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How much to charge for translating a book vs. text?
Thread poster: Paul Dixon

Paul Dixon  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 23:49
Portuguese to English
+ ...
Feb 2, 2008

I have always translated texts in general, mostly contracts and documents as well as some articles and other similar matters, and have my regular price for these services.
I have now been asked to give a quote for the translation of a book (ca. 150 pages), and would like to know if I should charge more, the same or less than my usual rate. The book is quite straightforward, nothing technical.

I do not want to charge too little, as the job shall take a long time, but at the same time I do not want to scare the client with the price.

The client is local, and seems to be a private individual.


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Sergei Tumanov  Identity Verified
Local time: 05:49
English to Russian
+ ...
be or not to be Feb 2, 2008

You should know better whether you want to make your money or to make your client happy. It's up to you.

I would stay with my rates.


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Elda CENALIA
United States
Local time: 22:49
Member
Albanian to English
+ ...
agree Feb 2, 2008

me, too. Keep your rates!

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patyjs  Identity Verified
Mexico
Local time: 20:49
Spanish to English
+ ...
Definitely stick to your rates. Feb 2, 2008

Firstly, why should you lose income?
Secondly, your other clients will be deprived of your services for a time and may have to look elsewhere. Therefore, you risk losing income (in a worst case scenario) by taking a long-term job.

Thinking of the second point, I might consider trying to extend the deadline so that I still had time to work on other projects, for my regular clients, for example. If they insisted on a discount rate, that would have to be a condition.

Good luck!


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Astrid Elke Witte  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 04:49
Member (2002)
German to English
+ ...
Yes, I agree Feb 2, 2008

Low rates, low priority seems quite fair. From a business perspective, it should not take up more than a certain (fairly small) percentage of each week.

There is also the matter of payment in instalments. From my previous experience of translating books for individuals, I suggest agreeing to do a chapter per week and insisting on being paid for each chapter before continuing.

Astrid


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Carol Gullidge  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 03:49
Member (2006)
French to English
+ ...
slightly lower rates Feb 2, 2008

My experience of translating books is that they don't make you rich! Clients seem to expect to pay less for greater volume - which seems quite fair, as while you're working on something of this size, you don't have the hassle of looking for further work.

Of course, if you can timetable it so that other, more lucrative, work can be fitted in around this, then all the better. I've usually found that this system works very well, and as I usually find that I speed up as the work progresses, the job is often finished earlier than predicted. So, in the end, you're not out of pocket, despite the slightly lower rate.


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Peter Linton  Identity Verified
Local time: 03:49
Member (2002)
Swedish to English
+ ...
Do it by the hour Feb 2, 2008

By chance, I am currently in exactly the same position as you. I do the same kind of translation as you, but have been offered a book, a straightforward relatively short novel.

I think this will be a very interesting and valuable experience. I also suspect that I will be able to do it quite quickly (I use speech recognition, which is ideally suited to this sort of work). Also there is a comfortable deadline, so I can do this work as an occasional background job. Last but not least, I will negotiate to have my name included as a translator. That may open opportunities for future work. Even if not, it will look good on my CV.

All these factors are to my advantage (and barely mentioned by the other people answering your question).

So I have decided to offer 2 rates -- a lower than normal rate per word, and an adequate hourly rate. The point is, I will charge whichever is the lower. I suspect it will be the hourly rate.

This way, I will make adequate money, gain all the benefits mentioned above, AND make the client happy.

[Edited at 2008-02-02 22:33]


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Paul Merriam  Identity Verified
Local time: 22:49
Member (2008)
Russian to English
+ ...
Other parameters? Feb 2, 2008

Basically, I'd say keep your standard rate. But some other things to consider in making your decision:

a. Do you think it's likely that this is going to be part of a bigger project?
b. Are you going to be involved with discussing the translation with other people later? (This would be the case if, say, the client intended to publish the translation.)
c. Is the deadline such that you have to put other things on hold while you do this?

I've frequently talked to people who don't realize that translating books costs a lot of money. Sometimes they indicate that the figures they were thinking of were very low and I've pointed out that a typist typing 50 words per minute absolutely accurately making minimum wage wouldn't retype the book for that figure. Obviously, you want to earn well over minimum wage.


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xxxLia Fail  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 04:49
Spanish to English
+ ...
Volume discounts Feb 3, 2008

Carol Gullidge wrote:

Clients seem to expect to pay less for greater volume - which seems quite fair, as while you're working on something of this size, you don't have the hassle of looking for further work.



A volume discount is a rational arrangement when you have a commodity that you won't sell otherwise or will sell more slowly. Like a warehouse full of a crop that's perishable or sesonal, which you are in the position of needing to sell becuase, among other things, the warehouse has a real or opportunity cost. So you may well decide to cut your losses and sell at a discount.

Time isn't such a commodity; it will, theoretically take you proportionately as long to translate 100 thousand as 10 thousand words. What do you gain - relatively speaking by doing the larger job? Nothing, except complications, possible lost future contacts (for better rates and subjects of more interest), and possible lost existing clients.

Committing oneself to a big job actually complicates one's life far more (and is more stressful). The major issue is that your regulars come back to you and out of loyalty/knowing that you stand to lose them by not being available you want to do their jobs, even as you are doing your big job. Secondly, a big project of 10 or 30 thou words has added complexities compared to a 200 or 500 word text (for one thing, changes in translations decisions means reviewing a far larger text and maybe many documents).

My own personal rule of thumb is never to accept to work at a rate of more than 8 to 10 thousand words/week on a big job, depending on complexity, so as to ensure adequate quality for that job AND build in other commitments. I also consider whether the fee is worth the sacrifice I make in personal terms, and whether the subject area is one of interest.

Finally, the argument that "one may not have to look for other work" is a perspective that only views short-term gain and fails to consider overall long-term gain. The thing is we can't have work at our PREFERRED rates on command anyway--unless we drop our rates so as to compete on the open market in sites like ProZ. Taking on a big job you end up having to turn down possibly more interesting / better paid / less stressful work, and this, as far as I'm concerned, means that I'll want to be both well paid AND well motivated by the subject area to take on a big volume job. NO question EVER of a discount, on the contrary, my price goes UP by at least 10%.









[Edited at 2008-02-03 00:02]


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xxxLia Fail  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 04:49
Spanish to English
+ ...
at least the same ... but lots of time Feb 3, 2008

Paul Dixon wrote:

I have always translated texts in general, mostly contracts and documents as well as some articles and other similar matters, and have my regular price for these services.
I have now been asked to give a quote for the translation of a book (ca. 150 pages), and would like to know if I should charge more, the same or less than my usual rate. The book is quite straightforward, nothing technical.

I do not want to charge too little, as the job shall take a long time, but at the same time I do not want to scare the client with the price.

The client is local, and seems to be a private individual.



I would do a job in these conditions for the same rate at least (see my argument below for at least 10% more) BUT one thing I would insist on is adequate time.


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Paul Dixon  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 23:49
Portuguese to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Parameters and Thanks Feb 3, 2008

Thanks to all those who have replied so far.

As one of the answers mentions parameters, perhaps I should shed light on some of these:

1. I am not sure if it shall be part of a bigger project, especially as the book is printed independently, no name of printing house. It does, however, have an ISBN number.

2. Although I have never worked with this client before, I have done other work for other clients through the same intermediary. Deadlines have been comfortable in these cases.


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Tim Drayton  Identity Verified
Cyprus
Local time: 05:49
Turkish to English
+ ...
Book translation pays less than commercial work Feb 3, 2008

In my experience, you get paid far less for book translation than for commercial work. This is especially true of academic books which will have a relatively small print run. Of course, you are free to quote your standard rate for the job, but I doubt if the offer will be accepted.

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José Henrique Lamensdorf  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 23:49
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Deadline rules! Feb 3, 2008

IMHO the main reason why one might charge less than their normal rate for translating a book is the usual lack of urgency. It is possible to fill in all the time gaps between average profitable jobs with the book and, if anything very urgent at a premium rate comes up, it will be possible to painlessly squeeze it in the schedule.

Delivery times for books often span several months, so they shouldn't require working on them after hours unless you really want to.

On the other hand, if the book is "urgent", i.e. normal translation speed is required, normal rates should apply.

I once had to turn down a job offer for translating a book. I had been selected for its being in my main specialty area. The problem was the book had 900 pages, A4 size, crammed with text in Times 11 pt. The first catch was the deadline: 5 months. Well, I could do it if I didn't care about anything else. But then the second catch was a killer: the rate offered was slightly less than 1/3 of my standard price. The publisher explained to me that this book required such an enormous investment in paper and printing, on top of the up-front minimum guaranteed royalties, that they couldn't afford spending more than that that in the translation. The deadline could not be extended, as it would be the textbook for some already scheduled higher education course.

So I told them that if I did it in 5 months for that rate, I'd first go bankrupt, and then starve, so they wouldn't get it finished from me anyway. If they could give me, say, 14-16 months to do it at that rate, or double the rate and give me 10 months, I could do it. No way, it didn't work.

Some (Russian?) translator said it well on his advertisement:
- Quality
- Price
- Speed
Please indicate two desired criteria from the three above on your order.


I'm still looking for a way to decrease my quality. Until I find it, my equation will have to consider price vs. speed only.


And this applies to any kind of work, not only books. While I try my best to avoid surcharging a customer for their urgency, unless it requires me to burn the midnight oil, I tend to be more generous with disconts when they tell me "No rush! Whenever you can get it finished, it will be okay for us."

[Edited at 2008-02-03 20:29]


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Soonthon LUPKITARO(Ph.D.)  Identity Verified
Thailand
Local time: 09:49
Partial member (2004)
English to Thai
+ ...
Co-author of a book? Feb 4, 2008

A translator is similar to co-author of a popular or a bestseller book.
You may get less pay for translation but advertisement effects offer you more higher pay jobs.
Think on a positive basis, translating a book with your name printed is quite a very good investment for your translation career.

Regards,
Soonthon L.


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Alain Chouraki  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 04:49
English to French
+ ...
How much do businesses spend on promotion? Feb 4, 2008

Hello...

Soonthon raises a key point here.

And pushing it further on a marketing line, the finished product will end up being an advertisement tool, which means that the book better be "very well" translated and edited. After all, your name will be on one of the first pages forever.

Imagine the book is a success, you want to be history for good reasons...
And of course, since it looks like a little project, not a big editor machine product, you might not have a stream of proofreaders, readers, copy writers, etc. to polish it up and clean all those little points that never miss to be overlooked. Not to mention style that could mean a lot of work to have it as literary (if not more) as the original.

This could be discussed with author or client... how good and perfect do you want it?
What are you ready to invest for it?

In the end, having all data in hands... your inner feeling regarding the overall project and persons might have a word to say too.


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