Posted in All Articles, Writer's problems

Should you publish on a foreign market?

If you are bilingual, you might be considering trying your luck out there in the big, big world. Contrary to what everyone thinks, you don’t need to be accomplished and recognized in your country to make a debut  elsewhere. Read the following check list to see if publishing on foreign markets is a good option for you:

  1. Am I serious enough about writing to venture overseas? Or is writing just a hobby that I am pursuing for personal enjoyment and I don’t care about being published, as long as I can share my writing with closest family and friends?
  2. What are the reasons why I want to switch to international market? Do I want to expand? Do I see no opportunities for my books in my own country, so I am trying abroad?
  3. Who am I writing my books for? If I am writing for a specific audience: are they in my country, or abroad? If I am writing for my friends: do they speak my language or not?
  4. Will my books retain their value after being translated and published in a foreign market? Or do they discuss local matters understable for my nation only? Does the language play a vital role as a part of this book, or is merely a tool I’ve used? Can it be replaced?
  5. Can I speak the language of the foreign market? Will I translate the books myself? Or will I ask someone else to help me? Am I able to communicate with fans on my own?
  6. What do I know about the foreign market? Do I have in mind a specific publishing house? Do I know where I will be doing marketing? Do I have an idea how to find target audience abroad if I failed to do it in my own country? Do I have friends who will help me promote the book abroad?
  7. What are the costs of moving my “writing property”? How many books have I finished and published? Do I still have the property rights? If yes, what would be the costs of translation, editing and re-publishing? What about the series that I have started? Are my fans likely to continue reading in another language?
  8. Have I carefully compared the pros and cons of moving? Which option is more appealing to me? Where do I see myself more successful than I am today?

There are the most important questions that come to my mind. If you are still unsure, you are not alone. It took me 2-3 months to make a decision. I don’t regret.

Here is my story if you are interested:

I am Polish and my local book market is Poland. In Polish bookshops you can find translated Amazon bestsellers (majority of books) and works by famous Polish authors (minority of books).

Works written by unknown Polish indies are automatically rejected by traditional Polish publishers. The only option is to hire an agent, but they are costly and can’t guarantee success.  Self-publishing attempts are disrespected and ignored by readers, who still believe that bestseller = bestwritten. There isn’t really a good place to do marketing, as most Polish people use English websites which are international.

I had a friend, with whom we were initially helping each other. But she was so desperate to break through this glass ceiling, that she started seeing me as a rival and acting against me and my writing. When I discovered it, I felt betrayed, angry and disgusted to the point of nausea. For a moment I just wanted to throw in the towel.

I had enough of dealing with this misery. It made me feel I had no talent. I really believed I had no talent. But then I thought to myself, it can’t end this way. People out there are succeeding; so why can’t I? 

Solution started to crystallize in my head after reading articles by Michal Stawicki, Joanna Penn and Jeff Goins. I had a revelation: I could still make it with writing. Just not in my country.

Which meant I had to forsake my mother language and switch to English. I thought that it would be easy – I’ve been learning English for 18 years. As it turned out, not enough. I encountered lots of problems when I started writing. I spent a lot of time digging in dictionaries and reading grammar rules. However, my writing retained its worth in terms of content and I am sure that I will reach the target audience at last.

If you have a situation similar to mine, then my advice is: don’t hesitate. Try somewhere, where outside conditions are more favorable.

I hope this helps, stay inspired.

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Hi! I am an author. I've published my debut novel in 2015 in Poland ("Dokąd teraz popłynę?"). My main genre is fantasy and magical realism. I often discuss socially difficult topics in my works and try to pass on a message of hope. I am always inspired and I never stop writing. My writing inspirations are Bruno Schulz, Pablo Neruda, Kiran Desai and Haruki Murakami. In my private life I am a polyglot. I believe in the Law Of Attraction and I write about it on UltimateManifester at Wordpress.

7 thoughts on “Should you publish on a foreign market?

  1. That’s amazing! When I started reading your blog awhile ago I had no idea that English was not your first language. I think that’s really ambitious of you to try writing a novel in a different language than your mother tongue (I don’t know a second language well enough to do that!).

    1. Thank you for your comment, Emily! <3
      I'm half Polish half Italian. English is my third language. I switched to writing in English, because the internet has many more tools for English-speaking indie authors than for Polish indie authors. You've mentioned before that you are half Taiwanese half Korean. Is Chinese your mother language?

      1. No…English is my mother language. My mom’s mother tongue is Korean, but she speaks English better than Korean (She was a high school English teacher. She also can speak decent Spanish.). My dad was born and raised in the US, and English is his mother tongue. (He can speak a little bit of Mandarin, but that’s it.) As for me, all I can speak is English. I’m taking Spanish for my high school foreign language credits.

  2. Hey! I can somewhat relate to your story. I am an Indian and my mother tongue is Assamese. I switch to English for the same reason. I even wrote a blog regarding vernacular medium school. Sometimes it’s really tough to write in a different language. That’s why, I started blogging just to improve my writing skills in English. With English, you can have a bigger exposure. I too feel the same. I really like blog. Keep writing..

    1. Hey, Angelina! Thank you for sharing your story! It’s great that you are blogging in English. When one uses the foreign language to write, they can improve very fast. I know that there are many languages in India, Assamese is a dialect from Assam, right? I studied oriental culture and had many subjects about India. It’s an incredibly interesting country!

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