Day 107: Doing a translation of your book

Edited to add: I forgot to post this yesterday and so ended up posting this late.

It's been a rough several days. Health issues galore, all calculated to keep me from writing!

The sinus headaches lasted about two and a half days, but when they cleared, my stomach was upset and then I had an IBS flareup. While I wasn't incapacitated like I was with the headache, it was still really hard to concentrate.

So I decided to do some of the writing-related work I had waiting for me, namely doing the editing for the Japanese translation of Sushi for One.

(As a warning, the following is a little tedious, so feel free to skip this. But I decided to write it out not only so I don't forget what I had to do, in case I have to do all this again, but also in case anyone else is curious about doing translations of their novels into another language. Another language like Spanish or German or French probably won't be quite the same type of work, since they don't have pronunciation characters like Japanese and Chinese do, but there's still a lot of proofreading and formatting that needs to be done.)

Sushi for One translation, print and ebook:

I hired a professional, one of the ladies at my church, to translate it. (I don't speak Japanese fluently, but I've been studying it and I've learned about 1500 kanji characters, so I can read some of the easy words and the hiragana alphabet.)

Finding a professional translator was one of the hard parts. There are lots of people who can translate, but the good ones cost a lot of money and if you don't speak the foreign language or have someone to look over the finished work, you won't know how good a job the translator is doing. My translator is the mother of one of the kids I taught in the church youth group, and she also works for a professional translation company in the Bay Area that works with a lot of Japanese businesses. If you do a translation of your book, make sure you completely trust your translator.

Previously, after talking it over with my translator, I had used an online dictionary and added furigana to the text--basically, pronunciation guide words for the more advanced kanji characters. The furigana are tiny letters that appear to the right of the kanji when the text is vertical (they appear above the kanji if the text is horizontal). I'm including a picture of the first page, and also a closeup of the text so you can see the furigana.

I had added furigana for kanji characters taught in grades 6 and above so that a reader as young as sixth grade could read the book. The reason we chose 6th grade was because when I was publishing with Love Inspired and Guideposts, they usually liked a 4th grade reading level so that as many people as possible could read the books.

I then sent the file back to my translator and proofreader so they could proofread the text, but also to correct the furigana (since, despite the use of online dictionaries, I had to guess a lot of the time since kanji will sometimes be pronounced a different way depending on the word). I did the furigana instead of my translator because it’s rather tedious and takes a lot of time, and I can do most of it, so she doesn’t have to.

My translator is the one who found my proofreader. For The Spinster's Christmas Japanese translation, I actually didn't have a proofreader at first and had uploaded the print file to LightningSource to be printed, and it had errors. My proofreader is very detail-oriented, but she also has experience with Japanese publishing. There are certain things about the typeface, style guide, and formatting that we hadn't known about, like the furigana formatting I had to do below. You may not have to find your proofreader yourself because your translator might have contacts. If you do have to find a proofreader yourself, be sure to hire someone you trust, and preferably someone with some experience in the publishing of the foreign language.

A few weeks ago, my translator and proofreader sent the final Word document back to me, but they said it might be better to nix the 6th grade furigana. So I had to delete some of the furigana that I had added. They also wanted me to correct some formatting for the print book to make the furigana look nicer.

It was very tedious work, but I didn't mind doing it since I don't want to have to pay my translator to do it for me. I decided to get it done since I wasn't feeling very well.

I had to search the document for all 181 kanji characters taught in grade 6 and eliminate the furigana, unless the kanji was in a word that contained a character from grade 7 or above. In that case, I left the furigana since my proofreader said that sometimes kanji will be pronounced differently when used with other advanced kanji in a word.

Then I needed to format some of the remaining furigana to make it look nicer in print. This was apparently a standard in Japanese publishing which we hadn't known about before hiring my proofreader.

However, my proofreader was thinking only about the print version, which is to be expected since ebooks aren't as popular as print books in Japan. The problem is that some of the things I need to do to format the text for print book makes the ebook text look wonky, but I didn't know that at first.

Originally, I did this formatting first before doing the kanji furigana, and I didn't check how it converted to .epub until I had just barely started doing the furigana. Then I thought to check by converting a chapter from the book into .epub, which is when I realized that the formatting made the ebook furigana have errors. (!!!)

After a few hours of dejection at the time wasted, I had to go back to the original final document my translator gave to me and do the kanji furigana first. Then I duplicated the file into an ebook file and a print file, and I did the formatting (again) on the print file only.

So if you do your own .epub conversion, please be sure to check how it converts to .epub BEFORE you do any special formatting to the text.

I also went through (the print file) to search for widows and orphans and fixed that, because even though my Word document is clearly set as NO widows and orphans, I still had some orphan lines that appeared at the end of chapters.

All that furigana and formatting took me almost 15 hours total, although I did it in chunks rather than all at once.

So yesterday after I finished, I printed a pdf of the print file for my translator to look at, but since I was still not feeling great today, I decided to create and edit the .epub file.

Unlike with English-language ebooks, I couldn't use the program I normally use to create an .epub file from my document, which is Scrivener. I also tried Calibre, and Pages (which at the time did not have support for vertical text, but now it does), and a few other freeware I could find, and I even inquired some paid software, but none of them were able to handle all three aspects I needed: the vertical text, right-to-left reading direction, AND the furigana (also called Ruby).

So, first I had to take the ebook Word document and remove or replace certain characters, like the copyright symbol and sometimes certain em-dashes and ellipses, depending on the font my translator used. I had discovered by much trial and error that certain special characters within the file will make the conversion to an .epub file have errors because of the program I use for the conversion. However, almost all the Japanese language alphabet is fine in the conversion.

I have never used Scrivener or Vellum for creating an .epub file with another foreign language alphabet (like Spanish, French, or Russian), so if you intend to do a translated epub, keep that in mind. However, I would think another language like Russian would be similar and the majority of the alphabet would be fine in the conversion.

I also did a trick that makes editing the .epub file easier later--I did a Find for parentheses and Replaced All with special parentheses keywords (I used OPENPARE AND CLOSEPARE), and I added keywords into the text for italics and boldface (I used BOLD and NOTBOLD). (The reasons why are explained below.)

Then I saved the Word .doc file as a UTF-8 encoded text file, which completely stripped all formatting like boldface, italics, quote blocks, footnotes, and endnotes. The furigana was converted into inline text surrounded by parentheses (this is the reason I had to change the actual parentheses in the text with OPENPARE and CLOSEPARE above). Then I had to edit that file by doing a Find/Replace on all those furigana parentheses to replace it with a special Asian fontface parentheses that is specifically to encode the furigana in the epub file. (I cannot begin to tell you how long it took me to figure that out. I finally had the brilliant idea to go sifting through the guts of a Japanese .epub that did have furigana in order to look at the html code, and I figured it out that way.)

After that, I had to save the file as a Shift JIS text file (I don't actually know what that means, I just know how to do it) and run the text file through a Japanese freeware, Aozora, that I don't really know how to use. But Aozora does what other English-language software apps do not--it makes an .epub3 that reads right to left, with vertical font. (If any of you know of an English program that does it, I'm all ears. I searched high and low.) Then I opened the resulting .epub in Sigil.

I found out from previous experience with The Spinster's Christmas Japanese translation that structuring the .epub into chapters, including the Table of Contents, the Dedication page, the Reader Letter, and the Copyright page, can be tedious in order to ensure some pages show up in the Table and Contents and some don't. So I cheated and duplicated The Spinster's Christmas Japanese .epub file (which reads right to left and has vertical font) and copied and pasted the text and html code from the Sushi for One .epub into the .epub that was already nicely formatted.

From there, I had to Find/Replace all the parentheses keywords (OPENPARE and CLOSEPARE) with actual parentheses. I also did a Find for my boldface keywords so I could add the boldface html code into the text for those lines, since the formatting had been stripped when the document was converted to a text file. I also decided to change the section breaks (which were asterisks) with a pretty scroll graphic, so I had to replace all of those with the code to link to the scroll .jpg in the file.

But I had never before worked with a Japanese .epub with footnotes, and the footnotes lost their links when the file was converted to a text file. Luckily, they were all listed together at the end of the .epub file. So I Googled how to manually add footnotes to the .epub with Sigil, and ended up doing all that. That really stretched my html mojo!

I edited the Table of Contents and also created an NCX TOC (I don't actually know what that means, either, but an article said to make sure you do it so that the Table of Contents in an ebook reader will work). Then I swapped out the cover .jpg file and edited the metadata, and it's finally done!

However, I sent the .epub file to my translator to look over, especially the footnote text since the formatting for some of the characters was eliminated when the manuscript was converted into a text file.

It took me about 5 hours to get all that done. With an English epub, it takes me less than an hour (unless the epub has illustrations, that takes an additional hour). But with English epubs, I don't have to mess with the html code as much since there's no furigana, and none of my English books have footnotes. However, I noticed that a lot of the manga and light novels I read have footnotes or translator notes at the end of the book to help explain some cultural references, so I think translations in general will often have footnotes. Something to keep in mind if you do your own translation of your work.

I didn't go through this much work with The Spinster's Christmas Japanese translation because at the time we hadn't been working with my proofreader. I will also probably have to go through and redo The Spinster's Christmas eventually so it looks more professional. Ugh! Not looking forward to that. It'll be pretty tedious.

Once I finished the .epub and print files for the Japanese translation, doing any updates in future will be a piece of cake, because I only will need to add or update links in Sigil (for the .epub) or in Microsoft Word (for the print version). It was one of the main reasons why I wanted to do the conversion myself.

Another reason was that I had a hard time finding a reputable company who would do the .epub conversion for me and make it look exactly how I wanted it. I tried doing a work order on, but the company who sent me a sample .epub had strange symbols in the text. When I asked them about it, they said they didn't see that in their file. It was very difficult for me to communicate with them, so I decided to cancel the work order and learn how to do the .epub conversion myself.

I have also since discovered (as in, a few minutes ago) that it might be possible to open the Word document in Pages and then export into .epub, thus skipping a ton of steps including stripping out the footnotes and some of the special characters. The html on the backend is quite atrocious, which makes the .epub load very slowly on an ebook reader app. But the code might be easy to edit, especially now that I know what the html is supposed to look like for a standard Japanese .epub, thanks to some free Japanese .epubs I downloaded and looked at with Sigil. Also, the .epub already has the footnotes coded, so I wouldn't have to do that manually. it remains to be seen if I might even be able to do the entire formatting in Pages instead of Word, because honestly working in Japanese in Word was a huge mass of frustration--Word gets very slow and clunky.

Not many other languages will be so difficult to convert to .epub, but this is something to think about if you want to do a translation yourself.

Writing today:

After finishing the .epub file, my IBS has settled down a bit, so I'm going to do some writing! Yay! I'm so glad to get back to! But I think I am just as antsy to get back to playing the game as I am to get some writing done. :) There's a new event going on in the game right now with new monsters, some of which are SUPER CUTE.

I still kind of miss my old fantasy RPG that I used to play, Memoria Freese, because the artwork for the game was absolutely fabulous. I also tend to prefer that Asian style of anime artwork. However, the game just took too much time away from my writing, and the writing is what I know God wants me to do, so it was really super hard, but I had to give it up.


I did get a little bit of writing done, but then my IBS flared up again and I had to stop because it was so uncomfortable. But on a whole I'm glad I got a lot of work done on the Sushi for One translation.

Time spent writing: 47 minutes
Total number of words: 777 words
Average writing speed: 992 words/hour
Time spent doing other writing-related business: 7 hours, 32 minutes

My takeaway for today: Doing a translation yourself is tedious and frustrating and takes a lot of time. But having ultimate control of your product is a nice feeling.

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