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Rates for literary translation
Thread poster: Cecilia Falk

Cecilia Falk  Identity Verified
Local time: 09:20
English to Swedish
Feb 17, 2007

In a recent thread regarding test translations for literary translations, the question of what rates to ask for literary translation came up.

http://www.proz.com/topic/66188

I briefly described the situation in Sweden (see below), but I would be very interested in hearing how this works in other countries. Is there a standard agreement that publishing houses and translators follow? If you have links to any organisations that outline this, I would be very grateful.

Information about the Swedish agreement (in Swedish) can be found here:

Sveriges Författarförbund
http://www.forfattarforbundet.se/organisation/sektioner/over_pa_gang.html

Svenska Förläggareföreningen
http://www.forlaggare.se/133

Brief overview of rates for literary translation in Sweden:

Traditionally literary translation has not been paid by word, but by printed sheet, and one printed sheet has up to lately been defined as 32,000 keystrokes (including spaces). The remuneration has also traditionally been (and still is) calculated based on the translated text, not the source text.

A fairly new agreement in the Swedish publishing world has established a recommended *minimum rate* per 1,000 keystrokes (the old way of counting based on printed sheets has been abandoned). This agreement is definitely an improvement in rates for literary translation in Sweden!

It is not a very straightforward agreement as all taxes are not included, and there is also the added benefit of holiday pay that has traditionally been paid to translators in Sweden (from publishing houses), so it is a bit difficult to give a completely accurate figure, but here goes:

For a translator with a company responsible for paying all their own taxes:
As a *minimum* you should get around SEK 119 per 1,000 keystrokes.
This equals around €12.87 or $16.89 per 1,000 keystrokes.

Converted to a per word price this means *approximately* SEK 0.65 per word.
This equals around €0.07 or $0.09 per word.

To conclude: This is the recommended minimum rate, but it is then up to the individual translator to negotiate a higher price. For more “advanced” books the price will definitely be higher, even a lot higher.

Best regards,
Cecilia


[Edited at 2007-02-17 14:14]


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Elena Carbonell  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 09:20
Member (2007)
English to Spanish
+ ...
This looks more like it!! Feb 28, 2007

That's precisely what I am going to charge for a book I just got assigned. In another thread (I don't remember which) I saw lower rates and it got me thinking that maybe I was charging too much. What you said looks more like it. I am relieved.

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Cecilia Falk  Identity Verified
Local time: 09:20
English to Swedish
TOPIC STARTER
Hello Elena Feb 28, 2007

I am actually not sure what the "going rate" is in other countries (I was hoping to get some hints and indications in response to this thread), but the rates I have outlined here are the results of a fairly new standard agreement (just recommendations) used in Sweden.
Before this agreement rates were lower.

I am still very interested to try and find out how rates are decided elsewhere.

Literary translation has traditionally been underpaid, I think because this was something that women from the upperclasses used to do. Many books translated into Swedish in the 19th centuary does not even acknowledge the translator (and maybe they were not even paid?).

Is there any standard agreement or similar in place in the Netherlands?

Best regards,
Cecilia


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Elena Carbonell  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 09:20
Member (2007)
English to Spanish
+ ...
No, as far as I know Feb 28, 2007

But maybe there is someone out there who can tell you more about it. I am pretty new in book translation (I just got one!!). What I saw on another thread was that 0,5 EUR was the norm and that I think is really low.

I think it's OK to lower your normal, per word prices if you have to translate a book especially if you have a CAT tool that eases the work and your name appear somewhere in the book, that gives you status BUT... i think there is a limit on how low you can go to get fame and glory.

I still don't understand why literary translations should be underpaid since the skills you need to translate literature, non straightforward information, are rare: refinement, taste, creative mind...and the like. Maybe there is a feminist explanation to it although I tend to think that it's just the way it has always been. I think Aristotle was the one who said: tradutore traditore (translator=traitor). Well, I don't remember exactly ... but you can get an idea of how the job of a translator has been considered upon the ages...


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