Whether you’re a small business or self-published author, translating your book is a great way to increase your sales and reach new audiences across the globe. If you’re not fluent in another language, you might face some challenges when it comes to translating, localizing and editing your book for an international audience. 

Learn the the best ways to tackle these obstacles and other useful tips in our comprehensive guide for how to translate a book:

1. Establish an end-goal

Think about why you want to translate your book into another language. Are you looking to sell your products or services to people from other countries? Do you want to connect emotionally with audiences who speak a different language? If you do engage people from other countries on an emotion level, what is your overall goal for accomplishing this?

Translating a book involves time, money and effort. Establish what you want to achieve from translating your book and work diligently to attain it.   

2. Determine a target market  

If your book was originally published in English, some of the top foreign markets for publishers are Indonesia, India, China, Turkey and South Korea. 

Decide which countries to target according to your genre. Research the prominent genres in other countries, as well as diving into the systems of bureaucracy, censorship, and other issues you might face publishing your book in those countries.

Important questions to ask for market research:

  • Who is my competition? 
  • What other titles are similar to mine?
  • How does my book stand out in this market? 

Consider these questions for all of the markets you are thinking about entering. This knowledge can help you understand how your book will sell in a different country. If you don’t speak your target market’s language, use a professional translator or translation service to assist you with market research. 

A few other ways to identify who could be interested in your book:

  • Look at your KDP backend (your sales funnel on Kindle Direct Publishing) to see if you’ve had any international sales with your book written in English. These figures may represent English speakers living in those countries buying your book, but you’ll at least have an idea of which countries to look at. 
  • If you sell your book on Amazon, use Book Linker. On this free website, you can insert your book’s Amazon URL, and it’ll generate a link that functions on every Amazon market. This link shows the countries where people clicked your book’s link. 

Once you’ve determined your target market, decide which methods you’ll use to translate your book into their language

3. Consider using machine translation for common phrases

If you’re on a tight budget, try using a professional automated translation service like Microsoft Translator to translate the common words and phrases from your book. Machine translation can translate a decent amount of your text, but you’ll need a professional translator for the parts it couldn’t understand. The final product also must be edited by a professional or at least a native speaker for consistency and accuracy. 

This method is feasible if your book is nonfiction, but machine translation doesn’t function well with fiction since it lacks common phrases and sometimes uses invented language. 

Also see: What is creative translation? Everything you need to know

You can achieve better results by utilizing Microsoft Translator along with a low-cost online service like Memsource. Memsource integrates Microsoft Translator to translate a great deal of text automatically and at a surprisingly high standard. Microsoft Translator and Memsource can be fairly complicated to understand, and you’ll need to watch tutorials and read up on how to use them.

If you don’t have the time or patience to learn these platforms, it’s easier and more effective to hire professionals to translate your entire book from the beginning. 

4. Hire a professional translation service 

Hiring a professional translator who understands your target market’s culture and is a native  speaker of their language is the best way to guarantee your book is translated properly. 

A professional translator can adapt the tone, message and structure without losing the essence of the original piece. They’ll also localize the text to ensure cultural nuances aren’t miscommunicated.  

You’re risking your brand’s reputation and low sales numbers in an international market, as well as your local market, if your book is poorly translated. Say someone reads the Portuguese version of your book and tells their English-speaking friends they didn’t enjoy it. You can prevent these types of scenarios by using a professional translator to ensure your book is as high quality as the original. 

There’s mainly two options for professional translation services: a freelance translator or a translation agency. Research which option is better suited for you based on reputation, cost evaluation and communication styles. 

Key questions to ask a translation agency: 

  • Will I have full rights to your translation? 
  • When will the translation be completed? Is this guaranteed? 
  • Have you translated books similar to mine? 
  • How can we work together to make this process go smoothly? Will I be able to provide feedback on the translations? 
  • What’s the overall cost? Is there any possibility of extra charges? 

A few questions for a professional freelance translator: 

  • Have you translated books similar to mine for international markets? Pro tip: If they have, compare the reviews of their books in the international market to the reviews of the original book. If the reviews for the book they translated aren’t up to the same standard as the original, it may have been an issue of poor translation. 
  • Can you provide samples of other works you have translated? 
  • When and how often will we communicate? 

Once you’ve made your choice, maintain open communication and discuss items you’re happy with and areas for improvement. Get back to them in a timely manner if they have any questions. 

5. Edit and proofread 

In the same way your book was proofread and edited after you wrote it, you’ll also need an editor for the translated version of your book. An editor fixes any spelling, grammar, and mechanical mistakes made by the translator. 

Most translation services include proofreading and editing in the price of their services. If you decide to go with a freelance translator, you’ll need to hire an editor or second translator to double check the first translator’s work. 

Editing and proofreading are additional costs, but they are worth it to guarantee your book is translated to quality standards and flows well in the target language. 

6. Publish, market and monitor 

After your book’s been translated and edited, it’s time to publish and market it to other countries. If you’re having difficulties understanding the websites you’re selling on, ask your translator if they’d be interested in assisting you.  

Monitor how your book is performing in your target market. Compare your sales numbers to your expectations, and see if you’ll make back the money you spent on translation and editing. If you believe you can build a fan base in your international market, create a plan for how to bring it to fruition.

Get ready to have new readers from other countries coming to you with praise and questions. Be sure you are prepared to handle an influx of questions in another language. 

Still need help figuring out how to translate a book? Reach out to us today and discover the ways our expert team of translators can make your book read like it was written by a native. 

Check out our free interactive worksheet to adapt your brand’s content strategy to local markets:

Adapt your content strategy to local markets with this free interactive worksheet