When self-published author Jenny Hambly discovered a small fanbase in Germany, she decided to tap into this new audience with a German translation of her most popular series. Worried about her level of involvement without speaking the language, she needed to find a translator she could trust and truly collaborate with.
I have German fans?
I think most of my readers would agree that my books are very British. Set in the idyllic English countryside, my light-hearted love stories had reached a decent size audience in the UK with over 500 reviews on Amazon. But one evening, as I was looking at my KDP dashboard, I noticed a significant number of sales coming from Germany. I was surprised.
German readers were interested in my Miss Wolfraston’s Ladies series? Was this some sort of accounting mistake? With a little more research, I realised that my genre had a small but enthusiastic audience over there. Apparently there’s even a long-running TV show of the Rosamunde Pilcher’s Cornish-set novels — so I guess it shouldn’t have come as a surprise that Germans might love Regency romances. This got me thinking: how many more readers could I reach if the books were in their native tongue?
Translating into a language I don’t speak
While I was excited to look into German translation services, there was one glaring issue in my plan: I don’t speak a word of German. How was I supposed to pick a translator if I wasn’t able to assess their work?
I’d previously been approached by a translator about Italian and French versions of my books, and I dodged a bullet there. It turned out that readers had complained about the quality of the translations, suggesting they had been adapted with Google Translate. That certainly wasn’t the impression I wanted to make in Germany.
That’s when I remembered hearing about Reedsy in the Self-Publishing Formula’s Facebook group. A fellow author explained how Reedsy vets their publishing professionals and collects reviews from verified clients. This sounded exactly like the kind of safety net I needed.
On Reedsy’s professional marketplace, I quickly found an impressive translator: Babette Schröder. Babette described her area of expertise as books that are entertaining, humorous, and emotional — three adjectives I would also use to describe my Miss Wolfraston’s Ladies series. This and the excellent reviews of her books convinced me that she was the right woman for the job.
Learning to trust my translator
Even though I was confident in my choice of translator with Babette, handing over my books still felt like a leap of faith. Without the option of proofing anything myself, I just had to trust someone else with the German edition — even if this someone was an experienced translator. But as Babette started working on my books, I was delighted to see how involved I would be in the translation process.
Many translation decisions are based on interpretation and culture. Babette kept me in the loop for these kinds of decisions, such as the terms of address in my series. She laid out the options for me: in the historical time of the novels, my characters would have addressed each other with the formal Sie rather than the informal du reserved for intimate relations like siblings (or those below you in social standing, such as servants or children).
My instinct was to go with whatever was historically accurate, but Babette pointed out that the Bridgerton and Georgette Heyer translations used the informal du — a concession to their modern audiences. Trusting Babette’s expertise, we sided with the prevailing genre convention and chose the informal du.
But it wasn’t just my involvement that made me grow more confident in this project. Babette promptly answered all my queries, kept me up to date regarding timelines and perfectly stuck to my one-book-every-three-months publication schedule. When it came to launching the first book in the trilogy, any nervousness had dissipated, and I was just excited for this new step in my publishing journey.
My German debut sold better than the original!
Much to my surprise, the first book Marianne: Regency Liebesroman sold over 240 copies in the first month alone — more than seven times what my English-language debut sold over four years ago. Now I’m making a very good living with my English books, but to see that I wasn’t starting from scratch in German-speaking countries was encouraging to say the least.
I am steadily gaining a new audience in Germany, running a small ad on amazon.de, and receiving positive reviews and ratings. Just like my English books, the German editions have an average rating of over four stars — and one reviewer even mentioned how good the translations are. Of course I wrote the stories, but this wouldn’t be possible without Babette’s excellent work and nuanced understanding of both English and German. Thanks to Babette, I’ve gained a whole new community of Regency-loving readers in Germany!