My experience with Babelcube

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

  1. Translators and editors register on Babelcube and search for books they are interested in translating.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. Translators get a review for their work (optional) from the authors, which is nice 🙂

For more info on how it works (royalties, etc.), visit the website.

How it worked for me

  1. 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.
  2. I teamed up with a Portuguese editor because Portuguese it not my mother tongue.
  3.  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.
  4. The contract is pretty straight forward. I sent the first 10 pages and she accepted. No problems there.
  5. 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.

Disadvantages/Complaints

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. Post-publishing edits take ages to appear. I made one change and it took almost 2 weeks to appear.

Advantages

  1. You define the deadline. That is as good as it gets for translators who love to translate.
  2. You can look for authors and invite them to join Babelcube, which gets rid of the horrible paperwork and payment issues.
  3. It´s better than doing nothing. The practice is great and you get to improve your skills.

Conclusion

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.

Update

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.

23 thoughts on “My experience with Babelcube”

  1. This company is the worst one you can find on Internet. It is the way to fill the retailers webs with the worst translations you can imagine. The “translators” are not translators at all, they are people that think they know more than one language and because of that they can be able to translate books. They are not, of course. There are “translations” that seem to have been translated with Google Translator. Babelcube does NOT check at all the quality of the translations. And, above all, they do not pay the translators that 55% that they tell: they only pay 8.25% on royalties. Every book must be a bestseller for the translators to receive only $100 for their work. And Babelcube lie in the figures of the sold books, both to the translators and the authors. And they never solve a problem that the author and/or the translator may find: their answer is ALWAYS that you must solve it by yourself even if it is their web page that creates the problem.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, I got my first payment and it was well below the 55% and they charge 30% tax! Not good. Not all the translators are bad, but the author has no way of really knowing who is good or bad. It is mostly used for practice, so even great translators might not give it their best. I translated a book there and am very proud of it, but the editor was bad. I had to do most of the work at the end.

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      1. I’m sure you were good at your work. If it weren’t that way, you wouldn’t have written this post. I told my experience with Spanish Translators. I’ve read their profiles there and most of them didn’t even how to write correctly their own data without mistakes in two paragraphs. I was sent by an author two translations through Babelcube that he had accepted and both of them were horrendous. They were worse than making a copy/paste from Google Translator. They hadn’t even read them once to check their typing mistakes. I asked the author not to publish them that way, but it seems it is not his decission.the last one, but Babelcube’s and they are published even with mistakes in the titles.

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      2. Thanks Rosina. When I read about some new translators saying they translated there to practice, I suspected that might be the case: bad translations. You need a team for it to minimally work out, and the editor does not get much in return. I don´t think Babelcube will last for much longer because of these bad reviews. And Babelcube does nothing to promote the work it publishes.

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    2. Can you suggest any other website platform for similar work? I do it more as a hobby but definitely would rather put 100s of hours’ work in getting some returns.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I am translating public domain books on topics that interest me and registering my work and selling it for a good income. It works better for me. I split the profit with the proofreader.

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      2. All in all I agree with you, although I consider myself to be a very good translator who gets along very well in the translation business without Babelcube. I still receive royalties from Babelcube – approx. $15 a month although the books I translated appear to be doing very well according to their ranking on Amazon.
        IAs regards Babelcubes support, I can only say that it is worse than miserable.
        I hope that anyone considering translating on the platform finds this website first and is deterred.

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      3. Yes, the support is terrible. A very odd company in general. They only seem to care about making money without worrying about the quality of the work that is produced or about helping the people who make the money for them with their work. A pity.

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      4. Hi @ciprianaleme, please share more about your experience translating public domain books and how (where) to register them and getting them sold. Most authors want to see you have already translated a published book before they hire you for theirs. So I really want to start translating books that actually get published.

        If you’re feeling generous (patient), you can contact me at licethpadjul@gmail.com

        Thank you very much in advance!

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      5. Hi Liliath! I love books about education, especially classical education, so I search for books on public domain archives.

        You have to make sure they are not in copyright. This information is all listed in the book details. Surprisingly, the copyright of some books on these websites is still held by someone, so you have to make sure. I then download the PDF, convert to word, and translate on smartcat (I have a banner around here somewhere you can click on to see the platform), which allows translation and editing. It also keeps your work safely in a cloud.

        Once it is finished, I download, format and convert to a book format for sale online or in print version through Amazon. You have to register the book with the original author´s name and your name as the translator. In Brazil, all translations automatically belong to the translator, although permission from the authors (if they still hold the copyright) is strongly recommended. We register all work in the Biblioteca Nacional. We need to fill in a form, print it and send it with a copy of the work. This work is then archived and the copyright is registered. I do not know how it works in your country, but there must be an institution that does this for you. Here, the price is very low, around 15 dollars.

        Hope this helps!

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  2. Hi,
    I have translated a number of books on Babelcube, but after things went well initially, they now take up to four months to publish to Amazon. One of the authors I work for bought me out and paid me a generous lump sum for my work and future royalties. Moreover I now work directly for her and one other author. I would advise anyone to get out of babelcube as fast as they can. It’s just a rip-off site and opportunity for authors to get their books translated for free – and BTW, there are some very good translators on the platform. I am one of them.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. hi, I just found out about Babelcube and was excited about translating there until I read your comments. Is there any other similar web page that you are aware of and can recommend? Thx

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    1. Hey Eduardo, give it a try. One thing you can do it look for the work of an independent author and ask them if they would like their work translated. If they would, but don´t have the means, ask them to join Babelcube and you translate it through there. I did that and it worked ok, except for the frustrating delays. I also translated a short self-help books that gives me enough to charge my phone and make small Paypal payments without having to worry. I don´t know of any other similar platform. There are some for volunteer work, but nothing you can get paid for.

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  4. Just the facts:

    Three books translated from English into Spanish three years ago. Short ones, but even so, about 400 working hours to get them well translated.

    My reward, after these 3 years: five dollars ans some cents (adding up the royalties of the three books).

    How nice.

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    1. Yes, that happens, too! The secret is to find a book published by an indie author you like with some decent sales and ask them to join babelcube so you can translate their work without the legal hassle. I translated a really short self help book and only get a few bucks a month, if anything. I am not translating for babelcube anymore, though.

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  5. Well, I signed up for Babelcube to get my “start” in translating because it seems without a massive “profile” in translation no one will trust you. Sites like Upwork and Freelancer and the like, you have to bid against people who are apparently willing and able to work for like 2¢ per page or something. And always up against competition with more experience. I figured if I can get my name on someone’s books as “translated by…” I’d at least stand a fighting chance getting actual pay somewhere else. But so far, eating has been difficult, as has keeping a roof over my head.

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    1. I agree and cannot stand the red-ocean approach of Upwork and the like. People usually look for the cheapest price on those websites and rarely consider quality or experience. Speaking of experience, that is all you really need as a translator. The longer you translate, the more work you get and the better the income, if you are good. The only benefit to Babelcube is exactly that, the experience and getting your name on a book. The first years are always very hard. I was lucky because I got two stable clients and stuck with them until I started getting more work. I never ran after agencies, ever. If you have a profile on a decent directory, they find you. I prefer running after private clients. One or two is quite enough to get you going. Having your name on books will help to get those, or at least convince them when it is time to show your work. Good luck Penny! I am always here if you need a fellow translator for a chat.

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  6. My book was translated from English to Portuguese.

    My expenses included a bonus of $200 I paid to the translator plus fees to an editor, book designer and artwork for the book cover.

    After six weeks, Babelcube has not published the book and after several inquiries, I haven’t received any information.

    I caution any translator to do business with Babelcube unless the organization provides a response to these issues.

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    1. Hi, thanks for your comment. Maybe they realized you paid the translator outside the website. They are really strict about any business with translators outside Babelcube. Regardless, the customer service in Babelcube is terrible. I think there is one person only working at the company at any given time. I was only ever attended by the same person.

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  7. Gave Babelcube a chance and, after the long hours I spent translating, i received less than $10 which makes a mockery of the hard work you put into it. I will not be bothering with them again.

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    1. Yes, I feel your pain. The good news is that you will probably get around $10 a month in royalties until it reaches the threshold, and then a bit less, but for ever. You get payments, although small, every month.

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