Fifty Shades of Grey

Could Translated Genre Books Other than Thrillers Sell?

In Discussion by Edward Nawotka

Will we be able to read the Brazilian or Moroccan equivalent of “Fifty Shades of Grey” anytime soon?

By Edward Nawotka

Surely the language of love is universal.

Today’s feature by Michael Stein debunks some of the myths associated with translation. One of the questions he asks is why aren’t genre books other than thrillers translated. He notes:

Difficult and challenging works of literature will continue to be translated, but the high end of the spectrum shouldn’t limit the full range of good books that could prove successful in the English-language market. Crime writing is only one example of a genre with crossover potential, but there are also science-fiction, romance and travel books from around the world that are singular and well-written enough to appeal to a broader audience.

While finding the gems of international writing may be more challenging than picking from among more accessible work in English, it is this very obstacle that will allow publishers to choose from the best of the best. Is there a Stieg Larsson of Spanish romance or Japanese science-fiction writers? Are there Romanian novelists whose work will appeal to readers of John Irving?

Can the situation improve? Will we be able to read the Brazilian or Moroccan equivalent of Fifty Shades of Grey anytime soon? And, perhaps of even more importance, will it sell?

About the Author

Edward Nawotka

Edward Nawotka is the Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. A former foreign correspondent, he has covered the book business exclusively since 2000, serving as daily news editor for Publishers Weekly and columnist for Bloomberg News.