Would it be worth it to translate a novel into Chinese?

One billion people. How many have e-readers? Would it be worth translating a novel into Chinese?

Contemplate the answer.

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11 thoughts on “Would it be worth it to translate a novel into Chinese?

    • Ha, I threw the question out there, because I was feeling lazy and knew the answer was probably researchable but then I thought, “I’ll bet someone else already knows the answer…”

      I think the pivot point is the e-reader question. Perhaps if they’re using an e-reader ap on their phone? And there is the issue with the internet censorship, so it would have to be hosted locally inside the Great Firewall of China.

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      • You are absolutely right and also, I don’t know what the reading tastes are of the Chinese people…do they appreciate the same genres that we do here? As you say that would and I’m certain could be researched.

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        • It might be a culture shock– the cultures are so different the novels might not go over so well. OTOH, a good novel has character arc, 3 acts, tension, conflict, and everybody in the universe seems to agree on that, so if it’s got that, it shouldn’t be that difficult a translation. Another factor might be that if you’re talking to a completely different culture, say you’re giving someone from a low income culture your book about couture and the killer culture there, it might not resonate… at all.

          I was considering it because of the brother orange post and how interesting it is that the Chinese became enamored with this guy and his search for the person who bought his stolen iphone. They’ve got their own twitter (Weibo) and other media. If it costs you $4500 to translate your novel into Mandarin, can you recoup those expenses with 4500 uploads of your book? Would you get higher sales? What’s the fiction market in China look like? Do Chinese books get translated into English and what are they if they do?

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  1. Here’s the difficulty with it: you need to be able to please the Chinese Communist Party’s stringent rules for publishing that exist in China. If it’s too liberal, it won’t be accepted. If it is too sensitive, it won’t be accepted. If there is anything against Mao/communism/etc., it also won’t be accepted. That’s the first hurdle, the second is capturing the Chinese audience. The taste in literature is definitely different; however, it’s easy to find lots of books written by Americans and Europeans in the hands of Chinese (translated, of course). That means there is hope in this idea.

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    • I suspected there was this content difficulty. It seems like a hurdle a little high to jump – essentially, the writer would have to censor themselves as they go and write specifically for the market. Still, it’s not a bad idea, but I wonder at the quality of the writing that eventually gets through. (Noted that dystopian fiction does not play well to the communists — better to have a future where China excels and all is well in the communist party.)

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  2. Also, any books on psychology/sociology/etc. (the social sciences fields) written by Westerners tend to be big hits in China because these fields were pioneered in the West. There is a lot of respect for the West for their mastery in these areas, and Chinese are quite interested in reading about these developments. Also, Chinese people spend more time hanging out in books stores and libraries than any other group of people I know.

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