I'm guessing it's not really about the original language: those Swedish crime novels that sell well in English translation are also sold in German translation, right? But if the book doesn't appeal to UK/US readers then it won't get translated from German into French, say? (I'm just guessing: please correct me if I'm wrong.)
The last German novel I encountered as a popular book in English translation was "Die Vermessung der Welt" / "Measuring the world". The first German science fiction that comes to my mind ... "Die Haarteppichknüpfer" (great book from 1995): no idea if it sold well in English. Science fiction, like crime fiction, seems like it ought to be something that crosses borders quite easily. So why doesn't it?
I find it wearing and tedious. I used to love reading US books - with different spelling, idioms, habits, social expectations, and the odd phrase or word I'd never come across. Then revert to British books, read the odd German translation etc. I'd read a Nordic crime novel because it's not set in a quiet English village, Chicago or London, and things are done differently. Apparently that's not permitted by publishers any more, unless you're as lucrative as JK Rowling or T Pratchett.
Many British recent novels, and just about all recent sci-fi are written in American. Not just spelling, but a book set in 1930s London, with a London character who we've just been told lived in the East End all their life, will talk about the sidewalk, the trunk and hood, and such. All judges will use gavels - regardless that in the UK, only an auctioneer uses a gavel, no court possesses one. This sort of thing gets especially silly with things like the Laundry Files - it's parodying Britain, its culture and its systems, yet talking in "Yank".
I've read a few different Nordic crime novels where not only are they written in American, they are culturally appropriated to be set in a virtual USA, called Sweden (or Norway, etc...). Suddenly the Nordic countries have district attourneys, US police hierarchies, US court systems and such. This is particularly grating.
I don't understand why. It ruins far more books than it helps. Above all, I don't believe it would put off US buyers to read of a few places doing things strangely or talking funny.
The books focusing on his wife are more American, but then she IS American, so...
Merchant Princes, set somewhat in the US, gets the pitch of place and character, and keeps it, much more consistently.
Like I already said, I got no problem with Brits using Americanisms - we all do that.
Without going away to reskim it for quotes, which I'm not going to do, I think we have to agree to differ. :p
If you buy online there's a good chance you'll get the US printing because it's usually the cheapest.
PG Wodehouse and F Scott Fitzgerald probably wouldn't have lasted half as well had the writing been sanitised to some mid Atlantic generic English and humour first. Those archaic and now slightly odd idioms mattered in setting the scene and time. Douglas Adams, always highly reluctant to meet deadlines, might never have got beyond the radio series had his editor required an Americanisation pass. The books would have been far weaker for it. Puzo (The Godfather) would be ruined rendered into British.
Which is not to say I object to a Brit character using Americanisms in their English, we all do that, and vice versa. I just like characters and things to stay believable in a book's particular time and context, which increasingly they seem not to. In making them overly (US or world English) generic I find more that somehow feel out of place in their alleged setting.
In my opinion it isn't that books aren't increasingly becoming more american. Books are increasingly globally set, from where I'm reading. (Of course, this may not be the case in non-speculative fiction sphere.)
Not true - for example Inner London Crown Court.
Edit: LOL. According to "Inappropriate Gavels" @ Twitter, they do indeed, but they're not used at all by the judge. They're the one court where clerks use a gavel to signal the judge's arrival. Still, I stand (partially) corrected. :)
The German market is very small, the English market very large. This means that if you translate from German to English, you invest a substantial amount of money to get a book onto an already crowded market dominated by English authors. That's a huge risk for the publisher. If you cannot market the book well enough on the foreign market, you will loose money. Literary translations are not cheap.
The other way around, if you translate a book from English to German, you can estimate very well from the performance on the gigantic English book market how it will sell in Germany. Bonus points if the author is already known in Germany anyway. The risk is lower than opening a program slot for a new German author (who would require additional marketing), and the cost of the translation is offset by the reduced risk.
At least that's my explanation. Maybe I'm wrong about it, I'm not a publisher.
>The German market is very small, the English market very large.
Yes, and the English market is so very very large because... :)
Further, I'm not sure to what extent it affects the market size for books. I would guess, not being privy to any actual information on the topic, that the vast majority of English books are consumed by majority-English-speaking nations. There are probably exceptions for outsized blockbusters like Harry Potter.
On the flip side, English is only the first language of 9.6% of South Africans.
Because the British Empire (and the Spanish and French empires) killed a great many of them, and forcibly imported their own cultures, people, and languages.
Which is unquestionably imperialism, and undoubtedly cultural. Hence: cultural imperialism.
If it weren't for cultural imperalism, the only native English speakers would be the population of the UK, which is about on par with Germany.
Making up artificial delineations on arbitrary segmentation of time gets a bit wearying.
Various cultures have their time in the sun and then retreat- it’s as old as humanity itself.
My main point, dont pretend 'cultural imperialism' was invented by the Anglo saxons. Dont give them too much credit. Their egos are inflated as much as it is. All of history had a dominate 'culture'. I think the major difference to this shift to English is the fact the language is so damn easy and efficient compared to others. Maybe not as eloquent. But when it comes to information transfer, English is by far one of the best languages. Maybe that's why its inherently popular? I mean, in Polish, the word for the number 2 can be conjugated 50 some odd ways. Some intelligent anglo in history looked at other languages that conjugate like crazy and said it's fucking stupid. Obviously I'm being slightly hyperbolic. Only slightly.
Plus, the English culture is one where being upfront and abrupt is alright. Makes business real damn easy. It's a very "get to the goddamn point so I can go drink whiskey early" type of culture.
So yea, as a dirty slav, English is champ right now for very good technical reasons.
No one was saying this. As you correctly point out, other cultures and languages have been culturally dominant before, and now English is. It's entirely possible in another century or two it will be Mandarin, or Hindi, or who knows what.
> I think the major difference to this shift to English is the fact the language is so damn easy and efficient compared to others
That's a pretty rare take on English. Most people seem to think it's a PITA due to how many different languages it's cribbed from, resulting in next to zero consistent rules.
Most people I know that do t speak english natively, picked it up pretty damn quick and easy.
These are not at all mutually exclusive; economic policies (in particular exports and imports) figure heavily in academic literature on [cultural] imperialism.
On Science Fiction, I almost exclusively read English novels, to the point were I would expect to miss German ones. The entire surrounding infrastructure, dedicated SF blogs, fanzines, reddit, is just not there in Germany, so I read the English ones and consequently read English language SF.
Oh, i read that! It's "The Carpet Makers" in English. I rather liked it; it's one of those stories which zooms out and out and out to reach dizzying perspectives of time and space and whatnot. Bit like Star Maker or some Stephen Baxter. It's definitely more modest than those, but it has a sort of creepiness to it that's unusual.
For example, Valerio Evangelisti (italian horror/fantasy/sci-fi/weird writer) has more translated works in french/spanish/german than he has in english, to my knowledge.
It seems so many people skip the obvious in these debates. Comparing the situation of Chinese authors and artists to that of German authors and artists is not even apples to oranges, it's apples to skyscrapers. Obviously the Chinese authors have a captive market that, to be honest, no one even really knows the size of. We only know that it is at least 6x that of German authors. Not to mention Chinese cinema which frequently take their novels and make movies out of them.
It's still a valid question.
Europeans often have enough understanding of English even when it isn't their native tongue to read English books. But in many countries translations are still a popular way to read. Many books in Mexico are translated into Spanish and people solely read translations.
In markets where translating is the norm, writing in your native tongue is not a disadvantage. In other markets and areas (Germany and Belgium come to mind), where people prefer to read in the original language, it's a disadvantage.
I'm from Lithuania, I prefer to read in English, but that means that books are more expensive because I have to order them from Amazon UK or Amazon DE.
Meanwhile, I imagine that for a German who prefers to read in English, there wouldn't be much difference between ordering an English book from Amazon DE and picking up a German translation in the local bookstore, especially if they have Prime.
What about German makes you want to write novels in German specifically?
Yes, there are notable exceptions like Vladimir Nabokov, but these are extremely rare and definitely not the rule.
I can provide examples of non-native speakers that have written good novels in another tongue.
The trick to being a good writer is generally being a good reader. If you read enough, you can figure out how to have the turns of phrase and pacing and everything else that makes for compelling prose in any language. As far as I'm aware, there is nothing fundamental about the function of the human brain that would cause your statement to be in any way reasonable. Of course exophonic writers are not very common, it will always be easier to write a novel in your native tongue. But the idea that more difficult is close to the exceptionally difficult that you are espousing does not seem founded in reality. It's just not very common.
If he can do that, other people can write passable novels in English. It's not like you're writing the greatest novels of all time in German.
Linguistic diversity is an amazing beautiful incredible thing. There are things you can say in English that you can't say in German, and vice-versa, or Portuguese, or Swahili, or Mandarin, or Lojban.
You'll forgive me for speculating that you don't speak more than one language, or you would appreciate that.
But. I do not complain about being there not being enough demand for any of the languages I speak. Demand is demand, if there isn't great demand for German-language novels, it is not the end of the world.
The answer to the question "I want make a living writing novels, but I am writing them in German and there isn't enough demand for them to really sustain myself - what should I do?" is not "force Germans to start reading more books in German instead of English". It's "learn to write books in English".
Do you really find whining about the fact that native Germans prefer to read books in English over his/her mother tongue constructive?
Likewise from German there's not a direct translation for Backpfeifengesicht, a 'face that is asking to be slapped', more literally 'face slap face'. Is there a more Englishy way to say Zeitgeist that captures the same meaning? You could replace it with "spirit of the time", but it feels a bit too general and clumsy. Is there a succinct English equivalent to Schadenfreude that isn't too long or clumsy?
I don't know about Backpfeifengesicht, but both zeitgeist and schadenfreude are English words now.
Conversely in English stain has to be distinguished in cotext from the words for shirt stains, wood stains (Holzbeize) and stained glass (Buntglas).
Perhaps a better word to demonstrate it is Gemütlichkeit. 
Zeitgeist and Schadenfreude are exactly words imported into English because no words in English came close to capturing these words' meanings. You'd have to say "pleasure derived from another's misfortune" every time.
Many social constructs don't translate well. The word "freunde" is much, much stronger than "friends", for example. "We're all friends here" doesn't really work in German, at least not in the same situations. Similarly, English doesn't really have a term for "Wohnunggemeinschaft."
Puns often don't translate, which breaks translating many of the jokes in Shakespeare, for example. Going from German to English, the Rammstein song "Du has(s)t much" doesn't translate due to the puns, as does much of the writing by Yoko Tawada.
Gender ambiguous things don't always translate either. The gender neutral pronoun "they" translates to "sie" in German, which is the same as the pronoun "she" but with different verb conjugations. "Trans man" or "transwoman" are usually translated in German the same as "man" or "woman". Nuance on racial issues also doesn't always translate smoothly between the two languages.
I am sure there are many, many more.
100 Years of Solitude is an absolute masterpiece. It's very difficult to put a finger on exactly why, but all agree there is a tone to it and to the way he tells the story, which usually people call "magical realism". The way it's so inexorably connected to a South American place and time, it's gonna be a different thing if you read it in English (credit though to the translators who do this incredibly difficult job in a stunning manner). The musicality and mood of the speech, for lack of a better description, cannot be accurately rendered in English.
In short, it's more nuanced than "what's a sentence I can say in English that I can't say in German".
I'm fluent in English, I write in English for a living, but I doubt I'd be able to write decent fiction in English.
"Just write novels in your second language, bro" comes off as extremely ignorant.
Just as a note, it is not common but it does happen.
Not to mention other forms of cultural production like songs (where adherence to grammatical norms is not as important as other forms of cultural manifestation).
Which one is the "least correct" one, "Hotline Bling" or "I Want it That Way"? One was written by a native speaker, the other isn't.
It was written by a non-native speaker in English. Thinking a non-native speaker can't write great English novels is the ignorant view, in my opinion. Is it difficult? Of course it is. But all writing is difficult.
Not to mention his years in Cambridge, UK.
TL;DR he probably spoke English better than most native speakers do nowadays.
I'm not suggesting rural German farmers should start authoring novels in English.
I'm suggesting that someone who A. already knows how to competently (I hope) write novels in one language and B. is fluent in a second language should perhaps consider blending the two if they are not finding enough demand for their chosen occupation in their native tongue.
I realize this analogy is a little bit strained, but this would be like me saying, as someone that has known Python for 10+ years, I should not attempt to compete with the JS programmers who have been doing JS for 10+ years because I've only been working with JS for about 2 years. But obviously I don't think that way and I don't behave that way, because I want to make a living in my chosen profession. So I follow the demand, and where my skills are in need of improvement, I improve them.
1. Nabokov’s synesthesia was largely why..IMO..made his writing captivating. The first sentence of Lolita makes you gasp. It ‘hits’ you where you didn’t expect it and you like it.
The subject matter of Lolita was likely secondary to the synesthetic appeal of the language of Nabokov. It’s is a linguistic neural dissonance.
It reminds of Szechuan peppers in Hunan/Szechuan cuisine. The addition of which gives you a numbing tingling sensation to the inside of your mouth. It is called ‘mala’ in mandarin. It is also said to cause neurological dissonance especially when used with spicy foods.
Szechuan peppers themselves are not peppers but from the citrus family. They are often used with hot peppers..often mildly hot peppers but the numbing/tingling sensation makes the eater think that they are eating something super spicy ..far more spicier than it really is..and the body reacts with watering eyes and increased heartbeat and that endorphin rush associated with eating capsaicin.
It’s the same thing reading Nabokov. You expect to read a story and you are entirely bowled over by the sensory aspect of his language. Even though Lolita is his most popular work, he has written so much more. Pale Fire, Speak, Memory, Real life of Sebastian Knight..
2. My second thought is that authors who are non native English speakers/writers have remarkably rich vocabulary that is super descriptive. English is not a voluptuous language.
Others that come to mind are Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Neruda, Borges, Italo Cavalo, Umberto Eco, Marukami, Junichiro Tanizaki and the many Asian languages to English translations. Something lyrical in these languages is beautiful transmitted into English..a quality that English itself doesn’t seem to possess.
On a slightly different note: older languages like Sanskrit and the even earlier like epic of Gilgamesh relied on meter. As our speaking faculties expanded to accommodate more experiences and senses..and as we became more musical, language evolved too. It is the most beautiful evolution of the human state and we barely pay attention to language’s evolution.
I also think Germans shouldn’t be translating anything to English or anything from any other language to English. I don’t know German but I can often tell if any translation has had a translator remotely connected to the language. The language doesn’t lend itself to fluidity and nimbleness. Altho I have read some translations of Carl Jung’s Red Book from High German to English that intrigued and somewhat appealed to me. I don’t know if it was the translator or Jung’s language/words itself.
https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_people_with_synesthe... : List of people with synesthesia
I know and love all those authors, but have never heard of Junichiro Tanizaki. Where should I start with him?
> TL;DR he probably spoke English better than most native speakers do nowadays.
True, especially "internet English" which is abysmal.
The OC obviously has a very solid grasp of English. If the comment had been written in German or broken English I would not have made the suggestion.
I can explain in a lot of details why my C++ code is broken or the intricacies of a compiler inner parts. But I don't have as many words to describe a fence, as I have in French. In French I know how a farmer will call the place they put animals in and I know the official word that is the "correct" terminology. And I know which is which. It is very hard to find good translations of the tone behind this.
That's a great learning experience, but being an author in one language while being fluent in another, does not mean you can easily write stories in both.
Umberto Eco heavily supervised some of the translations of his books and has written about that process. He's rather a special case, of course: his books are not the easiest to translate even with the author's help.
So please, do write more stuff in German.
That seems like good advice for any career - even if you are comfortably cocooned in an uber-successful corporation. Things change! Your career could be collateral damage from and anti-trust proceeding.
I've worked in book publishing most of my career, both with publishers and with independent authors. Trust me, the publisher's marketing strategy is nothing special.
The difference between a successful book and a middling book, barring the impossibly rare "so good it organically becomes a world beater," is the size of the author's platform. Publishers have a rigid PR/marketing process they run for every book, involving sending galleys (press copies) to the same press contacts, and sometimes those efforts net press coverage, and sometimes that coverage will result in some sales. If a press is very forward-thinking, by industry standards, they may invest in building the author a website or helping manage social.
However, books that hit bestseller lists are typically written by authors who have a large, engaged audience they've built on their own. The impact of a publisher's marketing budget is typically small, and definitely not worth giving up 80%-plus of your sales due to royalties.
So true! I'm self publishing for this reason—the 10% of profits as royalty just doesn't make sense... I mean I get it that developmental editing, copy editing, cover design, typesetting and other pre-publication services are useful add ons, but still not worth the publisher's 80% cut.
In one thing mainstream publisher have going for them is the reputation, especially in the academic space (textbooks). Seeing that a book was "vetted" by a serious publisher gets you some immediate respect from the reader—something self-published authors have to earn on their own.
Like you say though, the author's "platform" is the key thing, and who better than the author themselves to build that?
Doing some ghost writing, being contributors in large publications and selling backlinks (doggy I know) and more stuff writers can do beside their being full time Author
The money they can make from those small jobs can help them to have some more freedom to continue their profession as Authors
There's also UpWork, but I'd avoid that, because it's a race to the bottom.
You could also try applying to marketing agencies directly.
It's even more bizarre in the context of an article that discusses how to make a living as an author.
Maybe be it's just me, seriously.
Are those percentages of the MSRP or of the actual sale price?
I use a price tracker for ebooks where I add every book I want and set an alert for $5. When it hits that price, I buy it. If I do that for Wanderers, will the author get 25% of the $13.99 list price or of the $5 sale price?
So, if a store sells the book for $5. The author still gets $3.50
This generally doesn't apply if the publisher reduces the price for a 'sale period' though.
normalization of deviance, i'd guess
Do these hero image valuable for SEO or are they just for looks?
I do know that cover design can be controversial and that editors can often encourage changes that make the author feel like garbage (eg. 'change the entire tense of the novel' or 'kill this beautifully written scene'). What is the advisement for that?