Progress and Set-backs

In February of this year, the fiction sites I got a lot of work from dropped me since they didn’t want to pay the rate they gave me, which is already low compared to Chinese-English translation rates in the States. They found some cheaper translators whose work is very uneven, and the quality of the books suffered. I had to scramble and try to find work with past agencies/sites, which sort of filled the void. Then in late August, the Chinese news site I’ve worked on for years also stopped sending me work, the reason for which was never explained. I have a feeling it’s due to forces larger than me, and while it’s a little sad, it’s probably inevitable given the climate. So now it’s down to one client/agency who has sent me a somewhat steady stream of work: scripts of an nuclear company’s documentaries, a private school’s newsletters and press releases, a hospital’s internal news and PR pieces, parts of four non-fiction books… I really want to work on a single fiction book, instead of the 30 or 40 books I was working on for the fiction site, which felt overwhelming and inefficient, since each book had its own universe/characters/tone/style, and working on all of them at the same time was too much. Meanwhile, I just have to keep looking for new work in all kinds of places. Got offers of work from a few online fiction places and a subtitling agency, but the rate is so low it’s not worth my time. Here’s hoping the last quarter of 2019 will generate more work that’s satisfying and decent-paying!

Recent Work: Genre Fiction

I’ve been working for a fiction website. Started by a small company in China, the goal is to offer a lot of on-going fantasy, sci-fi, wuxia, urban paranormal, and other genre novels in English. The work is interesting and pays standard for CN to English translation in China. Check out the free reads if you like reading this kind of stuff.

Upcoming Novels from AmazonCrossing

I remember bidding on these projects last year, while I didn’t win any of them, it was good practice and a way to get thicker skin. Freelance translators are almost like actors with the constant rejection they get, lol. These books are all coming out in August and September of 2016. I love how AmazonCrossing always chooses readable books for its list rather than more literary works, maybe these genre books will get people interested in reading translation and realize that not all translation is dry and obscure.

To the Sky Kingdom (三生三世十里桃花)

by Tang Qi (唐七公子),  Poppy Toland (Translation)


The Untouched Crime (无证之罪)

by Zijin Chen (陈紫金), Michelle Deeter (Translation)


Visiting Program for Young Sinologists

An interesting program for anyone who loves Chinese culture and wants to visit China this Summer/Fall.

The program has run for two years now, and it will run in Beijing, Shanghai, and Xi’an this July or September (sounds like one could pick the location), and all expenses are paid by the Ministry of Culture.

The VPYS (Visiting Program for Young Sinologists) program aims at facilitating research with China-based academic, cultural, educational institutions, groups, enterprises and scholars, as well as helping scholars achieve academic excellence and international influence. The Ministry of Culture of the People’s Republic of China (MOC) and the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS) jointly host the Visiting Program. High level institutions such as Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, Chinese National Academy of Arts, Palace Museum, National Museum, National Library, National Art Museum of China, Peking University, Tsinghua University and many renowned Chinese authors and scholars will also participate in the program.

Translators, writers and other experts on Chinese culture aged 30-45 can apply for this program and come to China for a 20-day-long visit. After reading the attached information, feel free to email your applications and address any questions to Ms.Chen at

  1. 2016年青年汉学家研修计划申请表 2016 VPYS Application form [application form]
  2. VPYS 2016 introduction [more information]


Online Networking and Marketing for Translators

“When you’re not growing, you’re dying.” This saying has always seemed too dramatic to me, but maybe it’s true with many jobs, especially freelancing. With dwindling work from my usual agency, I was forced to think of new ways to find agencies and clients. So far, there’s not been paying work from any of these efforts but I have made contact with lots of authors and editors, and who knows, someone might prove to be a key connection for a future project. In any case, it’s nice to feel less isolated when you work at home and don’t have the traditional office and coworkers.

Social Media:
Reaching out via Twitter, Weibo
I have contacted many writers and editors on Weibo (China’s micro-blogging platform, similar to Twitter). Some people have their email addresses posted, some can only be messaged through the site, which means your message could get lost in the shuffle. Most people are receptive to my message; some have added me on WeChat, or have later emailed me for English-publishing advice. A few were very wary, probably assuming I was running a scam of some sort. “Does this cost money?” was a common reply, I guess it’s not surprising given the medium.

Asking publishers if they want to collaborate on projects, offering yourself as a resource for scoping out books in your chosen language combination.

Professional networking sites:
When you try to contact someone who isn’t already a connection on LinkedIn, the site asks you how you knew them before letting you email. Since my current job title is freelance, I usually use this as a way to get to the contact form and send a brief note about what I do and offer my services. I actually heard back from a few editors who were either open to being pitched or gave me someone else’s contact information. This could be a way to reconnect with someone you met at a conference or a networking event; those occasions could be hectic, and if you couldn’t match someone’s card with his/her face, checking in online could work too.



China Hosting BEA 2015: New Opportunities for Translators?

The 2015 BEA (Book Expo America) is going to be held in New York at the end of May, with China as the sponsor. I have never been to one yet, but I have heard it’s a big trade event for anyone in the publishing industry. I wonder who’ll be in the Chinese delegation and whether it means opportunities for Chinese-English translators. If Chinese books are to be read by anyone who speaks English, they’ll need to be translated first! Hopefully by a well-paid and happy group of translators. Let’s hope it does!

Chinese Writers Association’s Literary Translators’ Symposium

I stumbled across this page while looking for Chinese writers to pitch. The symposium (in its 3rd year) was held this summer in Beijing and featured a lot of amazing literary translators. I recognized a few names, Nicky Harman among them. The esteemed and experienced translators talked about the challenges in translating Chinese novels into other languages. One thing that struck me was how there were no native Chinese translators present, is it because publishers assume the translator has to be native in the target language to be good? This is something that will hopefully change, not just because there are great translators out there whose native language is not English, such as Ken Liu [personal site], and Yunqin Yang [Amazon link]. Even though native speakers for the target language are obviously talented in their native language, their comprehension of the source text could be more limited than native speakers of the source language. Ultimately, there is space for translators of all language advantages, in an ideal world, there should be a translator team for every book. Anyway, the translators gave great speeches about their experiences and lessons, which are transcribed in Chinese on the site. I particularly liked Mark Leenhouts’ speech, he’s a Chinese to Dutch translator who recently completed the Chinese masterpiece, Fortress Besieged 【围城】, by the legendary Chinese writer Qian Zhongshu. He emphasized how difficult it is to get across historical and cultural context, the challenge with idioms and proverbs, and narrative differences. He said more translation is required to make translated fiction seem more familiar to readers, less alien, and hopefully attract them into a new world of reading.