A screenshot of a brazilian website showing the portuguese translation of A Gift of Ghosts
O Dom de Ver

My first Babelcube experience came to fruition on Monday. A Gift of Ghosts has been translated into Portuguese. It sold its first copy on Kobo yesterday and received its first Portuguese rating on a Brazilian website, Skoob.

Authors used to really like it when we sent them their translated copies: now I know why. Even though I can’t read it and don’t understand a word, it’s somehow thrilling to see.

But let me tell you about Babelcube, since that’s undoubtedly why you’re reading. So far, two thumbs up on the Babelcube experience. The company links translators and authors. Like ACX (the audiobook service), authors or publishers can post books for translations and translators can apply to work on specific books. In my case, the two translators I’m working with were both international readers who asked about doing translations. I haven’t found any translators through the service, but I haven’t really tried to sell the books there either.

The contract was straightforward and easy enough to understand. Of course, I’ve been reading publishing contracts for a long time, so that might be my impression only. But Babelcube takes distribution rights for five years, after which time the author can decide whether to continue to be distributed by them or not. Only time will tell whether that distribution is worth the 15% of net that they’re taking, but since they’re also saving me all the financial hassle of working with & paying a translator, it seemed like a decent enough deal to me. (If they manage to get the book into Brazilian bookstores, totally worth it, but I am fairly sure that their print option is simple POD, basically CreateSpace, and so that’s probably not going to happen.)

The payment for the translation is a royalty share on sales of the book. Babelcube gets a 15% royalty on every sale forever, while the translator gets a sliding scale rate that starts at 55% and drops to 10% by $8000 in net royalties. Roughly, if Ghosts sells 3000 copies in Portuguese, I will earn $3900, the translator will earn $2900, and Babelcube will earn $1200. After that, Babelcube would continue to earn roughly .42 per book, Elaine (the terrific translator) would make .28, and I’d get about $2.

Of course, 3000 copies sounds like a lot. I don’t routinely add up my book sales anymore, because it’s a lot of work, but for the sake of proving a point that I failed to prove, I went ahead and added up units sold of A Gift of Time. It’s sold approximately 1723 copies since its release about 8 months ago, which is actually better than I expected and makes a 3000 unit goal seem possible, at least. A little more math: Brazil has a literacy rate of over 90%, a population of over 200 million people, and a last reported total number of ebooks (May, 2013) of 25,000. Oh, and approximately 50% of the population has internet access. Those numbers are nicer than I envisioned–and obviously, don’t even take into account any readers from Portugal. I didn’t bother to do any of that math before. Elaine was interested in translating and the total cost to me was the $15 it took to update the cover to Portuguese. It felt like a no-brainer. If I sell 20 books, I earn back that $15 so for me, anything else is gravy.

Anyway, Babelcube’s interface was extremely easy and clear. They report sales figures immediately–which is how I know that I’ve sold a book on Kobo already–but I have no idea how payments will work. I’ll have to report back on that one later.

Meanwhile, O Dom de Ver. I like it. 🙂