literary work: do I translate first and then publish, or viceversa?
Thread poster: Lidys Garcia

Lidys Garcia
Local time: 18:22
Spanish to English
+ ...
Jan 18, 2009

Hi Proz members,

I have a friend who is a published author in Latin America. He wants to do a bilingual version of a compendium of short stories he wrote some time ago. He asked if I would be interested in translating the stories, looking for a publisher that would market (distribute) the book in Canada and USA, and act as his representative when getting contracts booked and ready for signing with the publishers. We are friends, and so I said yes to the part of translating and researching publishers. However, reading this forum now, i don't know the complexities of embarking in such endeavor. Especially, since we never mentioned monetary compensation for this , and i don't know how to bring the subject up at some point (that's another issue i guess).
So my questions are:
-Do I have to approach Publishers with the offer to translate this book and have it published before I do anything?
-Do I translate (some of?) the stories and THEN find a publisher, show them the translated work and go from there?
- do I approach the publishers with an offer to translate this book understanding that they chose the translator?

this would be my first literary translation.
I'm looking forward to your input



lingoas  Identity Verified
Local time: 03:22
German to Spanish
+ ...
half half and a bit of luck Jan 18, 2009

As a non full time literary translator in quite the same position as you are, my strategy is: to gain a publisher for my project means to convince him/her about the quality of the original. But I cannot do it through a translation (I may have done myself), but through good critics and selling numbers in the origin country. A publisher will accept a not very well known author only if he/she gets the recommendation of an important literary agent. The other point is, once you have a publisher, to be the translator. My recommendation: you may translate pieces of the work if you are fully convinced about the work and its success and you have much spare time to perform such a work (in the worst case) for nothing. But you are the only one who has the whole information.
You will possibly get less money if you sell a ready translation than if you sell a translation to do. By the way, if you are selling a translation, you are selling your own work, and not in first instance the work of your friend! If you want to apply as a translator, you will need a good portfolio of different translations. But that is only my personal opinion.
I am sorry to say this is a vey hard job, but I assume that is nothing new to you.
Have luck

Daniel López Álvarez


Paul Merriam  Identity Verified
Local time: 21:22
Member (2008)
Russian to English
+ ...
Ask the publisher Jan 18, 2009

It's clear that you have the author's permission to do the translation. Many people find that the hardest part.

If you haven't done so already, I'd recommend approaching the publisher of the Latin American edition and seeing whether they have any thoughts on the matter. They may already have a US or Canadian affiliate.

If you haven't done so already, I'd recommend reading any contracts the author signed with the Latin American publisher. He/she may already have assigned the translation rights to that publisher (which is common in publishing contracts). If he/she has done so, you would need to deal with that publisher.

I'd recommend translating a story (or a portion of one) so that you can show a publisher that the translated text is idiomatic etc. I'd also recommend getting sales data for the stories in Latin America. (If the book is popular in Brazil, that may make it easier to sell in the US.)


José Henrique Lamensdorf  Identity Verified
Local time: 23:22
English to Portuguese
+ ...
The path Jan 18, 2009

I published my own book both in the USA and in Brazil. However I did the translation, and only paid for proofreading. You are doing it for someone else, so it's not worthwhile to invest your work without knowing that you will actually get adequate compensation for it.

The path I took is described in the second option at . I'm not recommending it in any way, nor telling you to follow my steps; however it should give you an idea on how some of these things work, and eventually provide a few useful links.

Good luck!


Lidys Garcia
Local time: 18:22
Spanish to English
+ ...
thanks Jan 18, 2009

thank you for your input!
I am in a tight position as this "friendly verbal agreement" has not mentioned compensation yet. although the"agreement" is to translate the stories, find a publisher and get a deal. I know it sounds very naive, but it was supposed to be a personal favour for a close friend. -sigh-
anyway, he has NOT published these stories in LA yet. I will look fo ranswers to some o the suggested questions here.
I am in this awkward position with my friend due to saying yes to the original request: to translate the stories, as a friend...
I will check details and get back to you all on this one.
thank you so much for your input.


Lidys Garcia
Local time: 18:22
Spanish to English
+ ...
just to clarify... Jan 18, 2009

...the feedback given. what I see is that it would be good to translate a couple of the short stories to have as sample when contacting publishers. However, I see that in the case of Jose, you translated your work and THEN started the search for publishers.
One important point I see is that, in order to contact publishers I would need to be the authorized rep for my friend. This was already talked about but for later in the game. I see is different timing if contacting the publishers is the first step, after translation (??)..
ok. I think I am getting a bit confused here. LOL!
need my coffee and then will come back to this topic.


Mathieu Jacquet  Identity Verified
Local time: 03:22
English to French
Translate parts (the bait) then go fishing publishers Jan 27, 2009

That's what a friend of mine did straight after his master's in translation: did a portfolio of translations (generally, first chapter of books he liked), then headed to Paris, where most of publishing companies are in France, and showed his work. He now translates a lot for one of the company he contacted this way.



Local time: 20:22
English to Spanish
Make sure they choose you Mar 6, 2009

You may start working on the translation right now, but nothing assures you that you will be translator for it. Publishing houses have known translators that they may prefer to use.


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