Why translating a book is essential?

F. Giopp
by F. Giopp - 4 min read - Sun 23 Oct, 2022
Why translating a book is essential?

Do you believe that translated literary fiction almost doubled sales in just fifteen years? When we dug a little deeper into this claim, we were pleasantly surprised to discover that it was true! According to a recent study commissioned by the Man Booker Prize in early 2016, although translated literary fiction novels only accounted for 3.5% of titles sold in UK bookshops, these works accounted for 7% of overall sales - not a bad figure!

Although the report shows that the overall fiction market is declining slightly, demand for translated fiction has risen sharply from 1.3 million copies sold in 2001 to 2.5 million copies in 2016. The same trend can be seen worldwide!

This increase in sales has been a continuous trend in a relatively short period. With rising living standards and access to technology increasingly available to future authors worldwide, we venture a guess that this trend will continue for the next long period ahead.

What does this mean for you as an author? Well, We have made a shortlist of some of the benefits you might be aware of thanks to this expanding niche market and why book translation is crucial to increasing sales:

1. Expand your audience and create more networking opportunities

Let's face it: no matter how hard you work to achieve your goals and dreams, sometimes success ultimately comes from who you know. Networking in this day and age is essential to advancing your business, career or product. When you make your work available in different languages and countries, the number of people who may notice your piece will inevitably increase.

Take a look at international book fairs, conferences and conventions. In particular, think of the crime novel festival "Qais du Polar" held every year in Lyon, France. We attended this weekend-long festival two years ago and were blown away by the number of authors present for a seemingly small niche market.

Yes, it was a great event. People from all over the world attended: Americans, Canadians, British, Germans, Algerians, Israelis; the list goes on. The demand for mystery novels in many languages was there during the event - and it happens every year!

This is just an international book conference, mind you. Take a look at the 2016 list of the ten biggest international literary festivals worldwide. Each one presents many opportunities to expand your audience. These types of global festivals are a great way to get your name out there. Having your work translated into the native language of your audience will only increase your chances of being recognised.

2. Translation allows you to share your ideas with other cultures

Although English is widely recognised as the 'language of the world', only about 1 billion people can speak English fluently today. With different languages come different people and different cultures. Who knows how some literature enthusiasts from a different culture than yours will view your language interpretations? Often, all it takes to affect a reader emotionally or even open their mind to new ideas is well-written and passionate writing - add the intriguing addition of an exotic culture, and your audience may want more!

On the other hand, when pieces are translated into other languages, the connection your audience might find is in the cultural values you might share. People, in general, tend to find comfort in knowing that there are those from other countries, languages and cultures who share the same ideas as them. Therefore, translation is the perfect way to share such a connection across language barriers.

Translating your work to expand your audience is also a great way to step out of your comfort zone, try new things, and get a great learning experience when it comes to the linguistic transformation of your words. We have always been a big believer in 'learning by doing'. You never know what results your translation adventure will bring until you get a translator and try it!

3. A growing market attracts more buyers - and investors

The other day, we found an interesting article about the main elements that many investors, businesses and private donors look for in startups to convince them to invest. As described in the article, they are Momentum, Management, Market and Money.

Let's look at the statistics above and see if the "literary translation" meets these principles. As we can see over the last fifteen years, sales of translated literature have increased globally. In the last fifteen years, the world market has opened up to translated works. Just take a look at the sales of South Korean translated literary fiction: only 88 copies sold in 2001 to an astonishing 10,191 copies sold in 2016; French: 200,000 copies in 2001 to 400,000 in 2015; Italian: 37,000 copies to 237,000. Market and momentum: check.

Based on this overwhelming increase in sales, we can also assume that more money is flowing through this specific market. Money: control

This leaves us with management, an area we believe can be improved. The market for translated works has increased, but it has only been studied more deeply in the last year. Therefore, the number of translated works sold in shops or online has yet to catch up with the times. However, companies and startups such as Babelsbook are ready and willing to help authors who want their books translated on the market.

Moreover, in our technological world, we should focus on the sales of physical books and e-books. This is a related market that has skyrocketed in sales. There is, therefore, also a growing demand for translations of electronically published books.


To sum up, the market for translated fiction has multiplied and will continue to do so. Authors who take their work seriously should consider translation - breaking into this market from many different angles will only help you in the long run.

Hopefully, our list has given you some insight into the subject of translation in literature and why we believe it has such benefits when it comes to increasing your chances of success as an author. We strongly encourage you to consider translated literary fiction and wish you all the best in your future linguistic endeavours!


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