Buying translation rights from a publishing house
Thread poster: Maria Simmen

Maria Simmen
Germany
Local time: 21:29
Member (2009)
English to German
+ ...
Sep 15, 2009

Hello everybody,

I was offered to translate a thesis but the author said I would have to negotiate rates and deadlines with the publisher (Peter Lang Verlag). Has somebody had a similar project or even bought translation rights for a book from Peter Lang? I have to admit that I'm somewhat baffled by the concept of having to buy the text in order to be allowed to translate it...

Thanks in advance for your comments!

Maria


 

Attila Piróth  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 21:29
Member
English to Hungarian
+ ...
Please specify some details Sep 15, 2009

Was the original thesis published at Peter Lang Verlag (or elsewhere), or will PLV publish the/your translation?

If PLV will publish your translation, then they will commission the translation from you, so you have to negotiate terms and rates with them.

A plausible scenario: The author submitted a translated table of contents, a synopsis, etc., and the publisher found the book interesting for translation. They will buy / have bought the rights from the author to have the book translated and the translation published. They will also negotiate terms and rates with the translator.

Attila


 

Maria Simmen
Germany
Local time: 21:29
Member (2009)
English to German
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Some details Sep 15, 2009

The original thesis was published at Peter Lang Verlag, so they've got the rights to it. They didn't express an interest in the translation. Apparently the author is still looking for a publishing house and Peter Lang Verlag might be the next best thing because they already published the original. The author also made the complete text available to me and said it could be pitched to other publishers as well.

 

Attila Piróth  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 21:29
Member
English to Hungarian
+ ...
Let the author find a publisher first Sep 15, 2009

He/she may need the translation of the table of contents plus a synopsis for that.

Once a publisher has been found, they can settle the translation rights issue with LPV, and you can discuss your rates with them. But investing money into buying the translation rights and time into finding a publisher that would publish it does not sound too attractive; there is quite a high risk that you won't make a good return on this investment. Let the author take care of that.

Attila


 

Özden Arıkan  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 21:29
Member
English to Turkish
+ ...
If they didn't express interest in the translation... Sep 15, 2009

...they don't own the rights to it, unless I am missing something. The rights on the original text doesn't automatically include the rights to its translation and, while copyright laws vary from country to country, I don't think they do on such a basic concept. So, the author has its translation rights and so that s/he wants you to translate the thesis, I think s/he could give them to you for freeicon_wink.gif

 

jyuan_us  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 15:29
Member (2005)
English to Chinese
+ ...
It is kind of confusing Sep 16, 2009

You got an offer from the author to translate his thesis, but he said he doesn't owe the rights to his own thesis because it has been published by Peter Lang Verlag, who is the owner of the copy rights. Now, the author wants to increase his popularity by having his thesis translated into other languages but he cannot just let you translate it because he doesn't have the rights to it anymore after it has been published. The author wants you to translate it for him but you have to buy the copy right from the publisher.

Isn't that confusing?

Trust me, the publisher will sell it to you at a much higher price than the author would pay you for translation.


 

urbom
United Kingdom
Local time: 20:29
German to English
+ ...
Some facts Sep 16, 2009

1. What are "translation rights"?
Translation rights are also known as "foreign rights". The original publisher of a book can sell translation rights for individual languages, thereby granting another publisher legal permission (a "licence" in legalese) to publish a version of that book in another language.

If a publisher decided to publish a translation of an existing book without such an agreement in place, that published translation would constitute an unauthorised adaptation (or "derivative work" in the US) of the original, and so the translation publisher would be in breach of copyright.

Many publishers will sell translation rights only to other publishers. Deals involve complex contract negotiations.

You can find out more by googling the phrases "translation rights" and "foreign rights" (use quotation marks to search for those exact phrases).

2. What is the process for publishing a book translation?
The Society of Authors in the UK has a useful set of FAQs for people who are interested in translating books:
http://www.societyofauthors.org/subsidiary_groups/translators_association/faqs.html

Refer to the sections headed "How do I make a proposal to a publisher?" and "Here are some suggestions for presenting a sample to a publisher" on that page.

For more about the business and legal sides of this aspect of publishing, see e.g.
http://www.ivanhoffman.com/foreign.html
http://www.publaw.com/licensing.html
http://www.publaw.com/licensing2.html

You may also find some more related discussions by using the Search function on this page, which is in the top left-hand corner (look for "Search forums").


 

Maria Simmen
Germany
Local time: 21:29
Member (2009)
English to German
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
yes, it is confusing Sep 16, 2009

jyuan_us, you summed the situation up quite well, and I comletely agree, it is very confusing! matters are complicated further because it's not the author who'll pay me for this translation but after buying the rights from PLV I would have to agree on rates with them, so effectively they buy the translation back. Oh dear, I'm tempted to say that it's a shame the thesis sounds quite interesting and I'd really like to translate iticon_wink.gif

 

Attila Piróth  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 21:29
Member
English to Hungarian
+ ...
Why would buying and selling rights be interesting for you? Sep 16, 2009

If PLV agrees to publish the translation, there is no need to buy the rights from them. You would buy it from them and then sell it to them? There is absolutely no point in that: it does not make any difference -- unless the price changes (if you can make a profit on that, you are an awesome negotiator) or if they can decide at a point not to buy it back.

No, actually there may be a difference: if they want to sell you the translation rights to all languages, and then buy your translation (including the rights to publish it) in one language. They you would keep the rights for all other languages. Unless you have very specific plans with other languages, and you are certain that the investment (of time and money) is worth it, I would not touch this with a ten-foot pole.

To put it otherwise: I would not make such a deal without a guarantee that I do not lose money on buying and selling rights and that my translation would be bought at an acceptable price and published.

Now buying and selling rights could make sense -- but not with a PhD thesis. I have translated some graduate level science textbooks, and without exception the print runs were very low.

Attila


 

hazmatgerman (X)
Local time: 21:29
English to German
Short comment Sep 16, 2009

@Bruessler: the whole thing smells. A publisher contracts a translation if they see market potential and only then. The translator can purchase rights but lacks a publisher and is in far worse a position to find one than the original publisher.
To me it looks as if s.o. hopes to have a translation for free.
Best


 


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Buying translation rights from a publishing house

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