My Book … In Chinese?

In her eternal attempts to be as adorable as possible, my mother phoned me up a few evenings ago practically bursting with excitement over her latest idea for marketing my book. And I’m happy to report that it is (possibly) a pretty good idea! So the idea is:

Hire my polyglot friend who speaks and writes Cantonese to translate my book, Imminent Danger, into Chinese … and then self-publish it to the Chinese market.

What do you guys think? Doable? Crazy? I know that Amazon KDP doesn’t currently have support for Chinese, but Smashwords does support Chinese, so … could it possibly work? Has anyone had any experience with translating and self-publishing an ebook? Share your wisdom with me!!!

To thank you in advance for your undoubtedly excellent advice, I present to you today’s …

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Categories: Self Publishing, Writing | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 43 Comments

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43 thoughts on “My Book … In Chinese?

  1. Gwen Stephens

    I think it can’t hurt to have a go…but China is like uncharted frontier for Westerners. It’s known for ruthless pirating and a thriving black market in the arts. Do your research thoroughly before taking that plunge.

    • I’m with Gwen — although it can’t hurt to have a go, the Chinese are way more into piracy than the US. Additionally, the government censors anything that they feel is against their culture in any way (mostly including things we wouldn’t think of, which is why a lot of US blockbusters never get translated to Chinese). Great idea, but tread carefully.

      • Oh, good point! I didn’t even think about the censorship thing. I mean, I assume there are Chinese people living abroad who would be interested and unaffected by the censorship, but mainland China is really what I was going for, so … I’ll definitely have to look into that. 🙂

    • Bahhhh I hate doing research, lol. You’re right, though … pirating certainly abounds there. So then I guess the question becomes whether the potential benefit of getting some new paying customers outweighs the downside of having my book pirated from here to eternity.

  2. Your book looks very nice in print. Definitely, the number of people who read Chinese is very large. The question is how many of those people would be a good fit for your book, would discover your book, and would not have read it in English. That audience may have markedly different expectations for your genre due to big differences in culture. Extra exposure is very often helpful; whether or not it may be cost-effective is the hard part. Good luck with your book. 🙂

    • Yeah, that’s a good point … I’ll have to do some research and see how sci-fi/romance is selling in China right now. But like you said, how can you go wrong with extra exposure? Hmmm … and the cost, yeah, gotta look into that as well. So much to think about!!!

  3. Interesting idea. I don’t see what the risk is and I’m guessing China doesn’t get a lot of sci-fi/fantasy novels translated for them. At least from the indie and small press markets.

    • And that makes me wonder if China has any appetite at all for indie/small presses — is supporting independent artists a thing in China? Hmm … although, I mean, assuming I can get the book translated cheaply, there isn’t too much of a risk involved … the worst that could happen, hypothetically, is that the book could be pirated, and that’s probably going to happen anyway!

  4. I’m way out of my league on this topic. Actually, I don’t even have a league. Anyway, if the cost is low, you have little to lose.

  5. If you have little to loose and the benefit can be big, why not go for it? I was in that part of the world last year and couldn’t access other then my emails. The people there are very cautious about what comes in and goes out of their country, you know that. But books, that can be another story, after they pass the screening.

  6. Well, this is the first time I’ve heard of someone translating a book into Chinese! How big is the YA market in China? Curious minds need to know!

    Also, that pie chart is definitely on the mark. xD

    • I don’t actually know anything about the YA market in China. I think my mom chose Chinese because our friend … well, she speaks Cantonese, lol. If we had a friend who spoke Swahili, mom would probably have suggested I translate it into Swahili 😀

  7. I majored in Chinese Lit eons ago, and suggest you might have wider distribution with Mandarin. There’s a strong urban population of Cantonese speakers in the south, so who knows. I say go for it, don’t limit yourself. You’re going to have some fascinating puzzles to solve when it comes to clues, acronyms, expressions and turns of phrase, (and maybe even censorship).

    • Well, I said Cantonese because that’s what my friend speaks, lol. I think she can speak Mandarin, but isn’t fluent in it, so Cantonese might be the way to go simply based on necessity. If I do end up doing this, it will definitely be interesting! I think I’ll leave the bulk of the translating puzzles up to my friend, though 🙂

  8. Yeah, any attempt to put the word “copyright” into the Chinese dictionary results in it magically disappearing. They simply don’t recoginise the word. Slightly related is the completely unsubstantiated rumour about the phone comany Erricsson lending a telephone exchange to the Chinese on a trial basis about 20 years ago. They soon discovered that several hundred exchanges miraculously appeared around the place with remarkably similar features and functionality…
    I read somewhere today that the Chinese government are trying to get 400 million of their population to learn Mandarin. Apparently half the people don’t even speak the language!

    • That’s insane! I assume that’s because they speak Cantonese instead of Mandarin …?

      • Probably. But a colleague of mine from China says out in the rural areas there are hundreds of different dialects of both Mandarin and Cantonese that they often don’t understand the “main” languages. Mostly farmers who don’t get out much. Lot of people. Big country. Same with the Aborigines of Australia, hundred of languages depending on which part of the desert or bush you go to!

        • Ah yes, now that you mention it I do remember learning that somewhere … perhaps geography class? I also remember something about everyone speaking different dialects, but everything being written the same. Although that sounds way too good to be true … (unless it is, in which case I totally believed it from the start :D)

  9. Sounds great but I too am very limited in this area. Have you thought of starting a blog in Cantonese and posting some passages to see if some YA pick up on this, it may get you known slowly as well…just a thought, Good luck on your new exciting adventure:)

  10. There’s a radio ad that plays in the UK and part of it says ‘There are more English speakers in China than there are in the USA.’
    With that in mind, would it not be better to pitch them the English version first (Unless they already distribute it as ‘Approaching Dangers and several ways to Enfold them Aeronautically.’ by Mei-Li Peng) and see how it sells?

    • Michelle, you have to do it, if only to be able to use that title! lol

    • You do realize I’ll have to rename my book RIGHT NOW after that glorious suggestion, yes?

      • Along with the proposed Mandarin sequel; ‘Swift Movement in the Wake of the Refusal to Comply Vessel.’

        • Done and done. You should get into naming books for a living!

          • But only into Mandarin and back into English, eh?

            I was inspired by a story I heard yesr ago about the Chinese being impatient for the next Harry Potter book before ‘Order of the Phoenix’ had been released. So they wrote their own, called Harry Potter and the Leopard walk to the Dragon.’
            I always pictured Harry trying to do the Leopard Walk, moving his shoulders in the way that big cats do…

            • Lol. I think it’s actually that Harry Potter befriends a Leopard — or possibly a character whose movements and personality resemble a leopard? — and then they walk to the “Dragon”, which is a metaphor for an adventure in Scandinavia.

              • Ooo…The title doesn’t sound so silly now.
                Maybe you can explain why Captain Kirk had to Search for Spock when he knew exactly where he’d landed…

                • The “search” was not a physical search, but rather an exploration into the Vulcun psyche. Much as people often misunderstand the phrase, “Wherefore art thou Romeo?”, we have a similar situation at work. Kirk isn’t asking where Spock is, he’s asking *why* Spock is.

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