Posts Tagged ‘Bill Belew’

AFCC 2014 (Part 3): Tips for Translators’ Websites

afcc-logoPaul Quirk, Ena City, Gifu Prefecture

3. Bill Belew

Imagine this. You’ve finished a translation of a Japanese children’s book that you’ve been working on for months, and it’s ready to go. The publisher is telling you it is time to reach out and tell people about this hilarious book that is finally available in English. But you have two problems. Bill BelewThe first is that hardly anyone comes to your website, so promoting it on there is not going to be very effective, and second, no one in the English-speaking world knows anything about this author, even though he/she is a big name in Japan. So how do you get the word out? How do you go beyond friends and family and create a global readership that craves the books you translate and publish, even though they’ve never heard of them before?

According to Bill Belew, you can do it, but it takes time, so it is better to start early. Having spent more than 20 years teaching in universities in Japan and the US, Bill woke up one day and decided that he was going to become a professional blogger. He started out in 2006 with no experience and ‘no love’ from the Internet world, and now he travels the world telling people how he grew his readership. Bill gave a talk at AFCC 2014 on strategies for building a global audience. I was so impressed that I signed up for his full-day workshop the next day. Here are just a few things I learned from him.

Facebook and Twitter do not attract new readers to your website. A lot of people wonder whether it is better to use Twitter, Facebook, Google Plus, or one of the other social networks which seem to pop up every six months or so. Bill’s answer, and one that was met by a sigh of relief from a lot of people, was that if you rely on those platforms for attracting new readers to your website, you are wasting your time.

Promoting content from a social network platform such as Facebook or Twitter involves ‘pushing’ content on people, known as ‘push marketing,’ and there is a very poor return for the effort required. It is different if you are marketing something that everyone already knows or wants, but it is rarely effective in the case where you are promoting something as complex and personal as a book.

Focus on creating good content. The alternative to push marketing is ‘pull marketing,’ and the idea behind pull marketing is if you create enough quality content it will pull people to your website via the search engines. It is common sense really. Getting search engines to find you involves creating content that is matched with the product that you want to market and is of interest to potential readers.

At AFCC 2014. Back: Kenneth Quek (Festival Director), translator Paul Quirk. Front: author Yuko Takesako (Vice Director, Chihiro Art Museum Azumino), Michiko Matsukata (Curator, Chihiro Art Museum Azumino), author Mariko Nagai (SCBWI Japan Assistant Regional Advisor), illustrator Naomi Kojima (SCBWI Japan Regional Illustrator Coordinator), and translator Cathy Hirano.

At AFCC 2014. Back: Kenneth Quek (Festival Director), translator Paul Quirk. Front: author Yuko Takesako (Vice Director, Chihiro Art Museum Azumino), Michiko Matsukata (Curator, Chihiro Art Museum Azumino), author Mariko Nagai (SCBWI Japan Assistant Regional Advisor), illustrator Naomi Kojima (SCBWI Japan Regional Illustrator Coordinator), and translator Cathy Hirano.

Solve your reader’s problems. With regard to the type of content, the best kind of content is content that solves people’s problems. Perhaps there are parents who want to get their hands on Japanese picture books but they don’t know where to start looking, or librarians looking for reviews on the latest Japanese picture books, or publishers looking for ideas on what to publish next. The more specific you are with the content you provide, the easier it will be for people to find you.

Connect with others.The second way of getting found, through links to your website, comes about by sharing the love. If you link to other people with similar ideas to yours, then there is a good chance they will return the favor. Do it 10 times or 100 times and you might create 10 or 100 different ways people can find your site. This might involve blogging about people in the industry, or reviewing other people’s books, or having people do guest posts. The more people who link to your site, the higher up you will go in the search rankings, which will give you access to more readers.

And remember . . .

  • Stick to your themes—always check that your content is aligned with your themes before you hit Publish.
  • Don’t give up—it takes at least three months before the search engines learn to trust a new website, but a lot of people give up if they don’t see results after one or two weeks.
  • Update more often. Try updating at least once a day; if you can write more, then write more. No one is going to complain that you write too much if no one is going to your website.
  • Write shorter articles. 300-500 words is a good length. Write longer if it is an important article, but you can also split it up into multiple articles.
  • Think about what content you want to share on Facebook, i.e., try not to spam family and friends—but do send them important updates about upcoming book releases etc.
  • Connect up the articles. Try to link with other articles on your own site as well as those on external sites.
Visual artist Nayantara Surendranath from India saw me juggling at the AFCC wrap-up party (well it's a good conversation starter…) and just had to have a go.

Visual artist Nayantara Surendranath from India saw me juggling at the AFCC wrap-up party (well it’s a good conversation starter…) and just had to have a go.

So Bill’s message is that if you want to create a successful website or blog it’s going to take a lot of old-fashioned hard work, but if you are passionate about the content you are creating, then it doesn’t need to be that hard. Just keep writing about what you love, and keep hitting that Publish button.

You can get more tips from Bill at, and if you have a chance to attend one of his presentations or workshops in future, I highly recommend it.

Personally I found Bill’s talk very inspiring and I’m sure if I do everything he suggests, I’ll eventually be able to build a strong readership. But to tell you the truth, like most people who are into translating children’s books, I do it in my spare time, so if I spend too much time on a blog (and it can get quite addictive), I find my translation productivity goes down the drain. Perhaps a good solution might be to create a collective blog with some like-minded people. In any case it is certainly nice to think that if you continue working hard for long enough, people are sure to come your way. Good luck blogging everyone!

See Parts 1 and 2 of this series

AFCC 2014 (Part 1): A Japanese-English Translator in Singapore

Paul Quirk, Ena City, Gifu Prefecture

AFCC logoEarly this month I attended the Asian Festival of Children’s Content (AFCC) at Singapore’s National Library. As a translator of children’s literature, I found much to interest me.

I’ve broken up my report into three parts. The first is a general overview of the festival and the relevance of an event like this for translators of Japanese literature (from my personal point of view). The second is a summary of Cathy Hirano’s presentation on translating children’s literature. The third is my report from presentations by Bill Belew, a professor in social media marketing, who had some useful tips on how to get more people to come and visit your website.

Smiles at AFCC 2014

Smiles at AFCC 2014. From left: translator Cathy Hirano, translator Paul Quirk, Yuuki Hasegawa, author and SCBWI Japan Assistant Regional Advisor Mariko Nagai, SCBWI Japan Regional Illustrator Coordinator Naomi Kojima, author Evelyn Wong

1. Overview of AFCC 2014

The Asian Festival of Children’s Content (AFCC) is an annual event held in Singapore. It’s a place where authors, illustrators, translators, publishers, agents and others find out what is happening in the publishing world, share ideas, and find partners for their new projects. There are also events for librarians, teachers and parents, and so consumers and advocates of content for children can talk directly with the people creating content, giving them feedback as well as ideas for their next projects.

But to be totally honest, during the first day at the festival I was wondering whether it was such a good idea to be there. There were a lot of great authors and illustrators about, it was true, but I found myself asking, “As a translator, what can I get out of this?”

SCBWI Singapore books on display

I began translating children’s stories from two classic Japanese authors—Kenji Miyazawa and Nankichi Niimi—over two years ago, and publishing them online under the name of Little J Books. It’s still early days, but it’s something I really enjoy doing. My motivation is to create a way of introducing the kinds of stories that I like to other people who might be interested in Japanese literature. In future it would be great if I could get more translators involved, translating different authors, and get the books (with illustrations) into shops as well as online. But how do you go about doing that?

Well, I didn’t find the answer to this problem at AFCC 2014, but I did hear a lot of good ideas that could put me on the right track. I also got a lot better at explaining what I was trying to do. I realized that meeting people at an event like this is a great way to test out your ideas on people who share a lot of the same interests. It is also a great way to find out about all of the different authors and illustrators from around Asia, and listen to how their experience working with children’s books has changed their lives, as well as the children who’ve read their stories.

One more thing that I realized from attending the AFCC was that translators are well positioned to be promoters of content. Because we are bilingual, we can introduce (in the case of Japanese translators) our favorite Japanese authors and illustrators to the rest of the world, while at the same time introduce the rest of the world to Japan. Could anyone be better qualified to do that?

I had a terrific time at AFCC 2014, and in the end I got a lot out of it. A lot of ideas, a lot of contacts, and a lot of new friends. I hope I can make it back there again soon.

Hardworking volunteers at the SCBWI desk

Hardworking volunteers at the SCBWI desk

Here is a sampling of some of the presenters that spoke this year.

Sally Gardner, an award winning English author who has sold over two million books, spoke about how important it was to write from the heart. Don’t think about what kind of story sells, but ask yourself what kind of story you want to tell, and then write that story.

Fazeila Isa, a lecturer in early childhood and special education at the Sultan Idris Education University in Malaysia, used the example of the picture book Arabella by Wendy Orr and illustrated by Kim Gamble to demonstrate how a child with a disability can be incorporated into the story without the focus being on the disability.

There is a strong need for more books that incorporate people with handicaps into the story, or have them as the protagonists. Writers (and translators who choose to translate such stories) can help to empower disabled children through storytelling.

Mahtab Narsimhan (children’s author) and Cristy Burne (children’s author) gave a talk on how to create spine-tingling scary stories. One tool that both of these authors use to create tension is folklore. Mahtab uses fearsome characters from Indian folklore such as the Goddess Kali and Lord Shiva, and Cristy uses zany characters from Japanese folklore, such as an umbrella that comes to life and runs around on one ‘leg.’

Scary stories are an important tool for enabling children to overcome their fears.

Mariko Nagai, a poet, prose writer and author of Dust of Eden—and the Assistant Regional Advisor of SCBWI Japan—spoke about the topics of improving literacy and promoting cross-cultural understanding. She also pointed out something that is easy to forget, which is that poetry is an integral part of a child’s early education. Children may not understand the meaning of the poetry, but they love the rhythm and rhyme, and are quick to commit poetry to memory.

Mariko launched Dust of Eden during the AFCC. Dust of Eden is an important story that has been written with great sensitivity, about how a thirteen-year-old Japanese American girl and her family are placed in an internment camp during World War II. With so many children spending years inside refugee ‘institutions’ in countries such as Australia, it is a story that still has great relevance today.

Watch this blog for two more posts (Parts 2 and 3) about my favorite speakers at AFCC.