This is a story about a traditional paperback version of a book about an ebook reader … translated into a language that does not even render on the ebook reader … by an author with zero name recognition in the country where the translated book is to be sold … at a time when the company that manufactures and sells the ebook reader has not even committed publicly to a Japanese version of the ebook reader.
I’m no Joe Konrath, but it is a story that is turning out well in its own way.
One Friday morning in December I awoke and checked my email inbox to find an unsolicited message from Kaori Shibayama, a literary agent with The English Agency (Japan) Ltd. in Tokyo. He was contacting me on behalf of Nikkei Business Publications to offer me a nice advance for the paperback rights to a Japanese translation of my book, The Complete User’s Guide To the Amazing Amazon Kindle 2.
Or, to put it another away, it was as if I had been walking down the street and Michael Anthony had stepped out from behind a building to offer me, not a million dollars to be sure, but a perfectly nice advance for a project that (1) I had never thought about, and (2) would require no effort on my part beyond sending digital and print copies of the book and signing my name a few times. After all, I had already written the book in English and my sales had already topped 100,000 copies in various formats and editions.
Suffice it to say that Mr. Shibayama is now my Japanese agent, and Nikkei Business Publications is my Japanese publisher. Over the course of several months of very pleasant communications between Mr. Shibayama and his colleagues and myself and my excellent Japanese translator Dr. Akira Kurahone, I have been paid the advance and the project has come to fruition. The book is available for pre-orders at the Nikkei Business Publications website and on Amazon’s website in Japan, and is supposed to be released next Monday, May 24 (although the Amazon.co.jp website says May 20, which is tomorrow).
I first noticed the pre-order sites four days ago, on Sunday. By Monday, the book’s sales ranking was in the top 2,000 in Amazon’s Japanese sales rankings, and today it has mostly been in the top 1,000.
Somewhat more astonishingly, if I may hazard to rely on Google Translate, the Nikkei BP website now says that the book has sold out of its first printing “because of the flood of orders,” and will be back in stock on June 1.
I don’t wish to overstate the significance of any of this; after all, Nikkei BP’s print run was modest, only about 4,000 copies to start with. A good chunk of those copies have presumably been ordered by Japanese retailers who have full return rights, so we won’t count our chickens here.
But as I said: This is a story about a traditional paperback version of a book about an ebook reader … translated into a language that does not even render on the ebook reader … by an author with zero name recognition in the country where the translated book is to be sold … at a time when the company that manufactures and sells the ebook reader has not even committed publicly to a Japanese version of the ebook reader.
It’s nice news for me and my publisher, but even better news for Amazon and its Kindle team, if they are listening.