Selling to Non-English Short Fiction Markets

By Douglas Smith

(first in a series ó spring 2000)


When considering potential markets for their short fiction, many SF&F writers overlook the many non-English language magazines and anthologies published around the world. This article discusses why you might want to consider these markets, and how to go about selling to them.


Why Submit to Foreign Language Markets?

Especially if you canít read that particular language? First, it broadens the audience of readers who gain exposure to your work. If you also write novels as well as short fiction (or plan to), a resume of sales in non-English markets can assist in foreign rights sales for your longer work.

Secondly, anything you make from these sales is found money. Yes, you will generally get less for these reprints than for selling first rights in an English market, but remember that you can sell your reprints in multiple countries and languages. My foreign language sales have ranged from $20 to $200, averaging about $100 per sale Ė so you can easily pick up another few hundred dollars per story. That being said, many of these markets also pay only in contributor copies.

Finally, itís fun to say that youíve been published in X languages and Y countries. And if our writing canít bring us some fun, then why are we doing it?


How to Select Foreign Language Markets

Rule 1: I donít recommend submitting a story to any foreign language market until you have first sold it to an English-language market. Why? Well, many of the top English genre fiction markets have foreign language editions or will ask for an option on foreign language rights. Selling a story to a non-English market first could jeopardize a more prestigious and lucrative English first-rights sale. In addition, itís a lot easier to sell to a foreign language market if your story has the credentials of a major English market.

So that means you are looking for non-English markets that will accept reprints of stories that have appeared in an English market somewhere in the world. That is by no means the rule: many foreign language markets publish only local authors.

Rule 2: You are looking for markets that will accept unsolicited submissions. Most foreign language magazines publish reprints from English markets, but many make the selection of those stories themselves from a review of the top English magazines Ė i.e., they wonít accept a direct submission from the author. You may still end up with your story in these markets, but you have no control over the decision, beyond writing a great story and selling it to a top English market.

Rule 3: Unless you are multi-lingual, you are looking for markets that accept submissions in English and will translate your story at no cost to you. In my experience, any market that accepts submissions in English will translate at no cost. Some markets, however, will accept reprints and unsolicited submissions (rules 1 and 2), but only in the language of the magazine.

Even then, you have options. I sold a reprint to a French magazine that not only did the translation for free, but also provided me an electronic copy of their translation at my request. That allowed me to sell the translated version to another market that only accepted submissions in French.

So the above discussion leads us to theÖ

Definition of a Valid Foreign Language Market: a market that accepts unsolicited submissions in English of stories that first appeared in English language markets, and translates them at no cost to the author.

How to Submit to Foreign Language Markets

First, pick a market from the foreign language market listings that meets the above criteria. Iíve made this easy by identifying the valid markets. Follow the same rules as you would when submitting to an English market in a foreign country: proper manuscript format, cover letter, SAE with two IRCís (International Reply Coupons). Some of the markets will reply to submissions via an email address, so you can save on those expensive IRCís. Others will also take submissions by email, but check as to how (text in body vs. a file attachment). Where known, this information is provided in the market listings.

Response times from these markets can be very long. But remember that you can submit simultaneously to several of these markets since the rights they purchase are specific to their language and donít conflict with other foreign markets. In addition, most accept inquiries by e-mail on the status of your submission.

Useful Links for Submitting to Non-English Markets:

These sites perform automated translation of short amounts of text. They don't even come close to providing perfect translations, so don't use them to translate your stories or even your cover letters. However, they're helpful for understanding replies from foreign magazine editors written in their language.

Babel Fish

Well-known and popular site. It handles translation to/from: French, German, Italian, Portuguese, and Spanish.


Translates from Spanish, French, and German only. Translates to those plus Italian, Norwegian, and Portuguese.

Resource Central - Dictionary and Translations

Handles ever so many languages, including offering regional options (e.g., Brazilian Portuguese as well as Portuguese).

Systran Translation Software site

Translates to/from French, German, Italian, Spanish, and Portuguese. Note that Babel Fish uses the Systran translation engine.

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