Here is the front cover of This House!

P-Day – publication day – is 21 March 2024!

You can even pre-order it!

(Are we excited about P-Day? Of course we are!)

The story so far

At the time of my last blog post, in June 2023, I had just signed a contract with 3TimesRebel Press so that they could publish This House. This is my translation into English of Sian Northey’s novel Yn y Tŷ Hwn.

Fairly soon after signing, Sian and I had a Zoom meeting with the publisher: the publication date was set for 5 October 2023.

Working towards 5 October

Working towards the October publishing horizon, Sian and I got busy augmenting the publisher’s PR contacts list. We made a list of contacts that she and I would need to be in touch with to promote the book. And it probably would be we two – especially for the Welsh language ones.

We started discussing possible promotional events. We discussed a location for a launch.

I started turning down offers of proofreading work – my day job – that had tight deadlines during the October to Christmas period. I presumed that I’d be busy promoting This House straight after its publication, and in the run-up to Christmas. I was therefore only scheduling work with generous turnaround times that would allow plenty of wiggle room to accommodate other activities.

Postponement

Sad dog.

In August, the publisher informed us that the publication date had been changed to 26 October. Later this was pushed back to ‘early 2024’. Sian and I decided to suspend – for the time being – any further efforts to prepare for a book-promotion campaign. I went back to scheduling proofreading work as if nothing was happening.

But …

… one thing that moved us forward during this period of uncertainty was that the publisher secured the quote that will be going on the cover. It has been provided by Angharad Price, an academic and novelist. Her second novel O! Tyn y Gorchudd! won the National Eisteddfod Prose Medal in 2002. It also won Welsh Language Book of the Year in 2003.

Here’s what she said about This House:

Astute, understated, compassionate. Sian Northey gently unpicks the threads of love and memory that bind us to place and to each other. A beautiful, glowing gem of a novel, now brought to a wider audience by Sue Walton’s wonderful translation.

Location inspiration

When I first read Yn y Tŷ Hwn, I correctly guessed the house that was the inspiration for Nant yr Aur, the house in the story. After all, Sian and I live in the same corner of Wales, and the house is situated on a well-known walk. It’s included in this video of the book’s geographical landscape that I made at Christmas 2020.

 

In September 2023, I eventually got round to walking past a different house, Gelli Bant, which had inspired the location of Nant yr Aur. Sian had known it as a private house, but it’s now Gellibant Cottage Breath-taking Rural Retreat.

This is its location. The arrow on the left of the photo shows the position of the house. As you can see, the view runs right down the valley to the sea. The mountains of northern Eryri are in the distance.

Clouds, sky, upland landscape in Wales.

Getting back in touch with the landscape of This House cheered me up while we waited for more news on ‘P-Day’.

Considering the publisher’s proofread, and checking page proofs

Production continued through this period. I got my translation back, still as a Word document, marked up by the publisher’s own proofreader. Having worked as a proofreader myself for fifteen years, this was a strange experience. However, I was grateful for the opportunity to reconsider my wording in one or two places, as well as him snagging a few typos that had slipped past my own proofreading of the text. (It’s very difficult to proofread your own words!)

The beautifully laid out page proofs arrived in late November. Typesetting and page layout is an art; it’s going to be a handsome book.

Confirmed P-Day date and bookseller websites

P-Day – publication day – was confirmed as 21 March 2024 when details of the book were uploaded in October to bookseller websites: Amazon, Waterstones, W H Smith and so on. At this stage there was no cover image; I also noticed there was no mention of me as the translator.

After a bit of nagging, my name has now appeared as part of the book’s metadata. Not only is this a condition of the contract between me and the publisher, it’s important for all translators to be discoverable by online searches if they wish to have a visible profile for potential future clients to see.

Cover reveal

It has become quite a thing on social media to have a ‘cover reveal’. It’s akin to the fashion for having an event to announce the sex of your baby before its birth.

A few weeks before this event for our book, Sian and I were sent the cover design for Sian to approve (and me to comment on).

All 3TimesRebel Press novels have a strong brand image. They have the title and the author’s name in large, colourful, sans serif capital letters. The novel’s title is always in purple; the translator’s name is on the front cover.

All the covers feature a pen and ink drawing by the artist Anna Pont. I have to admit that when the concept for the drawing was proposed to us earlier in the year, Sian and I both had misgivings. But when presented with the final product, we loved it! I particularly like the Miss Havisham vibe, with the threads of a cobweb bridging the woman’s shoulder and the balloon.

Book front cover that includes a pen-and-ink drawing of the upper body of a woman holding a balloon.

The publisher put a tease of the cover reveal out on social media first (a pre-cover reveal, as it were). The cover reveal proper happened in December.

‘New year’ P-Day

Although I felt disappointed and deflated at first to have the publication date moved from October to March, in many ways it now feels right. It’ll be at the spring equinox and the start of the new year, ‘old style’. ( A few years ago I discovered, from transcribing the William Bulkeley diaries, that in the eighteenth century each year started on 25 March.)

In some ways a spring P-Day is a better time of year for a new author. And Sian will be a new author to a non-Welsh-reading audience.

A new season of literary festivals is coming up, giving her the opportunity to build her profile over the year. We’re hopeful that some festivals, particularly those to be held in Wales, will take an interest in a translation of a successful Welsh novel.

Finances and time, so far

At the end of 2023 I did my usual review of Sue Proof’s business stats. The payment for the translated text of This House at slightly above the Society of Author’s observed rate for translation was a welcome element of 2023’s business takings. But that fee, plus the two small travel grants I was awarded in 2020 while being mentored, works out at £12.96/hour when applied to all the time spent so far on the project on trying to succeed as a translator of adult literary fiction.

When expenses associated with the project are deducted from that income, the hourly rate is £11.04, but, of course, those expenses are allowable expenses. That means they are deducted from my business’ taxable profit. I get their value back eventually, but they still have to be paid for upfront.

For comparison, the national minimum wage in the UK in 2023 was £10.42, and the living wage, £10.90.

Timewise, I have spent an average of 2.5 hours a week on this endeavour between November 2019 – when I knew I’d been awarded the menteeship that kicked all this off – up to the end of 2023.

Three five-pound notes.

Spreading the fee backwards to cover all the work I’ve done, this includes actually translating Yn y Tŷ Hwn, of course, as well as all the unpaid work.

There was lots of self-directed learning, particularly at the start. It’s also the time spent:

  • being mentored
  • all the admin and PR time associated with the project
  • translating other literary fiction to try and raise my profile (which the ‘Halo and Mic’ short story appearing on the Asymptote blog’s Translation Tuesday thread seemed to do), and
  • networking, both online and in person.

Obviously, if This House sells, I’ll get further payment in the form of royalties. Naturally, I’ve also registered it on my ALCS (The Authors’ Licensing and Collecting Society) account. It’ll be registered for PLR (Public Lending Right) payments once the British Library sorts itself out after a large cyber-attack. (Remember, kids, always register your translations for ALCS and PLR!)

In other news: Besting Mister Mostyn

My most recent translation for older children/YA is Besting Mister Mostyn, published in December 2023.

Book cover with outline of a dog and two figures in silhouette.

The story draws parallels between squeezing out the original villagers from the site of the grand seaside town of Llandudno, developed by Lord Mostyn, and the eviction of the residents of the Chagos Islands by the British government in order to develop a military base.

The Mostyn Estates still own and derive financial benefit from Llandudno. The UK still derives financial benefit by leasing the site of a military base on Diego Garcia, one of the Chagos Islands, to the US.

In other news: Owain Owain translations update

This time last year, I wrote that I’d translated a strange short story by Owain Owain called ‘Wild Geese’. During 2023 I submitted ‘Wild Geese’ to the literary magazines The Stinging Fly and The White Review and tried to get it into the New Feathers Anthology. No luck with any of these.

However, the good news is that Emyr Humphreys’ translation of Owain Owain’s cult classic novel Y Dydd Olaf will be published by Parthian Books in June 2024 as The Last Day.

P.S. to June’s post

One aspect of the contract for This House that I didn’t comment on in June’s blog post is the pattern of its staged payments. I thought with hindsight that I’d better mention it because this solution may prove useful to other newbies trying to broker a deal with a very small publisher.

The draft contract sent to me by 3TimesRebel Press had three payment milestones: 25% on signing the contract; 25% about four months after that; and 50% on receipt of the completed translation. Because the translation of Yn y Tŷ Hwn was already complete at the point of signature, it seemed rational for me to expect 100% of the payment on signing.

However, to help with the publisher’s cashflow, I suggested four equal payments, monthly, June–September. This worked well for the publisher, and the only effect on me was that I had to issue four invoices instead of one. (I sometimes offer this pattern of payment to my proofreading clients, particularly individuals and/or self-publishers.)

Words, video, and photos of daffodils and Gelli Bant location ©Susan Walton 2024. Cover of This House ©3TimesRebel Press 2024, and of Besting Mister Mostyn ©Gwasg Carreg Gwalch 2023. Photo of dog by Sian Buckler on Pixabay and of money by Anthony on Unsplash.
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