Translate a book yourself? Then pay attention to this

Translate a book yourself? Then pay attention to this


Maybe you're a writer and now you want to translate your book for an international audience. Or perhaps you have developed a handbook or study book that is so appreciated that a publication in another language is required. This is of course a great opportunity, but it also brings challenges, because translating a book yourself is a difficult task for many people. Fortunately, there are people and companies who have more experience with this: translators and translation agencies! Here we will briefly discuss the choice between translating a book yourself or having it translated and provide some tips for both approaches.

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Translate a book yourself

If you want to get started with your book translation yourself, there are of course a few things to keep in mind. First of all, you must be able to handle the target language well: especially for a book, the language must be correct, because you have already invested a lot of time and effort in that book, so you want every edition to be taken care of down to the last detail. If you are not completely sure about this, consider doing the translation yourself and have the result professionally edited. That way, translating the book is free, but you pay someone to polish it to a professional level. This is sometimes cheaper than having it completely translated, but keep in mind that this only applies if you already have a good command of the target language! Fixing a bad translation can cost more time (and therefore money) than producing a new translation.

Secondly, you will have to decide what your strategy will be. Are you going to replace sentence by sentence in a word processor of choice? Especially if you are the writer yourself, for best results you may also consider looking at paragraph level and formulating the message in the target language, rather than making a literal translation. You then do rewrite the book, so to speak, but this time in a different language, so this takes a lot of time. If time is the issue, you can also use a free translation tool like Google Translate or DeepL The quality of such services has improved significantly over the past decade, but you will still have to pay close attention to whether everything has been translated properly, and often the sentence structure is also subject to change. So this too will eventually take quite some time before the final product is ready for publication!

Have a book translated

An alternative is to have your book translated. This has several advantages: a professional translator has an excellent command of the target language, there is often quality control with the service, you don't have to reinvent the wheel yourself and, perhaps most importantly, you keep time for other things. Book translation does involve costs, which many people initially misjudge. There are of course some administrative tasks involved, but they are limited in the case of an entire book. The costs for a book translation are mainly in the labor hours: depending on the type of text and the language combination, difficult content can cost up to an hour of work per 250 words. Simpler text can of course often be done faster and is then usually also cheaper, so it is important to clearly communicate your request and preferably send your book or a piece of sample text along when you approach a translation agency. With that knowledge and your desired target language and deadline, a translation agency can then prepare a quote so you know exactly what to expect and won't have any surprises later.

Specialized book translators

If you opt for a professional book translation, all technical and linguistic challenges will be solved for you as much as possible. A translation agency will even try to find a translator who knows something about your field or has experience with the type of text. Here, of course, the target language also matters: translating a book into English is more common than a translation into Azerbaijani, so there will be more specialized translators for one than for the other. We do recommend making clear agreements about what to do in case of questions that arise during translation. These can be collected to provide at the end so that you can look at them yourself, but it is often better to answer them directly during the course of the project so that the translator can incorporate your answer throughout the book translation.


We hope this at least takes you one step further! Of course, we have only touched on a few aspects here and these tips are by no means enough to get you through an entire project. Such a description could fill a book by itself, which in turn would be worth the effort of translation. Still, this may help you decide what is the best solution for you: translate your book yourself, with or without a round of editing, or have it professionally done by a translator or translation agency. Of course, this choice depends on many factors, some of which we have mentioned above, but the most important thing is that you are satisfied with the end result!

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