For those of you who don´t know, Babelcube is a platform where authors can get their books translated and published on online shops. All the publishing rights of the translated books are transferred to Babelcube through a contract signed by all the people involved in the translation and the author.
How it works
- Translators and editors register on Babelcube and search for books they are interested in translating.
- Translators and editors or proofreaders can team up and apply for the translation as a team or individually. The team should be formed before applying.
- The translator or team send a request for the author to accept or reject. The request must include a deadline for the first ten pages and for the full text. If accepted, all the parties involved sign an agreement.
- Once the contract is signed, Babelcube sends the first ten pages to the team or translator. The translator or team translate and edit the first 10 pages and send them to the author for approval. If approved, the team or translator receive the full text.
- On the deadline (or later if you ask for an extension), the translator or team sends the full translated text. Babelcube sends emails every time the book is published on an online bookshop or website.
- Translators get a review for their work (optional) from the authors, which is nice 🙂
How it worked for me
- I didn´t really want to translate any of the books I found on the website in my language pairs. Most did not have reviews and I had no idea if they would sell. So, I looked for independent authors on Amazon that wrote about things that interested me. I found one author and asked her to add her work on Babelcube so I could send the proposal. She accepted and we were good to go.
- I teamed up with a Portuguese editor because Portuguese it not my mother tongue.
- My deadline was a year and I extended twice, which is great news for translators used to working on insane deadlines. The authors are super flexible if you just let them know in advance.
- The contract is pretty straight forward. I sent the first 10 pages and she accepted. No problems there.
- The book was published on a few online shops but no Amazon, yet. As my public is in Brazil, we were lucky to get one link in Portuguese.
- You never know when you’ll get paid. I have translated two books so far and have not received a penny so far. The first book was published in August and we are in December. The second book was published in November. The first book had few pages and it was quite cheap. Babelcube supposedly only makes payments after the bookshop makes the payments and only then if they reach 10 or 20 dollars.
- You never know if the editor or team members you are working with will be good for the work you are doing. My editor disappeared for weeks and I still have some doubts about the edits she made. The ratings are not always reliable because the authors are grateful for the work and do not always know the language well enough to review.
- Customer support is weird. I think there is one person working at Babelcube and that person disappeared for a while until he was replaced by another who never got my emails. I had to start the whole process again and only then got some very brief, non-accountable replies. They basically blame everything on the bookshops.
- You never know if the book will sell unless you do as I did and start marketing before you even publish and already have an audience eagerly awaiting books in your subject area.
- Forget about making a living. Unless you consider Babelcube a long-term and rather unstable investment, you will not make a living there. I see it more as a hobby that I engage in when I am not “officially” translating.
- Post-publishing edits take ages to appear. I made one change and it took almost 2 weeks to appear.
- You define the deadline. That is as good as it gets for translators who love to translate.
- You can look for authors and invite them to join Babelcube, which gets rid of the horrible paperwork and payment issues.
- It´s better than doing nothing. The practice is great and you get to improve your skills.
I love the idea but hate the actual service. If Babelcube were more engaging with the translators, authors, and buyers of the books they published, the service would be a lot better. The website lacks detailed information and you sometimes wonder if there is anyone actually behind the service except for that one employee. Regardless, I will continue translating and hope to one day get some royalties for the hard work. If I ever do get paid I will update on the good news and how it happened.
I did actually get paid for one book and am waiting for the results of the second, much more profitable book. There is a mysterious 30% withholding fee they say the US government charges, which was unexpected and ate up most of my royalties. It is also annoying because I do not live in the US, Babelcube does. I don´t think I will be translating for Babelcube again.