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How much do I ask for for translating a short story??
Thread poster: Seyhan Esen-Yagmurlu
Seyhan Esen-Yagmurlu
Local time: 06:21
+ ...
Nov 12, 2007


I've recently been asked to translate a short children's story from Turkish to English.
I have been approached directly by the author, and once translated the author aims to market this to publishing houses here in the UK.
I will first translate a couple of chapters and if successful will then translate the whole book.
I've asked for around £150 to start off with and have then suggested that if the story is published I'll take a percentage of the author's earning (therefore not charge a further one off fee for translating the rest of the book).
How does this sound??
And what percentage of the earnings could I ask for?

Many thanks in advance.

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Madeleine MacRae Klintebo  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 06:21
Swedish to English
+ ...
Can you afford to? Nov 13, 2007

Translating a few chapters is going to keep you occupied for some time (and unavailable for other, potentially more profitable, projects). How much time I do not know - you don't say whether it's a picture book for a 3-year old or a fantasy novel for a 12-year old.

What you've got to ask yourself is - can I afford to waste this amount of time when I could be earning real money (remember that the author does not have a contract with a publisher and 99.9% (or something in that region) of unsolicited manuscripts sent to publishers are filed under B for Bin).

However, my main worry is that you seem to think an interpretation diploma in some way qualifies you to work as a translator. Your profile states that you have completed a "'Local government/Law' interpreting course (DIPI)" and , with the exception of having "translated for a sports programme on sky", you have little translation experience. Although I know of a number of people who are able to work both as interpreter and translator, I'm definitely not one of them.

This surprises many people as I'm fully native in both languages I work with. But, and it's a very big but, I feel that very different skills and abilities are required in the two professions (thorough knowledge of two languages being the one and, in my opinion, only exception).

As a translator your main ambition should be to relay accurately and, in as similar a style as possible (with an eye to culturally differences), the information contained in the original. Being able to write clear copy is also a requirement.

As an interpreter your main ambition should be to relay the information as speedily as possible whilst taking care to avoid inaccuracies. (Professional interpreters might disagree with me on this - my only experience of interpreting is private or semi-professional).

I, personally, am too much of a perfectionist to even contemplate taking on an interpreting assignment

[Edited at 2007-11-13 19:24]

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Seyhan Esen-Yagmurlu
Local time: 06:21
+ ...
Misunderstood..? Nov 13, 2007

Thanks for your reply, but I think you've misunderstood me or I haven't explained myself well enough.
Firstly, I am not an interpreter. I took a short interpreting course a good few years ago, and simply put this on my CV to show my language skills - perhaps this was not the best thing to do.
I have always wanted to work as a literary translator and as we must begin some where this is what I'm attempting to do now.
As I mentioned, I've translated a few short stories and sent these to various people in the industry and to authors; and received good feedback.
I have now been approached by an author who liked my work and wants me to translate her short book.
In a way this will be an experiment for both of us so I do not feel that I'm loosing out on anything.
I will translate a few chapters and then we will together approach publishers (I work in publishing myself).
If successful we've decided that I will take a percentage of the author's earnings - what I'd really like to know is how these things are done. Is this the right thing to do and if so what percentage would be fair..?

Many thanks

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juvera  Identity Verified
Local time: 06:21
Member (2005)
English to Hungarian
+ ...
Do you like the story? Nov 15, 2007

These deals are not unusual. I cannot answer your question, but as you are working in publishing, you may find the right people to ask there.

As far as your translating or interpreting abilities go, who are we to judge? The author obviously likes your work, and that is how it should be. Do you like his story? Would other people like it?

If you would be happy to translate it, - and you say it is a short story -, you may be prepared to gamble on it being published. Your percentage of the sales might pay for your efforts. Having said that, some people translate literature for their own pleasure.

Think it over how it would fit in with your other commitments. Decide how much time you are willing to assign to it per week, and stick to it. You could work out when it is likely to be finished, without the detriment of your earnings.

After finishing the "paid" part, you would know if it is worth your while to continue. The author may try to find a publisher with this material, or the whole thing may not continue for some reason, but then you have nothing to lose.

By the way, interpreting has its own rewards. Even if it is not apparent now, I am sure you benefited from the course you took. You never know, how the market and your circumstances or preferences may change.
Being flexible is a great asset, never forget that.

Good luck.

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Seyhan Esen-Yagmurlu
Local time: 06:21
+ ...
Thanks! Nov 22, 2007

Dear Juvera,

Thanks very much for your reply!
It was very optimistic and just what I needed I think
Yes, I do really enjoy translating fiction, and as I need to begin some where I think this is a great oppurtunity for me.
I am translating about 40 pages for a small fee and will then translate the rest only if we find a publisher who is interested in taking it.
This way I will not have wasted my time translating the whole book for nothing.

Thanks again!

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