Cover Story – Translating The Image

18 Mar

Browsing around your local book shop may well be an art in decline. Scrolling around your e-book site and pressing ‘click to buy’ is a relatively new trend and if recent details of the decline in sales in on-street book shops are taken into the account then the turn to digital format books will only increase. (See recent article by Bob Johnston, owner of the Gutter Bookshop in Dublin, published on the Bookseller blog here )

When deciding how best to part with your cash for a decent new read, what is it that attracts you to a particular book and how does it grab your attention? You may pay attention to recent reviews in the papers or recommendations from friends, colleagues, and favourite bloggers or from your book club. Others hit the streets and dedicate some time to pacing up and down the aisles and rows of their local book seller, waiting for inspiration or for that book to catch their eye, like a old friend in a crowded street.

The snobbier readers among us will flatly deny that a book cover is what first grabs your eye and will refute that a cover can influence a sale, judging a book by its cover and all that. But let’s face it; a creative, interesting and artistic cover is a hugely important factor. Getting that book into your hand to read the blurb, even if you don’t buy, is success for a book jacket designer. Looking at the design of the cover reveals a lot about how the book is marketed as well as what it tries to express about the book it happily encloses.

Look at what dominates the cover? Is it the authors name or the title of the book? Is it accolades previously won by the book or snippets of blurb from reviews? Is it a particular image that represents a central character or theme from the book? Whatever it is, there is always a major draw to the book jacket that must catch the readers eye. This is an aspect of sales that e-books can never have. They are essentially invisible until you type in your search for that particular book or author. Browsing virtual book stores is not nearly as satisfying!

Translating a book is a sure sign of success for an author. Sending that work to an international audience is a test of the writing and the ability for a non-native audience to react and engage with a particular issue or story.  When it comes to translating a particular book, the language is obviously a strikingly difficult prospect and challenge for a translator. An understanding and relationship with the author is important is establishing control on the tone and translation of a particular book. Translating the text is one aspect but how does translating the book cover and cover image reflect this international translation? What works as a cover image in reflecting the book in one country perhaps will not engage readers in other cultures. It is interesting to look at international examples of translated Irish novels and see how the covers are treated in the international perspective.

The slideshow below features some international translations of works by Irish authors based in Ireland and also in America and also includes examples of works written by international authors which are also translated into various languages. If you can think of works translated and have interesting translations of covers as well as the text, do leave a comment!


Posted by on March 18, 2011 in Books


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4 responses to “Cover Story – Translating The Image

  1. Treasa O'Driscoll

    March 18, 2011 at 3:49 pm

    I am an expatriate Irishwoman living in Canada and I find your blog to be a very welcome addition to my inbox. ‘Translating Images’ tells it like it is for small publishers everywhere. I am indebted to Blue Butterfly Books for producing a ‘book trailer video for my memoir(Celtic Woman, a memoir of life’s poetic journey) I do not know how common this practice is but it is to be recommended as a means of attracting an online readership. Here is a link to the video:
    YouTube-CelticWoman:The Book Trailer

    By the way, I could not open the slide show at the bottom of you cover page…

    Ag gui sonas ort, Treasa O’Driscoll

    • Staged Reaction

      March 18, 2011 at 4:27 pm

      Hi Treasa,
      Many thanks for your very kind comments!
      It is an interesting point isn’t it, the ‘branding’ that goes into packaging and selling a book. I imagine the cover image would be the last thing an author is thinking of when writing thier work. It is the words that count! But putting a finished product ‘out there’ and making it stand out is vital. Using youtube and social networking will only increase! Your own trailer is excellent, well done to you and to the publishing house!


      PS the slideshow should be working now, *fingers crossed*.

  2. dublinzine

    April 9, 2011 at 3:22 pm

    Hi Barry,

    Maybe it’s just me, but I tend to stick to authors who’ve I read before (based on their style and what they’re saying) but I honestly think a striking book cover is really important. That’s what would attract me to a book, and a quick flick through it to see if a sentence catches my eye!


    • Staged Reaction

      April 12, 2011 at 4:00 pm

      Hi Mary!

      I definetly agree that an interesting cover will make me pick up a book. It might not make me buy it! but picking it up and seeing the writing and ideas is half the battle! How authors or their publishers were using different covers and images in differnt countries just caught my eye recently, some interesting differences!



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