Advice on charges for literary translation
Thread poster: Marion Burns

Marion Burns  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 06:46
English
Apr 13, 2004

I've been approached to translate a series of children's books, some of which are in verse. The editor wants the translation to preserve the rhyme and meter of the originals. I am a published poet and literary translator, but although I have submitted my own literary translations to editors, I have never been solicited by an editor to do a translation of this type. He's asked me for a quote, and I have no idea what to charge. The books are short, about 700 words or so. I think there will be about 10 or so altogether. I feel that for the degree of artistry these will involve, I should charge more than for non-literary material. Any ideas or experience with this type of work? I'm interested in the job, but I want to be compensated for the degree of time, effort and artistry involved.

Thanks in advance for your help!


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Elizabeth Adams  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 03:46
Member (2002)
Russian to English
+ ...
charge for your time, not the number of words Apr 13, 2004

Hi!
When I'm doing translation work that demands a lot of creativity, I charge by the hour and keep time sheets.


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Marion Burns  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 06:46
English
TOPIC STARTER
Ballpark figure? Apr 13, 2004

Hi Elizabeth,

Thanks for your reply.

What would you say a fair rate/market rate per hour for this type of translation would be?

Best,
Marion


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Thierry thierry_lafaye
Spain
Local time: 12:46
English to French
+ ...
What about your hourly rate? Apr 14, 2004

Hello Marion,

I have done some work that I knew I could handle but for which I did not know what to charge. Well, I just did what Elisabeth suggests: I charged by the hour for the amount of what I would earn in average if I were to work with my standard rate (by the word). You can determine it yourself depending on your productivity and other criteria by calculating how much you would ear by the hour for a normal job. Then the complexity of the task will simply determine how much time you will spend on it so the more creative or research intensive or technical, the more time you will spend on it, but the hourly rate as such would still remain unchanged.

The only different hourly rate would be if you require additional tool that demands an investment upfront which is “unusual” or very specialized, eg. Some engineering tools, or for voice-over jobs, etc...

Not sure if I’m clear enough so I hope it still helps.

Thierry


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Roomy Naqvy  Identity Verified
India
Local time: 16:16
English to Hindi
+ ...
No discussion on rates Apr 14, 2004

Dear Folks
We try not to discuss rates in the Forums. Please desist from doing so. This can be carried on privately.
Roomy Naqvy


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Valters Feists  Identity Verified
Latvia
Local time: 13:46
Latvian to English
+ ...
Try working on the translation for an hour Apr 14, 2004

Take two or three fragments from the text and work on them for an hour. It will give you an idea how much you can accomplish -- you will even be able to obtain a per-word rate based on how much you want to be paid for an hour's work.

Actually this is a discussion about methods of calculating one's rates and evaluating one's capacity. I don't think this discussion needs to be stopped.

Roomy Naqvy wrote:
We try not to discuss rates in the Forums.


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Marion Burns  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 06:46
English
TOPIC STARTER
Charge for this job-special situation for me Apr 14, 2004

I don't think I was initiating a discussion about rates per se. This is a request for help and advice on an unusual, actually unique, situation for me, having never had to calculate a rate for a job of this nature, which involves not only literary artistry, but rendering verse and keeping the original rhyme and meter. I also feel my credentials as a published poet and literary translator should perhaps be taken into account. I don't want to lose this job by an excessive quote, but don't want to sell my self short either.

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Roomy Naqvy  Identity Verified
India
Local time: 16:16
English to Hindi
+ ...
No stopping but.... Apr 14, 2004

Folks, the discussion is not being stopped.. but as I said, we do not discuss rates in the Forums. But if people want to arrive at estimates, I am sure they can calculate. If I am asked to provide a per hour rate, I'll calculate how many words per hour I can translate and then give a quote.

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Marion Burns  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 06:46
English
TOPIC STARTER
Rates not quite the point Apr 14, 2004

Roomy,

With all due respect, this is not just about rates! I have calculated rates for non-literary translations without the least difficulty. I am only trying to get a sense of what colleagues think a literary translation by a published poet and writer is worth--an endeavor, I feel, that involves artistry and skill above and beyond the actual translation process. I wondered if colleagues had any experience or advice on this subject.

I think the hourly rate is definitely the way to go here, and I guess I need to figure out how much would make this project worth my while.

I thank you all for your help.


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Özden Arıkan  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 12:46
Member
English to Turkish
Hi Marion, Apr 15, 2004

I suggest you take into account the possible repeat editions of the book before you charge. I understand that your deal is with the author, and it's not clear -from your input, at least- whether the publication is arranged already. It might be a better idea to make sure beforehand if a contract with a publisher is made or not. If yes, I believe you should claim a percentage of the book's income (... % of the cover price x no. of print copies, for instance). If this is not clear yet, you may still add your contract a clause about the copyright of your translation, otherwise it would be hugely unfair for you if the book was published several times, with you, the translator, being paid only for once.

Wishing you the best of luck!


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Marion Burns  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 06:46
English
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks Apr 15, 2004

Thanks, Xola, that's very helpful!
Marion


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Advice on charges for literary translation

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