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Continuing with my adventures in self-publishing translation series, today it's the turn of Profanazione, my first novel in Italian.
I wasn't intending to self-publish in Italy, mainly because the market is very small, but when experienced author and translator, Virginio B. Sala emailed me, I jumped at the opportunity.
Here's an interview with Virginio, and if you read Italian, or know people who do, Profanazione is free on Kindle between 26 – 30 August, 2014. You can read the description and watch the trailer at the bottom of the post. You can also read the interview in Italian here.
Plus, there's an interview with me about why I wanted the investigate the Italian market on SelfPublishingSchool.it here.
Virginio, tell us a bit about you and your writing/publishing background
I’ve been working in the publishing field since I was 18. My first job was with a press agency – as a translator of sport news from German to Italian. There weren’t any personal computers then, only mechanical typewriters and teletypes… After three years, the agency closed but I went on working in the field, partly as a freelance and partly as an employee.
The most interesting experiences were as an editor with “Le Scienze”, the Italian edition of “Scientific American”, my first job as an editor in chief with Franco Muzzio Editore, then as responsible for the books division of Mondadori Informatica, and my last job as “editorial director” with Apogeo. I was with Apogeo for eleven years, then at the end of 2008 I quit and decided to go back freelancing. In 2013 I moved from Milan area to Tuscany, with my family – we now live in a small “borgo” in the hills of Lunigiana, near Pontremoli, a handful of houses with less than twenty regular residents.
I wrote about your work and your blog in a recently published book: my contribution is titled “La Galassia Gutenberg e la nebulosa Turing” (Gutenberg Galaxy and Turing Nebula), and is part of the volume “Digital Writing” edited by Alessandra Anichini and published in 2014 by Maggioli, Milano.
What is the book market like in Italy? What kind of books do Italians like?
Unfortunately, Italy is not a great market, it is virtually the only market for Italian language publications – and book reading is not one of the most widespread habits. It has to do with our history. There is a “hard core” of power readers, but for a large proportion of the Italians book reading is not on top of their interests. As for the taste of the Italian readers, it is not so different from the taste of the other European countries. Fiction and literary fiction are usually at the top of the bestsellers lists – many translations but also a few Italian authors: crime, thrillers, romance, fantasy, and also books about current affairs.
What do you see as the changes coming in the Italian publishing scene, in terms of the rise of ebooks and self-publishing?
Things are moving – slowly, but moving. Inertia is strong, and the crisis of these years doesn’t help. But there are a few interesting new realities, young (digital only) publishers, indie authors. It will be a challenge, given the limited size of the market for the Italian language, to find the right mix of elements for an economically sustainable activity – for publishers, authors, translators.
Why did you want to translate Desecration?
I became interested in The Creative Penn blog a few years ago, when you published the first version of your “Author 2.0”: it was an interesting work. I began following the blog regularly and followed the “making of” Pentecost and your first moves in the fiction world. I even used the blog as a case study, lecturing at the University in Florence.
The idea of translating one of your books came later, as an outcome of many reflections about the evolution of the book industry, the e-book, the world of indie authors. In my career, I have translated many books (mostly non-fiction), but always following the traditional chain of work. The idea of a different approach was tempting, and having a direct relationship with an author is interesting.
In Desecration, I was attracted by the context of the Royal College of Surgeons, the connections with the history of anatomy –history and philosophy of science are among my passions (I have a degree in Philosophy), as well as music.
What are some of the particular challenges around translating to Italian? Were there any surprises in the translation of Desecration?
I read Desecration before starting the translation, and it wasn’t the first of your books I read – so I knew fairly well what I was going to meet. Challenging, but not impossible.
Some of the most intriguing decisions were with the translation of the pronoun “you” – in Italian (as in French or in German) there are two possible choices, the more personal and intimate “tu” and the more respectful “lei”. Sometimes it is clear what the right solution is, but not always. I had the problem in a couple of cases – in particular for the relationship between Jamie and Blake: it begins as a relationship between two strangers, but then it gradually changes.
What are your tips for translators working with indie authors?
The same I would give for any translation. What makes the difference is the relationship with the author: not being mediated by a chain of publisher-agent-publisher or whatever, it is a personal relationship. No safety net, in a sense – but it can be more rewarding. But, as any other personal relationship, it has to be nurtured, first of all by trust.
What are your tips for authors who want to find a good Italian translator for their books? How do they evaluate the translator?
If you cannot read the language, it’s not easy. If the translator already did other works, you can probably find some evaluation online, or you can try to go backwards, identify first a translated book (somehow comparable to yours) and then try to contact the translator. LinkedIn and Facebook are great for this kind of research.
But I wouldn’t discard the idea of a young translator at his first work: you could try to go through a school for translators, contact a teacher and ask for a newly graduated student who can be right for you. The teacher could also act as a reviewer… There are also master courses at university level, often linked to creative writing schools. It would be interesting if anybody would set up a specialized, international network directly connecting authors, translators, reviewers and so on, all the people involved. Probably something of this kind will be necessary, in the future, if self-publishing will grow. Or maybe somebody already did it – and simply I’m not aware of it.
How can people contact you?
My (occasional) blog is at www.viacartesio.eu
Profanazione – Free on Kindle 26 – 30 August, 2014 and then 2,99
Non sempre la morte è la fine.
LONDRA. Nei locali del Royal College of Surgeons viene trovato il corpo di una giovane donna, e le indagini sono affidate alla Detective Jamie Brooke. Un'antica, inquietante figurina d’avorio, lasciata accanto al cadavere, è l'unico indizio, e Jamie chiede aiuto a Blake Daniel, chiaroveggente riluttante, per scoprire quale sia il suo significato.
Quando una tragedia personale la colpisce, la vita della stessa Jamie finisce per intrecciarsi con la torbida vicenda: dovrà correre contro il tempo per impedire che ci sia una nuova vittima.
Jamie e Blake penetrano in un mondo macabro di profanatori di tombe, di modificazioni del corpo e di mostri creati con l'ingegneria genetica e devono lottare per non perdere la salute mentale e la vita.
˃˃˃ Autrice bestseller del New York Times e di USA Today, J.F.Penn
Autrice bestseller del New York Times e di Usa Today, nata in Inghilterra e laureata a Oxford, J.F. Penn ha viaggiato in tutto il mondo per studiare religione e psicologia. Queste sue ossessioni, l'amore per i thriller e l'interesse per il soprannaturale si fondono nelle storie che scrive.
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Tina Tenneberg says
Very interesting interview, Virginio! I am the German translator of Joanna’s book Pentecost and I had similar issues with formal and informal address, especially as things are changing – more and more people are using informal address these days (for example many bloggers) but formal address is still used at most workplaces. Although I have to say it actually depends – there ares some companies, especially with young staff, that are informal from the start. Do you think that things like that are changing in Italy as well?
You are mentioning the economic crisis in Italy – I can imagine that this might even lead to more interest in professionally made self-published ebooks that can be offered at a lower price than the more expensive ones of publishing houses. In Germany ebooks are still not as widely accepted as in the US or the UK and I suspect it’s the same in Italy, but I am sure this is going to change.
As an American journalist and writer living in Italy, I read this with interest. I didn’t realize Italians weren’t such voracious readers, since it does seem they have lots of great bookstores (maybe that’s just in Turin, where there are also used book sales lining the streets daily!). I’ll be following this series of posts in translating!