Pricing a text book translation
Thread poster: Daniel Weston

Daniel Weston  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 14:12
French to English
+ ...
Aug 28, 2009

I have been asked to quote on translating a small college mathematics textbook by the publisher. I am very familiar with the subject matter since I have a math degree and I've taken courses in this particular subject. The copy is in PDF format. I have never translated a book before, but the job is something that I would like to move forward with because I have a thorough understanding of the topic and it is interesting to me. The formulae contain many special math characters but I am able to reproduce them in Word. Does it make more sense to quote a job like this by the page or by the character? Or is it better to quote by the hour? Where can I find information regarding pricing a project like this? Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.



KSL Berlin  Identity Verified
Local time: 22:12
Member (2003)
German to English
+ ...
Tricky Aug 28, 2009

In general, I don't think the rates for textbook translation are great (though perhaps not as miserable as for literature), but keep in mind that the equation editor in Word is very quirky, and getting the formulae right can take a long time in some cases. You might figure out how long it takes you on average to reproduce an equation and add a surcharge for each one in the text. Also, since the source is PDF this involves additional effort on your part, which should be charged appropriately.

You might think about something like a source line rate (character-based) with an equation surcharge. Quoting pages is pointless, as these don't reflect the amount of text or other work involved, unless you use "standard pages" of a defined character count.


cilantro  Identity Verified
Local time: 00:12
Italian to English
+ ...
forfait Aug 29, 2009

I would personally try to figure out a figure for the whole job. There is also the benefit of including in this method how much the job is worth to the customer.


Narasimhan Raghavan  Identity Verified
Local time: 02:42
English to Tamil
+ ...
My experience in book translation Aug 30, 2009

T have so far translated two books from French into English, one on fault tree analysis for the faults in electrical power plant and another on bio-process automation.

The client was a publisher in India. As far as the pricing was concerned, there was no difference between technical literature translation and the translation of the text book. The client sent me the full book in PDF. Then he converted each chapter into Word and sent them too.

From the Word files I was able to give a quotation using PractiCount & Invoice. Then the translation started on the saved as copy of the Word files. Whenever equations came nothing was more simpler. I just went to the PDF file, and copied the equation with the snapshot tool and pasted in the Word file. No need to go in for typing complicated mathematic formulae.

Same trick with the pictures and the legends in the picture was translated using text boxes. Since payment was based on the target etxt word count, PractiCount was again involved.

N. Raghavan


KSL Berlin  Identity Verified
Local time: 22:12
Member (2003)
German to English
+ ...
Not always that simple Aug 30, 2009

Narasimhan Raghavan wrote:
Whenever equations came nothing was more simpler. I just went to the PDF file, and copied the equation with the snapshot tool and pasted in the Word file. No need to go in for typing complicated mathematic formulae.

Very often equations will contain subscript labels or other elements that simply do not make sense in the other language and require translation. This is where I go through Hell at times with the MS equation editor.

"Cilantro's" comments about making a bid for the whole job is the right approach, of course, but you'll have to arrive at a figure by some rational means. Starting off with your line rate (character-based charge) will ensure that you don't set the price too low, and you can work your way up from there depending on factors like value, royalties, additional effort checking galley proofs or anything else you care to think about.


Edited to fix my usual fumble-fingered mistakes

[Edited at 2009-08-30 08:05 GMT]


Oliver Walter  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 22:12
Member (2005)
German to English
+ ...
My approach: word count and time Aug 30, 2009

I am considering a very similar problem, perhaps even the same book! I have nearly decided to work it out this way:
  • Look through the book for 1 or 2 most "typical" pages, translate them using Word and its equation editor, and see how long that requires. Multiply this by the no. of pages in the book and adjust for any "non-standard" pages it contains. Or, alternatively:
  • Count (approximately) the words (not equations) on some of the pages, in order to estimate the number of words in the whole book (I've done that).
  • Estimate how long it would take to reproduce the equations (some will be unchanged, some need translated terms or symbols).
  • Calculate my offer from the word count and my word rate, plus the equation-time estimate times my hourly rate.
  • See whether the result is ridiculously low or high (I admit I'm not really sure what such numbers would be!), or perhaps reasonable, and adjust it if this seems necessary.

    I might give this figure to the inquirer and also offer to charge less if the total time it takes (I shall be keeping records of this) times my hourly rate is a lower figure.
    I hope that helps (and might clarify my own thinking also).



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