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Thread poster: Larisa Migachyov
Larisa Migachyov
United States
Local time: 17:06
Russian to English
Jun 20, 2004

I'd like to translate the books of a certain Russian mystery author I enjoy into English. I've done book translation before, but it was for self-published writers whom I dealt with directly. How is it done in the real world? Should I contact the Russian publishing company that publishes that author? Or should I look for an English-language publishing company that might possibly be interested in publishing her works in English? And how does one find out about that? Or do I contact the author directly? (and how?)

Many thanks for any advice.

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Annira Silver  Identity Verified
Local time: 03:06
Finnish to English
+ ...
Start with permission to translate Jun 20, 2004

Hi, Larisa,

I'm just finishing my first book translation. Although mine is a non-fiction (psychology) book, the procedure is roughly the same (but laws on copyright & other rights and permissions vary from country to country). My 'pilgrim's progress' took two years to get this far, and the book will be out early next year.

1) Contact the publisher of your book to find out who owns the translation rights. It's likely to be either the author or the publisher.
2) Wait, and wait. Publishers are notoriously bad at replying to letters and emails. You may wait forever.
3) I received no reply at all. I got angry and contacted the author direct. She was delighted to hear from me and glad to grant permission to translate a sample from her book and try to find a publisher for it.
4) If funding is available in your source country for translation samples and you'd like to get paid, apply for a grant. In some countries, the application must be submitted by the publisher. This may again lead to writing letters and waiting forever for a reply. I gave up and did the sample for nothing.
5) Send your sample and a synopsis of the book to prospective publishers. Be prepared to wait for replies for months, and for ourageously rude and ignorant rejection letters. My best ones: "We have enough authors in this country. We don't need foreign ones." and "Unfortunately, there were several references to a foreign culture." Enough said; you are dealing with plebs.
6) If you are very, very persistent and very, very lucky, a publisher may make you an offer. However, in Anglophone countries, they are often unwilling to pay for the translation, so you need to find the funding from elsewhere, if you can't afford to work for nothing.
7) If you source country provides grants for translations, your publisher (or you) needs to apply for a grant. I found to my dismay that no grants were available for non-fiction, so I set out to find commercial sponsors. It took a huge amount of work and many disappointments, but I found the funding in the end.
8) Be prepared to spend ages wrangling with your publishers over the contract. Mine took over a year, as they had no idea that a translator needed one at all. The advance they offered was paltry, but I managed to get a reasonable royalty, to be split between the author and myself.

If you still want to go ahead, best of luck! There is no real 'translation culture' in Anglophone countries (less than 3% of books published annually are translations; the figure varies between 30% and 80% in other countries), consequently, we must go through a brick wall to get there. In other countries, publishers actually commission translations. But - if we want change and more translations published in English,we have to campaign and work towards our cause ourselves. I passionately believe that it's worth it.

Sorry about the long post and with all good wishes

(getting off her hobby horse)


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Jesús Marín Mateos  Identity Verified
Local time: 01:06
English to Spanish
+ ...
Good information Jun 20, 2004

Dear Larisa and Anira,
I find this topic very interesting since I am trying to get into literary translation (ie books). I already knew the process and I am starting with it at the moment and hope to be successful at some point. Nevertheless I wonder if it can happen that two translators are trying to translate the same book...will the author or whoever has got the rights allow only one person to try and find funding and publishers for the book...just an open question.
Thanks for the information anyway.
Kind regards,

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Valters Feists  Identity Verified
Local time: 03:06
Member (2005)
English to Latvian
+ ...
Book fairs, such as in Frankfurt Jul 10, 2004

Do literary translators attend the Frankfurt book fair?

Do you just show up on the fair in the hope of presenting yourself favourably and establishing new fruitful contacts?

Or, is it just a place where you socialise with publishers that you've already started doing business with?

From 6 - 10 October 2004, Frankfurt will once again be the venue for the world's largest trade fair for books, multimedia and communications. The Arabic World will be the new Guest of Honour.
Everyone who is anyone in the industry will be there: authors and publishers, booksellers and librarians, art dealers and illustrators, agents and journalists, information brokers and readers.

Not only is the Frankfurt Book Fair the meeting point for the business, it is also the world's largest marketplace for trading in publishing rights and licenses.

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French to Arabic
+ ...
A useful thread Aug 5, 2004

Hi Larisa,

I posted a topic in this forum and I got many good advice.

You may like to have a look at it:

Good luck


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