Some basic questions on a literary translation from a newbie
Thread poster: hughehreth
Local time: 19:07
English to French
Apr 24, 2009

Hi, sorry if these questions are a little basic...

I may have a chance to translate a 19th century literary work from French into English. I am a recent graduate of a CIUTI school and have worked for two years as a translator in a finance company, although I prefer literary material. Here are my questions:

1) The source is about 120,000 words. This seems like it would take me a while to translate. How long would you ask for (or do you think would be reasonable to ask for) to do this?

2) How much would one charge for something like this? I usually ask for 12 euro cents a word. Would that be too much? Too little?

I REALLY appreciate your help!

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Lingua 5B  Identity Verified
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Local time: 19:07
English to Croatian
+ ...
A few inputs May 1, 2009

Hi Hugh,

There are special contracts for such work, where you are assigned some percentage from the sales of the translation copies, because you basically created the English version.

You must see about it with the publisher.

0.12 USD is too little... 0.12 EUR is acceptable.

It depends on the overall project parameters, for example, what the translation will be used for..? I presume it's a classic work that won't be launched into a broad popular sale. ( a 19. cent. piece). I presume it's not very commercial, and therefore I'm not sure whether your client will accept the 0.12 eur price.

You may also surf around the net for the literary translation terms and conditions/ contract packages.

Good luck.

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xxxGrayson Morr  Identity Verified
Local time: 19:07
Dutch to English
I know this is an old thread... Nov 25, 2009

...but for future information seekers, I wanted to add my two cents. (Which is too little, by the way. )

In the Netherlands, "regular" translation commands roughly double the rate for literary translation. Literary translators here do well to be paid 6.2 eurocents per word, the rate recommended by the ELV (Dutch Expertise Center for Literary Translation), for translations into Dutch from any source language.

This doesn't answer the question for other countries, but it's a data point.

According to the ELV, the Dutch literary rate is average in Europe; rates are lower in Italy, Spain, Portugal, and several East European countries, higher in the UK and the Scandinavian countries.

[Edited at 2009-11-25 10:27 GMT]

[Edited at 2009-11-25 10:28 GMT]

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United Kingdom
Local time: 18:07
German to English
+ ...
starting points Nov 25, 2009

Have you looked at any of the other threads in this section?

It's a good idea to look at the websites of relevant translators' organisations:
Translators Association FAQ (UK):
PEN American Center (US):
American Literary Translators Association (US):

As for the length of time needed for a translation, you can start by doing some calculations on the back of an envelope.

Multiply the number of words you can translate in an average day by the number of days per week you can devote to the project. This gives you your weekly capacity. Divide the total number of words in the book by your weekly capacity to get an estimate of the number of weeks you'll need to produce a first draft.

This does not include time required for background & terminology research or for the editing & polishing stage.

If you will need to continue earning money from other sources while you're working on this project, be sure to take that into account in determining your capacity.

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