Thursday, August 7, 2014

DIY: Self-Posting About Self-Publishing

Several Russian-to-English translators have written to me in the last several months, telling me they’ve self-published books: some self-published their translations in collaboration with their Russian authors, at least one self-published translations of poems that are in the public domain.

I’m creating this post as a place for translators and/or writers to post comments containing information about the books they’re self-publishing. I’m interested in the information for lots of reasons: one book a translator told me about was pretty popular in Russia, another sounds like a young adult book, one contains a classic’s poems, one is a short story… and I have no idea what else might be floating around.

If you’d like to post a comment about your self-published translation, please be sure to include the following information:
  • Title of the book, preferably in both Russian and English
  • Names of the translator(s) and the Russian author(s)
  • ISBN, publisher/platform name, and year
  • A link to online information about the book
  • Broad genre information: novel, short story, poetry, play, history book, etc.
I’m interested in other things, too, if you feel you can summarize briefly enough for a comment:
  • A brief description of the book
  • Why you decided to self-publish the book in the first place
Thanks very much to everyone who posts—I’m looking forward to reading about your books!

Up Next: I’m still very much enjoying Evgenii Chizhov’s Перевод с подстрочника (literally Translation from a Literal Translation), which is still thick. Plus there are all those books in English, including a couple about the FSU written in English as well as Vladimir Sharov’s До и во время, which I’m reading in Oliver Ready’s translation, Before & During.


  1. How interesting, that a bunch of people thought to self-publish Russian translation recently. We decided to put a novella out as an ebook to learn the process (self-publishing and self-promotion), and to seek out new audiences for Kozlov's work, which doesn't fit neatly into a genre. A novella is also an awkward length, so it was going to be difficult to find a traditional publisher for it.

    Here's the details:
    "Number Ten" ("Десятка")
    by Vladimir Kozlov
    translated by Andrea Gregovich
    Available in Amazon Kindle Store
    Year: 2014

    Description: As the Soviet Union collapses, talented seventeen-year-old footballer Valera has his athletic aspirations cut short by a career-ending injury. His life is adrift as he returns home to Mogilev, an industrial city in the Belorussian Republic, where he moves back into his mother’s apartment and enrolls in classes at a trade school to pass the time before his dreaded conscription into the army. Dating a girl he knew in school helps soften the harsh reality of life after a sports injury, but when Valera spends a little too much time with some old friends who have developed neo-Nazi aspirations, he finds himself lured into their violent schemes and spirals out of control. Like a Dostoyevsky for the modern age, Vladimir Kozlov chronicles the tale of Valera's descent from promising athlete to desperate street thug in this gritty coming-of-age novella, which Kozlov himself recently adapted, directed, and co-produced as a feature-length independent film in Russia.

    Here's the Amazon link:

    1. It's fitting that you commented first, Andrea, because I think you were the first to write to me! Thank you for your complete entry, too: it's a great model! (Comments from me will be short this weekend since I'm travelling!)

  2. Although I’ve done a variety of translations for established publishers, I first resorted to self-publishing four years ago for my biography of the poet Tyutchev when the twenty or so academic and other publishers I’d approached failed to show any interest. I’m glad I did so, as the book subsequently received excellent reviews in the Times Literary Supplement, Literary Review, Slavonic and East European Review and elsewhere, and has been sold (mainly to specialist libraries and scholars) all over the world. This was some recompense at least for the ten years or so I’d spent writing and researching it! (I’ve been retired for some years, so don’t have to rely on the income from it.) The biography contains my verse translations of many poems by Tyutchev, one of the greatest Russian lyric poets. The details are:

    John Dewey, Mirror of the Soul: A Life of the Poet Fyodor Tyutchev
    ISBN 9781906385231
    Brimstone Press, 2010

    More recently I’ve also self-published the hundred or so verse translations (expanded and added to) as a separate volume, which I hope may reach a wider audience:

    Fyodor Tyutchev, Selected Poems, Translated with an Introduction and Notes by John Dewey
    ISBN 9781906385439
    Brimstone Press, 2014

    Further details of both books, including extracts and reviews, can be found on my website:

    For anyone contemplating self-publishing, I can warmly recommend Brimstone Press, a non-profit co-operative self-publishing venture providing advice and support, publicity and sales on their website and an ISBN number, all for a one-off fee little more than the cost of purchasing an ISBN number independently. Their website is:

    1. Thank you for this, John! You have an interesting story, too, particularly given the subsequent reviews for your book. I also have to admit I love the name Brimstone!

    2. I forgot to say, if anyone would like any advice from my experience of self-publishing, I can be contacted via

    3. That is very good of you to add, John, thank you!

    Translator/adapter/co-author: Blackwell Boyce
    Illustrator: Dmitry Trubin
    Publishing Information: ISBN 978-0-9936665-0-6 (paperback hardcopy), 978-0-9936665-1-3 (e-book); Pomorsky Press (Self-proprietorship, Blackwell Boyce); 2014
    Online links:;
    Genre: Short stories, magic realism (небылицы)

    SENYA MALINA TELLS IT LIKE IT WAS is an illustrated creative translation of forty humorous tall tales by the writer (and artist) Stepan Gregorivich Pisakhov (1879–1960). Pisakhov is revered in his hometown of Arkhangelsk – with a museum and three bronze statues honouring him and his creations – but is little known outside of northwest Russia.
    The tales in this book are narrated by a wily, loveable, full-of-malarkey peasant – Senya Malina – who is generally also the main protagonist/hero. Senya entertains story-loving guests in the humble home that he shares with his wife, set in the real-life village of Uyma beside the Northern Dvina River a short distance from Arkhangelsk. (The ups-and-downs of the Malinas’ marriage provide a kind of background melody to the main plots.)
    Senya Malina stands for the rural Russian commoner, weighed down by the injustices imposed on him by those who possess power. But instead of meekly accepting these injustices, Senya rebels. The majority of the tales describe run-ins with corrupt bureaucrats, greedy merchants, representatives of a self-serving Orthodox Church, or foreign invaders—all of whom subsequently receive their comeuppance in a highly original and colourful manner.
    Senya Malina is often referred to as a northern Baron Munchausen; I also see in him many similarities to the American folk hero Paul Bunyan.
    In translating these tales the temptation was simply too great: I made minor to major modifications to virtually all of them – substantially expanding several of them, plus adding numerous footnotes and often oblique literary/cultural/historical allusions (far from all of which are Russian). The intention has been to render the English versions as playful as the originals – and also to give them a greater resonance. A literal translation would in my opinion drain much of the life out of the tales. (Anyone who wishes to prove me wrong in this is welcome to try!)
    I lived in Arkhangelsk for several years, but it was some time before I got excited by Pisakhov’s writings (partly because my Russian was not good enough to appreciate them). My eyes were opened when a new comprehensive collection of his tales was published in 2009 by Pravda Severa; what opened them was not initially the tales themselves but the illustrations by Trubin (also from Arkhangelsk) that accompanied them.

    1. Thank you for adding your comment, Blackwell! I have many fond memories of Arkhangel'sk and even a play based on Pisakhov's humor -- plus art from Trubin! -- so was excited to learn about your book through Goodreads.

    2. You're welcome Lisa. Yes, Arkhangel'sk does have a few things to offer (I was a big frequenter of the Dynamo Outdoor Stadium once the ice was put in). Trubin has evolved considerably since the 90's; I like his oils as well, particularly his 'Nails' series.

    3. That's great to hear about Trubin, Blackwell. I think most of what I saw way back then were his illustrations for children's books, which I liked very much!

  4. Book Title: To See the Moon So Clearly
    Author: Gai Sever
    Translators: Ian Appleby and Simon Geoghegan
    ISBN: 978-1-312-24054-4

    The blurb on the back reads as follows: "In this collection, an excerpt from a cycle of five novelettes, Gai Sever spins three stories of great depth, wisdom, and humanity. The richness of the universe he creates stands comparison with Ursula Le Guin’s Earthsea or Mervyn Peake’s Gormenghast, while his understanding of what it means to be a child rivals that of Roald Dahl. Yet Sever conjures up a distinctive world of his own. The resourceful girls and boys featured in these stories display ingenuity, determination and teamwork to overcome the obstacles they face, while the supporting — in every sense — cast of grown-ups show trust and compassion towards them. These three magical tales will enchant children and adults alike."

    Lisa, thanks for offering this window to us. I don't know if this was the YA-sounding title you mention - I'd be a little inclined to avoid that particular niche, although perhaps the titular story fits. The stories went down very well with both my 10yo and my 5yo daughters, but there's a lot in them to enjoy as an adult, as well - on the face of it, the narratives are quite simple, but there is a lot going on under the surface. There is at least one moment in each of the two stories I translated that still bring the tears to my eyes, and I know they're coming... It's genuinely powerful writing that does not talk down to young people, and I think it is very deserving of a wide audience.

    You can read an extract here:
    and find a variety of outlets selling the title here:

    If you happen to see this comment before November 21, you can even win a copy - details here:

    1. Ian, yes, this was the book I was thinking of -- I'm so glad you added it! It sounds like a title for kids of all ages.

  5. Title: Childhood / Детство
    Author: Lev Tolstoy
    Translator: Chris Tessone
    ISBN: 978-1507878941
    Publisher: Taman Press (Amazon CreateSpace), 2015
    Amazon link:

    First published in 1852, Lev Tolstoy's Childhood details the life of Nikolenka, an aristocratic boy in 19th century Russia. With characters drawn in Tolstoy's life-like, realistic style, this brilliant first work gives readers a glimpse into the changing social landscape of imperial Russia, as well as providing timeless insights into the joys and agonies of childhood.

    I decided to self-publish for a couple of reasons, most importantly that I did not think the publishing world was clamoring for a new non-professional translation of a minor work by Tolstoy. I also know typesetting in LaTeX reasonably well and thought I could make the interior of the book look good, and self-publishing let me release the book under a more permissive license than copyright (Creative Commons).

    More on the project here:

    Translator: John Dewey
    ISBN: 9781906385545
    Publisher: Brimstone Press

    For full details, and to read extracts, copy and paste these links:

    These are stories by Zamyatin I've been translating for fun sporadically over the years, in between other projects. Zamyatin is of course best known for his novel 'We', at least half a dozen translations of which have appeared in English. His shorter prose fiction is by contrast practically unknown outside Russia, yet in my opinion much of it is at least as good as the novel. Some of his stories have appeared in English translation in the past, but they're now long since out of print. With one exception ('A Fisher of Men'), the ten stories in my selection have never been translated into English before.

    I was first inspired to translate Zamyatin years ago by reading his brilliant and dramatic description of a storm at sea in one of the stories, 'The Sloop', and just went on from there.
    The stories were all fun to translate, particularly so in the case of 'A Good-For-Nothing', which relates the comic adventures of a harum-scarum student who eventually gets swept up in the 1905 Revolution. I also enjoyed doing the 'Tales of Theta', a merciless and hilarious send-up of Lenin written just after the Bolshevik coup of November 1917! The other stories are on the whole more serious.

    Previous experience (see my previous post) taught me not to make overly strenuous efforts at interesting commercial publishers in self-generated work of this sort. The two or three likely candidates I did contact sent polite rejections as expected, and I was more than happy to publish with the excellent Brimstone Press once again. On the recommendation of another Brimstone author I had the book printed by Imprintdigital (, a small company based in Devon, UK, who provided a prompt and efficient service at a very reasonable price. Being able to do the typesetting, etc myself (with some help from my computer-savvy son) further reduced the overall cost. I'm in the fortunate position of being retired and not reliant on translation for an income, so it's more of a hobby for me really - certainly cheaper than joining a golf club, and I hope of course in any case to see some return on the initial outlay.

    1. Thank you for adding your new book, John, the stories sound like an interesting bunch. And I'm glad you're saving money of greens fees through translation!

  7. Hello Lisa! Thank you so much for this year's Russian-English Translations round up. It will be my go-to list for the foreseeable future! I'm not sure if it counts as eligible for inclusion, but Nicolas Pasternak Slater has also just brought out a new translation of Dr Zhivago, published by the Folio Society on 4 November in a limited edition, and is scheduled to be released in standard edition in 2020.

    1. Thank you for your comment, Cathy! (You're livening up the self-publishing comments!) Thank you for mentioning the Folio Society book: I ran across it somehow or other but the publication date wasn't immediately apparent. (Now, though, I can see a photo of the title page with date... hm, very curious!) I'm not sure which year's list to put it on but probably 2019. Thank you again!

    2. Oops! Having paid such close attention to the whole 2019 list, I then failed to see that your 'click here' instruction applied to the self-publishing page. Sorry Lisa! Feel free to delete my suggestion if it tampers with the self-publishing sense of ordnung! :) Hope you're well!

    3. Please don't worry about it, Cathy, this page could use some attention! (Particularly since I still need to add Dr. Zh. to the list so this is a good reminder.) All's well here, thanks, and I hope you've settled back in well after your travel!

  8. There is a lot of interesting stuff coming out in self-published translation. A number of older translations of Aitmatov are now available in the self published format. There are also reprints of early twentieth century Russian translations by, for instance, Andreyev and Garshin (Rusalka)

    In terms of new self-published translations, there have been new translations of Krapivin, Kazakov, and Zamyatin (Fairy Tales for Grown Ups).

    1. Thank you for your comment! Please feel free to add more if there are any of these translations you'd like to recognize.

  9. I'm very excited to see this cult favorite come out in my translation:

    "The As*trobiologists" (original title: Космобиолухи)
    by Olga Gromyko
    translated by Shelley Fairweather-Vega
    Available for Kindle and in paperback
    ASIN: B09H36Q1RH
    Available online at

    The translation was financed by the author and her Polish translator, who also happens to be making games based on Gromyko's short stories, two of which you can also find on Amazon in my translation. They are the ones who made the decision to self-publish. The short stories are funny tales about knights, dragons, wizards and maidens; the As*trobiologists follows the misadventures of a former space pilot conned by his friends into buying a spaceship and taking a bunch of bumbling space biologists on an expedition to a backwater planet, where they run into two troops of bumbling space pirates and mayhem ensues. Because of the humor and the length, it's one of the more challenging things I've translated, and because of the genre, I think it might appeal to a wider audience than many good books translated from Russian. Rumor has it the next book in the series will be translated by 2023, so stay tuned!

  10. Thank you for adding your comment, Shelley, this sounds like a really fun and interesting project. And with games to come! I'm glad to hear there's another book on the way.