Tag: Y Lolfa

Yes!

Yes, the last week of May was momentous!

I signed a contract for my translation to be published! And two days later Bangor 1876 FC won a nail-biting play-off that sees them promoted!

My translation is of Sian Northey’s novella Yn y Tŷ Hwn, which is called This House in English. They have had a parallel journey in some respects, Bangor 1876 and This House.  The seeds of both projects were planted in 2019.

In 2019, I learned I was to receive mentoring as an emerging literary translator. A new venture, although I already had experience as a translator.

Also in 2019 the supporters trust that brought Bangor 1876 into life was formed. It was new venture in football for the city, although Bangor already has a proud footballing history.

Diligence and perseverance over the last three years have paid off, for both.

Which publisher?

In January, when I last posted on this blog, I was waiting for a decision from Publisher N, who were considering my (*counts on fingers*) fourteenth submission of This House.

Then, in February, Publisher N said it wanted to publish – Yes! I guess that’s what scoring a goal must feel like. Now that contracts have been signed, I can reveal that the publisher will be 3TimesRebel Press. It is a new, small, independent publisher, based in Scotland. It is very niche. As its website says:

Only women. Only minority languages. This is our choice.

It has already published in English two novels from Catalan, and one each from Basque and Galician. This House will be its first title originally in Welsh.

Making the submission to 3TimesRebel Press

Back in July 2020, my mentor told me that I needed to identify other works of art (especially other novels) that Yn y Tŷ Hwn is like. The mentor said this is what is expected when pitching to publishers or agents. I also read the same instruction time and again during my self-directed online research about how to make pitches and submissions.

The jargon for these ‘it’s like’ works is ‘comps’, as in ‘comparable to’. The closest I got for overall tone was James Baldwin’s Giovanni’s Room. 

As I wrote in my January 2021 post, it’s the ‘vibe’ of works referred to as comps that’s important rather than the subject matter. I reckon that if you were to swap the alcohol in Giovanni’s Room for the tea in This House, they’d be similar enough.

As it turned out, I didn’t need a ‘comp’ to snag 3TimesRebel Press. The closest I got in my initial email was to say:

The story is an examination of roads not taken and shifting self-perception, expressed in concise and unfussy language which is reminiscent of the work of Anne Enright.

I then listed the  Sian Northey‘s publications, and my published translations, and stated the sales figure for Yn y Tŷ Hwn. The director of 3TimesRebel Press replied promptly and enthusiastically, requesting an excerpt.

Two days after that, I was emailed to say that she was ‘completely hooked’ and wanted to read the rest of the story. One Zoom meeting with Sian and me later, and we were on the road to publication.

Finalising the contract

My contract with 3TimesRebel Press is called a ‘Memorandum of Agreement’ (I don’t know why, but that’s what was offered).  A couple of things helped me feel comfortable and confident about finalising and signing.

Harmonising with the terms of the copyright holder’s contract

The copyright holder of the original text of Yn y Tŷ Hwn is the publishing house Y Lolfa. Its agreement with 3TimesRebel Press is called a ‘Publication Agreement’ and this was agreed and signed ahead of the Memorandum of Agreement between me and 3TimesRebel Press.

Y Lolfa’s managing director kindly let me see its agreement with 3TimesRebel Press, which meant I could harmonise the two contracts’ terms where their provisions overlap. For example:

  • changing the proposed publication area from ‘throughout the World’ to ‘in the UK and the Republic of Ireland’
  • making the annual date on which the publisher will reports sales and the term in which to pay any amounts due the same as they are in the contract with Y Lolfa.

Hopefully this will make all our lives simpler!

Society of Authors contract vetting service

As a member of the Society of Authors I was able to make use of its contract vetting service. I received thorough and prompt comments, both on the initial draft contract and the finalised version.

The SoA suggested an interesting additional clause:  its new standard wording for prohibiting the publisher from using the work for training artificial intelligence technologies to generate text.

I’m not sure how this would be policed, but even including the clause might give a publisher pause.

What next for this blog?

I started this blog to chronicle my progress of being mentored as an early career literary translator, and then record my attempts at finding a publisher. So now we have a fairy-tale journey’s end, in a way. I used an unopened bottle of champagne to illustrate my first post; I now think we may safely uncork it.

I’m going to continue to post on this blog as we move through the stages of producing, marketing and selling This House.  For me, this is yet again new territory so I have lots to learn. I hope that my experiences will give food for thought to other newbie literary translators.

What next for Bangor 1876?

Oh, and what next for Bangor 1876? I hear you say. Well, they’ve been confirmed to play in the second tier of the Welsh football league system next season and have negotiated their way to being able to play at their new level at Nantporth, the old ground of the defunct Bangor City FC.

 

Words and image of book cover ©Susan Walton 2023. Image of Yes ©estate of K. Nathan, reproduced with the permission of A. Nathan and I. Nathan. Photo of sprouting seeds by Jen Theodore; mechanised brain by Possessed Photography; and champagne by Shayna Douglas, all on Unsplash. Photo of handshake by Fauxels on Pexels.

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Six months have slipped by

Well, here we are: just over six months since the end of my amazing year of being mentored.  And almost two years since I made that fateful, original application to Literature Wales to be mentored as an early career literary translator.

Wales Book of the Year

Earlier this month, the shortlists for the Wales Book of the Year award were announced. They gave me pause for thought and were, in part, what engendered this post. One of the authors shortlisted for best Welsh-language novel is Megan Angharad Hunter. Like me, she was a delegate at the mentoring workshop held at Tŷ Newydd in March 2020.

cover of the book Tu Ôl i'r Awyr

At the end of 2020, I said I’d only post again on this blog when there were developments with This House (which is my title for my translation of Yn y Tŷ Hwn). However, Megan’s appearance on a Book of the Year shortlist prompted me to write a round-up of this year so far.

In search of a publisher – Publisher A

My year of being mentored kicked off with an industry weekend at the National Centre for Writing in Norwich in January 2020. There, one thing we did was practise making a pitch to three real-life independent publishers.

A few weeks later one of the three publishers emailed me to ask for a sample of This House and reviews and background material about the author, Sian Northey. Sian and I scrabbled about for anything in English about her work and I duly sent this off with the sample.

Then Covid-19 hit and this publisher wrote to say his outside reader was sick and that we might have quite a wait …

In November 2020, I contacted Publisher A to see what was happening. He said he’d chase it up.

In January 2021 he said he’d chase it up again.

In February he wrote a very polite and supportive email … of rejection.

Yn y Tŷ Hwn rights change hands

In 2019, Gwasg Gomer, the original publisher of Yn y Tŷ Hwn, announced it was to wind down its publishing side and concentrate on printing only. All three of Sian’s novels were published by Gomer, so we knew a change was coming.

gable end paintings on the building housing the publisher Y Lolfa

Y Lolfa in Tal-y-bont

Sian told me early in 2021 that Gomer was selling these titles to Y Lolfa. I contacted Lolfa’s managing director to introduce myself and my project, and also to find out when the rights would be legally transferred. The first of April, I was told – so I decided to wait until April before contacting any more publishers.

A changed submissions landscape, post-2020

By the beginning of 2021, I had already compiled a list of publishers to whom I wished to pitch This House. Of necessity, they are all publishers that will accept unagented submissions. I’d done much of my original research in the run-up to the subsequently cancelled 2020 London Book Fair. I’d noted which publishers would only accept submissions during certain ‘windows’.

When I updated my list in early 2021, I found that many of the ‘window’ periods publicised in 2020 had been withdrawn. Often these companies had put a note on their website saying they were swamped because of the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic. Several I’d had my sights on are now inaccessible to me.

More detailed research into publishers I wish to target

In compiling my original list of publishers I was to target, I’d obviously already looked at their websites to make sure they had an interest in publishing novels and novellas, and a back catalogue that included translations into English.

To research the ones that were still accepting unagented submissions, I decided to buy two paperbacks from each. This was so I could see and feel their product for myself, both to judge the quality and (hopefully) to have something relevant to say about one of their books when the time came to pitch to each publisher. Using a combination of Amazon’s ‘Look Inside’ function and reviews on the Good Reads website, I hoped my selection of these pairs would result in novels I would also enjoy reading.

So far I have made three rounds of purchases this way. I’ve found quite a variety in the size and choice of typeface; cover design; paper quality; and thoroughness of proofreading.

In search of a publisher – Publisher B

Preparing to pitch to Publisher B, my purchases from them were a novel written in English and a novella translated from Dutch. I loved the novel and, although it wasn’t a translation, its setting was a Celtic country with enough dialect words in the dialogue to require a glossary. The novella had an interesting premise but it felt like an intellectual exercise stemming from that premise. Both books were nicely produced: good covers and reasonable typefaces and paper.

I pitched to Publisher B in April, once the rights for Yn y Tŷ Hwn had been safely transferred to their new owner. Straight after pitching, I received a polite email confirming receipt, which is always good.

In early June I asked if they were still considering it, and they still were.

As I was writing this blog post, I received a very polite and supportive email … of rejection.

In search of a publisher – Publishers C and D

While waiting for Publisher B to come to a decision, I pushed ahead and bought pairs of paperbacks from the next two publishers on my target list – in the hope that they don’t put the ‘closed’ sign on their websites anytime soon!

Publisher C

Publisher C’s books were a novel translated from French (but set in England) and one in Italian (but set in Finland). I was not impressed with the French one. It looked as if it had been self-published: the cover design had been thrown together, the paper was coarse and it was set in an unimaginative typeface. I found the story quite turgid and so didn’t finish it.

The Italian one – although weird – was a good read. It had also been produced with higher production values than the French one. However, the cover image was very unexciting. As I was reading it, I realised that not one of the Finnish words that should have had accents had any. None. Epic proofreading fail!

Publisher C has now been crossed off my list.

Publisher D

Publisher D’s books were translations from German and Arabic. When they arrived, they looked as if they’d come from different publishing houses. The German one had a cover as boring as publisher C’s Italian one.  (I’m starting to wonder if this is a thing: does a boring, monochrome cover signal to the discerning reader that there’s a complex European novel in translation within?) The Arabic translation’s cover, however, was really eye-catching and well-designed. The paper was different too: much better quality, and the page layout was nicer.

I’ve read the German story, which was slight but insistent, but I had trouble with a graphic description of cruelty to an animal in the Arabic one. I haven’t yet picked it up since.

Publisher D will definitely be pitched to.

Other translators’ blogs

Over the last few months, I’ve been reading the blogs of two other translators, both of which I learned about through the Translators Association.

Daniel Hahn’s Translation Diary gives a blow-by-blow account of his work on  Jamás el fuego nunca, a novel by the Chilean writer Diamela Eltit, for Charco Press.

Co-incidentally, Tim Gutteridge also translates from Spanish. His blog is an entertaining and educational read too.

A nugget

Now and again since the end of 2020 I’ve looked at seminars and presentations online about writing and translation. Not as many as I did in 2020, but then I’m not in full mentee-mode any more and I have my proofreading clients’ wants to attend to. Through Sam Jordison (of the independent publisher Galley Beggar Press), who gave one of  the  Warwick Thursdays talks, I learned this amazing sales statistic: the average number of copies of sold for a literary fiction title in English is around

Two hundred and sixty. 260! That puts the sales of Yn y Tŷ Hwn – over four times that for a novella in a minority language – in an interesting light.

 

Words ©Susan Walton 2021. Photo of phone calendar by Behnam Norouzi; photo of letter ‘A’ by Tanzim Akash; photo of letter ‘B’ by Dan Gold; photo of letter ‘C’ by Nikhil Mitra; photo of ‘D’ shape by Catcap; photo of figure ‘2’ by Possessed Photography; photo of figure ‘6’ by Clem Onojeghuo; photo of figure ‘0’ by Bernard Hermant – all on Unsplash. Photo of Y Lolfa in Tal-y-bont by ‘Ddraig Ddu’ from www.waymarking.com.

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