Tag Archive | errors

Babelcube beware: what authors need to know before signing a Babelcube contract

Boudicca German web

The German edition of Boudicca was beautifully translated by Christina Loew. Thanks to frequent communication and Ms. Loew’s professionalism, the translation process was smooth and easy — exactly what most authors are looking for when joining Babelcube.

If you subscribe to this blog you know that in 2016 I took my books deeper into the global market.  After an exasperating fore into the Chinese market via Fiberead, I had high hopes for Babelcube, a platform for translation that mirrors many of the features familiar to authors who use Amazon’s ACX.com site for audio production.  But as with ACX, successful production and publication requires understanding the system and knowing how — and when — to walk away from something that is not working.

The ability to walk away is important for independent authors because a poorly translated book is damaging to the author’s brand; it reflects on the author as much if not more so than the original editions written by the author in her or his native language.  Therefore an author’s career is at stake each time the author signs a translation contract.  Don’t mess with this, my friends.  As much as you want to be sweet and nice when it comes to dealing with potential translators your life depends on you being picky and walking away when you can from any deal or possible deal that doesn’t uphold your author brand.

The first place you can walk away is when a translator first sends you an offer to translate.  This is the best time to fully vet the candidate.  Don’t skimp on this and do not feel obligated to accept any particular offer. We all want to be nice and we want to give people their break into a new career.  The problem with doing that is you may end up with poor quality work because the person has never been tested in the professional world as a translator.  Before signing anything TALK TO THE TRANSLATOR — don’t just look at the profile and give the person the benefit of the doubt because s/he seems likable.  Remember that this is a form of job interview and treat it as seriously as any job interview you’ve been on.  If anything does not smell right or you aren’t sure of anything at all politely decline.

But let’s say you’ve accepted the contract.  The next place and final place you can walk away is when the translator submits the first ten pages. In evaluating these, don’t just look at the words on the page but the FORMATTING because, as with your own books you self-publish, the formatting and editorial can make or break the book.  If anything seems like you would not submit those ten pages as a stand alone, polished work DECLINE THEM — this is your last and ONLY chance to get out of the contract.  Despite what you may see in the system, this is the actual point of no return for you.  Once those ten pages are accepted you are committed to publishing the book — no matter the quality of the final product you are given.

And this is the part that no one ever mentions to you:  you cannot decline to publish a completed book on Babelcube — even though there is a button in the review process that says “decline this translation.”

What happens if you do hit the “decline” button?  Firstly you are asked to confirm and warned that confirming the decline will open a dispute with Babelcube.  What this means is that they will investigate and make a ruling.  If they rule for you, the translator has to fix the errors.  If they rule against you then you owe the translator an undisclosed amount of money.  But the system doesn’t tell you that.  I found out by asking via email after I reviewed the final document on one of my books and deemed it of such poor quality that I was not comfortable with continuing.

In essence you have to approve the final book.  You can ask for some changes (hit “return” and then send a message to the translator to do so), but you actually DO have to hit “accept translation” and then publish the book. “Reject translation” means you are willing to pay for the translator’s time for a book that you will not publish.

For most people it’s far cheaper to enlist the help of someone outside of Babelcube’s system to help you fix the document so you can publish — which is exactly what I am doing right now.

This is why it is critically important that you wait until each translation is complete before signing another contract with a translator. Even after publishing one or two books all the way through the process (meaning the book is live Amazon, iBooks, Scribd, etc.) with a translator, my experience shows that it is best to only contract one book at a time with a specific translator.  Life happens and schedules change.  Limiting yourself to one contract at a time per translator helps everyone balance time and priorities to the satisfaction of all parties and empower everyone to create the best work possible.

In summary, Babelcube can be an excellent platform for translating books into multiple languages.  But success with it requires the author always beware of its inner workings and courageous enough to walk away from any project that does not meet expectations either before the contract is signed or when receiving the first ten pages.

This is your brand.  Protect it.

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Five avoidable errors by Indie authors

Cover art for The Great Succession Crisis, 1st edition paperback as published in September, 2012.  Thanks to constructive criticism from reviewers, this cover art changed for the revised edition.

Cover art for The Great Succession Crisis, 1st edition paperback as published in September, 2012. Thanks to constructive criticism from reviewers, this cover art changed for the revised edition.

Great Succession Crisis paperbackIndependent authors have a mixed reputation.  With big publishing houses no longer serving as gatekeepers, deciding who to publish and what works will be published, the market trend is towards self-published, independent authors.

Publication by a big name doesn’t guarantee quality — as a recent conversation with a friend regarding the infamous “Fifty Shades of Grey” revealed, a book widely regarded in literary circles as filled with unprofessional writing and countless technical errors — not to mention shallow characters and the glorification of what many people consider abusive behavior towards women.

Even so, ask most people if they expect great literature from a big name publisher or an independent author, the perception remains to side with big name publishers.

After interviewing authors for consideration for this blog, certain errors do seem to come up over and over again.  Let’s look at them and how you can avoid them in your own writing:

1.  Grammar/punctuation errors

There is a reason why the advice sites tell authors to hire an editor — or at least have a friend go through manuscripts with a fresh set of eyes before publication.  Editing yourself is HARD.  People miss errors in their own work that others will catch.  Looking at the 1st edition of “The Great Succession Crisis,” my own struggles with this are pretty clear.  That edition was far from perfect.

Fortunately, some very kind souls gave me constructive feedback reviews which I listened to.  The result: in January 2013 I released the revised edition.

Let me be clear:  errors are normal.  The difference between a professional and an amateur (in my humble opinion) in this print-on-demand publishing world is what the author does about errors once located.  Do you let miss-spellings, grammar errors, and/or punctuation issues persist, or do you edit and resubmit once you find mistakes?  

Professionals want their work to be as absolutely error-free as possible and make the edits.

2.  Poor cover art

Not everyone is a graphic artist or has great visual instincts.  But most readers can spot stock book covers (such as those created in cover creator programs) a mile away.

Your book cover is the very first thing a reader uses to determine if your book is worth reading. It’s your critical first impression.  If it looks like you just slabbed some text over a generic image, odds are really good potential readers will not take a second look.

3. Over/under pricing

Pricing is hard; it’s taken me a fair amount of trial and error to figure out how to price my books.  But as a rule, the extremes look bad.  That is to say, if you offer your digital book for free or 99 cents (special, limited promotions not withstanding), people are going to often times assume it’s not worth paying for at all.  Unless your “book” is a very short work, DON’T DO IT!

Likewise, don’t price your book outrageously.  A digital book of less than 600 pages selling for more than $20 (I’m going extreme here) comes off as arrogant and not worth buying.  In fact, the poorest reviews I’ve ever seen on a digital book were for books priced well above and beyond normal expectations.

4. Poor book descriptions

Your book description is the second piece of information potential readers see when looking at your work.  Book descriptions ARE HARD as I’ve discovered from personal experience, especially if your book falls into more than one genre at the same time or involves a particularly complex story.  At the same time, your description needs to be clean and professional.  This is not the time to show off your fluency with colorful colloquial language.  When people see grammar errors, spelling errors, and colloquial language in a book description, the inevitable conclusion is the rest of the book is of the same character.

5. Publishing before your work is ready.

Is your story compelling and interesting TO OTHER PEOPLE?  Have you researched your setting and other details thoroughly? Do your characters make sense?  Are your details accurate and believable.

Writing is not about you; it’s about your readers.  Publish quality work others want to read.

Remember:  you are your brand.