Friday, March 21, 2014

Translations for self-published academic books?

ESaaS book coverWe've had some success with our textbook, which we [intlink id="115" type="post"]self-published[/intlink] in January 2012 and have revised many times since.  It helps that the book is highly reviewed (4.5+ out of 5 on Amazon) and that it's supplemented by a free MOOC and now by a $10 Amazon Web Services credit voucher.

Last year we made an arrangement to have the book translated to Chinese; although we are working with China's most prestigious academic publisher, what really gave us peace of mind is that the translation would be supervised by one of our own alumni, Prof. Wei Xu, whom we know to be an excellent English communicator as well as an elite computer scientist with deep knowledge of the domain.

So we're now thinking about translations to other languages.  The traditional model with publishers is that they pay either a flat fee or an advance+small royalty (1-4%) to the translator; some online searching revealed that freelance translators charge 4 to 10 cents per word.  That's a big upfront risk for us and so not realistic, but apparently other indie authors have embraced a more radical model in which the translator gets no upfront fee but a much larger royalty, say 10-15% (an amount comparable to the royalty that a primary author would get from a publisher!).

So we're thinking of trying this experiment if we can find qualified translators with the right credentials—associated with a respected university (ideally one that would become an adopter of the material, so its students could proofread/provide errata); excellent translation skills; domain expert; and so on.  I imagine the contract might say things like:

  • We get to set price of book, and decide which edition(s) (Kindle, hardcopy) to publish in each language

  • If you're interested in applying as a translator, we'd send you a free copy of the book so you could send us an example translation of a couple of pages

  • You get an X% royalty

  • You have the necessary LaTeX skills to work within our [intlink id="98" type="post"]tools pipeline[/intlink]

  • You agree to incorporate errata in your language

  • You agree to revise your translation to accommodate changes at least once per major edition (e.g.)

What does the Internet think?  This seems to be a time to jumble up traditional models; we used a combination of professional work and "select" crowdsourcing to index the book.  Should we go for it?  Any translators want to weigh in on these ideas?



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