The Translator as Agent

The Translator as Agent

by Olivia Snaije, 14-04-2014


A panel of experts discuss how translations reach the market — from finding the books to what translators should do when approaching publishers.

At another packed event at the literary translation center at the London Book Fair last Thursday a panel discussed the best ways of bringing foreign-language authors to publishers.

Panel members consisted of Janklow & Nesbit literary agent Rebecca Carter, who worked as a Random House editor for 15 years, often acquiring literary fiction in translation, Kerry Glencorse, an agent with Susannah Lea Associates who is also on the PEN writers in translation committee, Stefan Tobler, translator and publisher of & Other Stories and Maureen Freely, author, translator and the new president of English PEN.


Finding Writers

One of the first issues addressed was how to actually find interesting writers in different languages.

Stefan Tobler translates from German and Portuguese to English and reads French, and within his publishing house he has organized reading groups during which time translators can suggest books. Reading groups have taken place in Russian, Arabic, Polish, and Lithuanian among other languages, which has given Tobler a chance to hear translators’ opinions about certain authors.

“It’s also a mixture of people getting in touch or us getting in touch with them,” he added.

Rebecca Carter explained that when she was an editor books came to her in a random, haphazard way, although it helped that she reads in French and Italian. She stressed that translators should know, when approaching editors with suggestions, that most do not have as rigorous approach as & Other Stories.

 Kerry-Glencourse          Kerry Glencorse

Tobler, on the other hand, said it makes sense for his publishing company to take translators’ suggestions and that he doesn’t like translators to get too market conscious. “The bigger publishers think about profit and loss and we don’t really do that.”

Maureen Freely, who translates from Turkish to English, said she is trying to form a network of “brilliant young things who know Turkish literature” and who can bring suggestions to the publishing world…



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