Translators are very talented individuals.
The fact that you can speak, read, and write in more than two languages is incredible and something that most of the world cannot do.
As translators, though, we sometimes get in the rut of thinking that the only thing we’re good at is translating.
And therefore, the only thing we can make money from is translating.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
Sure, translation (or interpretation) is usually the main skill of a language professional.
But sometimes, translating or interpreting is not enough.
I’ve preached about passive income before.
That is, earning income for having done something in the past that doesn’t require you to do anything in the present.
But passive income isn’t just for online salesmen or Instagram influencers.
In fact, you as a language professional have lots of great opportunities for passive income in front of you, if you’ll only stop and look.
Today I’m going to talk about one of those opportunities.
Publishing Specialized Glossaries
So the first thing to publishing specialized glossaries is to understand what they are.
Well, it’s kind of redundant to say “specialized” glossaries, since by definition, glossaries usually consist of specialized terminology.
Glossaries can consist of standard dictionary words as well, but glossaries tend to be used for specialized words and phrases, usually for those that are used in a specific business, company, book, industry, etc.
Some glossaries can be in a single language, while others will have translations included in whichever foreign language the creators needed.
Here are some examples of online specialized glossaries:
- Glossary of Child Rights, European Union
- Glossary of Specialized and Technical Terms Used in the ESCAP Report and Supporting Documents, U.S. Census Bureau
- Environment Program Glossary, United Nations
- Water Environment Terms Water Glossary, United States Geological Survey
- Weather Glossary, U.S. National Weather Service
There are literally hundreds and thousands of specialized glossaries used by millions of people worldwide.
Specialized Glossaries as Passive Income
A good number of specialized glossaries are produced by governmental bodies or non-profit organizations that often times give away their works for free on the Internet.
However, there are also businesses and entrepreneurs that have spent a great deal of time and effort compiling specialized glossaries that they then sell to the general public (or at least to translators and other language professionals working in that area seeking knowledge contained within those glossaries).
For those people, once they compile the glossary and publish it, multiple people over time can buy the book. Each time someone buys the book, the autor or compiler of the information will earn a percentage of the sale.
Let’s go to Amazon to see how this works.
I typed in the phrase “Spanish glossary” in the search bar and got back a list of 912 books. Here were the top seven results:
- Spanish Mental Health Glossary, published June 2011
- La Palabra Justa: An English-Spanish / Español-Inglés Glossary of Academic Vocabulary for Bilingual Teaching & Learning, published May 2015
- English to Spanish Glossary of Educational Terminology (Second Edition), published September 2018
- Bilingual Grammar of English-Spanish Syntax: With Exercises and a Glossary of Grammatical Terms, published June 2014
- English-Spanish Legal Glossary (Learn Legal Terms Translated into Spanish Book 3), published April 2012
- English-Spanish Real Estate Glossary, published July 2011
- English-Spanish Glossary of Technical and Forensic Ballistics and Firearms: Glosario Español-Inglés de Balística Técnica y Forense y Armas de Fuego (Spanish Edition), published November 2013
Now, if anyone is interested in any of these titles, and clicks to buy the book from Amazon, the author of the book will get a set percentage of the sale price.
It doesn’t matter whether the book was published in 2011 or 2018. The authors will continue to receive payment for as long as the book is for sale and people buy copies.
How to Publish Specialized Glossaries
OK, so let’s move on to the next step, which is to understand how to publish specialized glossaries yourself, if that’s something that you are interested in doing.
I’ve done this before.
It was actually the first book I published. (I’ll get to that below.)
Things are a little easier now than they were back then but overall the process hasn’t changed all that much.
All you need is an Amazon account, your material, and a little bit of patience.
So first of all, you need to sign up for an Amazon Kindle publishing account. If you already have a regular Amazon account, you can use the same login information to set up an Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing, or KDP, account. Just go to kdp.amazon.com and you’ll see a page like this:
If you look on the right side of the page, you’ll see a button to click in order to login (if you already have an Amazon account) and a button below that if you don’t have an Amazon account.
Once you log in, you’ll be presented with the KDP home screen:
This is where all the magic happens.
This is where you start the process of creating your specialized glossary.
There are certain steps that you need to do in order to complete the book. Those steps include:
- deciding whether you want an ebook or print copy (or both)
- uploading your book content
- uploading or designing your book cover
- adding a description, keywords, and categories
- assigning an ISBN to your new book
It might seem like a lot, but it’s really not that complicated or difficult, as long as you follow the steps.
I’m not going to go through the steps here. There are plenty of people that have written very in-depth and specific step-by-step tutorials on how to accomplish this.
Suffice it to say, the most important thing is to have the content. Once you have that, everything will almost fall into place.
Pitfalls in Publishing Specialized Glossaries
Now, some things to think about as you publish your glossary (or better yet, even before you begin the process) are some of the pitfalls that you should think about.
For example, one thing that some translators don’t think about is the fact that the terminology databases (or term bases) that are provided by clients to translators are proprietary and it might be prohibited to share that information. You want to be an ethical translator.
Just because a client gives you a list of words and their corresponding translations for you to use in your translation work does not mean that you are free to share those translations with the public at large.
This is something that requires a conversation between the translator and the client at the beginning of the translation job.
If you’ve agreed, as part of your contract (you do have a contract, right?) that you will not share client data without permission, you would be wise to not share client data without permission.
If you’ve signed a non-disclosure agreement, or NDA, you need to respect that.
Now, what if a client gives you a document or series of documents to translate and you create your own glossaries or translation memory using the original terms from your client but your own researched translations?
This is definitely much more of a gray area that could require some more research.
Typically, the original work from the client as well as the source created for the client by the translator belong to the client. Many times that also included any translation memory created by the translator.
However, some translators argue that as long as the translation memory doesn’t reveal any proprietary or confidential information, the translation memory should be free to use by the translator on other projects.
It’s best to talk with your client about this as well as do your own research. Google “translation memory ownership” and you’ll find plenty of articles with differing opinions on who owns what.
OK, now’s the ground truth.
Will publishing your own specialized glossary make you rich?
Most likely not.
In fact, it’s highly unlikely you’ll make a ton of money from publishing a single specialized glossary.
As I mentioned previously, I published my own specialized glossary called El Jefe’s English – Spanish Glossary of Basketball Terms back in 2015.
It was the first book I published on Amazon.
It was more of an experiment than anything. At the time, I was really into basketball and thought it would be fun to publish a book of basketball terms in both Spanish and English.
I didn’t see any that existed on the market and, like I said, wanted to get my feet wet initially.
So I went through the process above.
I finalized my research, uploaded the manuscript to KDP, did a simple book cover design, and created both an ebook and a print copy.
The book originally went live on the Amazon store in January 2015 and in the past two months has sold a couple of books.
Like I said, not anything that will make me rich.
In fact, if you look below at the Amazon sale rankings for this book, you’ll notice that they’re pretty abismal:
However, I never published the book to make money. In reality, I figured that there weren’t too many people in the world that are interested in a Spanish-English glossary of basketball terms.
That being said, publishing that book gave me the confidence and knowledge to move forward on publishing other books that have been a great help to freelancers throughout the world.
- Translation Rules
- Second Language, Second Income
- Translator’s Market: The GIANT Book of Translation Agencies: Find Work and Get Paid as a Freelance Translator
I would have never had the confidence to publish those books had I not bit the bullet, gotten over my insecurities, and published that specialized glossary.
Now, your experience may vary.
What I can say, though, is that the more you publish, the more likely it is you will make passive income selling your books. I know that there are translators publishing multiple specialized glossaries on Amazon right now.
I don’t know how much they are making from their books but I do know that they are getting reviews, which tends to indicate that sales are happening.
You can make a passive income as a translator.
One of the most fun ways to do that is through publishing your own specialized glossaries.
Follow the process outlined above and you’ll learn a ton and might even find out that you enjoy writing and publishing your own material!
P.S. Another great way to make a passive income is by having your own website. If you need one, check out Bluehost, the best web host out there.