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Thread poster: Sander Van de Moortel
I want to translate a book. Procedure to follow?

Sander Van de Moortel  Identity Verified
China
Local time: 05:32
Member (2011)
English to Dutch
+ ...
May 15, 2012

Colleagues,


I'd like to translate a book. Yes, a fine work of art I've come across, very non-fiction and relatively recent. As far as I know, it has only been published in English and has as of yet not been translated into Dutch. It's an interesting book dealing with a hot topic like China (where I am residing and studying) that I think could contribute to the West's understanding of China. So out of personal interest, because I could use some extra cash and to give myself some experience with translating bigger works, I want to translate it into Dutch.

Now, how do I proceed? Do I first contact the author or publisher of the book? Do I first talk to a publisher in a Dutch-speaking country? Do I have them communicate among each other or is it my responsibility to get the necessary permissions? Or should I just go ahead, translate it and get permissions and try to sell it afterwards?

I'm dying for a sizeable project...


S


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Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 22:32
Member (2008)
Italian to English
Ask. May 15, 2012

First, ask the Author.

Before you start, there would need to be a new agreement in place between the Author and a publisher, for publication in the new language.

Otherwise you're wasting your time if you just start translating it, and you should certainly not attempt to get it published without this new agreement, which would be a private matter between the Author and the new publisher, in which you would not be directly involved.

They could in fact commission anyone to translate the book.

Your best bet, therefore, is to initially contact the Author or if the Author is deceased, the Author's executors.

You (or they, or both of you) would need to make a case to support the financial viability of publishing in the new language.

But you should not personally get involved in this financially. If the publisher concludes that the translated book would sell, then there's a good chance that you would be separately commissioned to do the translation.

But you would need to prove that you are experienced in this type of translation and that your translation would be better than anyone else's.

Yes, it's dog eat dog out there.

I'm currently translating a book because I have a track record of translating books in my specialist field. Authors approach me - I don't approach them (although like you, I'm constantly wondering if I should, since many books in my field are never translated into English and I wish they were !)

[Edited at 2012-05-15 10:15 GMT]


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Attila Piróth  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 23:32
Member
English to Hungarian
+ ...
Steps to follow May 15, 2012

The setup that you describe is a typical scenario.

First, check whether the rights to have the book translated into Dutch are available. Get in contact with the original publisher.

Second, you have to find a Dutch publisher that is interested. Be warned, most of the similar projects die at this point. While the prospects of translating a book that you are fond of are attractive, you may spend a lot of time trying to convince publishers that are less than lukewarm. To maximize your chances, make sure to select the publisher that has the best profile for this book.

To convince them, you may need to prepare a small portfolio, the translation of a short part of the book (as long as it is not published, you do not need to get a permission from the original copyright holder), a synopsis, and more background info.

Publishers get lots of similar recommendations - so a simple email out of the blue may achieve nothing more than direct your proposal into a huge stack. If possible, try to meet some representatives in person - at a book fair in the Netherlands or some similar events. Personal recommendations may also be valuable.

Note that the publisher has no obligation whatsoever to use your translation services if they decide to publish the book. You can prevent this by buying the rights to have the book translated into Dutch - but that's an unusual path, which should not be taken unless you are entirely sure that you can find a publisher - or self-publish the book yourself.

Authors' and translators' estimate of how successful the book will be are usually pretty different from publishers' more conservative estimates - so do not let yourself be carried away.

Not a very rosy picture, I'm afraid.

Best,
Attila


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Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 22:32
Member (2008)
Italian to English
Just ask the Author. May 15, 2012

Just ask the Author- not the publisher.

The rest will be up to the Author. The Author, not you, will have to do all the work. You will only be the translator.

When I translate a book, the request always comes from the Author, never from the publisher.

[Edited at 2012-05-15 10:30 GMT]


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David Wright  Identity Verified
Austria
Local time: 23:32
German to English
+ ...
Both May 15, 2012

I've done a few books, and some have come from the author and some from the original publisher and some from the publisher of the translation (actually the rarest of the three). You need to contact the author and the original publisher to find out if a contract has already been awarded for a translation.

The publisher (probably not the author) may be interested in having the book translated (by you) and finding a publisher for the translation, or they may let you have free reign here (far trickier). Or they might like the idea of getting it translated but by someone else (most publishers seem to have a team of translators that they use on a regular basis).

If you get free reign, then you can start approaching publishers in the Netherlands. That situation is, however, the most difficult, (see Attila's comment)


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Phil Hand  Identity Verified
China
Local time: 05:32
Chinese to English
Just to check May 15, 2012

You are talking about an English book, aren't you? Not a Chinese book that's been translated into English?
(Hessler?)


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Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 22:32
Member (2008)
Italian to English
Hmmm May 15, 2012


Phil Hand wrote:

You are talking about an English book, aren't you? Not a Chinese book that's been translated into English?
(Hessler?)


good point


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Sander Van de Moortel  Identity Verified
China
Local time: 05:32
Member (2011)
English to Dutch
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
It's a first-hand English book May 16, 2012

It's a book written in English by British author but about Chinese history.

Thank you all for your kind help. I have contacted both author and publisher and am now playing the waiting game.


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urbom
United Kingdom
Local time: 22:32
German to English
+ ...
question asked before May 16, 2012

Several people have asked similar questions on this forum in the past.
Have you already looked through the other threads here?
http://www.proz.com/forum/22


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I want to translate a book. Procedure to follow?







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