Podcast: Download (Duration: 1:07:22 — 54.7MB)
Subscribe: Google Podcasts | Spotify | Stitcher | TuneIn | RSS | More
The book market is saturated for certain genres in digitally mature markets like the US and UK, but readers in other markets are hungry for books.
In this episode, Nadine Mutas talks about self-publishing in German, French and Italian and her tips for finding a translator and marketing the books once they're available.
In the intro, Authors Guild contract template, #disneymustpay [The Guardian]; Movies (and books) changing from ‘event' to ‘pool' [The Future of Publishing]; The increasing issue of selling new or front list books [Publishers Weekly, The Hotsheet]; The Magic Bakery by Dean Wesley Smith; Apple and Spotify introduce paid podcast subscriptions — and why you need to change your perspective on what a podcast is.
Plus, self-publishing through personal struggles [ALLi blog]; How authors can use affiliate income; and A Speck on the Ocean: Sailing the Pacific on Books and Travel.
Do you need help with editing and cover design, marketing, or translations? Find a curated list of vetted professionals at the Reedsy marketplace, along with free training on writing, self-publishing and book marketing. Check it out at: www.TheCreativePenn.com/reedsy
Nadine Mutas is the award-winning author of paranormal romance novels, with books published in German, French, and Italian, as well as English.
You can listen above or on your favorite podcast app or read the notes and links below. Here are the highlights and the full transcript is below.
- Shaking off the stigma of self-publishing in the early days
- How book-buying habits in a country matter more than population when selling books
- How genre and sub-genre affect book sales in foreign markets
- How do you know if a translator is good if you don’t speak the language?
- The cost-benefit analysis of translation and lessons learned
- Why translating more than one book matters
- Marketing books in a foreign language
You can find Nadine Mutas at NadineMutas.com and on Twitter @NadineMutas
Transcript of Interview with Nadine Mutas
Joanna: Nadine Mutas is the award-winning author of paranormal romance novels, with books published in German, French, and Italian, as well as English. Welcome, Nadine.
Nadine: Hi. I'm excited to be here.
Joanna: I'm excited to talk to you. We're going into translations today.
Before we get into it, tell us a bit more about you and how you got into writing.
Nadine: I'm a German citizen, a native speaker. We just moved to the U.S. in 2012. And actually, even before that, I started writing in English, interestingly.
Like most authors will tell you, I started imagining stories and set on the path to becoming a writer even when I was a kid. But really professionally starting to write seriously, with a professional interest, I started in 2011, when I wrote my first full-length novel. And like I said, interestingly, that one came out in English.
I speak English really well. Starting when we learn it in school, we start pretty early. And I also spent a high school year in the U.S. when I was 17. So that really helped me get to almost a native level of speaking English.
When I wrote that first full-length novel in 2011, it came out in English. That's what happened. And so when I was finished with that one, I was just sitting there, ‘Well, okay. This is a full-length novel, what can I do with it?' And that's when I started researching, publishing, and how to get it out.
That's what set me on the path to really get into the industry of publishing, because I had no idea about anything. And this was 2011, when self-publishing was just about really starting to take off, but there was still so much stigma around it. When I first started researching what to do with it, it was really trad pub was the thing, still.
So that's what I figured I would do. And I actually wrote another novel. That first one that I wrote wasn't the one that I sent out queries for and tried to get published, because the more I learned about the craft of writing, I was like, ‘That first one wasn't so great.'
And so with the second one I wrote, I actually incorporated so much stuff that I had learned in the meantime about the craft of writing and how to do it right. That was also the first novel that I did get published.
By that time, that was 2015 when I published that one, I had researched so much about publishing and so much time had passed, that I found out that the better option for me would be to go the indie route, rather than trad pub, because what I liked most about self-publishing was the idea of having more control over my product, creatively and in terms of marketing and business.
In 2015, I published that first novel, and I went on to publish four more novels in that series and a novella. I really concentrated on that first series at first, and only recently, in December, I published the first book in another series but in the same sub-genre, because I really wanted to focus on one sub-genre first, to really establish my brand and get my name out there.
Joanna: You mentioned there the stigma. I've spent time in Germany, I have German friends, and I feel like the German literary tradition is perhaps even more highbrow than, say, the British, for example.
You're now in America, and I found this too, as a British person. If I wasn't living in Australia when I discovered self-publishing, I don't know I could have done it living here in England, because the stigma was so high.
Do you think that being in America was what helped you to self-publish?
Because I know there's a lot of people listening in Germany, in Austria, and places where the German language is the primary language, but, who still feel that stigma. What would you say to those people?
Nadine: Definitely, I felt the same that being in the United States really gave me good urge to see self-publishing as a viable option and shake off that stigma. What really helped me was when we moved over here in 2012, I became a member of the Romance Writers of America. I went to the local meetings and I met so many other writers that really encouraged me.
Some of them were self-published at the time already. And I just saw their success stories, that it was a viable option, like I said. And you could do this. They did it well, and it really paid off for them. And it was just the more I learned about it, and part of it was Romance Writers of America, their resources that they had, the discussion groups, the forums, that really helped me get that perspective that self-publishing is not this taboo thing, and it does not mean lesser quality and all these rumors that trad publishing like to spread about it in the beginning.
I do think it's definitely harder to do it outside the United States, or it was harder to do it. By now, I think it is also a viable option in Germany. I can only speak for Germany. Obviously, I don't know what it's like in other countries.
In Germany, KDP, and especially KDP Select, Kindle Unlimited, is a huge thing for authors. So most of my author friends in Germany, I see them going that route. But it is definitely a thing you can do in Germany now and do it well.
I know quite a few of them who really make a good living self-publishing just Amazon exclusive in Germany. But that is something that happened with definitely a lag of a couple of years behind the United States. So, that's what I think is the thing for Germany.
I think of it as Germany is behind the development, especially in terms of e-books, when you compare it to the United States, by several years, I would say maybe five years at least. And so there is still a very, very high prevalence of print books in Germany. That is the thing to do.
Most readers, when you ask them, ‘Where do you find your books, new books?' And they would say, well, they still go into a brick-and-mortar bookstore and just browse the shelves, right.
Traditional publishing in Germany still has a much stronger foothold than in the United States, especially still for genre books. Here in the United States, for example, when you look at romance, most of the traditional publishers have ceded that market to the indie authors. So there's not as many new romance authors being taken on by traditional publishing.
The same is not true for Germany. Even for the well-selling genre books, digital publishing is still the way to go, so to say, for a lot of German indies. I still see a lot of German indies when they make it big at being an indie, earning a lot of money selling their own e-books, they then go to traditional publishing and take on a contract with a trad pub house.
You can still see there is a higher value attached to being with a traditional publishing house in Germany. It's like they want that stamp of approval, and maybe even giving up the hard part of the business and marketing to a traditional publisher.
Joanna: I've been to Frankfurt Book Fair a number of times. And the first time I went, I don't know how many years ago, eight years ago or something, I felt there was nobody like me at the fair. And then the last time I went, in 2019, there was a whole section for authors, and indie authors, and it was brilliant.
Mostly romance, fantasy, sci-fi. Obviously, genre fiction does really well because it's underserved by traditional publishers. But I did feel like things are definitely changing.
And then of course, with the pandemic, we've seen the numbers have really grown readership in digital across Europe. So, I think what we're going to see is more readers coming into e-books in German-speaking territories, and French and Italian and these things.
I want people listening to realize that we are only at the beginning of some of these markets.
Joanna: 2011 in America is 2021 in continental Europe.
Nadine: Exactly. That's what I was saying, that Germany is behind the United States, but they're going to catch up. It's just a matter of years before the younger German population, they're going to gravitate toward maybe reading on their phones. So there's definitely a huge potential for even more people getting into reading e-books in Germany. It's still a rather small part of the market, but it's growing, definitely.
Joanna: And also, just to say, the German market, are very big readers, huge readers. That's very important to say.
Joanna: Everybody reads. For anyone who hasn't been to Germany, we're talking people who read. So that's quite exciting, I think.
Nadine: I always say we're book people. We breathe books, really. We grow up loving books. And it's like, a lot of people when I tell them I'm doing translations and they always ask me, like, ‘Oh, so are you doing Spanish or Russian or Hindi?' Even Chinese.
Because they figure that the size of the population is an indicator for how well books will do in that market, but that's actually not true. It's a fallacy. Because it's not the size of the population, it's more about the book-buying habits of that population.
Germany has a very, very strong book-buying habit.
We love spending money on books, actually buying them. And I'm sure piracy is a thing. It's a thing in pretty much all countries around the world, but much less so than in other countries.
When you look toward Russia, for example, or India, even though they have a large population, especially India with over a billion people. They do read English, so you would think, ‘Hey, it pays off to be in there, in that market, maybe in Hindi, because that's millions of speakers.'
But the thing is that they don't have the same strong book-buying culture as Germany, for example. So, they buy a lot of used paperbacks, they're very cheap to get, in those little corner bookshops, or they do a lot of piracy, illegal downloads. And it's sadly really a thing in Russia and India.
China is hard to get into that market because it's so controlled by the Chinese government, and, especially for someone writing romance like I do, romance is considered almost porn. So it's very, very regulated. And you going indie into China is pretty much impossible.
You have to go with a traditional publisher there, and it has to be sanctioned by the Chinese government. So it's fraught with difficulties. And it's not as easy as it sounds, ‘Oh, go to China and there are millions of people, or like a billion people ready to read.'
The same goes for Spanish. They have a very strong book-buying habit toward secondhand paperbacks in stores, especially in Latin America, but they don't have such a developed e-book reading market that's ready for you to go in there as an indie and really make money, again, or selling your e-books.
And then there's the whole thing with the Spanish market worldwide is, on the one hand you have Spain Spanish, like the Castellano from Spain, and then you have the Latin American Spanish, which is, there are differences. And when you translate your books into Spanish, you have to pick one or the other. You have to go with a translator that is either Latin American or Spain Spanish, because, I forget which one it is, but one side of them doesn't like to read the other.
If you pick one of them, you're already excluding the other markets, so to say, and it's not as easy. So, going with a seemingly smaller population size, like Germany, sounds weird at first, but it totally pays off because Germans are hungry for books, and they like to buy them. That's the thing.
Joanna: And also the economy. The economy is pretty similar. And the Euros. Obviously, you've got German, French, and Italian, all Euros. And equivalent pricing to the U.S., really, in terms of what you can price your books at.
That's the other thing. It's very hard to compete in, say, you mentioned India. You can get a full-price new paperback for, like, 150 rupees and if you leave the default pricing, your e-book is going to be priced at 900 rupees.
Nadine: That is unaffordable for most of them.
Joanna: Exactly. It's unaffordable for us, and it's unaffordable for them. So, you're exactly right. There are lots of reasons why you would choose these languages. So, it makes sense you chose German. You're German, the market is growing.
Why French and Italian? Is it a similar reason in the currency and the culture?
Nadine: Exactly. Similar reasons. They're both countries that are comparably doing well, in terms of the economy. Italy has some issues sometimes.
But what surprised me, I picked Italian as the second foreign language to translate into, mainly because I saw a recommendation in one of my author groups on Facebook for an Italian translator, and he was really cheap. But also, he had great recommendations. That's sort of the Holy Grail that you want to find.
You want to find a translator that is affordable for you as the author, but also delivers great quality. When you vet him or her, you can see that they deliver consistent quality, that their reviews are good, and that other authors who worked with them say, ‘Yes, they're awesome.' He was sort of the Holy Grail, in that he was cheap and he was good.
So, that was just my consideration. I was trying to decide between doing French or Italian next. And I compared the prices for French translation to him being the Italian translator that I was recommended. And he was so much cheaper that I was like, ‘Okay. Let's do him first with Italian, because it's just going to save me a lot of money compared to French.'
Then when the Italian stuff does well, I can still expand into French. And that's exactly what I did. I had him translate my four novels in that one series. And I pretty much, I did a rapid release in Italy. I didn't know if that would work.
I put the first one up for 99 cents, and then I think it was just three weeks later that I dropped the second one, and then three weeks later, the third, and then a month later, the fourth.
And so I stockpiled the translations first, to be able to do that rapid release. And it worked and it worked beautifully. Within six months after the release of the first one, I had made back all my translation costs, and I was getting profit from the translations.
Since that worked so well, I then decided to get into French translations this year. So, that was really just the only reason that my Italian translator was so much cheaper than French that I did Italian first. Otherwise, I might as well have done French first, because I heard it's a really good market to go into, especially for the romance.
Joanna: This is a really important thing to talk about, in that you write romance and you've got there… What do you say? Five book series?
Nadine: It's four novels and one novella in that one series.
Joanna: How long are they, 50,000, 60,000?
Nadine: I write pretty long. So, the first one is actually, like, super long. It's 109,000 words. I really tend to go long. My readers love it, though. And so they're all around that, between, like, 70,000 and 100K words. And yeah, the novella is 35K. I price them at 4.99 USD, and also 4.99 in Euro.
Joanna: This is something I think's really important.
Romance is an underserved niche in those markets. It's not in the U.S. anymore.
This is what's so interesting is that you've obviously seen that you can put books early. Again, it's like being a romance writer on Kindle in 2011, when there were barely any other authors writing in paranormal romance in those countries.
Nadine: That's exactly it. I was going to say it also depends what subgenre of romance. Contemporary romance, for example, there's lots of that going on in Germany especially, from the traditional publishers. They do take up the big names from the U.S. and translate them into German. And so with contemporary romance, it's a much more competitive market in Germany right now.
But paranormal romance is totally underserved from the traditional side of publishing, in Germany, because the same has been going on in Germany that has been going on in the U.S. that people from traditional publishing have been saying, ‘Paranormal romance is dead.'
It's sort of like the genre thing, it's not dead, it's undead. It keeps coming back. It's never really gone away, really. Vampires are this perennial thing, it's just always there. And the same goes for shifters. They're super big in Germany as well.
If you do write quality paranormal romance and you translate that into German, you're bound to do well. So, if the translation is good, because the readers are hungry, they don't get that kind of stuff from their traditional publishers in German.
Joanna: This is really important. Don't try to compete with traditional publishers in the German market or French or Italian, because if you put your book that looks like one of their mainstream types, you're competing against them.
I think this is one of the biggest tips, really. Only do the translation for books that have an underserved niche, otherwise, you're going to really struggle.
You've talked a bit about finding that Italian translator. You don't speak Italian, so you didn't really know whether it was going to work.
What are some of your thoughts on finding and working together with translators?
Nadine: My Italian is, same as my French. It's very, very rudimentary and very rusty. I do understand a little bit, if my Italian readers make comments on my ads or whatever, but definitely not enough to vet a translation.
So what is important for that, and it's going to be the same for most authors looking into translations, you don't speak the language, so what do you do? How do you get the translator, knowing that he or she is good?
The thing to look for is, first of all, word-of-mouth recommendations from other authors who have worked with that translator. That's the main thing. That's really the most important aspect. You want to get someone who has a good reputation.
Another way to vet that reputation is that you go into Amazon and you type in the translator's name, either from the agency or the name of the translator, him or herself. What should happen is that all the books that they've translated should come up on Amazon.
You want to do that, especially in the Amazon store of the target language. For Italian, go to amazon.it. And then type in the translator's name. Look at the books that come up. And then look at the reviews. And for that, you can actually use Google Translate. I don't recommend it for actually translating a book. We can get into that a bit more.
For easy stuff, like translating reviews to get the gist of what the review is talking about, Google Translate or DeepL Translator is awesome because it will tell you whether the review mentions anything in terms of quality issues with a translation.
Readers, especially, when you look toward Germany, they will let you know if the translation is crap.
So, if there are typos, errors, or even if the review says, ‘It reads clunky,' or something like that, those are buzzwords to look for that will tell you, ‘That translation is not really good.' Because then mostly it's not a problem of the book not being good, but the translation not being good.
The same goes for positive reviews. When you look at them and you get the gist of the review and it mentions that the prose is nice or it flows well, those are keywords to look for to get you the sense of, ‘Yes, this is a good translation, so the translator is doing good work.'
That's what I did for my Italian translator. I looked at the reviews of the books that he had translated, and saw that, yep, they're consistent quality, they get good reviews, there are no red flags coming up in the reviews. So, that's definitely something you can do to vet your translator.
And then another thing, when you do contact them, definitely get a sample translation. That is a thing you can do. It's a couple hundred words, or ask them how many words they can do as a sample translation for you. And then get native speakers of that language to vet the sample translation for you.
What you have to do is give the reader the sample translation, give them the original, and let them read the original and the sample translation side by side, to see if the translator missed anything. For example, if it's a humorous excerpt with wordplay in it, if they got the wordplay right.
Depending on your fan base, if you have a fan base in English, you can ask on your Facebook, your social media, ‘I'm looking for native speakers of this language to just look at a sample translation. Anybody who wants to do that? Just hit me up via a PM or an email.' If you have enough of a fan base, then there will be readers who are like, ‘Yes, yes, I speak the language.' They can help you out with that.
Or what I did with French when I went into French translations, I asked my Facebook friends. So, I asked on my personal profile, ‘Do you have any French native speakers among my friends? And if so, would you be willing to look at a 500-word sample translation?' And that's definitely something you can do.
Joanna: If you have an audience already, there will be people you can ask in your community. And if you don't have an audience already, you shouldn't be doing translations.
Nadine: Probably, yes. That's a good point.
Joanna: I think that's really important. I want to keep emphasizing this. Seriously, I did translations way too early, back in 2014. I did German, Italian, and Spanish. And it was way too early in those markets. And it cost me time, it cost me money.
I now have, as of this week, four German nonfiction books, because the indie author market is underserved in Germany, so I've gone in with my nonfiction. But I know how much time it takes. Even though I'm not doing the translation, obviously, I'm emailing backwards and forwards, I'm getting things to various people.
So, tell us about the cost-benefit analysis. It's obviously money, but there's also time.
How did you decide it would be worth it? And has it been worth it? And any lessons learned in terms of how you could do it better?
Nadine: With German, which was the first language that I did, I had the advantage of being a native speaker, and so what I did was I actually translated the first four titles in my series myself into German. I could do that, obviously, because I'm a native speaker, so that gave me the edge there.
But what I noticed is that it just takes so much time to translate, and it's really not the thing that I want to do. I'd much rather create new stories in English. I was pulling out my hair in frustration.
And that's also something that I learned when I did the translations myself is that just because you're a native speaker, doesn't mean you can translate. That's why I always say, ‘Get someone who really is a professional translator, that has the background, someone who studied it at a university level.'
Because just having someone who speaks English fluently and then the target language natively is not enough. That person has to have a native-level understanding of English as well, just to be able to get the wordplays, and all those terms and turns of phrases right.
Also, it takes skill to really be able to translate a lot of words every day and not to burn out on that. And that's something that you need to learn and train.
But anyway, so, I did the first four titles myself. When I published them, obviously, I didn't have the investment of the money that goes into it usually, when you pay for translations, because I did it myself, but it was definitely a time investment on my part because it took me months to translate, which is sort of the thing.
When you think of a full-length novel of 80,000 words, you cannot translate that in a month. If anybody tells you they can translate that in a month, I would be wary of the quality that they deliver. I usually think it takes as long to translate a book as it takes to write it in the first place.
It's true someone can do it faster, and it might be good, but it's a good idea to go for people with a more reasonable amount of time that it takes them to do it, say, two months, three months.
It was a time investment on my part. And during the time that I translated myself, I couldn't write anything new in English. So, it was definitely a trade-off for me. When I got to the fourth novel in my series, that had just come out in English, I was so ready to give it up, the translation, because I was like, ‘Okay. I did the cost-benefit analysis.' I was like, ‘I can spend that time that I would spend translating, I can spend that writing the next book in English and it would pay off much more for me.'
Even when I have to pay thousands of dollars for a translation in German, by now, I knew that they were selling well for me in German, so I knew that I would make back that investment in a reasonable time, which really did happen.
With the fourth book in my series, when it came out in German, just to give you some hard numbers here. I paid… Was it 7000 something dollars for that translation? And I made back all of that within the first month after publication. And it really paid off.
Joanna: You had four books, and a novella. And this is, again, important. It's the same as in English, it's very hard to sell one book.
Joanna: You should have a series, preferably at least a trilogy, at least three books, in the same as we say for English. If you have three books, and then you can do discounting on book one, then you can sell more books.
Another tip is don't spend $7,000 to translate one book, because then it's just the same as having one book in English. It's very hard to market.
Joanna: You would agree with that?
Nadine: Absolutely. And it's not just about marketing and getting that momentum going of having a series, and for readers to read on.
In some markets, like French, for example, that's something that I learned when I did research on doing translations in French, is that French readers especially have been burned by traditional publishing taking on American authors and translating the first two books in their series into French, but then dropping the series because the numbers weren't there.
French readers have learned to be wary of any new authors coming into French with translations. And if they only see there's only one book in the series as a French translation available, and they don't see a pre-order for book two and three and they don't really see any plans from the author to keep going, they are very suspicious and wary.
They will wait oftentimes to see if there's more of that series going to be translated, and the series going to be finished, and all of it translated into French, before they jump on it. Because they have been burned so badly by traditional publishers just starting to translate series and then stopping mid-series and never finishing them in translations.
What I did with French, to make sure that my French readers would see that I'm in this for the long haul and I'm committed to doing French translations of all my books and keep going, is that, again, I stockpiled the translations. I pretty much had the first three of them yet already translated now, and I'm waiting on the fourth to drop.
I put them up for pre-order and made sure that the first three are up on pre-order already, so that French readers, when they click on the first one and then they see there's a series page and they see, ‘Oh, the next two are up for pre-order already.' And so they have more of a sense of security, ‘Yes, this is a series that is ongoing, and I can binge this series when it comes out.'
Joanna: I think that's great. So, again, people listening, this is definitely an advanced author thing in terms of translations, like you said, having a plan, having multiple books. So, you will have spent $21K upfront?
Nadine: It's definitely an investment. I'll have to tell you that what I did and how much I spent. But for the Italian translations, for example, I just recently did the tallying how much it cost me to translate those first four books, and it was like $9,000, because he's very cheap, again.
Joanna: Everyone's going to want his name!
Nadine: Definitely. He's awesome. He also gets my humor, which is very important. I write funny books and he gets my humor. And I feel my books are in safe hands with him. But anyway, he's good and he's cheap.
I paid $9,000 for all four books in my series. But, again, I made that back within the first six months after release, but I had a marketing plan. I put the first one up for 99 cents as a loss leader, and then I dropped the next ones with a couple weeks time difference. It went really well.
If you can do that and just put books up for pre-order when you drop the first one, have the next one up for pre-order, have the link in the back.
It's pretty much the same as you would do in English when you have the time to stockpile a couple manuscripts that you finished in the same series, and you go about it in a smart way, which I don't do for my English.
When I write my English books, I publish them as I write them, so I don't do the same thing for my English books, being smart about it and all.
But with the translations, you can do that a lot more easily, because it's not that you have to create something new, you just give what you already created to your translator, and they do the work. And then you get back the translated manuscript and you can sit on it. You don't have to publish right away.
The smart thing to do is sit on it, stockpile the translations, if they're in a series, and then put them up for pre-order, make sure the link is there, the back matter, which is something that I would also advise.
Get your back matter, the front matter and the back matter translated as well.
That should be part of the package, because you don't want to have a translation out there without a list of other books in the series in the language. And put the links in there, so it's super easy for the readers to go on and binge that series. That's what you want.
Joanna: We're talking about the investment, and to me, you're creating an entirely new intellectual property asset, basically, in this other language. I feel with my translations and I've got quite a lot of different languages, most of which I've licensed now, but I don't feel like they're my book anymore because I can't read them, which is really odd. I'm like looking at it going, ‘Okay. My name is on it, but I really don't feel like it's my book,' which is odd.
Let's talk a bit more about marketing. We've talked there about pricing and about publishing. But one of the challenges, obviously, is if you don't speak the language. I use podcasting as a big part of my nonfiction marketing, and I can't do that in any other language. Being British, I don't speak anything else.
I do use for my German books, as you mentioned, KU as the easiest thing. I have my German books in KU, and I use Amazon auto ads for those books, and it seems to work quite well. I don't have to do anything. They just run automatically, because the algorithm works in that situation.
But I don't have a newsletter in any other language. I did actually try that in 2014, but it was just horrible. I make it very clear that I'm English, and I don't speak another language, so I don't ask for people to email me or anything. I don't have social media. So, I do very little.
What do you do in terms of your marketing your translations?
Nadine: I don't do Amazon ads because I never got them to work for me. I'm just not spreadsheet typey enough to get them to work for me. But I do Facebook ads. They're easy enough for me to manage.
I do them for my English books. And when you are familiar with them for your English books, then it's quite easy to do them for the translations as well, because the only thing that changes is, of course, you have to have the ad copy translated into that language. Your translator can help you with that.
So, either add that word count to the manuscript word count when you get the manuscript translation, so you can think of ad copy ahead of time, or sometimes your translator is super, super nice and will do short ad copy for free, but don't expect it. Definitely ask them and offer compensation.
It's only maybe 100 words or whatever how short ad copy usually is. What you can also do is take an excerpt from your book. And the same thing I do for my English books, I've noticed that excerpts, longer snippets from my book, work really well. They work better than short, snappy ad copy because either I suck at short ad copy or it's just the excerpts speak for themselves much better. I don't know.
I noticed that works really well with my target audience, apparently. And the same goes for German and Italian. So, that's really what I did. And then it's the headline for the Facebook ad that you need translated. Definitely ask your translator, ‘Hey, can you translate sexy paranormal romance for me into Italian?' And they will do that for you, very likely.
The only thing you have to change for the Facebook ads to make that work is, like I said, the ad copy. And then the targeting, you can limit it to that country that you want to target, like Italy. Facebook makes that really easy for you.
Then you would use the same sort of interest targets as you do for your English Facebook ads. So, I target the big paranormal romance names. I usually go for Kresley Cole because she has a huge audience on Facebook and it works really well for me or Nalini Singh. And the same goes for Italy because I think both of them have been translated into Italian. Definitely Nalini Singh. So, there is also an audience for that same author in Italy, which makes it easy to target these fans on Facebook.
That's what I did for German and for Italian, and it worked beautifully, especially after I put the first book in Italian for free. I now have it as a perma-free. When I did Facebook ads, advertising it as a free book, first free book in the series, it worked so well, it skyrocketed my sales in Italy for that series, and it paid off.
The thing you have to watch out for is when you do Facebook ads for your translations, you will get comments on those ads from readers in that language. The Italians, especially, they're very comment-happy. They like to comment on my Facebook ads. And so the thing is, like I said, I don't speak Italian super fluently. I speak it enough to, like, get the gist of, like, Facebook comments.
When I see a comment, I'm like, ‘Oh, okay. I get the gist of what this person is talking about,' they're praising my book or they're asking the question. And so what you can do, again, is just use Google Translate or DeepL.
Copy and paste that comment in there just to see what the person is talking about. And then you can use the same thing, Google Translate or DeepL, to formulate your response. And it's okay to use those two things, Google Translate or DeepL to translate your comment answers because it's just that, it's just a small comment answer.
Now, if you were to make a Facebook post on your page for your, say, Italian readers, I would definitely say get that one translated professionally by your translator, because as a post on your page, it has a much wider reach. It's much more public than an answer to a comment on an ad.
For this wider reach, you want to make sure it looks as good as possible, it's error free, and it sounds smooth because it's your public-facing persona.
When you post that on Facebook on your page, you want to make sure that an Italian reader scrolling by or being a fan of your page, and they read that, they see that it's correct, and they don't get to thinking, ‘Oh. So, do her translations sound the same as, like, this Google Translate mangled post?' You want to make sure that that is up to par.
The same goes for your newsletter. If you do have a newsletter in German or Italian, make sure that whatever you put out in the newsletter is not Google translated, but professionally translated, because, again, you want to put your best foot forward to make the best impression with that text toward your readers.
If it's just answering a fan email or a comment on an ad, again, you can use Google Translate because I think the tolerance for errors in those instances is a lot higher than, like, say, in the main text of a newsletter or in the main text of a Facebook post.
Joanna: And then just a quick one. You said you put the first Italian as perma-free.
Does that mean you're publishing wide with these books? I had assumed you were using KU?
Nadine: I am wide with my translations. I had the German translations in KU for a while, just because I haven't been writing for three years. I took a break due to burnout and personal grief, and so my translations really kept me afloat during that time.
To make up more for the lack of new content, I put my German translations into KU for a couple months. And it worked really well, especially when I advertised it on Facebook and put it free in KU, in the ad.
But just in general, it's just my feeling, I like being wide. I like reaching as many people on as many platforms as possible for my English books. And the same goes for my translations.
What I noticed is that, yes, of course, Amazon is still the strongest, the most dominant retailer, even in the foreign markets like Germany and Italy, but especially for Italy, Google Play and Kobo are really doing well for me there. I would miss out on these readers if I were in KU with my Italian translations.
Being able to put the first one in the Italian series for free as a perma-freebie, again, that only works when you're wide. And so that one, it has been wide for a year now, and it just keeps bringing in new readers to that series on all wide retailers. I don't want to change that because I just see the benefit of it. Perma-free works really well for my Italian series. Definitely, yes.
Joanna: It works. It works well with wide, in general.
In Germany, are you seeing good sales on the Tolino?
Nadine: It's lagging behind Amazon by a large margin. I know I would probably make a lot more money if I were in KU in Germany. But, like I said, it's a principle for me not to put all my eggs in one basket.
And I don't want to rely on Amazon for my page reads and just wait for the day that they strip me of page reads, like all of a sudden, arbitrarily. I've heard too many horror stories of that to go on and rely on that.
I still hope that Tolino will grow for me as a market. Most people who are wide will tell you is that it takes a long time to build that. And since I think it was last year that I was in KU with my German translations, and it's been a couple months since I switched back to wide, which it means on the other hand that I am still in that building it up again phase.
It's going to take another couple months, maybe a year, for me to really gain back the traction that I had on Tolino with my German books. And I hope that I will gain more of a foothold again there. I like being wide, in general.
Joanna: I do as well with my English language. I just was like, ‘I just need something really simple and basic that I don't need to look at.' There's so much to think about. So good to talk to you. But we have run out of time.
Where can people find you and your books in all your languages online?
Nadine: The best place is my website, which is just nadinemutas.com.
I actually have this nifty little tool on my website. In the upper-left-hand corner, there are flag icons. I have it in English, in German, and in Italian. Soon I'm going to put the French stuff there, too. If you click on that flag icon and you're an international reader, you're a German or Italian, you click on the German or Italian flag, and the whole website gets translated.
It's really nice. And then you can just navigate through the menu and it's all in either German or Italian. And it just lets you navigate through the whole site and see everything in your language.
You can find my English books and my translations on the website. And like I said, they're on all retailers, so you'll find me on Amazon, Google Play, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, Apple Books, like, on all these places.
Joanna: Thanks so much for your time, Nadine. That was great.
Nadine: Thank you. It was so nice chatting with you.
Thanks for the fantastic episode, glad I listened on. Though I’m far from translations, the information is what I need to reach a decision – to think and plan to translate or not.
Joanna Penn says
Thanks, Eileen, I’m glad it helped!
Another good episode. I listened this morning. Nadine is correct about the German market. They are avid readers. I’m looking forward to return to the Frankfurt Book Fair in person and breaking into the German market.
Joanna Penn says
I hope to see you again at Frankfurt, Marion!
David Penny says
As someone who is actively getting translated an entire 9 book series this was a fantastic post to read. So far I’m doing German only but with only 4 titles out Germany sales have now overtaken my UK sales.
I thought Nadine’s comments about Tolino were interesting. I go direct through them now and had always been told by my German friends that Tolino was where they read their eBooks. But it’s hard to get traction there, and it’s only a tiny percentage of sales – maybe 0.2% if that!
Even though we write in totally different genres Nadine’s comments have given me so much to think about with my own work. I agree Spanish is a hard market to break, but I have ignore both Italian and French but maybe that can be next on the roadmap. I also love her idea of banking the translations then doing a fast release schedule. Great tip.
Joanna Penn says
Thanks, David, and glad it’s going well for you!
Bilingual author, here. I started writing in English rewriting the tonz of stories I had in Italian, but now I write in English directly. Sometimes I translate back into Italian, but, like Nadine says, it takes time away from writing now words.
Italians don’t read much, unlike Germans. The readers are mostly in some niches that aren’t catered to by traditional publishers (and yes, we’re 10 years behind the US). Also, they resist e-books, they want the paper books and the bookshops (although with the pandemic… nyeah. Maybe things will change?).
I still have a lot of words in Italian that I don’t want to rewrite in English, so in the coming month’s I’m putting them out there – but they’re a very specific genre, the m/m a.k.a. boy+boy a.k.a sometimes yaoi, so it’s a very narrow subgenre (and the only titles I’m currently selling both on Amazon and Kobo are those).
But thank you for posting the transcript (I have the attention span of a chiuaua when I listen to people talking), it gave me food for thought, since I was thinking of dipping my toes into translations of other people’s books. I tried translating some short stories for friends in the past, and it’s not easy.
And one day I’ll make it to Frankfurt Bookfair, it’s been on my radar for more than a decade now, but I never made it! Since it’s opening up to indies, it might be a good place to start traveling again as soon as I get my vaccine! 🙂