From Molière to Shakespeare: how I translated my book from French to English
It all started in June 2012, when someone suggested that I sell my book in digital: the one I wrote almost 10 years earlier. A month later, on July 13th exactly, Six Faces was on sale at Kobo, thanks to the incredible tool called Kobo Writing Life.
A few months later and after hitting the Kobo’s TOP 50 in France a couple of times, I thought that I shouldn’t stop there. After talking with friends, I decided to translate it into English. The main reason was the following: the eBook market in English is more developed than the French one, and more English-speaking people are fans of fantasy books. So it was settled.
The first step was probably the toughest. How to find a good translator? I’ve worked in publishing for years, so I know a lot of them, but they translate from English to French. Not very useful in my case.
Fortunately, I work in an amazing worldwide company. I just asked one my coworkers if she knew some people. And she did. She introduced me to Madeline Coxwell (her pen name), and we hit it off almost instantly. Madeline is a French teacher and a big fan of fantasy. She was just perfect for the role. And, as a piece of advice, I think it’s really important to look for someone who’s not only able to translate your work, but also who has the right sensitivity with the genre you’re writing in. And believe me, it helped a lot.
Second step: Settle the deal and make a schedule. The fact I’ve worked in publishing helped me a lot with creating a schedule – so we came up with an accurate schedule about the delivery of each chapter. Usually, translations are reviewed by the editor. But I’m a self-published author, so basically, I am my own editor, so I did review the work.
Because we both work full-time elsewhere, the translation itself took about a year to complete.
Luckily, my English was good enough to go through the whole process. I can also confess that I laughed while re-reading my book. A lot. So I was glad to figure out three things: 1) the translator is really good; 2) my English is better than I thought; and 3) the book is actually funny. Or maybe I laugh too easily, which could well be the case.
So basically, the process was: she translated the chapter. I reviewed it. We had some back-and-forth about it and then we moved to the next chapter. At the end of the process, she ran through the whole book to edit it. We also sent the final version to some English-speaking friends so they could take a look.
All told, the cost was an initial fee (around $2K), and then a small royalty on each sale.
My advice on this part: if you aren’t fairly fluent in the language you’re translating your book into, don’t even think about doing it without an editor.
The third step is finalizing some details. What about the title? The cover? Well, for me it was easy. Funnily, the title of the book is the same in French and in English. Can you believe it? So, yes, “Six Faces” is both an English and a French title. Nailed it.
For the cover, well, as the title was the same, I decided to keep the same one too. It’s a great fantasy-style cover designed by a friend of mine using a drawing of another friend, a professional artist. Oh, right, another piece of advice: make sure to choose your friends well.
The fourth step was to upload it on Kobo Writing Life. It takes 5 minutes, and 1 or 2 days later, it’s on sale. Worldwide. I also made it available on other platforms.
The fifth step is the coolest one. Becoming a millionaire. So I’m just waiting now. OK, maybe I should actually work on my promotion plan. Getting in touch with bloggers, getting reviews, spreading the word on social networks… But maybe that’s another story.
Now, to the question: “Will I seek to translate into other languages, too?” It’s too soon to tell. I would have to research the market for my genre in other languages and countries. Plus, this time, I’d have to work with an editor as I won’t be able to review the book myself. It’s a whole different process. I guess, as a self-published author, you need to be aware of the work that goes into this. Adding a third person to the equation and you’re turning yourself into a real publishing house. Think about it. But, well, why not?
About the Author
Esteban Bogasi is a French author of fantasy literature whose first book, Six Faces (English, French), is a humorous and offbeat fantasy novel. He has also published in French several short novels, including the parody-horror series 7 Shades of Zombie.
Following an education in science, he worked as editor for many years before moving to the digital publishing world where he finds himself today.
As a lover of fantastic and wacky universes, and an admirer of author Terry Pratchett, he naturally came to writing by combining two of his passions: epic adventure and humorous parody.