View Full Version : Submitting another writer's work

03-31-2016, 11:38 PM
I and my colleague have just finished translating a truthful but fictionalized (dramatized?) biography of the 19th century Ukrainian naturalist and explorer Nicholas Miklouho-Maclay from Ukrainian into English. I am going to do my best to get this book published, but am not sure where to begin... The author is well established in Ukraine, having published about twenty books over the last twenty-five years, and has won numerous awards for some of these works. The book just translated was published in late February of this year.

My only strategy thus far has been to think about Australian publishers, as most of Maclay's research and explorations were in Papua, New Guinea. Aside from that, I'm beginning to think that the smartest approach would be try to find a literary agent, but am uncertain if this is definitely necessary. By posting here I'm hoping to get some thoughts on a project of this nature from people who know the business, and I thank you in advance for any suggestions or ideas you might have on where I should begin. Thanks!

03-31-2016, 11:49 PM
I don't quite understand your post. You say you and "your colleague" have translated a book written by Ivan Korsak. Do you mean that Ivan Korsak is your colleague? If not, do you have Ivan Korsak's permission to get the translated version of his book published? If Ivan Korsak has many books published, then why wouldn't his agent/publisher handle the translated version? Please clarify.

ETA: Also, do you mean that Ivan Korsak wrote the biography and you and your colleague have written a fictionalized account of that biography, or do you mean that Ivan Korsak wrote a fictionalized biography, which you and your colleague have translated into English?

04-01-2016, 12:02 AM
Sorry, it didn't occur to me that someone might think I might do such a thing without the author's permission. My colleague and I were asked to translate the biographical novel by the author. Of course, he has hopes of it finding a publisher in English. His publishers in Kiev, I believe, are not experienced in such matters.

04-01-2016, 01:22 AM
Oh, okay then. I couldn't tell what you might know or not know from your post. Anyway, I'd think US agents would be a good place to start. The audience is huge and they can handle making the book available in other countries as well. The section below (on here) can help you find good agents to try. Hopefully, someone with more knowledge about this somewhat complicated situation will come along. Good luck with it.


Siri Kirpal
04-01-2016, 05:54 AM
Sat Nam! (literally "Truth Name"--a Sikh greeting)

Also, try going into querytracker. They have the best list of agents. Check for which ones represent biography. Then check the agents' websites. Some of them say they like works in translation.


Siri Kirpal

Old Hack
04-01-2016, 10:40 AM
The current publishers in Ukraine might hold world rights, in which case they have to approach publishers elsewhere.

Assuming the author holds foreign and translation rights, the author of the book should be the one to approach publishers. Anyone else doing so is likely to get a swift form rejection. If the author doesn't speak enough English to do this for himself, you'll have to make that clear in your query letter.

If you want the book published by a reputable publisher who has a good chance of selling a lot of books, bear in mind that they will usually want to commission their own translation. Yours might help them see the value in the book but literary translation is a difficult skill to acquire, and much more involved than just translating the words into meaningful sentences.

04-01-2016, 06:57 PM
Thanks to those who have replied so far, especially for the reference to querytracker.net, it's great. A question about one of the agencies listed on querytracker... I found an Australian publisher which seems very suited to the material at hand. But here is one of their conditions regarding their submission policy: Note: We do not look at work which is under submission to any other agent or publisher. I'm not clear on what they mean by "under submission." Do they mean a complete work that is being evaluated, or simply a query letter that has been sent out? If the latter, wouldn't such a condition be pretty unusual? Thanks!

Siri Kirpal
04-01-2016, 11:18 PM
Sat Nam! (Literally "Truth Name"--a Sikh greeting)

Could mean either. But probably it means that other agents or publishers are evaluating the manuscript. In any event, save those sorts of agents for last.


Siri Kirpal

04-02-2016, 12:22 AM
We do not look at work which is under submission to any other agent or publisher.

They want an exclusive. In today's world, that usually means you should find another agency. If you decide to query them, send a query to ONLY them with a note that they have two weeks to ask for a full manuscript. If they want the manuscript, give them 30 days to evaluate it before it goes for submission elsewhere. They will accept, balk, pass or negotiate with you, all of which are clear answers as to your path.


04-02-2016, 03:52 AM
What you'll DEFINITELY have to do before publication or money comes up (and this was told to me by an agent face to face: when I was going to co-write a novel) is draw up a contract among yourselves.

IE: who does what, where the rights or the money end up (as a thought experiment - consider it being optioned for Hollywood for a million bucks! Who gets what percentage? What if it is a best-seller?)

Unlike agents, who know that the queries are submitted elsewhere, a lot of publishers won't accept material/proposals that are being looked at by someone else. So you will need to send, and wait until the rejection before you can send again. Whereas agent exclusives are debatable, this is neither unusual or a deal-breaker for your publisher search.

Australian publishers are quite small and everyone knows everyone else. So just send your proposal to the publisher you really want first, and wait until they reply before sending your proposal to anyone else.

04-02-2016, 04:32 AM
Don't forget to check up on the publisher! There are some excellent Australian independent publishers (such as Allen & Unwin, Text, Scribe, Black Inc, UQP, MUP, CSIRO Publishing), but there are also some dodgy ones.

04-02-2016, 06:20 PM
"Note: We do not look at work which is under submission to any other agent or publisher."

Thanks for the replies above to my last question, and my apologies! I mistakenly wrote that a publisher had this condition of exclusivity for submissions. It is a literary agency. Judging by their website they very successful, and as the material seems suited to them of course it seems worthwhile to consider them. So, sorry, I think a couple of you caught my mistake, but does the fact that they're literary agents change anything? Thanks again for the above responses, they're very helpful!