What I was up to in July
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What I was up to in July

It’s hard to believe that another month has flown by. But it has! It’s August and in today’s post, I’ll share with you what I did in July.


Contrary to how it usually is in July, I didn’t get swamped with work. But I’m not complaining because it gave me a lot of time for sending out proposals to writers. More on that later, and now for some of the projects I got to work on last month:


  • Linguistic checking for What Three Words, an old direct client
  • Proofreading of the translation for the wellness industry
  • Editing of luxury properties descriptions
  • Translation of a bunch of updates for a transportation company app I localized last month
  • A brand name checking for a car brand


And now let’s get to the things I did in July to develop my business and improve my skills.


Updating Mac OS to install Flowstate


Last month I finally downloaded an update for my Mac OS system. I’ve been using Mac as my primary computer for a year and a half, but I’ve never updated the system. I read too many negative reviews about the updates in the App Store and for once I decided not to fix something that was not broken.


Why did I change my mind?


Well, the main reason is that I wanted to install Flowstate app and it was not available for my version of Mac OS. Flowstate is an app that lets you write without getting distracted. Or I should rather say makes you write without stopping, because if you stop for more than 5 seconds everything you’ve written before disappears. And you can’t cheat and copy what you have written to paste it into a Word document, I’ve checked that.


I will write a post about this app in the coming months, but for now I’ll just say that it has enabled me to write an over 2k words article about Trello in about an hour, so it’s definitely worth the money (it’s a paid app, but it costs only 10 dollars).


Contacting writers


In July I spent a lot of time on emailing writers whose books I would like to translate. It took more time than I expected, because of the research I had to do.


At the moment my process for contacting writers runs like this:


First, I go to Amazon website and type in a keyword: time management, productivity, starting a business, minimalism or anything else I’m personally interested in. For me, it’s important that the book I’m going to translate speaks to me on a personal level.


From the list of books I get, I pick the ones with a high rating and a lot of positive reviews. The popularity of the book in English is a good indicator that it might be popular in Russia as well. After all, that’s how traditional publishers pick the titles they want to translate.


Then I read the description of the book and find the author’s contact details. Sometimes her website is listed on her Amazon Author page, sometimes it’s not.


If the website is listed, I visit it. I check out if there’s a blog, read the author’s bio and go to the contact page. Then I send an email or a message through the contact form. And then I wait.


I don’t get a lot of answers which I find surprising compared to the number of replies I get when I contact authors to ask them for permission to translate their articles for I Love Mondays (the reply rate is close to 100%).


It might have something to do with the timing. After all, it’s summer, it’s hot and a lot of people are taking time off.


I might be saying something wrong. I constantly work on my message trying to make it short and to the point and I’m sure that I will get it right in the end.


From the replies I did get one was a negative one without any explanation. Another author wrote that she had a negative experience with marketing her book in a language she doesn’t speak (she had translated it into German and Spanish) and isn’t ready to give it another go.


And another writer said she needs time to think and suggested we discuss it in autumn. By the way, she had one of her books translated into Italian.


This whole experience taught me a few things:


  • Message and timing are important. This is nothing groundbreaking, but it’s essential to keep it in mind. For example, I hadn’t thought about the hot summer weather factor and it might be the main reason for getting few replies to my emails. Also paying attention to grammar and spelling is vital. After all, writers are word nerds too.
  • A rejection letter with an explanation provides valuable information as well as ideas for future articles.
    It’s important to do your homework. The main goal of the initial email is to gain a writer’s attention and it’s way easier to do it if I can connect with her. Reading a blog post or two or at least the bio may help me find some common ground.
  • I need to grow a thicker skin. I will be honest with you: sending out proposals and not getting any replies is tough for me.I remember a great tip that Rafa Lombardino shared during our talk back in April: send out more proposals to increase the chances of a positive reply. That way you’ll be glad that you got one yes, and won’t get upset about the 19 rejections that came along with it.I still have to work up to that number of emails. I know that consistency is key here. I also know that I shouldn’t take the absence of replies personally. And I’m grateful for the opportunity to remind myself about it and share my feelings with the readers of my blog.


Other literary translation related things


We all know that CPD is important. It’s especially true for someone like me, who’s trying to break into a new niche. So while I don’t have any books to translate I’m taking the time to learn as much as I can about the ins and outs of literary translation.


I decided to start with reading the books on translation written by prominent Russian literary translators. At the moment I’m reading Nora Gal’s book on things to avoid in your translation and writing in general. Kornei Chukovsky’s The Art of Translation, which has been translated into English, is next on my reading list.


Another source of information that I found to be useful is PEN website. There I found a model contract for literary translations and an interesting blog.


I also found a lot of useful posts on Lisa Carter’s blog and her course for those starting out in literary translation is on my list of CPD courses that I want to complete this year.


Speaking of CPD courses, I also subscribed to a deep reading course on Coursera (it’s in Russian). I’m sure that careful reading and analysis of literature is a useful skill for any translator.


Finally, I registered for a literary translation contest organized by the British Council. While I don’t expect to become the winner and it requires translating a piece of fiction, I still think that it’s going to be and interesting and valuable experience. I’m going to translate an abstract from Mr. Loveman, a novel written by a modern British author Bernardine Evaristo.


Brushing up on my German


Last month I got a small translation task from German into Russian from an agency client and after completing it I decided to pay more attention to my third language.


As some of you know, I love listening to podcasts. It’s a great way to make use of the time that otherwise is not spent very effectively. I mostly listen to podcasts while walking my dog in the morning.


I thought that it would be a good idea to find some podcasts in German. I started with the Slow German podcast, but it turned out to be too easy for me. That just goes to show that I’m often too hard on myself and my German wasn’t as rusty as I thought it was.


I already mentioned Wordycat’s newsletter as a great source of articles and videos in German and in one of July issues Anja shared a list of her favorite podcasts. I have been regularly listening to them ever since.


I had another great idea for training my German translation skills (because eventually, I want to offer translation from German to my clients).
If you regularly read my blog, you definitely know about I Love Mondays. I decided that I could combine translating articles that I like and working on my third language skills. So I sent some emails (in German) to German writers asking them for permission to translate their articles for my newsletter and got some positive replies.


But there’s more. One of the entrepreneurs I contacted asked me if I wanted to take part in a big translation project for an e-course! I will write more about it, if and when we get to work together, so watch this space.


Other stuff


Remember I wrote about creating content marketing plan back in May?


While I must admit that I haven’t been consistent with content distribution or Twitter lately, one thing I have been doing consistently is blogging and I have a reason to think it will continue to be that way.
I’ve got my posts planned till the end of September and I keep getting ideas for new ones as well. Writing 3 articles per month seems to be the most convenient schedule for me.


Also, it seems easier to come up with new ideas when I don’t just focus on translation, but also try out new things in developing my business. On the other hand, the necessity to write these monthly updates pushes me to do more in terms of business and learning. Otherwise, these posts will consist only of the list of projects I worked on and that won’t be fun or useful for anybody.


Another thing I feel is important to mention is that I do have doubts about what I’m doing and whether it’s going to pay off some time soon.


I don’t often read about other translators struggling to find clients in a new niche. I read stories of success and they are inspiring. But I have to remind myself that for every deal they make they have probably got 19 rejection letters or no answers at all. Otherwise, I will end up doubting myself even more and losing my motivation.


I understand that sharing their struggles may not be suitable for everyone. But I’m sure that reading about other’s experience may help someone carry on and not give up when the going gets tough.


To end my post on a lighter note I’ll tell you about another highlight of the past month.


In the middle of July when my top-floor apartment was feeling more like a sauna than like a place where I could do some work I packed my laptop, my dog, and two cats and went to my grandparents’ country house.


Being able to work from any place in the world (provided there’s an internet connection there) is one of the reasons why I love my job.


The internet speed was just about enough to use the online dictionaries and do research, so I wasn’t distracted by any cute cat videos and could better focus on the work.


The opportunity to go for long walks with my husband and my dog or to spend time talking to my grandparents was a great motivation to get things done faster.


It’s been a wonderful week and I will definitely repeat it some time.


And how is your summer going? Was July a busy month for you or did you get to enjoy the warm and sunny days? As always, I’m happy to chat with you in the comments and please don’t forget to share this post with someone who might find it useful.




  • Foteini M

    09.08.2016 at 10:41 Reply

    WOW your July was busy 😉 I’m looking for some CPD courses in literary translation too but the most are for beginners :/ I am packing my laptop this weekend, too and I’m off to a remote Greek island to work for a couple of days! I love this thing about our job! Take care xoxo

    • Elena

      10.08.2016 at 12:57 Reply

      Thank you for your comment, Foteini!

      Well, there are some advantages to being a beginner. 😉 I’m thinking about taking a class for writers after I finish this one. I think it might be useful to understand how it all works.

      A remote Greek island sounds SO good! And I agree — this is one of the best things about being a freelance translator. 🙂

  • Virginia Katsimpiri

    09.08.2016 at 16:01 Reply

    Great article, Elena! Thanks for sharing it! Please do write an article about flowstate, though a bit risky for me, I would like to know how did it go with you and if i should try it too. I have a macbook pro too 🙂

    • Elena

      10.08.2016 at 12:54 Reply

      Thank you, Virginia! Sure, I will do a review for Flowstate. It’s a great app!

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