Foreign translations through Babelcube

At Romantic Times 2017 in Atlanta, I attended a workshop where an author panel discussed book/marketing projects that took little effort and brought in “nice” revenue. One of the authors mentioned having her books translated with Babelcube and the steady income she gets from those translations. “It’s free money!”

That suggestion caught my attention. I hold the translation rights for 7 books; why not check it out?

In the year since, I’ve discovered a lot about foreign translations. My experience with Babelcube has been positive (with one exception.) Here are the highlights of what I’ve learned.

Author expresses interest: Babelcube is a web-based company that brings together authors and translators. I list my available books on their website–and indicate which languages I’m open to. I can either browse the profiles of translators and suggest my books to them, or I can wait for someone to approach me. I took the latter option, and there has been good interest. Two translations released in July (1 in Spanish and 1 in Italian) and 4 more are being translated now (also in Italian and Spanish.)

Translator and author “sign” an agreement: The translators send me an offer to translate a book, with an estimate of how long it will take to complete–generally 4-6 months. They often include a message introducing themselves. After I agree and “sign” the contract, I upload the English copy of the book, and they begin.

Checkpoints: The translator sends me one translated page to approve before we sign the contract. Once we’ve made the agreement, they send me ten translated pages. Once I’ve approved that, the translator works to complete the translation.

Communication: I have encouraged the translators to ask questions; I’m happy to help them with idioms or concepts that don’t translate well. Most have been eager to get the book right, and I’ve truly enjoyed working with them.

Here are two examples of phrases we had to negotiate.

Italian cover for I WISH

  • For the book I Wish, an exact translation of the title would be Deseo (in Spanish) and Desidero (in Italian.) Those two titles can also be translated as I Desire, not so good for my sweet YA. So we changed the title to 30 WishesTrenta Desideri and Treinta Deseos .
  • In Whisper Falls, the hero lives in 2016, and the heroine lives in 1796–as an indentured servant. The Spanish translator was unfamiliar with that concept and couldn’t really find something analogous in Latin American history. We created two terms: forced servitude and servitude against her will.

The royalties: The translator and the author share royalties–which change over time. The translator gets a higher royalty rate initially until they reach a certain threshold, and then it gradually reduces.  After 5 years, the contract ends (but can be renewed.)

The cost to authors: So, it’s not actually free for the author. I have to provide a cover with the translated title. I found a cover designer, Kim Killion, who creates the covers (and her fee is very reasonable. I highly recommend her.) Once the cover is designed, the charge to change the title to a new language is nominal.

Quality of the translation: Since I don’t speak Italian and my Spanish is not so great, the quality of the translation can be hard to gauge. I used GoogleTranslate to spot-check things–and I’ve been fairly pleased with the results. In only one case was I uneasy about the translation. One dude had offered to translate I Wish into Portuguese in 5 weeks. That felt too fast to me; I wondered if he had simply run it through an electronic translator. My spot-check left me even more worried. Fortunately, I have a friend (a Ruby sister!) who speaks fluent Portuguese. She checked a few pages and assured me it was terrible. I was able to use her comments to get the contract voided. Babelcube has a quality control department–and they agreed the translation was poor.

Technical support: I have been pleased with Babelcube’s responsiveness. I generally get answers to my questions within 1 business day. (The quality issue with the Portuguese book took a little longer–but they warned me it would take a few days to have another translator read it.)

Spanish cover for Whisper Falls

I’ll close with two samples from translated books. I asked the translators (Alexandra and Laura) to pick one of their favorite phrases–which I’ve included here.


Papá me había dicho que un libro era un simple papel lleno de tinta hasta que la mente de un lector le daba vida. – La Cascada Susurrante
(Papa once told me that a book was mere paper splattered with ink until a reader’s mind gave it life.)


“Non sembri un genio.”
“I pantaloni palazzo e i gilet di lustrini non si adattano agli Stati Uniti.” – Trenta Desideri
(“You don’t look like a genie.”
“Palazzo pants and sequined vests don’t cut it in the United States.”)


Have you used a different translation site or process? Do you have questions about my experiences with Babelcube? Join me in the comments and I’ll do my best to answer. 


11 responses to “Foreign translations through Babelcube”

  1. Look at you go. Congrats! I’m not there yet, but I’m going to bookmark this post. Thank you for the information.

    • Elizabeth Langston says:

      I haven’t seen the free money yet. We don’t get the accounting for the royalties until 2 months after earning. Since the books released in July, I’ll know more about how much “free money” it is.

  2. Heather McCollum says:

    Fabulous information, Beth! Thank you so much for sharing!

    • Elizabeth Langston says:

      You’re welcome.

      Hang in there with the storm. I’m out of state with elderly parents, so I’m missing all of the Florence fun. But Hubs is holding down the fort, and he says it isn’t too bad at our house. Yet.

  3. Jennifer Bray-Weber says:

    Excellent information, Beth!
    My publisher had one of my books translated into Italian a few years back. I was very pleased with how many copies it sold. But the publisher opted out of doing more of my books. I’d love to have the books I have rights to translated into Italian.

    I am definitely looking into this!

    • Elizabeth Langston says:

      I actually had fun with GoogleTranslate from Italian to English. I would spot-check some of my favorite scenes, and it was cool to see how close it came. Italian is a lovely, lilting language to the ear.

      You should go for it!

  4. This is so cool, Beth! I’d been wondering about Babelcube, but I always wondered about what you wondered about – quality, cost, etc. I’m so glad you’ve had (largely) good experiences with them. Here’s hoping you sell big in Italian and Spanish speaking countries!

  5. Elizabeth Langston says:

    I’ve watched what other authors say on Author Support Network, and I get the impression that people have mixed reviews about Babelcube. Most of the (big name) authors contract directly with translators. But the cost on that is huge, and for someone who doesn’t expect huge royalties anyway, this worked out better for me. I’m sharing the risk with someone.

  6. Thanks for sharing, Beth. Great information!

  7. Brenda Lowder says:

    Great info! Thanks!

  8. Elisa Beatty says:

    Great info, Beth!!

    I’ll check this out.

    My Italian and French aren’t good enough for me to do speedy translations myself, but they’re good enough for me to tell if a translator has done a good job or not.


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