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Thread poster: corinne durand

corinne durand  Identity Verified
Local time: 09:14
English to French
+ ...
Jan 30, 2002

Dear colleagues,

I was wondering if any of you with relevant experience ( having translated published work...) could give me your opinion.

I am considering entering into a contract involving royalties only payment, therefore with remuneration based exclusively on number of sales for each translated publication (up to a capped limit and for a limited number of years). Is this normal practice in the literary/publication translation field? Is there any other condition worth checking? Do you know of any sites with relevant information?

Looking for your input, personal experiences or opinions about the matter.

Many thanks in advance to your replies


[ This Message was edited by: on 2002-01-30 13:24 ]


Chiara Santoriello  Identity Verified
Local time: 10:14
Member (2002)
English to Italian
+ ...
Publishing translations Jan 30, 2002

I usually work in the publishing field but I am always paid by word or by page. The offer you are referring to which is on this site it\'s a different case because as far as I understood visiting their web site they are not a really publishing house. Anyway you can write asking more info concerning this kind of payment. Payment on a royalty basis could be OK but it depends on the amount!



Galina Nielsen  Identity Verified
Local time: 10:14
English to Russian
+ ...
Book that might help you to decide Jan 30, 2002

On the 7th of December, on another Forum there was given (by Roomy Naqvy) a link to a site that might help you to find out whether the contract conditions you have been offered, are appropriate.

A Handbook for Literary Translators

Moderator Dec 7



Please see the following link where you can find an online edition of the Literary Handbook for Literary Translators [and even to download] of the PEN American Centre.

Best wishes

Roomy Naqvy



Eivind Lilleskjaeret  Identity Verified
Local time: 10:14
Member (2004)
English to Norwegian
+ ...
Royalty deals tend to be dodgy... Jan 30, 2002


I haven\'t read the book that Squi refers to, and I have only translated one book for a publishing house, but I reckon from the publishers\' point of view, offering a contract with payment based on royalties signals a lack of belief in the commercial potential of the book. If it\'s the new Harry Potter you\'re translating, you\'re fine, but if it\'s a publication of a more obscure nature, it\'s the publishers\' way of covering their backs. Of course, the book may turn out to be a shock hit... but I wouldn\'t bet my house on it.

Anyway, to get more practical: You may be able to negotiate a split deal: An advance based on for instance 1/3 of the first edition and as per quarterly sales after that. That way you\'re guaranteed at least something if the book turns out to be complete dud. You may be forced to accept a drop in the base percentage, though.

Good luck,



Lia Fail (X)  Identity Verified
Local time: 10:14
Spanish to English
+ ...
Be VERY careful! Jan 30, 2002

I have heard of at least two cases in recent of offers of this kind, and my instinct is to stay well away from them. You may well end up translating thousands of words for nothing. After all what input have you had into the original and its quality? Definitely sounds dodgy to me! You stand to lose so much and \'them\', nothing.


Jon Zuber (X)
Spanish to English
+ ...
That's a raw deal. Jan 30, 2002

No sensible author would ever forego an advance. Why should you? And if you get royalties you should get them on each and every copy sold -again, just like the author. I\'d think twice about dealing with these folks at all.


Rachel Gruenberger-Elbaz
Local time: 11:14
Hebrew to German
+ ...
You must get a reasonable advance Jan 31, 2002

I certainly agree with Eivind about a reasonable advance which should be your security. Living in a country where business practices are more than questionable, I personally usually told my clients, that I want a regular payment and renounce royalties. But this was, because I new the theatre-plays I translated 1) will hardly bring the big success and 2) I will never be able to find out, where and how often they have been performed = the client will just hide information from me.

So the offer you got depends very much on where you are living and who you are dealing with. And, as somebody said above: \"It could be Harry Potter...\"


Attila Piróth  Identity Verified
Local time: 10:14
English to Hungarian
+ ...
Calculate and decide - royalty might be the right choice Jan 31, 2002

I have translated 8 books in the past 2 years for Hungarian Editing Companies, and for the lasty contracts I asked for royalty. The reason is that per-word (or per character) book translations are horribly underpaid; it is far from the 0.06-0.08 USD/word basic price here on KudoZ. I translated the books anyway, as I found them interesting and serving a good purpose - popular science - but it is clear that with such works in Hungary you can make ends meet, not much more. Therefore, I decided I would go for a royalty - which brings in some risk but can pay much better. I signed contracts on 6 and 7 per cent of the price, which is usual in Hungary - and, I would guess, it is something like that worldwide. If approximately 2000 copies are sold, I get the same amount as being paid by characters. Hungarian is a small enough language to have the expected number of sold books not too far from this limit - but at least you have the feeling that if you do an excellent job, you are likely to earn more. If the book is reprinted, you have gained.

Not as if you should not ask for an extra sum after each reprint. But, as you dont have to work again, the editing company will not give in so easily if you ask for the same percentage.

Therefore: check out your rights. Are you entitled to have a look at the book-keeping? If yes, great: if you have suspicions that they would try to take you in, with that option it is much more difficult. However, once you ask them to shopw it to you, the relatioon based on trusting each other might get broken.

If you have already translated for them, and they were pleased with your work, it is fine: they are unlikely to risk losing a good translator - who can make them good money - and also to risk a trial. Dont takle it for granted; check it out and decide yourself.

Ask for a proposal both ways. Or even a third way: a fixed sum plus royalty (after books sold beyond a certain # of copies). Ask them how many copies they wish to print, check out other books in the same series, etc. Not so much work, and it is really worth.

Good luck!




Maya Jurt  Identity Verified
Local time: 10:14
Member (2002)
French to German
+ ...
Careful: This site is out for free translations! Feb 5, 2002

zipkid distributes children stories on the net. Why not? I answered to see how they would handle it. They came back promptly and asked me for a test translation. I wrote back and said I would be happy to do it, exceptionally up to 300 words, but not more.

Here is the answer I got:

We respect your professional precautions and despite my libertysurf email address, your application was

forwarded to me from the site (The team members all work from their own office or home locations).

I have selected libertysurf as my ISP provider.

We are unable to distribute “half stories” for translation tests as we analyse much more than the

translation/adaptation aspect. We appreciate the interest you have shown in the project and may we

wish you every success for the future.

Yours sincerely,

Irene Besson


They ask you to translate up to 2500 words - for free. Your test translation and many others will find their way to the web. Or so it seems to me.

Good luck to everyone.



IsaPro  Identity Verified
Local time: 10:14
English to French
+ ...
You're right!!! Feb 12, 2002

Dear Irene,

I\'ve had the same happening last week. As I had some time free, I have accepted to translate a short story as a test.

The answer was:

We are sorry to inform you that we did not choose your translation (I still wonder why but, after all, if they said they didn\'t like it...). Thanks a lot for your cooperation, etc, etc, etc.

They told me that they would not use my translation in any way.

I think I\'m going to check on the web... I may find my text edited!!!


corinne durand  Identity Verified
Local time: 09:14
English to French
+ ...
Thank you for your views Feb 17, 2002

Many thanks to all of you who responded to this topic and gave your personal views and experiences on the publishing/royalties world.



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