When an author decides to translate a book into another language, what language might be the most profitable? Several aspects should be considered including the popularity of the book in general, the language into which a book might reach the most perspective readers and the appeal the book might hold for those of a different culture. Each of these three aspects should be considered when trying to determine if a book translation will be profitable.
If an author wants to earn additional profits from a book by having it translated into a different language or languages, it makes sense he should start with a book that has sold well in his native tongue. While it can happen that a book that is not doing well in a writer’s own language can skyrocket in sales in a different culture, it is not necessarily likely. Choosing to translate a book that has already proved itself it a safer bet.
When considering what language might be the most profitable, one should take into consideration the number of people who speak that language. Just by sheer numbers, Spanish and Chinese will be the most likely languages to yield a profitable translated book as they are two of the most widely spoken languages worldwide. More that 937 million people in the world speak and read Chinese while 332 million speak and read Spanish according to a survey by the Summer Institute for Linguistics.
With electronic book companies, like Amazon, supporting a number of different languages on their electronic readers, it is easier and cheaper then ever to publish a book in translation. Keep in mind, however, that not all cultures are like the United States where the electronic reader has been widely embraced. People in many other cultures still prefer to read printed books. Remember also that the Kindle, in particular, was not offered by Amazon in the Spanish market until 2011 while Amazon’s Chinese market did not offer Kindles there until 2013. This may mean that in order to have a profitable translation, the best book medium — print or electronic — will need to be determined for your target language.
A final aspect to consider when deciding what translation might be most profitable is to look at the appeal of the book to people of that particular culture. Some books have universal themes that will translate well and be appreciated by people of a variety of languages. Others books might appeal better to people of one culture than another. A book set in the time period of the Spanish War of Independence, for example, might have more appeal to Spanish readers, than one set against to backdrop of the Tiananmen Square protests.
Offering a book in translation is a great way to increase the profitability of a novel. These translations allow people who speak and read different languages to enjoy a particular book they may not be able to read otherwise. In order to get the most bang for the buck when deciding on a language, make sure your book is one that will appeal to people of that culture and that the people can access the book in the form in which you publish it.