My Babelcube Experience (part 2) Getting Interesting

translate buttonMy optimism for self-pub opportunities spiked when I heard about Babelcube and their book translation services. I filled out a profile, uploaded books and began working with translators. I also wrote a blog post on that initial aspect (see part 1 of My Babelcube Experience).

Now comes part 2, what I’ve learned since a few translations have just been published. The answer is a fair amount. Some notes:

Babelcube uses Draft2Digital as a distributor, which doesn’t distribute to Amazon anymore so how does that work? Not sure, but it might explain why these titles went live two weeks ago to Apple, Kobo, Barnes & Noble and Scribd, but just today on Amazon and Google. Support mentioned they’re switching distributors.

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

Full length novels are much harder to get translated than shorter works or non-fiction. I still haven’t had any offers on my novels that are 96,000 and 105,000 words, but every other book has been translated, is being translated or has received offers.

Babelcube Spanish Book WebsitesNon-fiction seems easier to get deals. Perhaps it’s because the writing is simpler. How-to books attract attention, here and apparently abroad. One thing to beware of for authors of how-to guides: recognize any differences that exist in America (or your home nation) compared to the final destination. For example, my guides deal with websites and software that are popular in the US but not always elsewhere, so some changes were made accordingly. It helped to point that out to the translators ahead of time.

Take your time getting qualified readers to check the sample offer. Why rush into a decision when the book may take a few months once you agree on a deal? Babelcube doesn’t give advice or support there, leaving each author to find a solution. Fiverr, Facebook and Yahoo answers are places to get translations checked if you don’t have friends that read well in certain languages. However, you may have to take the word of strangers you don’t really know or trust.

Don’t ask proofreaders to read more than a few assorted paragraphs unless you’re giving something in return. If you have multiple books and offers in Spanish, for example, try not to wear out your Spanish-reading friends by asking them to read and critique large sections of each title.

Babelcube Italian Book Self PublishingDon’t expect masterpieces. These translators are working for free on the hopes of selling books and making a cut on the sale. They’re unlikely to be perfect in what they do. Of course you expect competency, but in some cases you may ask yourself, “Is it better to have something in a foreign language or nothing at all?” These can be hard choices.

Don’t upload MS Word .doc. Instead use .docx–it converts better. My uploads got stuck in a Babelcube cyber-vortex that took several emails and Twitter and Facebook mentions to sort out, segue to the next tip.

Don’t rely on prompt customer support whether you email them, make a post on their Facebook page or @-message them on Twitter. Presently Babelcube has slower than average customer support, which is surprising for a fledgling company that seems to have a good product and a jump on any competition. They should make an effort to speed things up and take social media a bit more seriously, IMO.

Below is the status of some of my titles. The top three have just been published, while the fourth is months away.

Babelcube translation status

There are some good translators out there. There are also some not so great people to beware of.

If you get along well with your translator, add their name to the cover design and give them some kudos in the “About the Author” section. Whatever extra credit you give should help in their interest at marketing the book in their country, which may be easier for them than you.

Part of me wonders if time and tech will make this obsolete. Google translate has come a long way in a few short years. I remember trying the program when it was younger, and it was terrible. These days it’s getting more intelligent fast, especially with non-fiction. Might there be a limited time before Babelcube’s service will be offered by Google and Amazon or some other computerized function?

Now for the real question: how are sales? At this point it hasn’t been enough time. Two of my titles just came out and I’m curious how they’ll do. I hope they aren’t duds because the translators spent several weeks on them. Sales will be a main focus next. Click here to read part 3 of my Babelcube experience.

What do you think about this: good idea, not so good idea or waste of time? Please share comments.


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38 Responses to “My Babelcube Experience (part 2) Getting Interesting”

  1. nokeos2day Says:

    Hello, Jason. I have just spent 3 hours updating my ‘news blog’ about my 8 books adding book covers on each book but everything I had done seemed to have disappeared when I clicked on ‘view preview’. I am really struggling to promote my books as I am desperately trying to save ill-treated, abandoned dogs and feral cats here in Cyprus. But at 73 years old I find it hard to understand this modern technical language etc… Please can you help me? I did put all the pictures up in the right places somehow when I edited: ‘About my Books and Why I wrote them’… But now they seem to have gone! 😦 Sorry to be a nuisance. Diane Griffith ‘

    • Jason Matthews Says:

      Diane, I know how frustrating it can be. We all do as we work to not only write books but to figure out how to share them with technology. In your case it would be great if you could connect with someone local who could help you use your site and blog and get you rolling with that 🙂

  2. dm yates Says:

    I think this is a great idea. I’ll have to check it out. Google translate is good, but it’s not always accurate. I’ve run into a few problems with it.

  3. dm yates Says:

    Reblogged this on DM Yates Journalings and commented:
    This certainly looks like something many of us Indie authors could use.

  4. Blogs for Self-Publishers, November 8 – 14, 2014 — The Book Designer Says:

    […] Matthews on How to Make, Market and Sell Ebooks My Babelcube Experience (part 2) Getting Interesting “My optimism for self-pub opportunities spiked when I heard about Babelcube and their book […]

  5. Frances Caballo Says:

    What a great post! It makes sense for nonfiction writers, especially those that write about online marketing, to tap into the Spanish-speaking market since that demographic dominates social media use. Kudos to you on doing this.

  6. cslakin Says:

    Hi, I just put books up on Babelcube a few weeks ago and already have a second book being translated into Portuguese. Love my translator, and Babelcube has been very responsive and quick to help me. Love it! They say they will soon allow authors to query listed translators, which I encouraged them to do. Right now I’ve been contacting university language departments asking for translators (grad students) of various languages to contact me via Babelcube once they sign on. I love the ease of their site (like Audible/ACX) and thrilled about it!
    Susanne (author C.S. Lakin)

  7. Carrie Asagiri Says:

    Hello, I’m an English translation student and right now I’m translating a book on Babelcube. I’m not doing it for the money but for practice and experience because I’m learning about deadlines and how to deal with clients. I think it’s a good idea so far.

  8. andyfarman Says:

    I first explored the possibility of a commercial translator but baulked at the cost of translating almost seven hundred thousand words. Yes, they promise independent proof reading and a delivery date within six months, however I imagine I was supposed to pay the translators mortgage for that period and he/she lived in a nice area.
    I next sought out two unemployed individuals, a retired French teacher and a Russian ‘student’, both of whom were living on benefits/small pension and watching daytime television, bemoaning their lack of wherewithal, on-line. I offered them £5k each, a thousand in advance and the balance on completion within a calendar year, easily achieved with just a couple of hours work a day. It was up to them if they declared the sums to the inland revenue.
    At first they were full of beans and ready to begin, but both decided to look on-line at the rates the commercial translators were quoting and both subsequently demanded ten times what I had offered.
    The translation idea went into the bin, next to ‘Audio Books’ and ‘Interactive’, and I imagine the Russian and the retired teacher are still couch potatoes watching daytime TV.
    Perhaps it is time to dust it off and ask a ‘robot’ for help.

    • Jason Matthews Says:

      700K words? Is that one book, Andy, or a series?

      • andyfarman Says:

        A series Jason.
        I am currently writing a couple of prequels as I build up to a sequel, although I am not sure if the sequel will be a single volume of a couple of books. There are, after all, only so many ways you can write about a battle. I am therefore also trying my hand at a different genre entirely.
        However they pan out, I will also give a Louis L’Amour style western a go, just for fun.

    • Valeria Ines Lagos Terrizzano Says:

      Sorry but 5k for 7k words? (Valeria meant 7000) Not surprised they did not accept it. I’d do it for twice that, at least… It’s still not a thousand a month over a year of working full time on you book, no days off. Nobody can do almost 2000 words in “just a couple of hours a day”, 2000 words/day is the maximum you can expect from a translator if you want a good job (translation often involves a certain degree of research for the best word)…

  9. Ana Amelia Says:

    Sometimes the ‘robot translation’ is alright, but it mostly cannot reproduce the writing style and synonyms are never synonyms for real, specially if you don’t understand enough of the culture, the people, the language, the space and time of a text you want to adapt to a new language. So the text will certainly cause some surprise to the readers. I can say that because I’ve been working with the English language for years (I’m from Brazil) and I can identify whenever a translation was made using Google or any software. It just doesn’t sound right.

    • Jason Matthews Says:

      You’re definitely right, Ana. Computerized translations have gotten much better over the past few years. Perhaps ten years from now they’ll be ten times better but still not quite as good as a human translator?

  10. Valeria Ines Lagos Terrizzano Says:

    From a translator’s point of view, the problem with longer books in Babelcube is that you get paid exactly the same for 15,000 than for 150,000+. Exactly the same for work that takes you a lot longer to finish (and, remember, there are no upfront fees), so who’d take the chance to invest your time for 3-4 months or more and maybe wait for even longer to actually see any money? who’ll pay the rent meanwhile? Babelcube needs to adjust the royalty split for books depending on their length.

  11. Valeria Ines Lagos Terrizzano Says:

    “Don’t expect masterpieces. These translators are working for free on the hopes of selling books and making a cut on the sale. They’re unlikely to be perfect in what they do.”
    Sorry, but this is an unfair comment, both on authors and translators. DO expect masterpieces, or don’t do it at all. A badly translated book won’t sell well, this will be included in the book’s review so it’ll put off potential buyers. Do expect an excellent work, there are very good translators on Babelcube. There are proofreaders as well.

    Ah, by the way, I am working on a long-ish book (about 100k), and I’m working really hard to make it as good as the original, which IS very good (fiction) and, yes, I’m that desperate to be a book translator… SO there are some crazy, damn good people in Babelcube, just wait and there’ll be some offering to translate your books. Who knows, it might even be me!

    • Jason Matthews Says:

      Your comment is fair, but there is a huge difference between a masterpiece and a badly translated book. I did not say expect a badly translated book, and I also don’t believe every translator is as thorough as you are, Valeria.

      • Valeria Ines Lagos Terrizzano Says:

        Yes,you’re right, of course. But it’s possible to get a more-than-decent translation in Babelcube, in particular when translating fiction. THe text has to flow, the author’s voice has to be heard, even in a language different than his own, or the whole thing would not be worth it.

      • Valeria Ines Lagos Terrizzano Says:

        I think so too. If you have translated a book for someone, there must have been a fair degree of collaboration and you might get a certain feel as to how much you can trust that person (and then be completely wrong, of course – both ways). It’s always a matter of trust, and there’s always a degree of risk, even when you do business with someone you know personally…

  12. Valeria Ines Lagos Terrizzano Says:

    Allow me a little self-promotion: https://www.facebook.com/gd.vlt.literarytrans
    I obviously accept non Babelcube commissions too.

    • Jason Matthews Says:

      I think some authors and translators might begin meeting through places like Babelcube, but then deciding to make an arrangement for themselves so as not to split the royalties with a company. That could have its own problems, like how to trust the payments to one person.

  13. babelclaire Says:

    Hi Jason,
    As a translator, I have been wishing something like this existed! And it does. That’s exciting. Do you know what kind of cut the translator gets? (It seems like fair would be 50% and the author gets 50%.) The Babelcube page seems a bit vague on those kinds of details…

  14. babelclaire Says:

    Oh, and I’m kind of aghast that anyone would consider charging customers for something translated via Google Translate or similar. You’ll often get gobbledygook, or terrible grammar, and often lose all nuance. Not a good idea at all! I would feel really ripped off if I bought a book and it was automatically translated. And it is REALLY obvious to a native speaker when this is the case. I’d go straight to Amazon to leave a one-star review… So I wouldn’t recommend that to anyone!! It’s amazing enough that you’re getting human services for free. The recommended minimum rate years ago when I looked into this was something like £65 (Over $100) for 1,000 words….!

    • Valeria Ines Lagos Terrizzano Says:

      I cannot agree strongly enough with that, Claire. The going rate for books or long texts is about €0.05/word – some lucky people still get better rates, but competition in a globalised business is really hard, (although I often wonder what kind of quality can be expected from some Asian translation companies…) and has pushed down rates in the last five years or so.

  15. Flor Says:

    I´m a translator, and just for the record…sometimes is very hard to find good books…is not because it´s being written that is a masterpiece…the same thing, there are good authors and bad ones…my first experience was horrible, a nonsense book with a nonsense author!

    • Jason Matthews Says:

      That doesn’t surprise me, Flor. I’m glad you brought that to attention for other perspective translators to make sure the book is good before signing onto the contract.

  16. Maria Says:

    In translation you get what you pay for. You don’t get offers for the longer books because no one would work that much for free. Would you? People go to school for years to become professional translators, being bilingual is not enough. Having a bad translation or awkward sounding book around will only hurt the author’s reputation.


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