Books first

The Goethe-Institut’s new programme for bringing literature in German to English-speaking readers


Books First © Sebastian Huber / Goethe-Institut The Year of German-American Friendship (“Deutschlandjahr USA”) has begun in the USA in the autumn of 2018 – a good opportunity to raise awareness of German-language literature in the English-speaking world. From October 2018 until the end of 2019, a comprehensive picture of Germany will be painted by many different activities in the areas of culture, business, academia and politics. 

To this end, the branches of the Goethe-Institut in the USA are developing diverse and innovative programmes in all cultural domains. Naturally, showcasing contemporary German-language literature also plays an important role in this context. During the course of the year, events featuring German-speaking authors will be staged at different places around the USA as part of the BOOKS FIRST programme.

What is more, our new readers will be offering fascinating insights into the latest publications. We have put together some background information on books from all kinds of genres, and also provide extracts in English by way of a sneak preview. The English-language rights to the books presented there have not been sold as yet, so we can only recommend that they be translated. If English-language publishers express an interest in these books, we therefore guarantee to provide a translation grant.

Other works of contemporary German-language literature are also eligible for BOOKS FIRST translation grants, however. Publishers can apply to us at any time for financial support.
Through our specific translation grants, we will pay up to two-thirds of the costs of translation, based on a translation fee of 35 euro per standard page (one standard page contains 1,800 characters, including spaces, or 30 lines of 60 characters each).

The maximum grant is 10,000 euro, with 75 % of the grant being paid out to the publisher upon conclusion of the contract.

In the case of graphic novels, a lump sum of 1,000 euro is paid in addition to the translation costs to cover the costs of lettering.
  • The following publications will be considered:
    • contemporary German-language fiction, poetry, children’s and young adult literature, and graphic novels
    • non-fiction about topical and socially-relevant subjects
  • At the time of application, a licensing agreement and a contract with a suitable translator must have been concluded.
  • The translation must be of the original German text that is already available in a printed published version.
  • Only projects that are not yet ready to go to press when the grants agreement is signed will be considered.
  • The English-language publisher is required to credit the Goethe-Institut as sponsor in the imprint and to print the Goethe-Institut logo (see contract for details of required wording). If the publisher fails to do so, the Goethe-Institut reserves the right to withhold or demand back the approved grant.
  • The submitted books should have been published within the last five years.Individual agreements will be entered into upon request in the case of unusually high lettering costs and for poetry and picture books.

Applications can be submitted at any time using an online application form. Applications are processed on a continual basis. Application deadline for own proposals: 15 November 2019. Application deadline for titles recommended in our reader: 30 November 2019.
Are books by authors from Austria and Switzerland also eligible?
Yes. All German-language books published by German, Austrian or Swiss publishers will be considered.
Are only newly-acquired licences eligible?
Applications can also be submitted for books for which the licence was acquired at an earlier date. The only requirement is that the translation must not have been published yet.
Why is the specific amount of the grants for poetry and picture books not named?
Books with a high proportion of pictures / illustrations or just a few extremely complex lines per page differ too greatly in terms of the work involved in translating them for lump-sum grants to be applied. Please feel free to contact us if you have questions about obtaining a grant to have a specific volume of poetry or picture book translated into English.

Can only publishers from the United States apply for the translation grants?
No! The programme BOOKS FIRST involves all English speaking countries and the translation grants are open for every English language publisher.

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