As I learned at the Frankfurt Book Fair, the Goethe Institut reserves 15% of its literary translation funding for supporting translations into English. The idea, I assume, is that when a book makes it into English it can serve as a bridge to other languages. Also for some reason, English is often considered a prestigious language so making it into English suggests a book is really good, at least to people who subscribe to the language hierarchy view. I'd guess it would also suggest to publishers that a book could be a commercial success, seeing as English-language publishing is a pretty cut-throat business. Whatever the case, 2011 was the first year in which they spent all that 15% budget. Hooray!
And you can see why at Three Percent: There are fifty first-time translations from German being published in the USA in 2012, up from 39 last year. Why? That's trickier. One reason is Seagull Books with their German and Swiss lists, but that only accounts for five extra books. AmazonCrossing has also done eleven titles from German rather than ten last year, mainly genre fiction I believe. There's also been a 4% increase in total translations published, suggesting to this eternal optimist right here that US publishers are becoming more daring. Possibly it's all down to the huge numbers of Americans in Berlin right now, only a fraction of whom actually speak German (anecdotal evidence only). Maybe everyone in US publishing has a friend in the city and their trips to the Panorama Bar make them more disposed to commission translations of German books.