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Babelcube: An Inside View, with Karen Campbell

If you are looking for a translator for your books without selling your rights, and without paying a high upfront cost, the translation platform Babelcube is an option you might want to explore.

On Babelcube, authors can upload their books and choose, into which languages they want them to be translated, and translators can find books they would like to translate and make an offer to the author. Babelcube works with a royalty split model, in which the author’s share increases the better the book sells. It distributes the translated books to a diverse range of sales channels, and takes care of the financial side of the agreement between author and translator.

Today, author Karen (Kaz) Campbell shares her experiences with translations on Babelcube. Together with Bill Campbell and Katrina Kahler, she has published several successful children’s books, including the “Almost Cool” series, and the “Julia Jones” series.
Visit their website: http://diaryofanalmostcoolgirl.com/

What made you decide to have your books translated and why did you choose Babelcube?

Translating your books is a no-brainer. An author has already done the work, so why not use that book to branch out to other countries and make more sales. At first we did not know about Babelcube. We employed a German friend to translate one of our books and it was quite successful straight away, so we decided to investigate. Babelcube is an easy and cost free solution.

How many translated products do you have out at this moment and in how many different languages?

Currently we have 51 translated books available via Babelcube and translators are working on another 10 books. Our books have been translated into German, French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Turkish, Arabic, Africaans, Chinese and Indonesian…so far.

How do you find translators on Babelcube, and how can you make sure the translation is any good?

The translators find you on Babelcube. To start off we were using fiverr.com to check the translations. We did this about a dozen times, if you are unsure, this is a cheap method to check. We have also asked friends who are fluent in another language to check the example a new translator has sent us. It has been our experience that translators often form an association with us and want to continue with our books.

Every translator we have worked with has been fantastic, except one, but we are hoping he will still come through.

What would you say are some of the advantages and disadvantages of a platform like Babelcube, compared to publishing and taking care of everything yourself? (as you did with the German version of the Diary of an Almost Cool Girl)

The advantages are immense! It would be very difficult to find translators without Babelcube. Also the cost would be prohibitive. If we paid $1000 per book, then our investment so far would be $60 000. Also Babelcube submits your book to all channels. They even have a free book option (permafree). The site is easy to use and has all the information you might need on it, including sales, publishing information, promotions and you can even check how the book looks on the different sales avenues.

Some people will see the disadvantage with Babelcube is that an author receives less income, but if you don’t get your book translated then 30% of $0 is 0.

Another problem we have encountered is getting the book’s front matter and Table of Contents to look right. Sometimes we have to keep republishing the book as their software picks up random words and generates an TOC that is all wrong. To overcome this we highlight the whole document, unbold every word and change the font size to 14 (kids’ books). Then we go through and Bold the Chapter Headings and make them a larger font size, this helps the Babelcube software to pick up the correct chapter headings.

What happens after the final translation is delivered? Do you have any control over the distribution of the book to the different retailers? For example, can you pick the categories or keywords in Amazon or does Babelcube do this for you? Do they create an Author Page?

Babelcube publish on many different platforms. Amazon, Google Play and Apple are our biggest selling platforms. It can take up to a month to be published on Amazon (Amazon accounts for 90% of our sales). Authors cannot use KDP Select if they use Babelcube as the books are on other platforms.

If you decide to change something in your book, do you have to go via Babelcube to republish it?

Yes, it is easy. Just click on Republish and upload your new “correct” file. Scribd is very fast with publishing and you are able to check part of your book on scribd.com for free. The only part of your book that may have problems will be the front matter that Babelcube generates.

How are your books doing in the different foreign markets right now?

We have only been using Babelcube for about a month. Some books are doing better than others. We’d like to have more books translated in German, this is the third biggest market for ebooks. Our Spanish books are also selling well.

Can you do anything to promote your books? Do you get help from your translators?

You can schedule a free promotion using the Babelcube site. They need about a month’s notice, so as soon as they are published, set up a promotion. Many authors don’t understand the value of free promotions and just see them as losing sales. Amazon has a feature under the book you are looking at that says, Customers who bought this book also bought…… and there are pictures of books they bought or downloaded (for free). Just remember that the ebook sites are large search engines. If you don’t promote your book, nobody will ever see it.

We recently had our first promotion and we emailed the translators to tell them of the free days and asked them to promote it to their family, friends, FB sites, etc. Some translators did a fantastic job with this and already the books are rising in sales rank. It is important to get a few good reviews on your books.

In your case, you are writing middle grade fiction. Is it particularly hard to market these books? Do you approach the kids or their parents?

We have been very successful with our books in UK and USA. We have a website that lists the books with a mailing list sign on. But to be honest, we need to work on this side of our business. In the near future we are considering using FB ads as we know many authors find this a very successful form of promotion.

Our next series will be aimed at older teenage to young adult girls. We believe there is a bigger market for the older age groups. Also writing in a series is the key to success.

 

Our biggest piece of advice is to write what you feel comfortable with. All three of us have been teachers of middle school children, so we know how they think and what they like. Don’t try to write in a genre that you don’t read yourself or like. It won’t work.

Another helpful hint is to write everyday. Don’t be a perfectionist! We have all improved our writing skills as we have written more books. Self-doubt is a killer.

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