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What to charge for literary translation?
Thread poster: Vera Malbaski
Vera Malbaski
Local time: 00:09
Spanish to English
Dec 19, 2007

Hi Everyone,
I've been asked to translate 3 books from English to Spanish. The subject is to do with complementary medicine (which I am very interested in on a personal level). I have been doing voluntary translations for a related site for a while now, which is how I got referred for the translation job.
Even though I have a lot of translation experience in my working life, I have not done any as large as this as a freelancer.
The first book is 38.500 words, which to me is a really good opportunity but I'm not sure what to charge. The author has offered to either pay a flat rate or give me a % of book sales. Due to my circumstances I really need to charge a fee as I can't wait for sales to receive an income (which might be more profitable in the long run - but, never mind).
As far as I understand, the going rate in Spain is aprox. 12-15 cents (Euros) and I have offered 7 cents (which I would be quite happy with) but even so it seems like a lot of money and I'm not sure the author would be happy with it. I know it could lead to more referrals and more work.
Can anyone please advise me as to the best way forward with this? I don't want to lose the job, but I don't want to be taken for a ride either.
Thanks for all your help. Best wishes.

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nordiste  Identity Verified
Local time: 00:09
Member (2005)
English to French
+ ...
contract with the publisher ? Dec 19, 2007

Usually the translation of a book is ordered and paid by an editor, not by the author.

The translation price is usually divided into a flat fee (based on number of pages/lines/words) which is paid upfront + a % of the sales.

Contact a litterary translators association for advice regarding the contract.

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Juliana Starkman  Identity Verified
Local time: 18:09
Spanish to English
+ ...
Check your category... Dec 20, 2007

A translation of a book is not necessarily a literary translation, since in this case, complementary medicine (which I agree is very interesting as a subject) is obviously not literature. The rates are quite different, as someone pointed out in another thread here recently.
As for the flat fee vs. percentage issue- it's up to each translator. I'm in a situation now where there's little to be gained long term from percentages, and sometimes the cash in hand is still better in the long run.
Take into account how long it would take you, and try to calculate what you'd make per hour- that will show you if it's worth it for you.

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What to charge for literary translation?

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