In the Wings

Aletta and I during an informal working meeting

My previous post ended with Aletta finding a potential publisher who would be willing to release a Dutch edition of her book.

Communication between Aletta and Publishing House Bornmeer | Noordboek quickly took off, and she was given the provisional assurance that her book would be released under the Noordboek imprint, since it addressed a similar readership as the rest of the books under that imprint. The publisher who would be responsible for the task, was revealed to be Tryntsje van der Steege. As it later turned out, she had only joined the publishing house recently. As far as it concerned the publishing of a book, she was a newbie, just like me.

Aletta promised she would send her a copy of Looking for Uncle Joop. In addition, Tryntsje said that eventually she would want a sample of the translation to get an impression of the Dutch text. At that point I had only translated six pages – roughly 2000 words; luckily this turned out to be sufficient. If she felt she needed more excerpts in Dutch, she would let us know.

After scrutinizing my translation for the fifth time, I emailed it to Susan. The agreement was that she would read it as an isolated text. I only sent her the source text (the English original) as a reference. Within a week Susan came back to me:

You managed to capture style and tone of the story. (…) you are heading in the right direction [but] the people who make it print proof so to speak, will always edit your work, no matter how long you have been translating for.

I was pleased with Susan’s response. Especially because I knew that Aletta was impressed by her vast knowledge and experience.

That same week we also received an enthusiastic response from Tryntsje. She liked Aletta’s book and was now keen to read a partial translation. Things became interesting. Everything had to be perfect, because, even though it sounds cheesy, we only had one chance to make a first impression. After a final check and a few minor amendments, I sent Tryntsje a sleek translation, accompanied by my biog. The text was full of smooth, fluent sentences and read beautifully. Would it meet her expectations? It was mid-March 2018. Just a few days later we received the news we had been hoping for:

Thank you for the translated excerpt, which is looking great. We are looking forward to exploring the possibilities to publish a Dutch edition of your family history.

In just over a month Aletta would travel to Friesland, a province situated in the northern part of the Netherlands, to discuss details. As she would also do the negotiating on my behalf, she asked me how long it would take me to translate her book. I hadn’t the slightest idea and found it difficult to give a precise answer. I thus gave her a guestimate of end of the year.

After a period where hardly anything happened, it all kicked off in April. For the very first time Aletta met with our publisher Tryntsje. At that meeting, board members Steven Sterk and Robert Seton were also present. I found it rather strange that Aletta would enter the negotiations by herself, i.e. without Brad, her English publisher. After all, his publishing house owned the rights to her book. According to Aletta however, I needn’t worry. Brad was a man of few words and him saying ‘All good news re the foreign edition’ gave her the green light. The negotiations were in full swing. But until the contracts were signed, Noordboek could still withdraw.

Back in England, Aletta informed me that after sending Tryntjse the first part in translation (the book consists of three parts), Tryntsje would send me instructions to follow, when translating parts two and three of the book. She wanted to make sure that as little as possible corrections would be needed and that the readers would not get the impression they were reading a translation. This seemed obvious to me.

Meanwhile, we were in the middle of May and I became restless. Nothing was set in stone and there were no guarantees; something had to happen to put my mind at ease. Luckily, the long-awaited news came shortly after. The two publishers had reached an agreement and only needed to sign the necessary documents. I was relieved and happy, although my happiness was somewhat subdued. It felt as if I was witnessing the dress rehearsal on stage while waiting in the wings, but simultaneously was expected to play the lead role later. I was hoping things would become meaningful once I had met the publisher and also had a contract. During the intervening time, I continued translating unperturbedly. I had finished Part one. On July 25th Tryntsje contacted me for the first time – she sent me the guidelines for authors and further instructions. This was exactly nine months after Aletta had accepted my offer to translate her book. The ‘real’ work could begin.

Follow my blog to find out what happens next.

If you are interested in reading my first book translation, please click here. For the original edition, please click here.


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