How Do You Market a Book in Translation?

In Discussion by Hannah Johnson

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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

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Hannah Johnson is the Publisher of Publishing Perspectives. Before joining PP in 2009, she worked as Project Manager at the German Book Office New York.