Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The cost of translating an ebook into German or Hindi

In his latest post, Joe Konrath mentions the grand opportunity that new ebook markets will create for us authors. Amazon recently opened their German website (and my Dead Dwarves Don’t Dance book already has a nice review there!). The Indian Amazon page will open sometime next year.

There are many English speakers and readers in both Germany and India. However, to fully exploit those markets, translation into German and Hindi would obviously result in more sales.

Both my novels have German characters and the kid’s book also has an Indian character.

The Elemental Odyssey has JΓΌrgen Schmidt, a twelve-year old boy from Kaiserslautern. It also has Veeksha Das from India. Both are vacationing separately at Mt. Rushmore and both get abducted by magical aliens for an exciting adventure around the world.

Dead Dwarves Don’t Dance has the mercenary antagonist Bernd Buhl, who causes some problems for Noose the genetically engineered dwarf mercenary.

In a perfect world, I would get both books translated into German, and the kid’s book into Hindi.

However, I don’t know how much such a translation would cost.

I quick Bing search gave me some English to German translation rates. Anywhere from 7 to 13 cents per word.

Dead Dwarves Don’t Dance, about 74,000 words, from $5,000 to $10,000!!!

The Elemental Odyssey, about 96,000 words, from $7,000 to $12,000!!!


And that’s just for German.

For Hindi, one quote for translating the Elemental Odyssey was $20,000!!!!

Unless there are MUCH cheaper translation services out there that I’m just not finding, my books won’t be translated any time soon.

Sure, it would be nice to get in the ground floor of two new markets. But I don’t have the sales numbers to support it.

What this means for me

Unfortunately, my books will only be available in English for the foreseeable future. Fortunately, there is still a market for English books in Germany and India.

What this means for you

If you’re just starting out like me, I doubt you have enough revenue to sink $5,000 into translations. If I were you, I’d concentrate on writing more books in English. When you start making a hundred grand a year on your books, then look into paying someone to translate a book. It might be worth it.


If you know of any translation services (for English to German or Hindi) who give free quotes, let me know. I’d like to get more data to determine if 7-13 cents is reasonable.


  1. Yeah, I definitely don't have the cash to invest in that, right now—not translation nor audiobooks.

    I have some short stories, so I've been looking into Douglas Smith's foreign market list. (After considering SFWA's article on selling short fiction to foreign markets.)

    I could possibly translate my own work into Spanish, but I'm very much out of practice. I'm sure it would show. And then there's that urban fantasy book of mine that contains English, Spanish, Italian, and Finnish. >_<

  2. Thank you so much,I was searching The Black God's War Ebook Download since 15 Days.

  3. http://www.flipkart.com/
    This site is pretty much the closest thing India has to Amazon right now.
    First, note the language of the site.
    Next, go here:
    Count the number of books that AREN'T in English. (Zero.)

    Local language books are pretty much a niche in India.
    That'll probably change if Amazon manages to multiple the country's book-reading population, but I don't think you'll lose much in the short run by not having your books out in Hindi.
    (And hopefully, if the demand for vernacular literature increases, translation services will get cheaper.)

    -- An Indian living in India

    July 27, 2011 1:02 AM

  4. Perhaps job it out on Freelancer.com.au, peopleperhour.com, or similar sites.

  5. And then there's the issue of how do you judge the quality of the translation. A few minutes with the three or four web based translation services (Bablefish, Google translate, for example) showed me that translating even simple sentences is at best an arcane art: four different wordings from three services. And even my single word translation ability was able to see problems with them. You need to find a service that not only speaks 'native' English and the target language, but has a sense for the type of work being translated. My guess is that the best solution for DDDD might not be so good for EO.

    My thoughts; thanks for sharing and keeping us up to date.

  6. Late to the party, but in this translation specific case, perhaps you could find a translator who would agree to do the work against a royalties percentage (maybe capped to some value or in time)...

  7. All, thanks for your advice and thoughts. Translation is something I'll think about much later when I have a spare lump of cash.

    Anubhav, thanks for your insight from India! Very helpful!

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