How to Promote Writers in Translation

In the Literary Translation Centre at this year's London Book Fair

In the Literary Translation Centre at this year’s London Book Fair although not the seminar in question

I’ve been meaning to write up some of the events I went to at this year’s London Book Fair ever since I got back, but life and work have been getting in the way. The Blogathon seems a good opportunity to force myself to do so, though, so here goes.

One of the first seminars I attended was on How to Promote Writers in Translation. Obviously, this was of particular interest to me in terms of self-promotion and self-publishing, but the focus was really more on conventionally published books. The panellists included the journalist Rosie Goldsmith and translator and blogger extraordinaire Susan Bernofsky of Translationista, while discussion ranged around the importance of collaboration, networks and partnerships, social media and events.

So, what can we translators do to promote our own work? For conventionally published books, it’s important to get involved and be an active participant in marketing. A translator can write something for the key facts sheet that publishers send out with review copies. We are, after all, the expert on the book, the author and the culture it represents, at least as far as the publishing house is concerned. If there’s to be a launch event, get involved with it. Make use of social media, but don’t only self-promote. Get into conversations, share other people’s work, talk to related bloggers.

There was a heated discussion around whether or not a translator’s name should be on the cover of the book. Rosie Goldsmith played devil’s advocate and suggested that leaving it off helps to treat a translation as a “normal book”, while Susan Bernofsky felt that on the contrary publishers and readers should be encouraged to celebrate translation and make it a selling point. That one will run and run…

pile of translated booksThen we came to events. There’s the PEN World Voices Festival. There are translation slams – wonderful for raising awareness and showing how this mysterious process actually works. There are games such as Wordkeys, which Rosalind Harvey wrote about for me the other day. These are all well established, but what else could we do? Ros Schwarz, speaking from the audience, suggested pairing up with a similar translator to approach bookshops with suggested events. These can be reader-focused. Books go very well with wine. And food. Events could pair similar writers and translators, be around themes, pair English-language works with translation ones… (I remember from the ITD that Foyles set up tables of other Japanese literature to capitalise on the buzz around Haruki Murukami’s IQ84, for instance.) There could be a focus on culture. Or pop-up events, which have a novelty factor. Peirene Press specialise in those, with their Roaming Store around London.

There are plenty of other ways of getting discussion going too, of course. Media coverage. How could we get that? Would it be worth approaching the local press to review a book they might not otherwise come across? There are simple things we can do, such as having a link to our latest projects in our email sigs, for example, and more challenging ones. Do you feel up to running podcasts? I’m not sure I do, but other translators do very well at it. See the Business School for Translators, for example.

Another thing that I also want to set up in the near future is some kind of semi-regular “meet the translator” series on the blog. It could be Q&As or a guest post slot, so if you’d like to be involved, do let me know. It would be good to encourage cross-promotion in the translationy Twitterverse, blogosphere. There’s plenty going on already, but plenty of room for more… See all the lovely links at the side of this page, and below for a few more.

Useful links:

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About forwardtranslations

I'm a freelance literary translator from German and French to English. The title of my blog comes from Mary Schmich's description of reading: it struck home with me, and seems especially apt for translated fiction. Here are some of my musings on what I'm reading, re-reading, reading to my children, and translating.
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