What pops into your head when you think about Germany or the Germans as a people?... Take a few seconds and let the images appear.
Even though I am part German (part Dutch) myself, I know the stereotypes. Whenever I would ask people what is typically German, they would throw words and phrases at me like 'towels on sun loungers', 'bratwurst and beer' (they would nearly always mention that one), 'efficiency' and of course 'WW2'.
Not one of them would be aware that Germany has quite a tradition when it comes to reading.
'Really?', they would ask in disbelief, still with the memories of the last Oktoberfest in their minds.
Yes, even though most of us Germans enjoy our evening beer in front of the TV at 8:15 (German prime time), we still consider reading to be extremely important and we have absolutely no doubt that reading is part of a good education. Even more, we want to live up to the standards of the glory days when Germany was known as 'the land of poets and thinkers' like Goethe, Schiller or Heine and not 'home to the people who, when on holiday (or at the Oktoberfest), behave like alcoholics that have fallen off the wagon after 3 months of rehab'.
We Germans actually act civilized most of the time and we like, some of us even love, reading. Myself included :-).
Reading is so much part of our culture that the total book market in Germany adds up to almost half the size of the entire American market even though Germany has only 80 million inhabitants (vs. 314 million Americans). Almost every German with an advanced degree buys several books a year and a still striking 40 percent of people with a basic degree go to a bookstore at least once a year.
Yes, I have to admit: digital-wise we Germans might be a little behind. Our Internet seems to have decided to stop its development 10 years ago, and there is still an incredible number of stubborn entrepreneurs that think using the Internet for business is totally overrated. Likewise, one could mention that the German e-book market only emerged in 2011.
However, today in 2019, the German e-book market is rocketing. It recently reached the 30 million mark for the first time and there is still plenty of room for more. Germany has the third largest e-book market of all developed countries. This all sounds quite promising, right?
So have you, as a successful independent writer, ever considered publishing your book on the German market? The stats say: It might be worth it.
While we do consider reading to be part of German culture, we don’t have a tradition of reading a book in its original language. You could say we are spoiled when it comes to languages. Even though we learn English at school for quite a long time, we mainly watch our films dubbed and we are so used to it that we would most certainly be shocked or at least very confused to hear the original voice of an actor.
To state the obvious: We read our books in German.
But don’t worry, that's what translators are for.
As it is natural that you might still have a thousand questions after this article, which has merely scratched the surface of this topic, I have decided to make a series out of it.
You might think it is extremely difficult to find a good translator and maybe you worry about how you would market a book to a foreign audience. I will make it my task in the coming weeks to explain to you what you should consider when searching for a translator, which models there are for working together with a translator (e.g. splitting royalties vs. pre-paid) and generally where to start.
I hope we will read from each other soon.
Until next time,
Natalie for transartist GbR