translators at work here in german, but as I understood they are mostly underpaid and under heavy preasure.

    You also mentioned Lord of the Rings. The first german translation, done by Margaret Carroux is a fine example HOW TO translate such a work. It isn’t possible to translate the english styles used in the work, since there isn’t a correspondencance in german. Margaret Carroux instead used something many people called “bible-style”. Slow, full of myth and a perfect match for LOTR. So it IS indeed a REDO of the work, and if the translator knows what he does, it’s far better than reading the english original when that”s not your mother tongue. (You’ll end up missing most of the “finer” parts anyway…)

    If have Kathryns “Book of Fey” and I wouldn’t have read them if the were not translated into german. And I just read a fantasy book from an italian Author, and have one from a france author on my “to-do” list. So, should I have to learn italian and french and russian and what’s-not just to read good fantasy/SF books?

    No way!

  13. Teichon 05 Dec 2006 at 5:38 pm

    I can not really understand the “reading in your native language is easier” part, though. I’m in IT too, a niche even, so my days are spent not only reading (badly written) English man-pages, but also badly written English comments in source code. I enjoy reading either an O’Reily or an Orbit/Tor.

    Since your from Netherlands, I assume you have been trained in english a lot. I KNOW that my english knowledge from school and work AIN’T a match for a fantasy book. There are so many expressions, nuances etc.. that may work for a native speaker, but won’t work for the average “english-reader”. Talking names for example. There’s been a lot of uproar about how the german translator … translated a name in the malazan books. Until he acutally told them why he chose that name and why it fits perfectly. That’s becauce none of those “oh-so-mighty-english-readers” understood that the name was a reference to a special canadian bird…. (Erikson is a Canadian Author)

  14. Charleson 05 Dec 2006 at 6:21 pm

    So, as long as your books get translated into another language with care and not “dubbed”, if you will, into another language, then I would hope it would help generate sales overseas and not marginalize them.

    If a foreign publisher picks up a series, do they have the same person translate the series, or is it pot luck in terms of the talent of the translator from book to book?

  15. Teichon 05 Dec 2006 at 6:27 pm

    have Kathryns “Book of Fey”

    Katharine’s “Devery” of course…. I should not reply on four different forums/blogs at the same time, especially when 2 of them talk about finished series/closed down Excalibur books…

    Jeeezzzz……

  16. Teichon 05 Dec 2006 at 6:37 pm

    If a foreign publisher picks up a series, do they have the same person translate the series, or is it pot luck in terms of the talent of the translator from book to book?

    As far as I can tell as a reader, the publishers tend to use the same translator if possible. But that depends on the “hit-level” of the original books and how much other work the translator has to do. To be honest i am not sure, and I will ask the malazan-translator if he has the time to answer that question with more details…

    I know he has translated all 6 books from Erikson and others, but not sure how “fixed” the translators are to a certain author. Afaik the german Pratchett translator has been the same for years, but as I mentioned above, you cannot compare the “average” fantasy author to Rowling or Pratchett.

  17. Amanda Weinsteinon 06 Dec 2006 at 3:05 am

    How annoying.

    From what I’ve noticed of French SF translations, though, there is a lot of translating of SFnal terms that don’t need translation. E.g “gueyt de garde” for Anne McCaffrey’s Pern novels, in place of “watchwher.”

    At least Persaune carries with it the right connotation in French, since I assume it is supposed to be a variation on “personne.”

  18. Tim Stoopon 06 Dec 2006 at 5:44 am

    Since your from Netherlands, I assume you have been trained in english a lot.

    English, French and German are compulsary for at least two years for the latter two and 7 years for the first (at least when I went to school). So indeed, I’ve had some extensive training. Besides, the Dutch don’t have any problem in general speaking/reading/using a foreign language when the need arises. When I was younger I was always baffled that when we went to Germany my parents would speak German there and when Germans came to the Netherlands, every Dutch person simply spoke German to them too! Also, Dutch is a very small language, compared to the world, and being a nation of traders… Well, you get the idea ;-)

    et the impression from being in Europe now and then that many Europeans resent the dominance of English in world affairs, especially business, where the situation seems to be “learn English or else.” I can understand not wanting to use it at home and in your leisure hours, therefore.

    Hm, I’d say you’ll probably get that feeling in France, but not in a lot of other places. The French are still annoyed that their language got kicked from that top-spot ;-) When I’m talking business in Germany, we generally use English (my German isn’t really all that good). People use it easily. As a matter of fact, a lot of “language comitees” are concerned about the overuse of English terminology in every-day use of the language. I don’t think English will get pushed from its spot any time soon.

    From what I’ve noticed of French SF translations, though, there is a lot of translating of SFnal terms that don’t need translation.

    Exactly! Names can be a description of the place they describe, but since most authors describe the places anyway, it’s not necessary to translate them. That usually gives the story an amateuristic aire I really dislike. Besides, using the original names in the other language, might lead a reader to do some exploring. I know I went reading a lot about the Britons, the Gauls and even the Tuatha Dé Danann after reading the first Deverry novel, just to get a better feeling for the language and the culture. That search got started with terms like cadrvidoc and gwerbrett.

    So, as long as your books get translated into another language with care and not “dubbed”, if you will, into another language, then I would hope it would help generate sales overseas and not marginalize them.

    Yeah. If I would write a novel and it would get translated, I’d search for a translator that has some reputation. The really good ones do get noticed. And I might ask a native speaker to “beta test” the translation for a few parts. Just to see if the feeling is right.

    For example, when I look for some Eastern philosophy, I usually search for books translated by Thomas Cleary. Read his translation (to English) of “The Art of War” and just bought his translation of “I Ching”. He interprets, but it helps so much to really understand the text (and I checked with a Chinese philopher friend, who coïncidently got me started on those texts because he was sure I wouldn’t get the essence of them, I’m arrogant in that way :)).

    Maybe we should stop talking about “translations” and “translators” and start using “interpretations” and “interpreters”.

  19. Tim Stoopon 06 Dec 2006 at 5:44 am

    Woops, sorry for the extremely long comment :|

  20. Linda Antonssonon 06 Dec 2006 at 10:33 am

    Not all translators agree on what the best approach is. :)

    One school of thought says that you should try to produce a translation that reads as if it was originally written in your language and for your culture. This means translating not only words but also concepts, if there are cultural differences.

    The opposite school of thought argues that a translation should stay as close as possible to the original, even if it means that the result may be somewhat more affected by the original language.

    For example, English uses a lot more alternatives to ‘he/she said’ than Swedish tends to do. For a translation that sticks close to the original, instead of trying to make it sound as if it was written in Swedish from the start, the translator would probably keep those variations instead of using the equivalent of ‘he/she said’ as a substitute for most of them.

    Personally, I tend to prefer the ‘stick as close as possible to the original’ approach. For something like poetry, and perhaps for some types of prose that skirts close to poetry, the interpretative method is pretty much necessary, but for most books I prefer it if the translation tries to keep as much of the flavour of the original as possible.

  21. Lyssabitson 06 Dec 2006 at 1:15 pm

    There are so many expressions, nuances etc.. that may work for a native speaker, but won’t work for the average “english-reader”.

    I think you could argue that with the poor state of affairs in the US today, many American native english-speakers don’t understand the expressions and nuances found in fantasy novels either. ;) People are always amazed at the words I have at my fingertips and bust out in casual conversation, simply because it doesn’t occur to me to say things in any other way. They never believe me when I say that the only thing I’ve done to improve my vocabulary is read a lot of books. There’s something criminal happening in this country. *sigh*

    As for translations… I have mixed feelings about them. I watch a lot of anime, and on the one hand, I like fansubs because they tend to be straight translations and so you get more information about the humor and phrases that the Japanese use. On the other hand, the commerical translations let you experience the story a little more fully (if it’s done well) because they bring it into the context of the audience. But with both fansubs and commercial translations you’re going to have people who do it well and people who do it really really poorly. (Man, the translations where they were translating a name that was clearly already in english into an entirely different name.. I mean, what?!) You just have to figure out where to get the good translations.

  22. Jellyn Andrewson 06 Dec 2006 at 2:34 pm

    How much of a say do authors have when it comes to translations of their work? I know some would just want to hand over the whole thing to the agent and publisher(s) and just take the check. But if you wanted more control, could you get it? Could you specify a translator or tell the French in particular to stop messing with your names?

  23. Teichon 06 Dec 2006 at 4:18 pm

    How much of a say do authors have when it comes to translations of their work? I know some would just want to hand over the whole thing to the agent and publisher(s) and just take the check. But if you wanted more control, could you get it? Could you specify a translator or tell the French in particular to stop messing with your names?

    In my opinion most of the authors a) do not care a lot about the translations and b) won’t understand the language either. And that’s understandable. I mean, I my mothertongue is german, I CAN understand english and I understand SOME small bits of french. That’s it. Now there may be polish translation, japanese, chinese, dutch, whatever you can think of. How can an author be ready to “test” all those translations?

    On a sidenote: the new (Fantasy) trend here in germany seems to promote more german authors, instead of buying rights from US/UK authors and save the money for translations. Too bad the average german author is often miles and miles away from even the worst translation. They simply cannot compare to authors like GRRM, Erikson, Bakker, Bujold, Keyes, Hobb, Sapkowski, Pratchett, Clarke, G.G.Kay etc.. etc…..etc

    Funny enough, some of those books are “mega-sellers” here (more than 500.000 copies) while actually you can forget them compared to international authors. Admitted, a few fantasy here ARE real good: Walter Moers, Kai Meyer and Ralf Isau to name a few. But the rest… Uh oh!

    Back to your question: I’ve heard that some of the authors do have very friendly connections to their translators, while others won’t even mind to reply to mails. So I guess it depends a lot, how much the author cares about the translation. I pretty sure every publisher would give the author the mail adress of the translator (or any other way to contact him/her) if the author would ask. I’ve read that Tolkien “authorized” the first translation of LOTR done by Margaret Carroux, but hey – is there a language JRRT couldn’t read/write? ;)

  24. Linda Antonssonon 06 Dec 2006 at 5:23 pm

    My understanding is that most authors have virtually no control over who gets assigned to do a translation. However, most translators are likely quite happy to work with an author if given the chance. I know some will attempt to contact the authors to ask questions about, for example, made up words in fantasy or science fiction.

    The infamous case here would, I guess, be the Swedish translations of Tolkien, where I believe Tolkien did get in touch with the original translator, but he (the translator) was … a bit full of himself. He didn’t much care to make use of the very helpful notes Tolkien had made available regarding what should and should not be translated, and what sort of meaning they should aim for with certain words.

  25. Hughon 06 Dec 2006 at 6:23 pm

    I’ve had the pleasure, some years ago, of working pretty closely with a couple of Czech friends who were free-lancing some translations from English into Czech (one, as I recall, was “The Weapon Shops of Isher”). Both of them had excellent English, and my Czech was getting pretty good at the time, so we had a great deal of fun almost but not quite collaborating on the translations–I guess I was sort of a consultant, kibbitzing or just generally getting in the way, but from time to time I thought I actually made a contribution in helping the transfer process from the one language into the other, and it certainly helped improve my command of Czech!

    A professional author probably would not have the time (Tolkien’s notes aside) to offer that kind of collaboration with a translator in most cases, since the next project would be demanding all her/his attention. BTW surely that’s a doctoral dissertation there waiting to be written, Linda, unless it’s already been done?

    I’ll be reasonably content if the translator currently working on my book (history, not genre fiction–or is that a pair of opposites really anyway? but that’s an idea for another time) simply pays attention to the list of errata I’m collecting…

  26. Nicole L.on 07 Dec 2006 at 10:56 pm

    Hey, as a translator (although technical, not literary), I have to say that there are good translators and bad ones, just like everything else. And there are a lot of translators that don’t know their craft. Many people think that just because they speak another language it means that they can transfer the meaning in writing to their own language. But you have to know how to write in your own language, and write fiction, and you need that grasp of the other language.

    A good translator will contact the author and ask tons of questions… when it’s possible. The publisher and the author may not know to do this. Or there might be too many intermediaries. Or the translator might not have time. You think authors get paid poorly? Well literary translators (except a very very few who are famous and translate a specific famous author’s books) get paid even worse. So I imagine that anyone translating SF/F is getting paid very very poorly.

    And as an aside, I was just reading a study that concluded that even people with very high functioning in a second language miss up to 40% of the connotations of their second language. Such as innuendo, double meanings, etc. The study was of people with PhDs who were near fluent.

    There’s an interesting article in The Craft of Translation by Margaret Sayers Peden (she has translated Carlos Fuentes, Octavio Paz and Isabel Allende) that discusses translating poetry and she gives 9 examples of English translations of ONE Spanish sonnet — all beautiful and valid, but being faithful to the original in different ways, i.e. maintaining meter, or rhyme structure or imagery, etc. Of course poetry is more complicated because if nothing else there are fewer words, but when you translate something you can’t keep everything, something will get lost. However, that doesn’t mean it can’t be a work of art.

  27. kateelliotton 08 Dec 2006 at 3:23 am

    I find the European perspective really interesting.

    I have had translators from Germany and Poland contact me via email with questions, which I promptly answered.

    I don’t know Polish at all, and while I know a smidgeon of German it isn’t enough for me to read anything except basic signage.

    I don’t know any second language well enough to judge the translation, much less any given translator.

  28. glenda larkeon 08 Dec 2006 at 7:33 am

    Huh? You guys don’t get paid for the Russian versions?

    I have two books published by the same Russian publisher and I’ve been paid for both. A flat rate, outright sale and no worry about tax either cos you can’t claim…

    The second book sold for more than the first.

    It took about a year to get the payment after signing – but it did arrive. My (UK based) agent uses a Russian agent. I only got one or two free copies, though.

    Seems to me your guys have been scammed…

    I’ve also had the first payment on my latest German translation, but I dunno what has happened to the book. There’s no sign of it after a couple of years. Lost in Translation maybe?

  29. Constance Ashon 09 Dec 2006 at 8:23 pm

    Our problem is quite other: the publisher insisted on keeping the foreign rights, and then did nothing, despite all the inquiries from European publishers expressing interest. Nor will they return the rights.

    Tonight we’re going to a party we’d looked forward to, and then leaving early to meet with a U.K. friend and editor, who wants to talk. Agent this time around kept foreign rights ….

    Also I’m hearing from U.K. friends that their foreign sales are really paying handsomely, more than their U.K. and U.S. payouts together. Sometimes a lot more.

    Hmmmmmmmm.

    I know this doesn’t in any way help or change your mind about joining a Zen nunnery. Will they still let you watch football and yell?

    Love, C.

  30. Teichon 10 Dec 2006 at 1:10 pm

    ’ve also had the first payment on my latest German translation, but I dunno what has happened to the book. There’s no sign of it after a couple of years. Lost in Translation maybe?

    Out of curiosity: which publisher did you sell the rights to? Knaur started an interesting fantasy-line back in … nut sure when… and then suddenly decided to shut down their entire fantasy-line after a few years.

  31. Teichon 10 Dec 2006 at 1:13 pm

    Our problem is quite other: the publisher insisted on keeping the foreign rights, and then did nothing, despite all the inquiries from European publishers expressing interest. Nor will they return the rights.

    Well… If the bought rights but then decided decided the book actually won’t sell as the thought, they surely won’t return the rights until the contract is over. (Hoping another publisher would jump on the book and they could sell their rights to them.)

  32. kateelliotton 11 Dec 2006 at 2:12 pm

    I just checked my (admittedly primitive) accounting of income for the last few years.

    I have been paid for my Russian editions. Not much, but I’ve been paid for the four books I’ve seen copies of so far.

  33. Carol Bergon 14 Dec 2006 at 1:10 am

    Hi all, she says, emerging from three months of writing madly to finish the latest tome,

    I have had pretty good luck with getting paid my advances from German, Czech, Polish, Israeli, and two different Russian publishers, and even a miniscule bit of royalties from my first Russian publisher. I do know that some of the smaller market publishers have such tight cash flow that they can’t pay advances until right when the book comes out.

    I have corresponded with a couple of my translators who seemed to be working hard to get things right. And my Hebrew translation of Transformation actually won an award last year. I met a couple of people who told me it was done really well.

    My only overseas problem (that I know of!) happened to be with my UK publisher who didn’t inform me until last year about a disaster with the first printing of Transformation. Evidently, they left off the last page, had to recall the books, the truck was hijacked on the way to the fiery furnace, and the books showed up in discount houses before they got the new printing to bookshops… Aarrgh…

    Carol, slowly catching up with life now that Breath and Bone is sitting on my editor’s desk

  34. Nevenka Peikovon 14 Dec 2006 at 12:19 pm

    As book’s translations go in Italy I have to say Editrice Nord is actually one of the best. At least they translate almost literally and they don’t forget “parts” of the books as some others do, plus, as far as I know their translators are fan of the genre and that never hurts.
    I have read their versions of Daggerspell, Darkspell and Bristling Wood before reading them in English and the differences were minimal. Some words, a couple of sentences that couldn’t be rendered in Italian. The same goes for Eddings’ Belgariad, but unfortunately for him the Malloreon was optioned by another publisher and… well… it was not so good. They couldn’t translate a joke if their life depended on it.

    I guess it’s needless to say I am Italian and also a translator, though I do judicial/financial stuff.

    The problem here is that SF and Fantasy books are usually given to translate to people just out of school (they’re cheaper). That in itself wouldn’t be so bad, but translators’schools in Italy simply suck! Some popular authors, Marion Zimmer Bradley for example, get a popular translator but common practice wants said translator to subcontract the job to others. The result is the Italian version of The Mists of Avalon. 200 pages circa shorter (Italian being a pretty verbose language it should have been the opposite) , most of the parts about Paganism vs Christianity vanished or altered and mistakes so stupid that in the end you’d think Viviane would have converted and become a nun if she wasn’t killed!

    I know from her site that the same thing happened to Diana Gabaldon a few years ago with her first book, Outlander. The Italian edition was a couple hundred pages instead of her normal 800 or more. She promptly withdrew the rights from Italy until she found another publisher who would not cut and condense her work.

    Another problem are editors. An author might even get lucky and have a pretty good translator but then the editor (meaning the supposed owner of the publishing house or a director who most of the time can’t read in English OR Italian) will have his say. This could lead to a whole reorganization of the book. He could say the language used is not impressive enough, or the names of the characters are not to his liking or whatever he feels like saying since his decisional power is pretty much absolute. If any of you heard something about Italian politics in the last 6/7 years just pick the government example and fit it into a publishing house. That’s how it usually works. An house of mayhem where one person makes all the decisions and if you don’t like it you’re fired and probably will never work again.

    Most translators, including humble me, consider literary translation a waste of time and health. Moreover, it doesn’t pay the bills so… better to go into technical stuff (they pay on time and make no fuss about the receipt) and buy your books original from Amazon or B&N.
    By the way, 20% of the total paid for each job is what the Italian version of IRS takes from me. I guess they treated one of my favourite authors like she had an Italian VAT number. I would ask a lawyer if that was possible. Actually, I think I will ask a lawyer!

    Oh, and if you’re wondering, Tv series and film translation are not much better off. They all speak the same, nobody says bad words if he can avoid that and everything out of the ordinary (Un-Christian like, Gay-Lesbian, etc.) is simply censored, unless you have a kick-ass Hollywood major behind you. Buffy the Vampire Slayer is just a laugh if you see it in English and then in Italian.

    Sorry for the long comment and the raving! :(

  35. Teichon 14 Dec 2006 at 3:46 pm

    Carol Berg said:
    I have had pretty good luck with getting paid my advances from German, Czech, Polish, Israeli, and two different Russian publishers, and even a miniscule bit of royalties from my first Russian publisher. I do know that some of the smaller market publishers have such tight cash flow that they can’t pay advances until right when the book comes out.

    Hi Carol!
    I just recently saw that one of your books is going to be released here by Blanvalet. I’m very eager to read it, since I’ve heard only good things about them. (But I’m to lazy to read english…)
    And the cover ain’t that bad too! (I’ve seen worse on german fantasy…)
    http://www.amazon.de/Tor-Verwandlung-Carol-Berg/dp/3442243610/sr=1-2/qid=1166125396/ref=sr_1_2/302-8345519-0309662?ie=UTF8&s=books
    And if the amazon database is correct, I expect a great translation too. Gerd is the translator I’ve mentioned before, he’s doing the malazan translations here in germany and really put’s a lot of thoughts and energy into the translations.

  36. Carol Bergon 14 Dec 2006 at 5:37 pm

    Teich said,

    I just recently saw that one of your books is going to be released here by Blanvalet. I’m very eager to read it, since I’ve heard only good things about them. (But I’m to lazy to read english…)
    And the cover ain’t that bad too! (I’ve seen worse on german fantasy…)
    And if the amazon database is correct, I expect a great translation too. Gerd is the translator I’ve mentioned before, he’s doing the malazan translations here in germany and really put’s a lot of thoughts and energy into the translations

    Wow, excellent – I hadn’t seen the cover. (Not that I understand its relationship to the story, but I’ve learned to be OK with that!) And I am very pleased to hear that the translator has a good rep.

    Thanks for the heads up! (And I hope you enjoy the books – they should be bringing out all three of my first series, Transformation, Revelation, and Restoration.)

    Carol

  37. Teichon 14 Dec 2006 at 8:00 pm

    Carol Berg said:
    Wow, excellent – I hadn’t seen the cover. (Not that I understand its relationship to the story, but I’ve learned to be OK with that!) And I am very pleased to hear that the translator has a good rep.

    Thanks for the heads up! (And I hope you enjoy the books – they should be bringing out all three of my first series, Transformation, Revelation, and Restoration.)

    NEVER EVER ask about the cover and it’s meaning to the story! (At least not in germany, that is…). No kidding, I think german publishers have a long tradition not caring for the content and instead putting any picture they like on a “fantasy book”.
    OK admitted, they slowly get better at that! And as I said, your bookcover is actually one of the “better” ones…
    Trust me, better THIS picture than the typical “red-hot-haired-half-nacked-barbarian-girl” which is always a winner… ;)

    Great to hear the complete series is going to be released. The first one will be out in juli next year, so it’s still a while. But I think I will do enjoy the books – from those who read the english originals you only have received very high scores! :)
    (4 – 4 1/2 stars from 5 possible, which means you are far far far above the average “No-I-will-not-mention-the-name-whose-film-is-just-beeing-torn-apart-in-every-newspaper” books. :)

    Teich

  38. Carol Bergon 15 Dec 2006 at 12:08 pm

    Trust me, better THIS picture than the typical “red-hot-haired-half-nacked-barbarian-girl” which is always a winner… ;)

    I finally figured out what the cover represents – a mirror – which IS very significant in the story. As to what is reflected, not quite so clear – but I am fine with it. I am very relieved they didn’t go with the half-naked girls. That surely could have happened, as much of the story is set in a desert empire! Whew!

    But I think I will do enjoy the books – from those who read the english originals you only have received very high scores! :)
    (4 – 4 1/2 stars from 5 possible, which means you are far far far above the average

    Very nice to hear.

    “No-I-will-not-mention-the-name-whose-film-is-just-beeing-torn-apart-in-every-newspaper” books.

    Sigh. The everpresent commercial success conundrum.

    Carol

  39. Teichon 15 Dec 2006 at 2:00 pm

    [quote]I finally figured out what the cover represents – a mirror – which IS very significant in the story. As to what is reflected, not quite so clear – but I am fine with it. I am very relieved they didn’t go with the half-naked girls. That surely could have happened, as much of the story is set in a desert empire! Whew![/quote]

    Oh, yes – I thought the mirror was quite clear. The german title is something like “Door of tranformation/metamorphosis” and if you look at the sand in the foreground and the snow (?) covered mountains and the water in the mirror, I think this reflects it quite good.

    Just as an example for a bad covers – have a look what they have done to McKiernan’s books:
    http://amazon.de/s/ref=nb_ss_w/302-8345519-0309662?__mk_de_DE=%C5M%C5Z%D5%D1&url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=Mckiernan&Go.x=0&Go.y=0&Go=Go

    Looks like the painter played to much WOW… :)

  40. TeichDragonon 15 Dec 2006 at 2:25 pm

    Carol Berg said:
    Ifinally figured out what the cover represents – a mirror – which IS very significant in the story. As to what is reflected, not quite so clear – but I am fine with it. I am very relieved they didn’t go with the half-naked girls. That surely could have happened, as much of the story is set in a desert empire! Whew!

    Yepp, I thought the mirror part was quite clear. The german title is something like “Door of transformation/metamorphosis”. I think the sand in the foreground and the snowy mountains with the water in the mirror reflect that quite good.

    About bad covers: Take a look what they have done to McKiernans books – http://www.amazon.de/s/ref=nb_ss_b/302-8345519-0309662?__mk_de_DE=%C5M%C5Z%D5%D1&url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=McKiernan

    Looks like the painter played a little too much WOW… ;)

    Sidenote: I finally realized I had registered an account here :D

  41. Carol Bergon 15 Dec 2006 at 7:32 pm

    Whew, you’re right about Dennis McKiernan’s covers. You just wonder what people are thinking.

    Carol

  42. Jellyn Andrewson 16 Dec 2006 at 10:51 am

    I think the cover on Tor der Verwandlung looks a lot like the Naomi Novik covers, which I really love. They’re relevant to the story, beautiful, and rather intriguing, without trying to stick a human in there.

  43. Gwenon 16 Dec 2006 at 4:01 pm

    -To put in a really mercenary-sounding way, selling the foreign rights to a book means you earn more money off the same work you’ve already done.-

    In other words: We can get paid twice!

    -I am very relieved they didn’t go with the half-naked girls. That surely could have happened, as much of the story is set in a desert empire! Whew!-

    And then they’d die of exposure. Sounds like fun.

    I wonder what translators do if they come across, say, a French or Spanish word in an English book and they’re translating into the language used. Do they leave it (after all, it’s in the target language already), or change it to another language (I guess if the point is that it’s in another language, like Draco and his cousin speaking in French to each other to show off their education while an eavesdropper only catches a couple of words)?

Trackback URI | Comments RSS

Leave a Reply