3.13.2007

Well, here's an original question

Dear Oh Great Goddess of Snarkiness,

I would like to start a book in another language for one page that's not the main language of the book. If I warn the agents in both the query and cover letter, would they reject it based on this? Would it hurt the marketability of the book to do this? I have a reason for doing this. I do
not want to persist to do this for the rest of the book, just the first page.

It would also not appear to be roman letters either.



This is something you might add in if someone wants to read the full, or even better not until the book is slated for publication (similar to an acknowledgment page that is added last). Even if you warn me it's there it's pointless to include it cause I can't read it.

I vote no on including anything that makes me think you're clue free.

17 comments:

Sha'el, Princess of Pixies said...

I can read, at least on an elementary level, languages other than English. It usually irritates me to do so.

It was once the convention that scholarly and pretentious books have Greek and Latin Text. It was a way of saying, "Oh, my, we're smart, you and I, we can read this, and no one else can." (An exception to the "I'm smart and you're not" rule is a Biblical commentary that must include original language text.)

Oh, it was also a way of telling dirty stories safely. You think I'm kidding? Ha! I am not!

Oh, ya, and a few scattered furin' words in something like an Agatha Christie novel can create "atmosphere." But I still find it as irritating to read them as a child would find wearing a starched cloth diaper irritating to their little bum!

Don't do this fooling thing ...

For instance, doesn't it irritate the heck outa you that I can read this and you can't:

οτι το μωρον του θεου σοφωτερον των ανθρωπων εστιν και το ασθενες του θεου ισχυροτερον των ανθρωπων

Okay, so a few of you can read this. There's always someone!

Anonymous said...

It would be off-putting on the first page but it might be intriguing as cover decoration or in some other atmospheric context.

M. G. Tarquini said...

I can't read it, Sha'el, I admit it.

Damned public school education.

Anonymous said...

Well you see, I was guessing from the question that the author maybe wrote some sci fi or fantasy and wanted to include a page of a non-human language to add atmosphere. That was my guess.

Having a hard time figuring out who's the pretentious one, really.

Sha'el, Princess of Pixies said...

I should never make blog comments when I'm on medication.

For "Don't do this fooling thing," read "Don't do this foolish thing."

And insert the ";" where it belongs.

Brady Westwater said...

I have done as many insane, death-defying and moronic things any person living has ever done. And even I recognize this is a seriously bad idea.

susan said...

While I agree that it's useless, if as the author says, it's important to the story to open it that way, here's what I might suggest: Write it in English but italicize it, set it apart with indentation.

I may be on the wrong track here, but I'm imagining it as a mysterious message or letter that starts off the story for the protagonist. There are ways of opening into it also, and if it's real short, (certainly shorter than a page) it might be acceptable. But if you start off in English--even if the mystery would be revealed--it doesn't spoil the whole book if an agent is reading just a few pages. And the author could switch back to Plan A once someone showed more serious interest in the work, and explained then.

Anonymous said...

I say include the page in another language.

After you run it through an on-line translation program you'll have a great laugh.

Hint--its even more fun to run it through several languages first before putting it in Engrish.

--All your base are belong to us!

http://en.wikipedia.
org/wiki/All_your_
base_are_belong_to_us

River Falls said...

Why in the world would you want to do this?

I'm not being snarky. I'm genuinely baffled.

Anonymous said...

Uh, is this the Mel Gibson school of writing?

Chris said...

For "Don't do this fooling thing," read "Don't do this foolish thing."
Actually, I liked the first way you had it -- more pithy.

Sha'el, Princess of Pixies said...

On second thought, there is always this:

oo-yah an-kay ite-wray it-tay in-ya
Ig-Pay Atin-Lay.

Everyone reads that! Don't they?

Or this:

tenkyu Goda longa i na slip, so i lukim maritman pulim nus. i tok em no bilong mi!

Everyone can read that, can't they?

Sure, use your other-language text. Just provide us with a translation so we can skip it.

anonagent said...

what depresses me is how this aspiring writer (and so many like her) are so caught up fantasizing about add-ins and acknowledgement pages of best selling books they won't ever write that they have little time to spend reading, revising, and thinking about the reality of the flawed writing in front of them, to say nothing of the horribly skewed thought process.

BuffySquirrel said...

If you think it's right for your story, then follow Miss Snark's advice. You may have to argue the matter out with your agent, then your editor, then your readers...but it's your story.

It can't be any worse than this freaking word verification!

mai said...

I can see why you'd want to do it, but you'll frustate 99% of readers, so why do it on the first page? In fact why not interleave sentences (with translations), like a breadcrumb trail, throughout the book. Be loving towards your readers and they will love you back.

Pam said...

Oooh - why not include it in the special edition version that will be published after the rest of the books in the series make bestseller? Author: "It's how I always envisioned it, my true masterpiece, uncut."

Why not dream a little dream?

Kalayna-Nicole Price said...

When I pick up a book by a new/unknown (to me) author, the first thing I do is flip it over and read the back. If that interests me, I open it to the first page and read the first paragraph or two, and that is what actually convinces me to read the book. If I flipped it open and found the entire first paragraph, not to mention the first page, in another language, I'd roll my eyes and put it back on the shelf. The book would never get a second chance for me to find out that there was a 'very good reason' for the passage to be there. That one look would be it for me, and I've worked in enough bookstores to know I'm not alone in the practice.