In the previous installments of this series we have discussed the reasons why you may consider translating your book into Russian and the pros and cons of different types of translation service providers. Today we’re going to talk about ways to get your book in front of the Russian-speaking readers.
If you already have some self-published books under your belt, then you probably know a lot more about publishing them on Amazon than I do. It will probably be the first platform that will come to your mind.
Unfortunately, Amazon doesn’t work well for Russian versions of books. Here’s what Faiz Kermani, author of children’s books, told me about his experience of publishing the translation of his book on Amazon earlier this year:
“Amazon is not really well organized for languages like Russian. I could not set the right categories as the system would not fully accept Russian language although there appear to be many Russian books on there already. Therefore I asked amazon for help (…although I had actually somehow managed to get their system to accept my file). At first they said they would set the categories manually but now they are saying they “don’t accept Russian books”. The situation is like a funny comedy because I can see many books in Russian on their system but now they appear not to “see them”.
So at the moment it looks like you won’t be able to use this well-familiar platform to publish the Russian translation of your book. We can only hope that this will change in the future.
This is a distribution channel some of you might be well familiar with. If you’re selling the English version of your book through your website, adding a Russian translation to your on-line shop should be a no brainer.
Another advantage of this approach is that there’s no third party involved. It’s just you and your readers and you get all the profits.
The problem, in this case, will be to drive customers to your store. In order to solve it, you can partner up with your translator and ask her to help with marketing as well. You will probably have to do it anyway, but if you use a publishing platform of some kind there’s a chance that people will come across your book. When you’re using your website as a distribution channel, this possibility is highly unlikely.
Full disclosure: I’m in no way affiliated with this platform. I found it while doing research for this article and reached out to the company PR person. She was kind enough to answer my questions. What I’m sharing here is the information I got during our email exchange and on Ridero website.
Ridero is a Russian platform for self-published authors trusted by over 50 000 writers. It gives you an opportunity to publish your book without any upfront payments (they get a 20% commission on sales) and also offers a number of paid services like a cover design and the book layout (there are free layouts and cover designs you can choose from as well), marketing packages, proofreading or a personal English-speaking assistant that will help you prepare the book for publication. They can even help you make a book-trailer.
The platform also allows you to set up a free website for your book where you can share a short description of the book, your picture, and bio and the reviews.
Ridero gets your book to the main Russian online stores, where it can be sold both as an e-book and a printed book. It also gets it on GooglePlay and Amazon.
Before the book is sent to the stores you get to decide how much money you want to make from each sale. The retail price of the book is determined depending on this amount.
The retail price of the book is influenced by:
• the online store markup (it’s usually around 40-60%)
• VAT (18% of the retail price)
• production costs for print-on-demand books (it depends on the number of pages in a book, for example, the production of a 100-page book costs around 3 dollars)
• delivery cost for print-on-demand books (about 1.2 dollars)
Ridero gets the sales revenue less the stores’ commissions and production and delivery costs (for print books). 80% of this revenue belongs to the author. Ridero also acts as a tax agent and transfers the 30% tax payable by the foreign citizens who earn money in Russia.
The only big downside of this platform is that they don’t have a website in English. I asked them about their plans with respect to localization and they told me that at the moment they don’t see much demand for it. However there is a good way to work around it: if you hire a freelance translator, she’ll most probably be happy to help you with uploading your book to the platform. As I mentioned above, you can also use the services of an English-speaking personal assistant offered by the platform.
While doing research for this article, I thought that it would be nice to talk to someone, who has published a book using Ridero. So I got in touch with Gwain Hamilton, a teacher from Canada, who has spent several years living and teaching English in Russia and published a book of short stories about that period of his life. I asked him to share his experience with the Ridero and here’s what he told me:
Elena: First of all, thank you for taking the time to do this interview, Gwain! My first question is why did you choose Ridero and how did you find it?
Gwain: So, good question. I actually signed a contract with a real publisher in Moscow in 2010 and they even paid me forward on royalties and all of the stuff. And then they started to not publish. About a year passed and they told me that the market got really bad and they weren’t publishing anything anymore.
So a couple of years passed and I thought, well, I need to publish this book. I was reading some Russian news and there was an add for Ridero. I clicked on it and that’s how I found it.
They had literally been working for about six months when I found them and everything was still beta and very basic. I guess they still are beta, but it was really rough at that time. It looks pretty good now. On a monthly basis, the stuff that you can do with the platform is getting cooler and cooler.
Elena: Why didn’t you try to publish your book on Amazon?
Gwain: The reason that I did it with Ridero was because it looked easy. My target audience was Russians, so I thought I need to be on LitRes and Ozon (these are two main online bookstores in Russia), so I hadn’t thought about Amazon.
Elena: Was publishing the book on Ridero as easy as it seemed?
Gwain: Yeah, it wasn’t too bad. There was one thing that I was worried about. To sign up for Ridero you had to have an official contract and the contract needed to have a registration in Russia. And I thought: ok, great, this is gonna be some stupid bureaucracy, I’m not gonna be able to start. You see, I was living in Canada at the time. But it wasn’t a problem actually. I contacted the support and said: hey, guys, I don’t have the registration or anything, I’m living in Canada. They said it was not a problem and they solved it.
Other than that I had to wait. I had to send the contract to Russia and wait for about a month, but actually, it was great. The people were really easy to work with. If you have questions they usually get back in a couple of days. It was a lot easier than I expected. They seem like pretty progressive young people.
Elena: What are the advantages and disadvantages of Ridero as a platform?
Gwain: I really don’t have anything to compare with, so it’s hard to say. I should probably start with saying that for me the option is not being published at all. So it was worth doing just because I wouldn’t have my book published and nobody would have access to it. So that’s the first thing.
The second thing I would say is sometimes they can be like…too caring. I’ll tell you a story to show what I mean. In 2001 I lived in Volgograd. I took pictures and I kind of fancied myself a bit of a photographer. And so I tried to distort some images and stuff.
I didn’t have anywhere to develop the pictures myself. So when I took them to the developer in Volgograd they automatically chose which pictures they would give me and I said:
“No, I want these ones too.”
And they said:
“Зачем? Это некрасиво! Они не получились.” (Why? This isn’t pretty! They didn’t turn out well)
And I said:
“Я знаю! Я хочу, чтобы они были такими.” (I know! I want them to be like this!)
And they said:
“Нет, это некрасиво. Мы не дадим вам.” (No, this isn’t pretty. We won’t give them to you.)
I thought that was crazy! But it was 2001, right? So they had their own ideas about what was ok.
I would say there’s a tiny little bit of that in Ridero. I tried to put something through for a cover design or for the stories and I got notes back, which I think were intended to be helpful, but which were not wanted.
The person said: you need to fix this on your title page and it needs to look like this and not like this. Please fix that. And I didn’t want to. So being a little bit capricious I just deleted the book. I have a third book and I just thought, you know what? To heck with it! If I can’t publish it exactly the way I want it on a self-publishing platform, I’m not gonna publish it.
But again, I think that they were doing it because they wanted to do what was best. I just didn’t have time to deal with it.
Elena: Would you recommend this platform to other writers who want to get the Russian translation of their book in front of the Russian-speaking audience?
Gwain: Yes, sure, why not! I think it’s a good option. I don’t know exactly what’s happening in the book publishing industry right now, but I can’t imagine that it’s a lot better than it was a few years ago. So I think that it’s a good option. I have seen a lot of serious writers are now on Ridero. So it seems like a perfectly respectable option.
Well, this is it! I hope you have found this post useful. If you have, please don’t forget to send it to someone who wants to share their work with the Russian-speaking audience, or, if you’re that self-published author willing to spread your ideas, get in touch with me to discuss your project!