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Translating samples for free + finding a publisher + getting paid later: Is this a good deal?
Thread poster: linadia
linadia
French to Arabic
+ ...
Jul 6, 2004

I have this job offer:
I have to translate samples of a book for free without getting paid.
Then look for a publisher
Try to make a good deal
Sign a contract with the author and the publisher to have a certain percentage of book sales

I'd like to know if any of you have had similar experiences. Shall I go for it? What guarentees should I be looking for? Is it usual that the translator looks for a publisher? Isn't this what the author should do first before asking to have his book translated to a foreign language?

Thanks


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Steven Sidore  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 04:02
Member (2003)
German to English
Not a good idea Jul 6, 2004

Hi Linadia,

You're right to have reservations. Unless you work in the book industry and know how to place a book, or are CERTAIN that this is a can't-miss project (like a Stephen King book, or some sort of technology treatise that is traditionally and reliably taken up by a certain academic press), this is a very bad idea. As you suggest, this is the author/agent/publisher's problem, not yours.

For translators, time = money. I used to sell foreign rights when I worked in book publishing, and from experience I'd say that you'd waste far too much time trying to find a publisher to ever make it worth your while. Besides the fact that royalties aren't big money makers anyway.

Much safer to let them sell the rights, then take your set fee for translation service.

A suggestion: offer to the publisher to pitch the book to publishers for them, for an hourly fee. They might bite on that if they don't know the market you're in, and that guarantees some income for your efforts.

HTH!



[Edited at 2004-07-06 09:07]


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Natasa Grubor  Identity Verified
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Local time: 04:02
Member
English to Serbian
+ ...
not a good idea at all Jul 6, 2004

To translate for free then to try to find out how to make money of it? Not a good idea at all. What if you dont find publisher? What if the writer ask you to "help" (pay)publishing? Who is going to distribute book even when you find publisher? I know a little about it, so my honest suggestion is to forget about this issue.

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Ralf Lemster  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 04:02
English to German
+ ...
That's what you call "risk"... Jul 6, 2004

I don't think you can say whether or not this is a good proposition without knowing anything at all about the author and the subject.

Just imagine this: ten years ago, you're contacted by a completely unknown author who wants to publish a fantasy story about a young trainee magician, and would like to get this translated for free, into five languages, against a share in the sales of the published book.

Would you have turned down Joanne K. Rowling? I probably would have...

Looking at your situation: to be able to assess and manage the risk, you would need to know the author and topic, and have good contacts to publishers. If you have those skills, expertise and connections, this could be a good deal - if not, it'll be hard to handle.

Best regards, Ralf


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Ruxi
German to Romanian
+ ...
Depends of the country also Jul 6, 2004

Let me resume a little in order to clear up things.
Who offered you this job? The author?
The fact that you must translate the samples for free is not very unusual, editors want to see your style and the quality of your work.
Now it depends on the country too. I don't know how editors are in that country.
I tried to do something similar and failed.
I was payed to make a private translation of a book.That person promised to help me also with editing it, but unfortunately he died before doing it.
Being an interesting book for a large part of the population, I started to offer it to editors (publishers).I sent a sample, CV and a short description of the book.
No editor ever answered me, being it positive or negative. It is happening in my country, probably because of lack of money.
I also contacted the author in USA to find out how much the copy right would be, so that I could evaluate if editors would agree.
Answer: copy-right is given only to editors, no information for me. Why such a secret, I did not understand.
Indeed, usually things go the other way around, editors contact translators and offer the jobs. But if you, translator, find some interesting books, to be translated and offered to people, editors should be grateful that you do somehow a market research for them.
Am I wrong?
Could anyone explain it to me?
I can not give you advice. Just try, may be you will succeed.
Good luck,
Ruxi


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Özden Arıkan  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 04:02
Member
English to Turkish
Agree with Ralf Jul 6, 2004

I would also have said "No" to Rowling - and now would be tearing my hair out

The pains involved seem to be big, but so might be the gains, especially upon considering that your target language is one spoken by a large population occupying many countries. I think this all depends on a wise assessment about the chances of the book, where many factors would be at work apart from the literary quality of the text itself; i.e. whether the book would be addressing certain needs, sensitivities, trends of the target audience in the right time, etc. I also agree with Steven that time is money for us translators. Maybe the best thing you can do, if you have time, is seek advice from professional publishers, and assess the book with them. There will always be risk if you accept the offer and you can never know before having the book published, but... worth keeping in mind of Ralf's example of Rowling


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Steven Sidore  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 04:02
Member (2003)
German to English
Jul 6, 2004

Xola wrote:

There will always be risk if you accept the offer and you can never know before having the book published, but... worth keeping in mind of Ralf's example of Rowling


Both you and Ralf are eloquent, but I'm not sure the logic makes sense: think lottery tickets. Big payoff if you hit it, not unlike translating for Mr. Potter there, but a foolish overall investment. Do you tear out your hair every morning because you didn't get the winner ticket while you could have?

To clarify the point on hand, since I suspect I'm the only one here who has actually worked in this part of the book industry: this is not an industry-standard arrangement, or even close. Regard with extreme prejudice.

[Edited at 2004-07-06 14:19]


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Özden Arıkan  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 04:02
Member
English to Turkish
Not lottery, but investment Jul 6, 2004

Thanks for your comment, Steven, and I get your point here, but I don't think this situation can be compared to the contingency of a lottery. I'd rather tend to see this as a business investment, as the translator cannot be expected to assess the books market in a given country however, I would suggest seeking the collaboration of a publisher, and then move to the next step of deciding whether to make the sample translations or not, depending on the assumed chances of the book. There is risk involved again, of course, but as would be in any other investment. Maybe I couldn't make this point clear enough in my previous message, while under the spell of my favorite Turkish translator's profit... oops! sorry, professional success with Harry Potter books

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linadia
French to Arabic
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
No risks for me Jul 9, 2004

Thank you all for your answers, they've been most helpful for me to decide what to do.

From your replies, I could get the picture clearer, so I decided not to have any risks.

I'd do translation (samples or book) but not for free. However, I'd help him find a publisher but it would not be a condition for getting paid as he asked.

I'm still waiting for his answer.

Best regards

nadia


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