Sunday, March 27, 2011

The Rough Draft Is In Swedish

I'm an American author whose book is set in a foreign country. I've received an offer from a publisher in that country. They want to translate the book, and publish it there. This is great news, but the market is very small. I also want to publish in the US, not just because it is a bigger market but also because it is my home. Should I hold off on accepting the foreign offer until (if!) I can work something out with a US publisher? If I do go ahead and publish abroad, then can I revise the MS for a US publisher or is it set in stone and unrevisable once published?

If it's a very small market, your US publisher may not mind your having sold the rights already.  And more and more, agents seem to be going after foreign sales for their clients, so publishers are a bit more accustomed to not having a lot of foreign rights for novels.  So that's unlikely to be an issue.

As for revision, every translation fiddles with the exact phrasing of the text--if it doesn't then the translation won't sound natural to native speakers.  So some differences between the English and other language editions are expected.  

So if there were some way for you to be sure you weren't going to do very much revision (for instance if you've decided already that you're going to be inflexible and hard to work with--which I assume is not the case), then there would be no problem.  But imagine your US editor has a bunch of suggestions that get you really excited and that (for instance) change the ending completely. 

There probably still wouldn't be a problem with copyright between the two editions, but how would you feel about that scenario?  Would you want two very different versions of your story out there--when one of them might end up feeling to you like a beta version and not the story you most want to share with readers?

112 comments:

myimaginaryblog said...

But, but, but: nobody who matters would ever know the difference.

(Just trying on my American chauvinism to see if it still fits me.)

Rose Transpose said...

That's a very interesting situation. I think that's great that the book is getting published in the country the story is set in, though.

- Nicholas

Anonymous said...

I have no advice to share, sorry. But I find it interesting that the story is set in Sweden, because I'm Swedish. /Jess

Editorial Anonymous said...

I don't know what other language/country the questioner meant. I chose a language at random for the post title. Sorry to disappoint.

Anonymous said...

The title of the post is funny, though. Don't know if any of you heard of one Stieg Larsson? He happened to write his books in Swedish because, obviously, he was Swedish. And if I'm not mistaken he's got quite a big thing going, in Sweden as well as elsewhere. Being published in a small market first may not be a bad thing. Not at all. It might be a great start. There's actually a world outside of the US too.

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