A most amazing experiment

In the modern age of Indie Press, there are a number of experts who can tell you all the ways to get rich by expanding your market.

I am not one of those people, btw.

However, at the NINC (Novelists, Inc.) conference last fall, one of the things that came up was the power of translations as a force multiplier. You can write the book once, and then spend what one hopes is a reasonable amount of money to have a professional translate it, expanding your market. You just need to figure out which markets like what genres.

For me, the obvious choice was The Science Officer books. They tend to run shorter than novels (24-32,000 words, rather than 50-150,000) so it would be a cheaper experiment, as you are paying a rate by the word for the completed manuscript. In the case of book one, I think it ran about $2,500 US for the translation into German.

I picked German because of the Perry Rhodan books. If you aren’t familiar with them, they started off as a weekly novella series (15-30,000 words) in September 1961 and have continued on a weekly basis for fifty-eight years. You read that right. 58 years.

According to wikipedia:  (emph mine) “As of February 2019, 3000 booklet novels of the original series plus 850 spinoff novels of the sister series Atlan plus over 400 paperbacks and 200 hardcovers have been published, totalling over 300,000 pages.” (Holy shit, batman!)

Also: “Having sold approximately two billion copies (in novella format) worldwide alone, (including over one billion in Germany), it is the most successful science fiction book series ever written.”

So Germans are happy with Space Opera in German. Accustomed to it, even. And they like long arcs of the stuff.

We found a good translator and paid the money. The book went live about two weeks ago, but I’ve been out of town at a writing retreat all of this week, and in the middle of a bunch of other hecticness before that, so this is the first chance I have had to talk about it. I figured I’d get back and say something, but something went weird in Germany. The book just started selling. Ten to twenty copies per day on the German Amazon page all week. WOW!

More interestingly, I’ve already gotten reviews from folks who mostly complained about the translation, rather than the text. Mind you, The Science Officer is one of the first things I wrote commercially, and I’m a MUCH better writer now than I was five years ago. If they were noticing the translation choices (made by someone who is bilingual, so I can’t help you there) then they had flipped over, bought the english language version ($0.99 US is not much money) and compared the versions.

So now I’m dealing with really smart folks who can read the English language versions of things as well (Howdy, y’all) and liked it enough to do the work. I also saw an enormous spike in sales of Auberon (again $0.99 US, so easy choice) this week. Hopefully, they will tell their friends, because my goal, knowing now that maybe this wasn’t the dumbest idea I’ve ever had, is to do the rest of the seven. And then maybe some other stuff after that.

One review asked why I didn’t just do the entire omnibus, but they missed the point. I’m not rolling in money here and had no idea if it would work. Plus, it cost $2,500 US for book one. All eight at once would have probably cost us about $15,000 US, up front. At least this way, I can afford to roll them all out slowly as they sell. If I average 10 sales per day, then we’re looking at about a four month payoff cycle for book one, multiplied by all eight.

Mind you, we’re also paying for audio up front right now do, for the Star Dragon books, to be followed by Longshot when we get there, so I’m having a kinda spendy year. Making good sales in 2019, better than 2018, but with any luck, access to the German market, and German mindshare, will bring some of those readers over into my English-language stuff.

But it still totally, freaking awesome that I have German language fans. That I can look at a book by copy/pasting the title “Der Wissenschaftoffizier” into Amazon.de and see folks liked it enough to leave me reviews. (And yes, I used Google Translate to get the them into English again. 30 years ago, I probably could have read them pretty well, but that was thirty years ago.)

The German Edition of The Science Officer is now available. And there will be a print version available on Amazon soon. (It is in the Ingram catalog, so you could order a personal copy from your independent bookstore if you were feeling really weird.)

And if you want to hire translations into other languages, let me know. I would recommend the folks I worked with: http://www.literarytranslations.us Really nice and good rates.

I’m also in the process of bribing some friends to do me something into Arabic, just because.

But this is totally, freaking awesome.

Hope y’all enjoy it, and it you’re one of my new German friends: Willkommen!!


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