Innovations in Book Translations

Have I mentioned lately how great it is to be a writer these days?  There are so many exceptional opportunities that have sprung up and thrived–many of which weren’t even possible a few years ago:

  • ebook distribution via Kindle, Nook, ibookstore, Kobo, Google Play
  • print on demand technology by CreateSpace, Lightning Source, and IngramSpark
  • independent audio book production via ACX
  • advanced reading copies distributed through NetGalley
  • ebooks in libraries via Overdrive
  • widespread adoption of audio versions thanks to subscription model
  • reduced (or free) ebooks with purchase of print copies via Amazon’s MatchBook
  • sites dedicated exclusively for readers like Goodreads, Library Thing, and Shelfari
  • “Netflix for books” by companies like Oyster, Scribd. and Entitle


Well, recently a ran across another company, and I love what they are doing. Their name is Bablecube, and their business is book translation.

bablecubeFor the record, I love foreign publishers, and I’ve made a lot of money from dozens of translations around the world. I know full well how lucrative this additional revenue stream can be to an author. This first came to light when I was looking at Jim C. Hines blog where he posted his publishing income. At the time, it was his German translations that were dwarfing his English sales.  But what do you do if the foreign publishers aren’t beating a path to your door?

Well some people, such as Joe Konrath, has paid for their own translations.  If you have deep pockets (as Joe does) this isn’t a problem, but for others finding $2,000 – $5,000 for a translation for a book you’re not sure will sell well is a big risk. This is why Bablecube is so revolutionary.

Here’s what they do in a nutshell. They unite authors and translators then publish the translated books in a number of languages, everything from Arabic to Zulu.  But it’s the way in which they do this that I find to be so innovative.  There is no up-front cost to the author. Zero.  Not a penny. Basically, an author posts information about their books online along with sales information and what languages are available for translation.  Then translators can choose projects that they think have a good chance of success.  The translator does their work essentially “on spec” and as the income comes in the profits are split between the narrator, author, and Bablecube.  Early on, most of the income goes to the translator to help them recoup the investment they made, but as the sales increase more money goes to the author.  At each stage Bablecube’s  cut is the same, a modest 15%.  Here is the breakdown.


I like everything about this model. Everyone has some skin in the game, and I think the rewards are appropriate at the various levels. I’m going to be putting some of my titles up on Bablecube, and I do hope they are successful with this new venture. I think it is a brilliant idea and just one of the reasons why now is such a great time to be a writer.

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