Book translation procedure
Thread poster: egunn

egunn  Identity Verified
Local time: 10:40
French to English
Dec 10, 2005

Hi all,

I recently read a non-fiction book in French which I’d love to translate. It was published this year, and, as far as I can see, there is no English translation available as yet. I’ve been working as a freelance translator for about three years, but have no experience of translating books and have no idea of the procedure. I was thinking of contacting the French publisher (or even the author) to see if anyone is working on an English translation of the book, and, if not, perhaps translating a sample chapter and approaching UK publishers. Is that the standard procedure? If not, how should I go about it? Any advice greatly appreciated.

I’m sure the same question must have been asked before in this forum, but I haven’t been able to find a relevant posting, despite using a variety of search terms, etc. It’s great that there’s so much here, but it does seem to make it difficult to find things. So, apologies if this has all already been covered - links to previous discussions would be equally welcome.


Terry Gilman  Identity Verified
Local time: 11:40
Member (2003)
German to English
+ ...
Link to some relevant PEN Club info Dec 10, 2005

I have the same problem with the forums so I often make a copy of the interesting bits. Here is a copy of a forum entry (unfort without the name of the poster, my apologies) with a link to the PEN site, which contains information you should read. The contract link was re-posted in the forums last week in a semi-non-related thread that I also cannot re-find.

Still browsing on the internet and just found another useful thing:
The PEN American Center have produced an online "Handbook for Literary Translators" which covers the following topics:
-The Responsibilities of Translation
-Negotiating a Contract
-Dos and Don’ts
-A Translator's Model Contract
-Selected Resources
-International PEN's Declaration on the Rights and Responsibilities of Translators
This is what we've been discussing on and off on our list, so I hope translators will derive pleasure and inspiration from the site:
The model contract has a good deal of explanation alongside. This is the best free information I've seen anywhere and accessible online, and as a member of PEN English Centre, I have no qualms about plugging the US sister organisation (even though I may quibble about their spelling within this very sentence!).


Dr Sue Levy (X)
Local time: 11:40
French to English
+ ...
contact the publisher Dec 10, 2005

That's what I would do. The French publishing world is (for the moment) more open to direct contact than the Anglo-Saxons, who expect you to grovel when you so much as dare to ask if you can send them a manuscript. Anyway, the French publisher will no doubt hold the translation rights and there's no point starting a translation if someone else is doing it.

The French government has a scheme for financially assisting translations from French to other languages, but the request has to come from the publisher. I have the forms and info somewhere on my computer. I'll send them to you by email if you are interested.

Then, if you get the go-ahead, if I were you I would translate a few chapters and submit the project to a publisher or an agent. Increasingly these days you have to go through an agent in th UK and USA. The French publisher may or may not help here - don't expect it. You need to be careful about targeting publishers so as not to waste time and money - lots of advice on the internet about that.

I know all this from working with a Congolese writer who publishes in France.

Good luck!


Dr Sue Levy (X)
Local time: 11:40
French to English
+ ...
subventions pour la traduction Dec 10, 2005

I found the website (Centre national du livre),639


Rafa Lombardino
United States
Local time: 02:40
Member (2005)
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Thanks for the tip Dec 10, 2005

[quote]Terry Gilman wrote:

This is what we've been discussing on and off on our list, so I hope translators will derive pleasure and inspiration from the site:[quote]

It seems that the page has been moved and its contents can now be found here:


Dr Sue Levy (X)
Local time: 11:40
French to English
+ ...
more info Dec 11, 2005

From the AAE-ESIT website:


Puicz (X)  Identity Verified
Local time: 11:40
Swedish to English
Good tips Dec 11, 2005

Thanks for the tips everyone!


Dr Sue Levy (X)
Local time: 11:40
French to English
+ ...
correct link for Centre national du livre Dec 11, 2005

Sorry, I don't know why it got messed up!,639

or if that doesn't work


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Book translation procedure

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