My Babelcube Experience, Author Seeks Translators (part 1)

Babelcube logoWhat author wouldn’t love to have her/his books translated into other languages? Babelcube could be your dream come true. I see you’re reading the Danish version of my latest… hope you enjoy…

The concept of Babelcube is genius; they put authors and translators together to create foreign versions of the author’s book. Additionally, they distribute those books to retailers and offer a fine royalty to both author and translator. For authors,  it’s free to sign up with minimal effort, and the royalties increase as sales do plus you have a translator with vested interest in selling books.

(also see part 2 of My Babelcube Experience)

Too good to be true?

Maybe, maybe not. Definitely deserves a test run.

I found the upload process user-friendly. Just sign up (for free), fill out a profile and add books. The standard stuff goes there including title, cover image, description, genre, 2000 max character sample and more. They only accept books already listed on Amazon. You’re asked to briefly write about existing sales/rankings plus give website links, social media, Goodreads and more to show your commitment to author platform and marketing. This is a good thing IMO, something perspective translators probably appreciate. (Here’s an example of an author’s Babelcube page:

After filling out that info, you wait. Within a few days two offers came in for two of my books, one for an Italian translation and the other for Spanish. The translators wrote in perfect English, which gave me some peace of mind (see below), and you can research them as well. Along with the offers came sample translations of the first page or two so I could check with foreign friends who read Italian and Spanish before moving on to the next stage.

(Save 92% Sell Ebooks on Amazon and Major Retailers)

Stage 2 is sending your entire book minus any of the front or back matter. The translators work on the first 10 pages and return it. Then you go back to your foreign friends and see if those 10 pages read well. At this point you can still cancel the deal. Otherwise, if you like it and want to move forward, you agree to the full translation and go from there. (I’m waiting on the first 10 pages from both translators and will follow-up as this continues and link them here. *Update: the Italian version has been approved and is due for full translation by Sept. 16th.*)

Peace of mind?

One obvious concern is if a translator has a high-end translation software and uses that instead of doing an actual human translation; the results might pass my tests but upset a foreign reader. Do I really know enough people who read fluently and can identify a high-end software translation versus a human one? That remains to be seen, and Babelcube’s FAQ section is fairly limited in this regard. I emailed their support with this question and received no response to date. Bummer.

Payments – The Bottom Line

The translators make the most when the book generates less than $2000 in royalties, and the author does better as more books are sold. Babelcube’s cut is 15% across the board. Remember the translator is doing all the initial work and has the most at risk. Good for authors as the translator wants to sell books when they are published.

Babelcube royalties chartWhat about distribution partners and retailers? These are all the biggies with more probably entering the picture soon.

Babelcube retail partners

I’m an optimist and am going for it, but it wouldn’t surprise me if people have concerns about piracy, rights, length of terms, professionalism and more.

(also see part 2 of My Babelcube Experience)

Any comments, please leave them below or click here for the comments section.

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48 Responses to “My Babelcube Experience, Author Seeks Translators (part 1)”

  1. hedonist6 Says:

    Very comprehensive article, love it 🙂 I’ve tried babelcube for one of my short titles and found the experience to be quite good. My Italian translation especially did quite well considering I certainly didn’t promote it. It looks like my translator managed to get it mentioned on a romance book blog, or maybe it got picked up on its own. Either way, I’m convinced that’s what kickstarted the sales. Things have slowed down now, a couple of months later but I’m excited to upload a few more titles shortly 🙂

  2. KristinaLudwig Says:

    Babelcube sounds awesome. Thanks for the info, Jason! I’m looking forward to “part 2,” as you learn even more about Babelcube’s intricacies.

  3. Jan Marshall Says:

    Do you think humor-that is my American satire woul translate, JM?

  4. dm yates Says:

    At least there’s an option available. Thanks for telling us about this.

  5. Alana Woods Says:

    Thanks for letting us know, Jason. I think I’ll give it a go with my writing guide to start with. And maybe also look at the short story compilation before diving in the deep end with my novels.

  6. Blogs for Self-Publishers, August 2 – 8, 2014 — The Book Designer Says:

    […] Matthews on How to Make, Market and Sell Ebooks My Babelcube Experience, Author Seeks Translators (part 1) “What author wouldn’t love to have her/his books translated into other languages? Babelcube […]

  7. jjtoner Says:

    I found a (good) translator on Elance, and he translated one of my books into Spanish. We changed the title and I had a new cover designed. I paid my translator for his work up front with no promise of royalty share. So far, I have sold zero of these books to Spanish readers (in 3 months). I reckon the royalty sharing method would have been a better choice. 🙂

  8. authormariagrace Says:

    A friend and I both uploaded books on the same night. She got a hit right away for a Spanish translator. The translator did an initial 250 word translation and she sent it to me as I have native Spanish speaking friends. Two readers both said it was a bad translation, done by a computer program.

    My friend wrote Bablecube of her concerns. They wrote back that they would investigate and if they found the translator was using a program, their account would be suspended.

    • Jason Matthews Says:

      That’s a great reminder to double-check these things with native readers of the language. Unfortunately, there are people like that out there. Thank you for sharing, Maria.

  9. Indie Authors: Translating Books for Multiple Audiences | Musings and Marvels Says:

    […] Babelcube: Use this site to find a translator. Instead of paying a fee, you split the royalty. Russell Phillips shares his experience using the service on Nonfiction Authors Association. And Jason Matthews breaks it down even more on How to Make, Market and Sell Ebooks. […]

  10. Valeria Ines Lagos Terrizzano Says:

    I am a Babelcube translator, although a pretty recent one. I’m working on my thid Babelcube title right now. I still have not received any money and sometimes fear that I never will. Of course, I knew this before I started. I have been a translator for over 13 years now, but I had never quite managed to break into the literary translation world, which I really wanted to do, so that’s the immediate advantage of Babelcube for me: I get in touch with authors, they get my sample and they decide whether or not it’s good enough for them. So far, two rather successful authors have accepted my work, which I know to be of very good quality. The problem comes with sales, or rather, with the lack of them due to widespread piracy. People like to not pay for digital stuff, be it music, books, films… I used to have a rather lenient view about this, but now that I’m on the side of those who do not get their royalties, well, obviously I am very much against it. Hopefully, lot of peoiple will buy my translations very soon!

    • Jason Matthews Says:

      Thank you for sharing the translator’s perspective, Valeria. While it would be ideal to have a lot of sales, it seems many translators have accepted jobs through Babelcube for exposure or to build a resume. I hope the books sell more for everyone, as that would be in all of our best interest. A thought about piracy: it is not something to fear as much as obscurity. Every time someone pirates a book, hopefully your name is getting seen by more people, which will lead to more sales eventually.

      • Valeria Ines Lagos Terrizzano Says:

        I hope you’re right! My first book has been out for just a month or so- hasn’t sold yet-, my second should be out but Babelcube seems to be experiencing some technical problems. The third one will be out this summer. Hopefully, they’ll all sell well!

  11. Henry Osal Says:

    My experience it is quite good. Many translations and good month extra incomes 😉

  12. Teddy Says:

    Thanks for this article! I put my first book, Destiny And Faith Go To Twincentric Academy, on BabelCube experimentally. I already have two translators. One for Spanish, one for Portuguese. It is hard to find reviews of the website. There just don’t seem to be a lot of them. So it was nice to read an article about the site.


    • Jason Matthews Says:

      Good luck to you, Teddy! You may want to check out the other Babelcube parts as well, lots to learn as I found out. I’ll be updating in the next few months too with sales and final grades.

  13. claudiacv Says:

    As a translator with 20 yrs. experience under my belt AND a novel writer, AND an avid reader I have to say that there are too many problems with Babelcube. First of all, it´s not fair for the translator. Translating is a difficult art. It´s not something you do in a blink of an eye. And the fact that the translator is not being paid up front is just very unfair, mostly because I don´t see the translators getting any money back, for years, if that at all happens.

    So, what translators will you normally find on Babelcube? People who have translated legal documents and the likes for years and translators that are just starting in the field of literary work or are novice translators in general. Not a good thing for your book, since it might end up reading like a medical file.
    Why do you think books like the Harry Potter, Carlos Ruiz Safron and García Márquez are so popular around the world? I´ll tell you–excellent, top quality translations.
    Then there is the idea that any book/story will work anywhere in any language. Absolutely not true. If you are planning to translate your stories/ novels, ask around first and see what sells well in that target language.
    As a translator I would stay away from Babelcube. And most likely as a writer as well. i completely agree with someone who said “if you pay peanuts, you will get monkeys.”

  14. Aspiring to Become a Translator Says:

    I was researching about Babelcube and saw a post on a forum of some guy telling about receiving around US$80 for a translation he did 60 days earlier and he was complaining that the royalties were being paid at half, considering the sales the website was reporting. So, yeah, stay away from it, it’s a scam where translators have to work hard while Babelcube’s CEO’s drop money in their pockets to do more of their cheap marketing.
    By the way, even if the translator manages to pick up a book which eventually will become a best seller, after US$8.000 on royalties the translator only gets 10% of it, so it’s not rewarding AT ALL.
    Not to mention the many complaints about fraudulent “translators” using Google Translator, books being returned because of that. The whole thing is a mess despite the beautiful concept.

    • Jason Matthews Says:

      I’m sure some of what you said is true, but it’s also important to realize using Google Translator to translate a book is a useless idea for any bogus Babelcube translator. The translators only make good money when books sell in bunches, and a book translated by Google (at this point in time) will probably not sell many copies at all.

  15. Cain Says:

    From my own translator’s experience: it can be a good training for new translators, but you must to keep your hopes for money low, or you’ll be dissapointed. I would advice: to choose a less than 40000 words book, to choose it very carefully and to look at the Amazon sales rank for this book. If rank at amazon. com is more than 50.000, forget it. It is estimated that a 50.000 rank mean about 5 sales a day in the hugue English market; in other languags probably will sell less. So, with a 50,000 rank, you could get about 0.5 dollars a day, or 15 a month in the first phase. You would need more than 5 years –66 months– (things going well). to make 1,000 dollars, that’s to say, 0,025 dollars/word (for a 40.000 words book). Flipping burgers at McDonalds pays 100x better.

  16. (@MoisBenarroch) Says:

    I have more than 30 translations going on in bablecube, 22 finished and published. I have only rejected one translation because the translator was not a native speaker and it showed in the translation. My books are literary works, both prose and poetry.
    I really love the babelcube concept, I even offered a royalty sharing with translators very similar to the bablecube scheme to translators, so for me finding this website was like seeing a dream become reality. The platform which interacts between authors and translators is very good and very user friendly. Works is indeed needed and besides the platform and some support authors and translators have to do most everything, which is formatting, creating a cover, etc…
    As an author I find the level of the translators to be very high, I am fluent in a few languages myself and also have writers friends in other languages who read the translations and they all praised the translations. Some are plain good, other excellent.

    The problem begins after the translations has been done. Bablecube will not even do one tweet of the published books, books are sent to channels and they appear after one day to two months’ time. You can schedule promotions but they either show up or not, sometimes they may show up in amazon but not in Kobo or Nook. Sometimes they show up in one amazon site but not in the others. Worse, sometimes they show up but on a different date.
    This fact itself makes it very hard to promote the translations, but the worst part is the sales reports. They are inaccurate at best, sales show up a very long time after a purchase has been made. There is sales report, and a royalty statement. My sales report is still stuck on the month of July, and we are at the end of October. So I have no idea what happened in the last 3 months.
    Ebook promoting is a very quick affair and you need to know what works and what doesn’t work in real time, or as much close as you can get to real time.
    As the site is now it is just nice seeing your books translated (since I am a known author I believe translator will get some visibility translating my works), but as a serious publishing tool there are many many many things to improve.

    • thequillwitch Says:

      The problem is that it´s unfair for the translator. The translator should ALWAYS receive money from her services. We should not be forced to sell the writer´s work. The writer should pay the translator for her services. End of story. This bablecube is shameful.

  17. BilingualGirl Says:

    Interesting. Does anyone know if translators do get paid even if the book isn’t sold? That just isn’t clear to me.

  18. German Russian translator Says:

    I haven’t tried Babelcube, but I like the idea. The thing is that this project (platform) requires that the translator must be a marketing specialist and an active promoter to sell the book when it is translated. Therefore, a translator who agrees to take part in the projects like this, must possess excellent marketing skills and have enough time to promote the book via the channels mentions on Babelcube website, as well as via blogging and social media in the language that the book is translated. Not many translators can do that, not many translators are willing to do that.
    In general, the idea is nice. But it seems to me, it needs some corrections. May be, it is worth inviting marketing specialist of the target languages to the platform, and reconsider the royalty options.

    • Jason Matthews Says:

      Those are good points. It’s pretty difficult selling books in general, especially for self-published authors, so I think the benefit of having books out there in multiple languages is worth it even if the translators aren’t savvy marketers.

    • Mois Benarroch Says:

      Right, this nis the weak spot in this whole project. Translators dont understand that they have become independent publishers when they work with Bablecube. They they are disappointed the books dont sell.
      Authors dont always have the skills to promotein distant markets and it need to be done the market’s language.

    • thequillwitch Says:

      I see it as a huge scam. The translator doesn´t get any money until she actually sells books. That is ridiculous!

      • Leigh Goodison Says:

        Though it may seem unfair that the translators don’t get money until the book(s) sell, neither does the author. Speaking for my own books, I’ve invested many years researching, writing and rewriting them, not to mention thousands of dollars spent on editors, cover art, marketing, and much more.

  19. Jaume Says:

    My full Babelcube earnings after 4 years of having translated 3 books through them:

    $ 3.25
    I invested about 150 hours doing these translations.

    • Jason Matthews Says:

      Sorry to hear that, Jaume. I know some translators do not make much money at all for their efforts, but that’s also true for some authors who spend far more time than that writing books that don’t sell. In cases like this, I hope you will still benefit in other ways, like from the experience for your resume and the skills you learned that will hopefully pay off in other work down the road. Good luck to you.

  20. Kirk Raeber Says:

    I thought Babelcube helped with distribution of the translated book?

    • Jason Matthews Says:

      Yes, Babelcube uses Draft2Digital as a distributor and sends the books to major retailers like Amazon for sale. Babelcube handles the payments for the authors and translators after sales.

  21. Jacobo Rodríguez Says:

    I just signed up as a english to spanish translator i am in doubt as to wether this Is a lagit job.

  22. Jose Martin Says:

    Maybe this is good for authors, (not sure, because when I have investigated I’ve seen horrendous translations into Spanish, including some of the op) but is not good for translators, that’s for sure. Five years ago I translated, thoug Babelcube as a test, four short titles (about 180 hours of work). What I have got? 38 dollars to date.. I turned to contact directly good seelling indie authors out of Babelcube, and I’m traslating for a fee, not much. and t certainly affordable for authors, , but I’m getting about 20 dollars/hour .plus 1% royalties of my languaje sales . And the author get s agood literary translation. There’s a difference,, right?

    • Jason Matthews Says:

      I think Babelcube was maybe a good idea when it began but not implemented well enough to succeed. Soon the translation apps will surpass the need for human translators, as that field is making real strides.

      • J. Says:

        Translation apps may be quite good (“quite”, not very good) for translating, for example, simple comercials texts. But for literature , where you need the preserve and redo the style (and the accuracy) are and will be worthless.

        (A real liife anecdote as a side note): About 25 years ago, a friend of mine — certainly smarter than me–, with a degree in translation . opened a translation agency. We all told him that he was crazy, that in a very short time all translations would be automatic. He persisted, and his agency now employs many professional translators and turns over hundreds of thousands of dollars ever year.

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