At Frankfurt: AmazonCrossing's new $10 million translation bid

At Frankfurt: AmazonCrossing's new $10 million translation bid

Meet Sarah Jane Gunter today, Wednesday, 3 p.m. Frankfurt Book Fair

In a move that answers a constant question both from independent authors and from publishers, AmazonCrossing has announced that it now is accepting submissions. 

The news comes with word of a $10 million allocation of funding to the five-year-old imprint of Amazon Publishing, the international head of which, Sarah Jane Gunter, joins me at 3 p.m. CEST today, Wednesday, in Frankfurt for a "Hug the Alien" live interview at Book Fair's Business Club in the foyer of Hall 4.

In addition, AmazonCrossing editors will accept submissions for translation consideration in person at the Frankfurt Book Fair on October 14th from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. in Hall 3.0, K31.

Otherwise, instructions for submissions by Amazon account holders are at this link. The programme is entertaining submissions in these categories:

  • Fantasy
  • Historical Fiction
  • Literary Fiction
  • Memoir
  • Mystery, Thriller, and Suspense
  • Romance
  • Science Fiction
  • Women's Fiction
  • Young Adult Fiction

The opening to submissions by AmazonCrossing is a big step. While the imprint has been known to select both traditionally and self-published work for translation (either into English from other languages or into other markets from English—as with authors J.A. Konrath, Barry Eisler, H.M. Ward and others), the inability for writers, in particular, to submit their work for consideration has been disappointing to them.

This new initiative addresses that issue and enhances what is fast becoming the most obvious success story of the Amazon Publishing house of imprints to date.

Since its inception in 2010, AmazonCrossing has published more than 200 translations by authors from 29 countries working in 19 languages. 

Quietly developing this portfolio over the years, the imprint has become what US translation specialist Chad Post at Rochester University estimated in 2013 had become the leading American force in translation, passing the Dalkey Archive's output figures.

In Stephen Heyman's piece in The New York Times in April, Post pointed out that AmazonCrossing's selection of material for translation veers from the common emphasis on literary work in translation and includes a great many genre titles. When I asked Gunter about this at London Book Fair ahead of a BookExpo America interview with Chinese author Feng Tang, Gunter told me, "Hey, if they’re good stories, we like them.”

Today, as the company puts it in its announcement of the $10 million commitment:

AmazonCrossing is one of the largest publishers of translated literature in the United States, with 77 titles from 15 countries and 12 languages to be published in the United States in 2015. 

The news release says the $10 million allocation "will go toward fees paid to translators over the next five years and increasing the countries and languages represented on the AmazonCrossing list."

Translation and international expansion

Especially for independent authors, finding and affording good translation has become one of the biggest hurdles to expanding sales reach internationally.

Whether in traditional publishing settings or in independent work, high-quality translation is tricky to arrange and expensive to contract.

According to Athina Papa, whose LiteraryTranslations company, which matches authors and translators, a standard translation of real quality will run some $10,000; her company is charging 12 cents per word, as she told my The Hot Sheet author-newsletter colleague Jane Friedman and me in Matera, Italy last month during the Matera Women's Fiction Festival Writer's Conference. Friedman then reported on our conversation with Papa and the status of translation for author's consideration at the Novelists Inc. Conference First Word program in St. Pete Beach earlier this month. The accompanying graphic is from Friedman's presentation.

But if anything, the stance of AmazonCrossing and its sister imprints of Amazon Publishing frequently confuses people who don't realize that the "APub" imprints are operated in a largely traditional-publishing format, not at all as the self-publishing KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing) platform is run.

Notable authors and issues

Here in Germany, AmazonCrossing is perhaps best known for having picked up author Oliver Pötzsch’s million-copy best-selling Hangman’s Daughter series. The newest translation in that series, The Werewolf of Bamberg, was just released by AmazonCrossing yesterday during Frankfurt's The Markets conference. 

In addition to creating the first English translation of a book by China's runaway bestseller Feng Tang (Beijing, Beijing) AmazonCrossing is the translation publisher of Korean author Bae Suah and Turkish author Ayse Kulin.

Per the release:

The 2016 list will [include]...bestselling Mexican author of Like Water for Chocolate Laura Esquivel. Her novel Pierced by the Sun, a gripping tale of murder and redemption translated from Spanish by Jordi Castells, will be published in June 2016. In July 2016, AmazonCrossing will publish award-winning Polish crime writer Zygmunt Miloszewski’s Rage, translated from Polish by Antonia Lloyd-Jones, winner of the 2014 Paszport Polityka prize for literature.

One of the issues we'll be looking at during the 30th November Author Day event from The Bookseller (opening The FutureBook Week in central London) is proper credit and metadata inclusion of translators, something AmazonCrossing excels in, with consistent front-cover credit to translators and careful cultivation and selection of these specialists for its work. This is one of the key topics that Gunter and I will discuss today in our live conversation at Book Fair.

Other topics we'll be covering are:

  • What factors distinguish AmazonCrossing from other translation houses;
  • How AmazonCrossing's mission may have evolved and changed over the years; and
  • What unexpected elements and challenges have been encountered in the expansion of the imprint's reach and range.