Richelle Mead (blue_succubus) wrote,
Richelle Mead

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A book by any other name

So, today I got some Japanese copies of Succubus Blues in the mail. This is cool for a bunch of reasons, not the least of which is seeing a book I wrote translated into Japanese.

A helpful person on Twitter told me that the title they've given the Japanese edition of Georgina's adventures translates to something along the lines of "There are many dangers in the bookstore" or "Bookstore Full of Dangers." A lot of people were really surprised by this, with reactions ranging from puzzled to offended on my behalf. So, I figured I'd weigh in on the topic since changing titles is fairly common when books are translated into other languages.

Why is it done? Well, translation is a lot more than just word for word substitution. Internet translators are proof of that. You can translate five words into another language and not have that new set convey the original meaning at all. Some concepts simply don't translate the same away across cultures. Puns and idioms especially don't translate well into other languages. Titles of mine that are almost never changed are ones that describe very, very concrete things, like Thorn Queen and Vampire Academy. You can do a pretty direct translation to Reine des ronces or L'Accademia Dei Vampiri with those. (Interestingly, when VA is changed, it's usually because the country's publisher thought it sounded too young--again, cultural perception).

Having the "blues" is a little harder, and while people certainly get depressed in other countries, that concept as we know it in English isn't matched in other languages. So, that title gets changed about half the time and usually into something like "Sad Succubus." The Japanese title of SB may sound unwieldy in English, but again--a word for word translation doesn't always convey the full meaning. Trust me, the new title works in that language, and even in English, I think it's kind of cute. My wallet certainly faces danger in bookstores.

Hands-down, the most contested title of all my books is Frostbite. We know what the condition of frostbite is in English, but our usual connotations of it are just "really cold" And, of course, it's a pun on bite. In a lot of other cultures/languages, when people think of frostbite, they think of the condition at its absolute worst: cold that's so intense, it destroys skin/tissue and can result in losing parts of your body. That's not a really attractive title, if that's what comes to your mind. So, almost every country has changed the second VA book. In German and Spanish, the titles translate to "Blue Blood" (a pun in all three langauges, apparently). The Eastern European countries tend to adapt it as "Biting Cold" or "Cold Fire." And in Korean, it's "Sad Illusion," a different concept altogether.

Someone asked if these modifications bother me. Nope, not at all. Languages are filled with nuances and rich meanings that take a lifetime to learn and craft. I can only claim ownership of one, English, and I'm always learning more. I feel confident in dictating titles and wordings in my own language but wouldn't presume to make those calls in another language. Sometimes adaptations have to be made even between UK and Australian English editions. A lot of times, translators of the books write to me with questions, which is really great because then we can make sure concepts are getting across the way I'd originally intended to the readers. It's a neat and exciting process.

Bonus: as I was writing this post, I went searching out some foreign editions of my books in order to reference them. And guess what I discovered is out there? The German cover of Iron Crowned, or as it's called in that language: Feenkrieg. I hadn't seen it yet. Germany sure knows its cover art.

Tags: book covers, foreign rights
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