You can ask J.K. Rowling, author of the wildly successful Harry Potter series, one question about publishing your first children’s book. What would you ask her?
Based on posts in LinkedIn’s groups for writers, many would use this golden opportunity to ask Ms. Rowling whether they should buy a block of ISBN numbers. Or which print-on-demand company is best. They might ask how to get their book illustrated on the cheap.
This is embarrassing to admit: Those were my first questions, too.
Four years and over a dozen self-published books later, the first question I would ask Ms. Rowling is: “Can you recommend a great editor?”
Some indie authors don’t think they need a professional editor because friends and family tell them their story is great. In a survey done by SellBox.com of 307 self-publishers, only 46% paid a professional editor to review their manuscript before they published it. 20% had a friend do it and 34% did it themselves.
In 2013, I decided to self-publish a children’s story I had written in 1995. I read Chloe and the Belly Beast to a few family members and friends through the years and always received positive feedback. I personally liked the story. So – there you go – ready to publish!
We all know the truth, don’t we? Our friends and family don’t want to hurt our feelings or discourage our dreams. Once my sister, an award-winning TV promotions writer, editor and producer, knew that I was actually going to publish this book, she started to get real with me. She provided – gasp! – honest feedback on the story.
The story was confusing. She couldn’t tell over what time period it took place. Days? Weeks? Years? Some of the language sounded dated and vocabulary too advanced for the age of my target audience.
Most of us are not lucky enough to have an award-winning writer available to review our work. For free. But, she’s my sister, with all that history of sibling rivalry. I realized I couldn’t have her edit my work. The process transformed me from a middle-aged woman into a sullen teenager.
By this time, I had written several stories. Like many writers heading down the self-publishing path, I had no idea where to find an editor and assumed it was expensive. With online freelancing companies now plentiful, it was easy to find out. I posted a job on what is now Upwork.com.
After reviewing multiple bids, I hired two editors. It turned out that it was very reasonably priced. I had the first one edit the stories, then gave those versions to the second editor. Then back to the first editor. This was done a few times until I had a version of each story that I liked. They made some of the same edits my sister suggested. But, it was far easier to have strangers make changes to my “babies.”
Often, self-publishers assume they can’t afford an editor. But, if you don’t know how much it costs, how do you know you can’t afford it? (Tip: The most expensive editor is not always the best.) If your story is so important to you that you are willing to share it with the world, why are you not willing to put some money where your pen is?
Many indie authors wax poetic about their love and sacrifice for the written word. Prove it. Forgo take-out food, lattes, and quit smoking. Before you know it, you’ll have enough to pay a good editor. Should you ever run into Ms. Rowling, ask her for a referral. I’m betting she has a few great editors on speed dial.
Aviva Gittle Publishing offers great stories for children in English and Spanish, including the Kitten and Friends / Gatito y amigos series. Aviva’s website, www.GoToGittle.com shares the stories of authors, illustrators and others who create books and creative media for children.
More authors are offering their books in other languages — particularly Spanish. It’s a great idea! But don’t go it alone — be sure to hire a professional translator.
Is your book global? It’s a great idea to translate your stories into other languages. Particularly to Spanish. Those Spanish-language and English/Spanish bilingual readers are the fastest-growing segment of the population in America. I focus on Spanish, but the advice applies to translating your book into any language.
I have most of my stories translated. Hablo español muy poco.Lol! When I decided that Aviva Gittle Publishing would “write and publish great stories for children in English and Spanish,” I thought it would not be that hard to do. Ay yay yay (Yiddish translation: “Oy vey”) — was I wrong!
In fact, I was so confident, I created my Spanish-language promo video before I had published one Spanish-language story. (Watch video.)
There is nothing worse than poorly translated work. Think of anything you’ve read that has been poorly translated into English.
Let me warn you; translating to Spanish is not easy. The language is different from Mexico to Spain to Panama, etc. I know so little Spanish that I really can’t tell you what’s different. But, the different translators sure knew. There are also cultural differences that can come back to bite you. For example, a Panamanian reviewer told me that a word in one of my story translations is slang for something not very nice in one Spanish-speaking country. Fortunately, that version was never published.
Just like writing in English, you will need a Spanish-language editor to review the translator’s work. (If you don’t use a professional editor for your English-language stories, read this.) Ideally, you will get feedback from Spanish-language readers before you publish.
My stories have been translated, reviewed, checked, rechecked and reviewed again by no less than four translators. Seven if you count Mariana’s friends and family. (Gracias, Mariana Llanos!)
My suggestion is that you post a job on an online freelance staffing company. There are many. Indicate number of stories, word count per story, and total word count for the job.
Do not have your friend, neighbor, or Spanish-speaking son-in-law translate your work. Pay a professional to do it. Then have friends and family read it and give feedback.
It took me over a year to publish my first Spanish-language story. Why so long? I was terrified of Spanish-language readers knowing it was translated from English. I was also very unsure about marketing the books. I’m still struggling with that. It’s not just the story that needs translating; it’s also the book blurb, marketing materials, front and back matter, etc. If you can afford it, consider hiring a bilingual virtual assistant to help with posting and tweeting about the books in their native language.
Finally, give Spanish-language readers the Spanish-version (without the corresponding English version) for feedback. You want them to feel that they are reading a story that was written in their language. Wouldn’t you?
Hi! My name is Aviva Gittle and I love to write stories. About curious kittens, boys who turn into bagels and bad little girls who never say “please.” I’ve been writing since I was a little girl. In 2005, I wrote a story about a fly who invites himself to lunch at a little boy’s house called “Mort the Fly.” In 2013 (yes, it took that long), I decided to self-publish the story. Since then, I have written many more stories including the 7-book series, “Kitten and Friends” and “In Nana’s Arms.” Mark Megson and I wrote “Moon Jump” and “Mary’s Magic Word.”