Publishing a literary translation
Thread poster: Gordana Petrovska Dojchinovska

Gordana Petrovska Dojchinovska
Macedonia (FYROM)
Local time: 00:38
Member (2011)
English to Macedonian
+ ...
Aug 21, 2012

Hello fellow translators!

I've been thinking for a while now to start publishing my translations of books. Now, I have started negotiations with the original publisher regarding the copyright, but I have some queries that I hope some of you may help to answer.

How much does it cost to publish a translation? How do you sell the translation afterwards (I don't have a bookstore, so I'm guessing online)? Will it be better to go through the entire process by yourself (plus, a proof-reader and a person who will arrange the pages and make the cover, and of course, the printing guy/compay) or to ask for help from local publishing houses (thereby, enabling them to take credit for your work)?

I recently started my own company for translation. I would like to add publishing to that in the future and I'm hoping that this can help me to start moving in that direction. Please give your feedback and experiences.

All the best,



Joakim Braun  Identity Verified
Local time: 00:38
German to Swedish
+ ...
Do it yourself Aug 22, 2012

It seems to me you should be clear about the distribution before starting to negotiate rights.
Distribution affects your entire cost structure and what you can afford to pay for the rights.

You can easily do the whole production yourself if you find a reliable freelance DTP person with solid book production experience.

Be prepared for considerable (but not unmanagable) up-front costs.

Optimistic back-of-the-envelope calculation:
Rights: Say 5,000 USD
DTP etc.: Say 4,000 USD
Printing: Depends very much on format and binding, but let's say $5 per copy
Distribution: Let's say 25% of end price

Say you print 1,000 copies.
That's $14,000 up-front cost before you even start getting any money back
Then just to cover production and distribution expenses you need to sell 50% of your 1,000 copies at $35 each, + local VAT.

Now let's say a book takes 3-4 weeks of full-time work to produce on your part.
Add another $5,000 to the cost for your salary.
Cover price at 50% sales rises to $48 + VAT.

[Bearbeitet am 2012-08-22 09:49 GMT]


BeaDeer  Identity Verified
English to Slovenian
+ ...
Research first Aug 22, 2012

For copyright you may pay a flat fee only, or a flat fee as an advance and % per sold copy, if the book is expected to do well. The amount depends on the number of copies you plan to print as well as on where will the book be distributed, the duration of permission and the retail price. I would divide Joakim's estimate for the copyright fee by five or even ten. In Cobiss - - you can probably find the info on print runs for the type of titles you want to publish. Or you can check that out in a library or bookshop.

You probably already know who your readers are, how to reach them (FB, twitter, art events...) and when is the most opportune time to place the book on the market.
As an independent you won't aim to compete with big houses, but books that appeal to the senses do sell better, which means good editing, proofing, competent layout and design.
As regards distribution, the ways the book trade worked in the former Yu could not have changed that much, so I would think it is higher than 25% (in Slovenia distribution costs are 37- 48% of the retail price).

Added later:
At you can find lots of information, if you wish to work for publishers.
As an independent publisher, be prepared to be treated as competition rather than be given help.

[Edited at 2012-08-23 11:43 GMT]


Katalin Horváth McClure  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 18:38
Member (2002)
English to Hungarian
+ ...
Useful past threads, comments Aug 23, 2012


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