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Translator's contract with German publisher
Thread poster: Attila Piróth

Attila Piróth  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 13:28
Member
English to Hungarian
+ ...
May 25, 2005

Dear fellow translators!

I am about to undertake the translation of a large physics textbook from Hungarian into English, for a well-known German publisher that has a strong presence in the US. I would therefore very much appreciate the input from those who have signed contracts with German publishers, either as authors or as translators.
PEN’s model contract - http://www.pen.org/page.php/prmID/322 – seems to be a good starting point for negotiations, however, I would like to have confirmation that the most important issues are treated in the same spirit in Germany. I have the following questions:
1.) Is there a maximum duration of the contract, or publishers usually buy the right of publishing the translation forever? In other words, does the translator get a free hand to re-sell the translation after a certain amount of time? (In Hungary this is the case: the duration of the contract cannot exceed 8 years.)
2.) What is the usual method of payment in Germany? Does the translator get a royalty, with an advance, or just one fixed sum – irrespective of the number of printings (like when paying for work for hire)? If the translator gets a royalty, what is the usual percentage, and what how is the advance calculated? (retail price x royalty percentage x *what number* of books?) In the model contract, 2-5% is mentioned – 5% sounds uncommonly high, if one considers that publishing houses pay 7-8% of the retail price to the original publishers when buying the translation rights, or a 10% starting royalty for the author as indicated in http://www.writersmarket.com/encyc/B.asp#138.
3.) Both references above state clearly that the starting point of the calculation is the retail price (and not the retail price minus the distributors’ commission). I suppose this is common practice – thus, a typical author’s contract would include 10% of retail price – however, if someone has first-hand experience, could he/she confirm this, please?
4.) The proposed print run of the book is rather low, so applying for a publication/translation grant seems necessary. What grants do scientific publishers apply for, when they want to publish in English? I suppose there must be several possibilities in Germany, and much less abroad for German publishers.
However, if you have any other ideas in this particular case – eg, 2005 is the Year of Physics), please let me know. I guess the publisher submits an application with the name of the author/translator, and then the publisher receives the sum. (Please correct me if I am wrong.)

I would appreciate the input of those, too, who have some remarks to one or two of the above points.
Thanks in advance,
Attila Piroth


[Edited at 2005-05-25 19:47]


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Derek Gill Franßen  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 13:28
German to English
+ ...
Some comments... May 26, 2005

Hi Attila,

Congratulations on what sounds like it could be a cool project. I have never actually translated a complete book, so what I have to say is more theoretical than practical.

The most important aspects are treated here: http://www.literaturuebersetzer.de/pages/service/honorare.htm

PEN’s model contract
ems to be a good starting point for negotiations, however, I would like to have confirmation that the most important issues are treated in the same spirit in Germany.[/quote]

I can confirm that most of the issues addressed in PEN's model contract are treated with much the same spirit in Germany. Copyright law (Urhebergesetz) is constantly being amended, and much of it is very friendly to the author, or in this case to the translator.

Similar model agreements are recommended by translating organizations when dealing with publishing houses - for example, the so-called "Normvertrag für den Abschluss von Verlagsverträgen" [norm agreement for the conclusion of publishing contracts], which can be viewed (in German) here: http://www.google.de/url?sa=U&start=1&q=http://www.verband-deutscher-schriftsteller.de/normvertrag.pdf&e=9707 (I am not aware of a translation into English or Hungarian).

1.) Is there a maximum duration of the contract, or publishers usually buy the right of publishing the translation forever?


I'm not sure about the 'normal' practice in Germany, so I'll leave that up to the others. The "gemeinsame Vergütungregeln", which enumerates mutual rules on the remuneration of translators, which can be viewed in German here: http://www.literaturuebersetzer.de/download/verguetung.pdf , is concluded for an indefinite period of time. This probably does not present the type of risk that it may seem to, because German copyright law contains a provision, according to which the translator may claim additional remuneration should the amount received become incommensurate in relation to the amount of money earned off the translation - cf. Section 32 of the German Copyright Act [Urhebergesetz].

2.) What is the usual method of payment in Germany? Does the translator get a royalty, with an advance, or just one fixed sum – irrespective of the number of printings (like when paying for work for hire)? If the translator gets a royalty, what is the usual percentage, and what how is the advance calculated? (retail price x royalty percentage x *what number* of books?) In the model contract, 2-5% is mentioned – 5% sounds uncommonly high, if one considers that publishing houses pay 7-8% of the retail price to the original publishers when buying the translation rights, or a 10% starting royalty for the author as indicated in http://www.writersmarket.com/encyc/B.asp#138.


Normally, the translator receives a flat sum for the translation (regardless of whether it is published or not), and 3% of the retail price - cf. Section 3 here: http://www.literaturuebersetzer.de/download/verguetung.pdf .

3.) Both references above state clearly that the starting point of the calculation is the retail price (and not the retail price minus the distributors’ commission). I suppose this is common practice – thus, a typical author’s contract would include 10% of retail price – however, if someone has first-hand experience, could he/she confirm this, please?


I can not confirm this from first-hand experience, but after looking at the Norm Agreement and the Mutual Rules on Remuneration mentioned above, I tend to think that this is also the case in Germany.

4.) The proposed print run of the book is rather low, so applying for a publication/translation grant seems necessary. What grants do scientific publishers apply for, when they want to publish in English? I suppose there must be several possibilities in Germany, and much less abroad for German publishers.


Sorry, I can't help you out on that one - I just don't know. Perhaps the other members will be able to say more on the subject. Good luck!

Best regards,
Derek

[Edited at 2005-05-26 10:48]


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Attila Piróth  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 13:28
Member
English to Hungarian
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks, Derek! May 28, 2005

Hi, Derek,
Thank you very much for your reply and for the useful information.

Derek Gill Franßen wrote:

Copyright law (Urhebergesetz) is constantly being amended, and much of it is very friendly to the author, or in this case to the translator.


It is available at http://urheberg.abmahnung.de/urhg.html, right?



Well, Google Translate, http://translate.google.com/translate_t could give a first rough idea.


This probably does not present the type of risk that it may seem to, because German copyright law contains a provision, according to which the translator may claim additional remuneration should the amount received become incommensurate in relation to the amount of money earned off the translation - cf. Section 32 of the German Copyright Act [Urhebergesetz].

Thanks, very useful hint.


Normally, the translator receives a flat sum for the translation (regardless of whether it is published or not), and 3% of the retail price - cf. Section 3 here: http://www.literaturuebersetzer.de/download/verguetung.pdf .


Spot on.

Thanks again for your help - I hope someone can give a clue about this one:

4.) The proposed print run of the book is rather low, so applying for a publication/translation grant seems necessary. What grants do scientific publishers apply for, when they want to publish in English? I suppose there must be several possibilities in Germany, and much less abroad for German publishers.


Best regards,
Attila


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