I have written a book.

Well, actually, my mother-in-law told the story of her experiences as a German forced laborer in the Soviet Union after World War II. This was given in German and recorded onto audio tape about thirty years ago by my sister-in-law. My S.I.L. later transcribed the story in German onto twenty or so tightly typewritten foolscap sheets, and a few years ago she gave us a copy of this. My wife and I eventually translated this into very rough English (we both speak German, my wife being a native speaker). It is quite a story and we have determined to self-publish it as a book. It's basically finished at this point. So this is what I need: a word (or two) for my having put it into a final form for the book.

See, the original telling was done pretty much as it occurred to her to tell it, and it tends to get lost in parts, backtrack, go forward, and around the bend at times. The final version is still her story, but it has been reworked into what I hope is a readable and understandable whole, with a beginning, a middle and an end. I've also done a spot of research on historical matters pertaining to the story, and because some words she used were Russian, I used Google Translate and the Russian Language SE to get some more information.

On the title page, I am giving the title of the book, followed by a subtitle, then the author attribution.

Below the author attribution (she is now deceased, btw), I want to indicate that the work is a transcription and a translation of the original tale, and the word I need is for the really hard part, putting it into a coherent form for publication. Here's what I got, so far:

by <my mother-in-law>

As told to her daughter <my sister-in-law>.
Translated by her daughter <my wife>
and xxxxed by <me>

What is that word (or words) in the xxx's? Arranged? Edited? What? Or, as someone on the ELU SE said, perhaps I shouldn't even be mentioned at all? Although the form it was in before I worked on it for a few months was completely unpublishable.

  • 2
    Have you considered listing both your names as co-authors? Sep 16, 2013 at 12:59

9 Answers 9


Don't over-complicate things. You are an Author. "Authored by _."

It would make more sense for you to write, "As told by (grandmother's name). Translated by (daughter's name). Authored by (your name)." Use an introduction to tell how this story came to be, which will explain each of your roles and your motivations.


I'd go with "Edited by." You are not the author (the originator). You took existing work and edited it to make it readable. I think "edited" makes your relationship to the work clear.


The border between Metilda and Lauren's answers is fuzzy and depends on how much of editing you did. If you took the story nearly verbatim, translated it, polished rough edges, added some preface and made it a smooth reading, you're the editor. If you retold that story, say, changing POV, making a set of memories into a smoothly flowing novel leaving no impression of being just told from distant memories but feeling more "then and there" with many artistic liberties with descriptions, places and characters, you're the author, "basing on..."


Perhaps Adapted by ..... from an oral history of ..... translated from the German by .....

Your contribution has been to convert from one genre (an oral recount) to another (a printed text). In many ways this is comparable to turning a book into a screenplay where "adaptation" is the term used to indicate that the work is not "original".


On the face of it appears to be a biography of X written by you (The author). I assume this on the basis that the published version will exceed the original 20 pages.

If in doubt an enquiry into how the big boys do it reveals:

Anne Frank: The Biography Paperback – 13 Dec 1999 by Melissa Muller (Author), Rita Kimber (Translator), Robert B. Kimber (Translator)

You're the de facto 'editor' because no third party provided the service therefore the function is a given and should not be attributed.

I have not seen the manuscript therefore I cannot be totally definitive in my answers. I've no idea of the framework used. Who's the narrator? Who's telling the story? My mind's in 'film mode' at the moment - "Titanic", "Big Fish", and "Forrest Gump" are stories about people telling stories.

Hope this helps.


One word that doesn't seem to have popped up here and may be appropriate is "Ghostwriter". Not sure how you'd put that on a book cover, and I thought the point of ghostwriting is that you're a 'ghost' i.e. unknown. But, it seems the closest word in my vocabulary to what you're looking for.

Hope that helps.


Put on paper by ... might be an option, too. Or recorded by. I also like Adapted by as it has been suggested. Depends on how much you contributed yourself besides merely writing it down.


Since you have taken the stories in the order they were told, and tried to rearrange them into something alonge the lines of the order in which they occurred, and stitched them together into one chronicle, you could go with "Compiled By"?


Imagine if you set out to write a book based on a true story. You then interviewed your main subject talking about her experiences. That interview was your primary source material.

You would be the author of that book. End of story.

In this case, you're getting confused because the order is different. You had nothing to do with interviewing the subject or transcribing the interview. You came into the project later.

You are still the author.

If the story were nothing but a transcript of the interview (with or without a translation) that would be different. Just like (in the example of another answer) Anne Frank is the author of her diary, which was typed and translated with minimal editing/formatting.

I would say:

by (you)
Based on the memoir of (MIL)

You might also do:
by (you) and (wife)

In the acknowledgments, talk about where the story came from and who pulled it all together. Or put those basics on the inside title page.

  • "As told by" is perfectly fine and will be immediately understood. You might move the translator name to the title page so as not to clutter up the cover design with information that has no marketing value.
    – KayCee
    Apr 5, 2019 at 15:18
  • @KayCee "As told by" is a lovely phrase. Perhaps work it up into an answer? If you can fill out a paragraph or two.
    – Cyn
    Apr 5, 2019 at 15:22
  • So you're saying that folks here want fully elaborated answers? I am a relative newbie, but my impression has been that answers are often overthought and not necessarily informed by professional book publishing experience. I like concise and to-the-point replies. However, it's easy for me to overexplain with the best of them, though not on my phone at age 72 with reduced dexterity. I will try better in future to meet expectations. Thanks for the tip.
    – KayCee
    Apr 5, 2019 at 15:36
  • @KayCee Yeah, StackExchange in general wants formed answers. They don't have to be long. Maybe just 2-3 times the length of your first comment. You aren't required to write an answer; writing comments is just fine. I just thought your idea and insights would make a good answer. And if you have professional publishing experience, all the better. We want to hear from you!
    – Cyn
    Apr 5, 2019 at 15:50

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