This post is the first one in a series for self-publishing writers who are thinking of translating their books into another language. But before I get to the reasons of why you might want to translate your book into Russian, I want to give a short explanation of why I decided to write this series of articles (feel free to skip this part and scroll down to the reasons).
I’ve always wanted to translate books. Time and time again I would come across both fiction and non-fiction books in English that hadn’t been translated into Russian and I would desperately want to share them with the people around me, who don’t speak or read English.
And I don’t mean only the work of famous writers, which usually gets translated at some point. There is a lot of great books from self-published authors that are well worth reading and sharing, but do not get that much attention. And this is one of the reasons I want to work with them.
At the moment I don’t have any literary translation experience apart from translating articles for my I Love Mondays newsletter every week for almost 9 months, which I think is a good way to practice this kind of skills as I’m particularly interested in translating non-fiction books dealing with the topics of living a more happy life, building your own business and becoming more productive.
So when I decided I want to pursue this new area of specialization, I started to think of ways in which I can reach out to authors. And the idea of writing something that would be useful for my ideal clients really appealed to me.
This series of articles will answer such questions as why you might want to translate your books into Russian, how you can get them translated and what you need to know to make the experience of working with a translator productive and enjoyable, and how you can share the translations of your book with the Russian-speaking audience. It is based on research that I’ve been doing for the past couple of months and I also hope that my colleagues will share any useful information they have in the comments to this post.
So now that we got my motivation for writing these posts our of the way, let’s get to the question of why translating your book into Russian can be a good idea.
You have written a book. Hopefully, it’s been doing quite well in you home market and now you’re thinking about taking the next step and translating it into a different language. Or maybe you have already translated it into one or two of the most popular European languages and it’s also been a success.
Perhaps you want to spread your ideas even further. If this is the case, translating your book into Russian might be the perfect choice for you and here’s why:
1. You might find it interesting to share your ideas with people who belong to a very different culture
Russia is often perceived as a far away mysterious land. You probably know Tolstoy, Dostoevsky and Tchaikovsky. You might have even been to Moscow or Saint Petersburg. But you still think that Russians are somehow different. And it’s true!
Like any other nation, we have our peculiarities and see the world from another angle. And this is exactly why Russian audience might be attractive for you. Wouldn’t it be fascinating to see if your ideas resonate with someone with a different perspective?
On the other hand, Russia still belongs to Europe. In spite of all the cultural nuances we have many shared values, so your book is likely to find its audience.
2. It might increase the sales of your books in English — it’s prestigious to have your book translated into a more exotic language
Let’s be honest: Russian is very different from the majority of popular European languages.
And I don’t even mean the cases, genders, inflections and the unpredictable word order. It even looks different!
While you can try to read a text in French or Spanish and will even find some familiar words, this won’t happen with a Russian story or book. And that’s what makes it so special!
If personal meet-ups with your readers are something you do often to market your book, having a printed copy of its Russian translation might pique their interest.
3. Russian is spoken by 166 million people (compare it with 75.9 million French, 78.1 million German or 63.8 million Italian speakers) and while some of them read English, the majority doesn’t
Russia is sadly one of those countries, where the majority of the population doesn’t speak English. According to a survey conducted by Public Opinion Foundation in 2011, only 11% of respondents claimed to speak English (compare it with 64% in Germany or 39% in France).
Although the poll was conducted 5 years ago, I doubt that the situation has changed. Besides there’s is something about reading a good book in your native language, so some people prefer the translations to the originals even if they can read a certain language.
4. The e-book market is continuing to grow
If an e-book is the format you’d like to consider for your translated book, I have good news for you: over the past five years this market has grown exponentially
Strange as it may seem, the difficult economic situation in Russia may increase the demand for e-books even further.
Due to the drop of the ruble exchange rate the books production costs went up and so did the retail prices. That is why more and more people are starting to turn to e-books.
5. This is a challenge and a learning opportunity
For the past year I’ve been doing a lot of things that were challenging and made me go outside of my comfort zone. They all turned out to be beneficial for me in one way or another.
Translating a book into a foreign language is challenging. There’s a lot of things you have to think about: finding a good translator, sorting out the formatting and layout, finding a good distribution platform, figuring out how to market your book.
But overcoming challenges is a perfect way to learn. And you never know when you might need those skills and knowledge and what may come out of the whole experience.
So which books are more in demand right now? In her interview to the International Publishers Association Irina Gusinskaya from Alpina Publisher distinguishes several trends:
- People like to buy books on parenting. This is a broad category which includes everything from titles on early development to books helping them better understand their baby
- Another popular category includes books on cognitive skills like speed reading or memory training
- Titles on how to live a more simple, minimalistic, happy and healthy life are also selling well
- The same goes for books on building your business and productivity
Translating your book into Russian will not only bring your work closer to those who don’t readEnglish. It will help you learn new things about it. Will it resonate with people from a different country as much as it does with people who are more like you? Will it help them change their lives for the better just as it did for thousands of your readers? There’s only one way to find out.
ELENA TERESHCHENKOVA has been working as an English-to-Russian freelance translator since 2005. She specializes in marketing and creative translations. Elena is a co-host of Blabbing Translators, the first live talk-show about translation and translators, and the translator behind I Love Mondays―a project where she shares inspiring and useful articles written by English-speaking authors with Russian speakers. To learn more about Elena you can visit her website at Words Boutique.