How Do You Market a Book in Translation?

In Discussion by Hannah Johnson


By Hannah Johnson

In today’s feature story, author Andrew Ervin talks about his favorite Hungarian books in translation that have inspired his writing and his thinking, and he offers a list of Hungarian titles that are not available in English. Publishers of translations are surely hunting for more people like Andrew who love and spread the word about their international titles. But how do you find these people?

As publishers (and agents and authors, for that matter), we are all trying to figure out what makes people buy a particular book and how to make people buy our books. And, as some might argue, this job gets harder when you are trying to sell a book in translation. Readers in your market might not know the author (or can’t pronounce the author’s name). Maybe the author doesn’t speak English. Your marketing budget cannot accommodate international flights. The subject matter or writing style of the book might be unfamiliar to some readers. I could go on.

Yet, publishers persist. Some have a cultural mission, others do it for prestige. And many more simply fall in love with a book and want to share it with others.

As the arguments against your translated titles stack up against you, however, how do you get readers and booksellers interested? How do you promote a book by an unknown author writing about a place far away? Or is that the point?

If you have a success story (or a not-so-successful story), share it with us in the comments!

About the Author

Hannah Johnson


Hannah Johnson is the publisher of international book industry magazine Publishing Perspectives, which provides daily information and news about book markets around the world. In addition to building partnerships with international cultural and trade organizations, she works with the Frankfurt Book Fair to organize and support a number of its overseas initiatives. Hannah has also worked as the managing editor for an online media company, The Hooch Life, focused on craft distillers and cocktail experts. Prior to that, she worked as a project manager for the Frankfurt Book Fair’s New York office, managing various business and marketing activities.