how do i translate a book?
Thread poster: Eliza Allan

Eliza Allan
Local time: 06:26
Indonesian to English
+ ...
Dec 30, 2007

Hi everyone...

I'm interested in translating books from my second language into English. Just curious as to how one goes about doing this? I read somewhere that you need to contact the author, original publisher and the new publisher to discuss the overseas publication rights?

But what I really want to know is:
How do people normally get into this- is the translator usually approached by the author or the publisher? Or is it usually the translator who initiates everything? I am fairly new to translation (but have attained native speaker fluency in both languages) I also have a background in journalism/ writing, thus my interest in translating novels. Perhaps I should try and get a bit more experience in translating regular documents first, for the sake of credibility??

Would love to hear what everyone thinks...

Thanks in advanceicon_smile.gif

[Edited at 2007-12-30 13:01]


Stéphanie Soudais  Identity Verified
Local time: 21:26
Member (2006)
English to French
stroke of luck Dec 30, 2007

My experience : as I was a student in Translation, a friend of mine told me that he knew someone working in a publishing house; that publisher was urgently looking for someone to help finish the translation of a huge book. I "applied" and was accepted. Now they contact me once or twice a year. Once I had to translate one book with another translator who also works with another publishing house. He gave them my name and now, I work for them too, from time to time, but I never translate any novel or literature.

I did try to contact publishers by myself but it never worked. I think relationship is the key word in this field.

Good luck


Igor Indruch  Identity Verified
Czech Republic
Local time: 21:26
English to Czech
Contact publishing house Dec 30, 2007

That is the normal process: You are hired by publishing, which then asigns you books for translation.

Something different is, when you have particular book in mind. That can be quite complicated and for "newbie" quite impossible.

The best solution is again through publishing - some publishings accept tips for books, but hardly from "just anybody". You must be their "trusted person" first - regular translator for instance.

Or you can translate a publish book at your own expense, but this is difficult and risky business.

Because, first, you have aquire rights of course (you do not neet rights for translation - you can translate whatever you want for your personal use - rithts are for publishing). With rigths it can be dificult - because first you must find out, who manages rights - it can be author, it can by his/her publishing, it can be his/her agent etc.

In some cases right will not be available - some publishing in your country might already buy or reserve them.


Local time: 21:26
English to Latvian
+ ...
Wrong way to start Dec 30, 2007

If you have a certain book in mind, you might as well forget about it. When I was still a student, I contacted a publishing house. They gave me a test (a few pages, nothing tragic) and after I had done the test they wanted me to translate for them. They gave me some books that to read, but none really caught my attention. Some of them were particulary bad.icon_frown.gif They wanted to know my opinion about the books though. And after I told why they should never be translated or read they put them aside. I bet they gave the same books to another translators later. However, to be honest, I have never seen those being released in my TL.

They can't release a book just because they think it will sell or something. They need to obtain the legal rights first. So I suggest you contact some publishers before you start doing something.


Local time: 21:26
Afrikaans to Spanish
+ ...
maybe... Dec 30, 2007

I have translated more than 200 books since 1973 but now I translated books if there is no more work... and even so I think about it twice before do it...


Saskia Steur (X)  Identity Verified
Local time: 21:26
English to Dutch
+ ...
book production companies Dec 30, 2007

Not only publishers but also book production companies contract translators to translate books, although not literature etc. Those would be primarily informative books, illustrated books etc.

I have been referred to publishers and book production companies and usually translate about two books per year, with a volume average of 45000 words source text.

I, too, think it's important to have an active network of translators and (potential) clients - so keep networking!

I belong to a yahoo group in Dutch for book translators, so perhaps you can find a similar group of book translators in one of your languages. I find this a very useful and pleasant way of networking and helping out fellow translators.

Best regards,


freelance522  Identity Verified
Local time: 04:26
English to Chinese
+ ...
contact the publishers first Dec 31, 2007

Hi, I happen to have some experiences translating books.
I sent my resume to a publisher to apply for an editor position; however, I did not take that job and instead went to work for another company.
After one year, I got a phone call from that publisher; they were looking for a translator for a book, and they asked me if I was interested and would accept a test.
I took the test and passed it, so I got my first book translation contract.
Usually, it is the publisher who handles book translation issues, not the author. And as for the author's copyright, it is always managed by the copyright angency.
This is what happens in my country, maybe in your country, there is a different situation.
Maybe you can contact the publishers in your country and ask them if they need a translator.
If you have idea books in your mind, you may discuss with the editors, sometimes they are welcome the recommended books, but to accept the books or not, is still rely on their decision.

[Edited at 2007-12-31 06:12]


Eliza Allan
Local time: 06:26
Indonesian to English
+ ...
thanks Jan 2, 2008

Thanks guys....

Some very helpful info- now at least I'm a little more clued in!!!

CHeers for taking the time to reply, everyone!!!


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