How to negotiate reasonable rates for a book translation?
Thread poster: Dorothy Schaps

Dorothy Schaps  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 06:09
Member (2010)
German to English
Jan 3, 2012

Hi everyone!

I've had a good look in the forums regarding this matter but haven't found anything definitive. Please redirect me if I've missed something!

I recently approached an author offering to translate his book (humorous non-fiction) into English. He said that the idea sounds great but that I should contact his publisher.

I am a total newbie in this area and I want to know what is the norm in this situation if the publisher gives me the go-ahead. I ma
... See more
Hi everyone!

I've had a good look in the forums regarding this matter but haven't found anything definitive. Please redirect me if I've missed something!

I recently approached an author offering to translate his book (humorous non-fiction) into English. He said that the idea sounds great but that I should contact his publisher.

I am a total newbie in this area and I want to know what is the norm in this situation if the publisher gives me the go-ahead. I may be being too optimistic but forewarned is forearmed!

I know that an author will get an advance from the publisher when writing a book - does the same apply to translators? In a previous forum discussion from 2007 (http://www.proz.com/forum/literature_poetry/68060-novels_rates_royalties.html) nordiste said that translators normally get paid per standard page with the "standard" varying from country to country. nordiste also mentioned that you get "a fixed flat fee covering the translation work (1/3 at the beginning, 1/3 at time of delivery and 1/3 at time of publication, after all the editing has been made and the translator has made a last check before mass printing) plus additional royalties depending of the sales". I mean no offence to nordiste but can someone confirm this please? Would it be ok for me to request this from the publisher?

Also regarding royalties... How does it work exactly? How much does one usually get? 1%? 5%? More? Less? And does anyone know how many words = a standard page in German?

I'd be really grateful for any help or advice!

Thank you all so much! =)
Dot
Collapse


 

Usch Pilz
Local time: 06:09
English to German
+ ...
Rates and Standard Pages Jan 3, 2012

Hi,
a German standard page for that kind of translation is measured like this: 30 lines/60 strokes. One page like that will have about 250 words - roughly.
Depending on the way the narrative goes. (Dialogue = less words ...)
Publishers usually pay by the standard page. Plus royalties - if you are lucky.

Here comes the big BUT:
Usually the publisher of the book sells a licence for translation during one of the big international book fairs. This way the book go
... See more
Hi,
a German standard page for that kind of translation is measured like this: 30 lines/60 strokes. One page like that will have about 250 words - roughly.
Depending on the way the narrative goes. (Dialogue = less words ...)
Publishers usually pay by the standard page. Plus royalties - if you are lucky.

Here comes the big BUT:
Usually the publisher of the book sells a licence for translation during one of the big international book fairs. This way the book goes to a German publisher who will then find a translator. If it is an international publishing group, it might be the same entity.

You could try and approach a German publisher with your idea. But don't hold your breath. Getting a positive answer would be almost like winning the lottery.

For further information about contracts, rates ... check out the VdÜ homepage. You will find pretty much everything to do with literary translations there.
http://www.literaturuebersetzer.de/
Good luck!
Collapse


 

Dorothy Schaps  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 06:09
Member (2010)
German to English
TOPIC STARTER
Thank you, Usch Jan 3, 2012

Hi Usch,

Thank you for the info and the link! That is really helpful.

Like I said, I contacted the author first and he said to contact his publisher, so I'm guessing that up to now nobody has suggested translating the book. I get the feeling that it never occurred to anyone one to get it translated and that I might give the publisher something to consider! Who knows - maybe I will win that lottery! I know I am being far too optimistic - the publisher could well laugh in
... See more
Hi Usch,

Thank you for the info and the link! That is really helpful.

Like I said, I contacted the author first and he said to contact his publisher, so I'm guessing that up to now nobody has suggested translating the book. I get the feeling that it never occurred to anyone one to get it translated and that I might give the publisher something to consider! Who knows - maybe I will win that lottery! I know I am being far too optimistic - the publisher could well laugh in my face! - but this book just has to exist in English!

Thanks again! =)
Collapse


 

Susan Welsh  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 00:09
Member (2008)
Russian to English
+ ...
Other resources Jan 3, 2012

See the PEN handbook on literary translation:
http://pen.org/page.php/prmID/271
There's a sample/recommended contract in there.


 

Dorothy Schaps  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 06:09
Member (2010)
German to English
TOPIC STARTER
Thank you, Susan Jan 3, 2012

Thank you ever so much Susan - that sample contract is brilliant!

 

Oliver Walter  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 05:09
Member (2005)
German to English
+ ...
Scrutinise the contract Jan 3, 2012

If you get that far, ensure that the contract between you and the publisher contains terms that are fair.
I once refused to translate a book because the proposed contract contained both of the following clauses (the text was not bold in the original):

1. The translator acknowledges that the Publisher shall own the copyright and any other rights subsisting in the Translation. The Translator hereby assigns to the Publisher during the full term of copyright and all
... See more
If you get that far, ensure that the contract between you and the publisher contains terms that are fair.
I once refused to translate a book because the proposed contract contained both of the following clauses (the text was not bold in the original):

1. The translator acknowledges that the Publisher shall own the copyright and any other rights subsisting in the Translation. The Translator hereby assigns to the Publisher during the full term of copyright and all extensions thereof the entire copyright and all other rights of whatever nature in and to the Translation....

14. The Publisher may terminate this Agreement in the event the Translator fails to deliver a complete and satisfactory manuscript pursuant to Paragraph 2 above. Upon termination, the Translator shall promptly repay to the Publisher any advances or other payments made to the Translator hereunder. Upon receipt of such payment the Publisher shall have no further obligation or liability to the Translator in connection to the Translation or the Agreement

In other words: the publisher owns the copyright and if the publisher does not like the translation, the translator must repay all the money to the publisher and the publisher still owns the copyright (and I assume the translation can nevertheless be published, with somebody other than the non-paid translator doing a little work to make it "satisfactory").

Oliver
Collapse


 

S P Willcock (X)  Identity Verified
Local time: 07:09
German to English
+ ...
An advance comes with a contract Jan 3, 2012

Fundamentally, you're only going to get the advance from a publisher who has contracted you to do the translation - not if you approach them with the idea.

However! A great many German publishers hire translators to produce sample chapters to show to English-language houses at book fairs and such events, and often enough theses chapters are also available on the German publishers' websites (Foreign Rights section). So in your case, if the German publisher has never t
... See more
Fundamentally, you're only going to get the advance from a publisher who has contracted you to do the translation - not if you approach them with the idea.

However! A great many German publishers hire translators to produce sample chapters to show to English-language houses at book fairs and such events, and often enough theses chapters are also available on the German publishers' websites (Foreign Rights section). So in your case, if the German publisher has never thought to commission such a sample chapter, you may be able to persuade them to pay you for at least that much of the work (I've seen these samplers at anything from 3 to 16 pages).

A warning though - just because you've translated the sample, it doesn't follow that any eventual English-language publisher will also hire you to do the full book.
Collapse


 

Susan Welsh  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 00:09
Member (2008)
Russian to English
+ ...
also check this thread Jan 3, 2012

http://www.proz.com/forum/literature_poetry/143723-can_you_earn_a_living_as_a_literary_translator.html#1202636

The post by urbom on the CEATL survey is sobering, to put it mildly.


 

Dominique Durand  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 06:09
Member (2005)
English to French
+ ...
In literature, the translator is an author Jan 3, 2012

Following the Berne Convention, literary translators are authors - so they have the same kind of contracts with publisher than writers.

The system I explained in the thread you mention is the one existing in France today - I suppose all European countries have more or less the same approach.

http://www.ceatl.eu/translators-rights/legal-status

To
... See more
Following the Berne Convention, literary translators are authors - so they have the same kind of contracts with publisher than writers.

The system I explained in the thread you mention is the one existing in France today - I suppose all European countries have more or less the same approach.

http://www.ceatl.eu/translators-rights/legal-status

To have an idea of what kind of rate for standard page and royalties to ask for, you could contact a translators's association.

To suggest a translation, the best person to contact is a publisher in the target country. You can submit a summary of the book to see if a publisher is interested. But, as mentionned by another participant to this thread, the publisher could then ask another translator to do the job.

[Edited at 2012-01-03 19:36 GMT]
Collapse


 

Dorothy Schaps  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 06:09
Member (2010)
German to English
TOPIC STARTER
Thank you everyone! Jan 4, 2012

@Oliver: Great tip! Thanks for that! Amazing what people think they can get away with!

@Mr. Willcocks: The sample chapter idea is something I'll bear in mind =)

@Susan: Thanks for the link!

@nordiste: Thanks for your link too - I certainly have a lot of reading to do! With regard to your suggestion of contacting a publisher in the target country, it's somehow not that simple... The target audience for the book in question would be English speakers living in
... See more
@Oliver: Great tip! Thanks for that! Amazing what people think they can get away with!

@Mr. Willcocks: The sample chapter idea is something I'll bear in mind =)

@Susan: Thanks for the link!

@nordiste: Thanks for your link too - I certainly have a lot of reading to do! With regard to your suggestion of contacting a publisher in the target country, it's somehow not that simple... The target audience for the book in question would be English speakers living in Germany - the market here (although not enormous) is much bigger than in England/English-speaking countries. That's why I think that it would be more logical for the translation to be published in Germany. However, is it very unlikely for a German publisher to produce an English book? Am I looking at this all wrong?!

Thanks so much everyone for all your help and advice so far! =)
Collapse


 

Dominique Durand  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 06:09
Member (2005)
English to French
+ ...
"Foreign" publishers Jan 4, 2012

I don't know about English speakers living in Germany. I suppose they have their associations, their newspapers , maybe their owns publishers too.

Or you could look for English publishing houses with a department in Germany, or German publisher with a department for foreign literature in original language, or University press...

Good luck !


 


To report site rules violations or get help, contact a site moderator:


You can also contact site staff by submitting a support request »

How to negotiate reasonable rates for a book translation?

Advanced search







Protemos translation business management system
Create your account in minutes, and start working! 3-month trial for agencies, and free for freelancers!

The system lets you keep client/vendor database, with contacts and rates, manage projects and assign jobs to vendors, issue invoices, track payments, store and manage project files, generate business reports on turnover profit per client/manager etc.

More info »
Déjà Vu X3
Try it, Love it

Find out why Déjà Vu is today the most flexible, customizable and user-friendly tool on the market. See the brand new features in action: *Completely redesigned user interface *Live Preview *Inline spell checking *Inline

More info »



Forums
  • All of ProZ.com
  • Term search
  • Jobs
  • Forums
  • Multiple search