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English books are translated worldwide, but it is very hard for a non-English author to be known in USA and UK so that his/her book is translated to English. You must already be REALLY famous in your country to be translated in English.

On the other hand, for an author, to translate his/her books in English is quite expensive. A good translation, which can compete in terms of quality with books written directly in English, can cost up to 3,000 euro. Writing directly in English is not a good idea: a foreign author will never be so confident with English to compete with native authors.

However the English market is enormous, a great opportunity, but very few foreign publishers are available to translate to English the books they published, and no USA/UK publisher is available to translate new or less know foreign authors, even if book is very good. For example, in Italy, selling 10,000 copies of an essays or 50,000 copies of a nove is a BIG success. How many people outside Italy knows Italian? Really few.

So the problem is that Italian authors are not known outside Italy unless you consider very famous authors as Calvino or Eco. The real problem is to create a network to let English publishers to know and appreciate foreign authors and invest in translations.

Dario de Judicibus
Italian writer

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Dario, you have an interesting point of view about English translations of books. Yes, English is the largest market for books. There are three other English-speaking countries, too - Canada, South Africa and Australia/New Zealand.

You mention best selling books in Italiy selling 10,000 or 50,000 copies. Those sales figures are a big success in the United States, too!

You're looking at the English market and asking why don't more English-language publishers purchase Italian books and translate them. You suggest that it's because Italian authors are not well known outside Italy. Perhaps. There may be another way to look at the situation, however, that may make it easier for you to sell your books to foreign publishers.

Most publishers specialize in a genre. The publishers are laser focused because of the hyper-intensive competition in book marketing. Most specialized publishers are subject matter experts in their field.

A report from the Book Institute Study Group (BISG, for short) determined there were 65,000 publishers in the United States. Many of them are small. Most of them are specialized. Several must be in your area of expertise.

Identifying the publishers in your genre and contacting them may produce better results for you than focusing on English-language publishers in general. Seek out these publishers by researching in the Literary Marketplace and the International Literary Marketplace. Both books are in the reference section of most major public libararies. Supplement that research with Internet research. Some research now may improve your chances for success in the future.
Yours is a reasonable suggestion. However there is an obstacle: in order to evaluate a book, the publisher must be able to read it. Let us assume that just few chapters are enough, since the book was already published in Italy, that is, was already evaluated as commercially good. I cannot translate myself those chapters, since my English is incredibly poor with respect my ability and confidence with my own language. I can write some English to discuss in a forum like this one, but translating a fantasy book containing a lot of middle-age terms and really painstaking in terms of style and usage of language is another cake. So I should ask a professional translators to do it. It should be a native English speaker with a very good understanding of Italian language. In case of a fantasy book, probably a professor of English literature with significant know-how of history. Such a person is very expensive: it is not like translating a technical manual. Usually I take 10% of cover price and my books are sold at 16 euro about since they are hardcover. So I take 1.6 euro per book if sold. If I sell 2,000 book in one year (without a marketing budget is the average expectation here in Italy), I can get up to 3,200 euro in one year. Translating five chapters can cost up to 2,400 euro which is too much for me. Furthermore, I have no idea of which fantasy publishers could be interested to my books in USA, for example. I could search them by Google, but how can I know if they are good or not? I have a good reputation here and I do not want to sell my book to a second league publisher... :-)
Hi Dario

You have touched on a major problem.

Maybe a good translator can be the start to the solution...

For example, I translate from Turkish to English. As a native English speaker, I know all about English publishers, who specialises in what etc. So I can work with a Turkish author to get their book accepted for translation by the foreign publisher. OK, so it helps us that Orhan Pamuk from Turkey just won the Nobel Prize for literature so Turkish publishers are hot at the moment.

If you like a translator's work, they would be a good partner for you. They should be willing to do the promo work with you, because if your book gets accepted then they will get the guarantee of the 3000 euros or so to translate it. They may be prepared to do a sample few pages and synopsis of the book for free, on condition they will be the translator if the book is accepted by the publisher.

WDYT?

Sorry I can't help you, as the only Italian I know is from the titles of operas and Pavarotti hits, and the names of pizza and ice creams and types of coffee!
Marion, you are right. The problem is to find a translator available to invest in translating two or three chapters...

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