Lost in Translation: In Which I Investigate a Translation Service, and They Are Not Amused

Last week, I got a question about the reputation of a service called Author Translation. I’d never heard of it before, so I paid a visit to its website.

Logically enough, given its name, AT offers “literary translations for authors, online and worldwide.” The website doesn’t say which languages are AT’s specialty, but per its Twitter feed, that would appear to be Spanish only. Also not revealed: exactly who is doing the translations, and what qualifications they have. It’s said only that they are “literary translators, proofreaders, bloggers and reviewers with English and Spanish literature studies.”

The cost? $5 per translated page. This relatively low fee (good translations are expensive) was what attracted my correspondent, who would like to be able to sell her book into the Spanish-language market.

Unfortunately, I had to tell her that you tend to get what you pay for. AT raises a bunch of red flags. Not knowing who the translators are is the big one, because you have no way to investigate their qualifications and expertise–especially vital when you’re hiring someone to render your work into a language you don’t speak, and can’t judge the finished product on your own. Also: there are unsubstantiated claims (AT says it works with publishing houses, but doesn’t say which ones). Testimonials with stock images. And the website reads as if it were written by someone with an imperfect command of English–not really what you want to see in a translation service.

I decided to try and find out more about AT. So I emailed them, using my own name and my personal email address.

I’m interested in finding out more information about your company. Could you please tell me about your staff and their qualifications? Also, could you please let me know what publishing houses you’ve worked with, and provide me with some author references?

Thank you very much.

– Victoria

AT responded promptly (all errors are theirs):

Dear Victoria,

thanks for your interest. I think you can find some of that information on our webpage, for example which publishing houses or authors. We have a samples page for that, but at this time we only have one example because our startup is very new and under construction. We are based on Spain and We don’t have staff but a group of freelance friends who are willing to lend a hand when it would be possible. As you may know the name of the translators rules are the same than the author’s names: they can be published or not, depending on personal choice.

Kind regards

Author Translation Team

This seemed a tad vague to me–not to mention confusing; that last sentence is a bit of a syntax-twister. I wrote back:

Thanks for your quick response. So I gather from what you’re saying that the people who do the translations are not professional translators? You can see the problem for the author, who wants their book translated into a language they can’t speak or read themselves, and has no way of judging the quality of the finished product–so it’s very important to know that they are working with qualified people.

I did look on your webpage, but I couldn’t find the names of publishing houses or authors other than the one testimonial. Is that the only client you’ve worked with so far?

Thank you for answering my questions.

– Victoria

Well, it appears I went too far, because the tone of their next communication was very different.

You seem to gather what you want to gather. I told you the translators publish their names depending on personal choice (you can be published or anonymous), why do you gather from this sentence that “they are not professionals” ? Maybe you need psychological treatment if you understand so badly. In addition, why do you say that ” a language they can’t speak or read themselves ” if I told you that we are Spanish? Are you crazy ? And why you say that “the author has no way of judging the quality of the finished product” if everybody can pass some few translated pages to any Spanish person in order to judge? Please, don’t disturb us any more, I answered you and I didn’t have any duty of doing that. I did it only because you seem to be part of a bigger organization, but your “watchdog” is the more stupid thing I have ever seen in my life. Go away you and your dog.

If I had a dog, I’m sure she would be crushed. Perhaps I should have let it go at that point, but I couldn’t resist.

Thank you. You’ve now told me everything I need to know about your service.

– Victoria

Imagine my surprise to receive this:

I warn you that slander anybody on the Internet is a legal felony; and if we see any of your liars out there we will report that to the police and our lawyers.

So now, dear reader, I think that you, too, know all you need to know about Author Translation.


  1. Sorry for introducing yet another "anonymous" comment but I don't want to go through the hassle of doing it any other way. Also my apologies for necro-posting on an old topic. But I will have my say, so listen up:

    Ms Strauss. I am hereby notifying you that I have reported your Nazi dog to to the Wiesenthal Center. They have contacted the proper authorities. You can expect A knock on your door at the usual hour such things are done–3AM–and I warn you not to put up resistance when the hound is taken away, lest you too be detained for being a collaborator.

    You have been warned.

  2. While I agree that a lot of things about their service are worrisome, the poor English would not have been a big concern for me.

    Why? Well, let me explain from my own experience. I'm a native English speaker, and I do freelance translation work (not literary) from time to time, generally from German to English. I can read and understand German well, and produce good English translations of it.

    But don't ask me to write anything more sophisticated than a friendly e-mail message in German. It probably won't be quite as bad as these Spaniards' (?) attempts at English, but it won't be much better.

    My point is that being able to translate *from* a foreign language is quite a different skill from writing well *in* that language, and prospective clients of translators should keep that in mind.

  3. Dear AT:
    These people deliberately insult and provoke and make up stories about people they are jealous of. Just ignore them in the future. I think they have lost a lot of followers ,and they get followers by starting fights. If no one pays attention, they will not have anybody reading their blogs. They just make up fake people to comment how wonderful they are on their blog.

    Best regards,
    Barbara Bauer, Ph.D.

    Member, Literary Management Professionals


  4. I'm totally considering getting a T-shirt that says 'GO AWAY YOU AND YOUR DOG'. Because in fairness, who doesn't have days like that?

  5. Miss Bauer (aka "Anonymous")

    First off, your grasp of English seems to be just as bad as Author Translation's, which says nothing good for either of you.

    In my job, I often work with translators. Your assertion indicates you have never actually needed to use one before, and that you have no idea how important it is for a translator to be fluent in both languages. Given your demonstrated inability to understand your native tongue, I can see where this concept might be a bit beyond you.

    The phrase AT got upset about wasn't even about them. It demonstrated a lack of comprehension of English. The fact that you went with it (among other things) just painted you as even more ignorant than they are. And believe me, that took some work.

    Well done.

    I have to wonder what exactly your Ph D is in. You certainly haven't covered yourself in glory this day.

  6. How do they think these baffling ananoymous justifications and 'pity the startup' is going to help?

    They offer a translation service, and they seem unable to write a clear simple response to a potential customer query. Customers won't care if they are a startup if their translations and professionalism are good. There's many other fish in the sea, and all this handwaving does is confirm their poor english.

  7. Yes! It looks like they admitted their testimonials are false.

    One thing I notice nowadays, the crooks and scammers are so quick to take offense. Back in my day (late 1970s) the scammers would keep up the pretense of polite professionalism, and then fade back and disappear. Nowadays, they get all huffy as soon as you ask them a direct question.

  8. Did AT just admit their endorsements are made up? Anonymous 11:23 said:

    Like "William and Miriam are not true" hahaha maybe do you think the people from the commercials are telling all the truth?

    When in fact, what the commenter (Robin) ACTUALLY said about William and Miriam was that their endorsements were more harmful than helpful to the company's sales pitch. Thanks for letting us know that your endorsements are actually fake, though, AT!

  9. Siri–I do, quite often. But most of it is fairly pathetic, and I've learned to take it in stride. Humor helps. And on a more serious note, it's worth it to get the warnings out there.

  10. The "monthly translation system" is not compulsory as we can see on Author Translation's page, but it seems to be a good system for those who are not able to pay a full translation at once. And…well, Victoria based all her attack on the idea that "it is so much cheap", but if you read carefully then you realize that those 5 dollars are just for 205 count words…what they call "a page". Regular books have an average of 300 pages–250 words each So..300p x 5$ =1500$ It's a little bit about doing magic with the money. If you're a self published then I think it is a very good option. But all of us know that Victoria and Katharine Swan are rich…hahaha

  11. Victoria, while this example has an element of humour, I hope you don't get such abuse on a regular basis. Thank you for all you do on behalf of writers!

  12. Now you all know my dirty dishes…er, secret. My imaginary dog is a Nazi. I caused the Great Recession. Do you still love me?

  13. Well, what we can see here is a polite and educated first response to the nazi dog of Victoria Strauss but whe she "went too far" the person behind got nervous and made some mistakes. Well, this is it! I think the person behind is not a translator but an office worker or something. Author Translation must be only a wepage and they pass their clients to translators elsewhere.
    Having that said, the rest of this post is hilarious cause maybe Author Translation is a startup, so do you imagine trying yourself to build a small business, a bar or something and someone like Victoria Strauss talking badly about you on the surroindings? Hahaha any of you would want her dog away for sure! The More people like Victoria Strauss into a country the more recession. And..what about some comments? Like "William and Miriam are not true" hahaha maybe do you think the people from the commercials are telling all the truth? Do you want me to bring you the phone number of Mc Donald's clown? hahaha

  14. After reading this, I actually smiled because it was so amusing my stomach actually rippled with laughter! Thank you for this gem! It reads almost like a scam email from a fake debt collector!!!

  15. Why we are we gonna trust this copy and paste conversation? Is it really the conversation in full? There is a perfect method to know how well or badly works this place. It has a sample pages published with the name of the authors (well, only one at the moment) and publishing houses. And also, they offer Spanish promotions, what would the Spanish readers say if those translations wouldn't be good enough?
    Beware of the dog…or the bitch!

  16. Anonymous,

    I was born in an English-speaking country and I speak German, French, and a little Latin. Although none of that information is pertinent since neither I, Victoria, nor anyone else on this thread has asked to be paid for our translating talent. Author Translations on the other hand…

  17. Author Translation knows English-not as good as you when they are replying in a bad mood but they know English-and they were born in a Spanish speaking country. You were born in an English speaking country and how many languages do you know?

  18. What a horrible thing to say, Barbara. Not to mention no professional (or sane person) would claim that someone else dying of cancer had proven you were telling the truth.

  19. To Barbara Bauer…did you forget that your 2007 lawsuit was dismissed due to your failure to cooperate with the deposition process?

    (Barbara often posts comments here, but I think this is the first one she's ever done under her real name.)

  20. Barbara Bauer to Author Translation service:
    I saw the article about you on Writer Beware. I want you to know that I sued all of them for slander in 2007. They are cowards, and would not show their face in court or furnish testimony under oath in a deposition. Nor would they prove that my Ph.D. from St. John's University in NY was false as they had claimed, or that I had never sold any books. They could not prove any of their lies in court! They are the ultimate liars. Don't waste your time on them. They are not worthy of your attention. Just continue to work with legitimate clients. The universe will take care of them, as I found out. Two of them died of cancer in 2013! Those who harm others they don't know will be punished by the universe. (or God, if you believe).
    Good luck to you .
    Barbara Bauer, Ph.D.

  21. Anonymous, problem is, even if Spanish is their native language, their grasp of English sucks, and o who knows whether they are even translating what you actually wrote and meant into Spanish?

  22. Go away you and your dog is the best this I've read in a while. Wow. Just wow.

    Hopefully if they're translating things into their native language, the Spanish translations might be miles better than their English websites and e-mails… but somehow, I doubt it.

  23. Wait…I'll comment, just as soon as I stop laughing at their replies to you. LOL! *fist bumps Victoria!*

  24. Wow, Victoria, I read every one of your blogs with great interest. This is the first one that made me laugh out loud. Thank you. And I'm with Katharine – me and my dog are going away. What a great line.

  25. Wow. I've subscribed to your blog for a long time, mostly lurking…but this one dragged me out of my cave, especially since Researching translators was on my "to do" list. Thanks tons for sicking your dog on them. ;0)

  26. Elaine, yes–if I get questions about a service like this, it probably does mean they're reaching their target market. Although in this case, I think (I hope) that the combination of the dawn-of-the-web website and the poor English may put a lot of people off.

    In a sad coincidence, I used to be acquainted with the author whose book they use as a sample. She's both traditionally and self-published; the book they translated for her is one of her self-pubbed works. I hate to think what she must have paid.

  27. If their translations are as poor as their English comments to you I'm running in the opposite direction. Holy crap.

  28. Nice job, Victoria. Services like theirs need to be exposed.
    Only $5.00 per page? Maybe they use Google for translation. 🙂


  29. Hi Victoria – what a great post.

    Their 'translators' seem to be Google Translate – if you look at the 'samples', they're very clunky Spanish and agree, word for word, with Google's best efforts.

    It's a shame they've devoted their energies to such trickery. If you've been asked about them, does that mean they're reaching their market?

    Best wishes

  30. Wow. Their website itself is a red flag, at least regarding quality.

    The bottom of their home page mentions "MONTHLY TRANSLATION SYSTEM FOR BOOKS

    Every month we translate some pages from your ebook. We can agree together how many pages we translate each month for you."

    What sort of system is that? The "layaway translation plan"? I can understand a few trial pages (though yes, then the author is in the position of needing to find someone else to check the quality and perhaps have to pay more to do it) but why on earth would someone want only a few pages of their work translated at a time?

    Just bizarre.

  31. You better keep a short leash on your liars, Victoria. 😉 I don't know whether to laugh or head-desk or get mad. It would be more laughable if it weren't for how easily people can be misled into thinking they are actually paying for professionals.

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