How to find novels to translate
Thread poster: Sarah McDowell

Sarah McDowell  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 00:29
Member (2012)
Russian to English
+ ...
Jan 9, 2013

I would like to hear from translators who have translated novels and how they got into this business in the first place. Did you research writers and then approach them and offer to translate their book for them? Or do you apply to publishing companies as a translator? I would like to know how I can go about receiving more of this type of work. It seems like a very secretive process that needs to have some light shed upon.

Thanks,
Sarah


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Mark Havill  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 22:29
Member (2012)
Russian to English
Havill PhD - Russian English Translator Jan 9, 2013

I am also interested in this topic. In the past four years I have translated four books -- not novels but nonfiction, although all were to high literary standards. My experience in getting these jobs is relevant mainly in that it demonstrates how many different paths there may be to finding this type of work.

I had known the authors of the first two books I translated for 18 years before translating two of their very popular books in self-help/humor. I had met them at camps in Russia, and the workshops we presented there were similar. They even sponsored me to teach workshops in Moscow a couple times, and at last I arranged with them to translate one of their books into English. But pay was quite modest, and based on my finding a US publisher, so the project only made it so far.

Then, many years later, I wrote to them again; I had time to get back to the project. They wrote back that they had just contracted with a publisher in the US to translate and publish their books, and they forwarded him my email. The publisher agreed that I was the right person for the job -- I knew the authors and their work -- and so two books were completed.

After that, I translated yet two more books for the same publisher, this time popular Russian books on gardening. However, you should understand that, at least in my experience, while books are more fulfilling, and I even got paid more per word than normal agency work, because of the higher standards required, books really don't pay any better -- maybe even less. I spent many a long hour parsing phrases with my Russian editor for the subtleties of cultural meaning, which was extremely interesting but cut deeply into my hourly wage.

So I'm back to agencies for a while, enjoying the simpler life of literal translation. But the attraction of translating books lingers on, and I will be very interested to hear what others may have to say about finding such work.


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Fiona Grace Peterson  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 07:29
Member
Italian to English
Foreign language rights Jan 10, 2013

You need to find out if the foreign language rights of the book in question are still available. You would then need a publisher willing to publish the book for your target audience.

There are certainly other steps to follow, and many people here much more knowledgeable than me Try searching this forum for the phrase "foreign language rights" and you will find lots of information.

There are some guides here that you can download for free

http://www.utdallas.edu/alta/publications/alta-guides


[Edited at 2013-01-10 00:18 GMT]


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Balasubramaniam L.  Identity Verified
India
Local time: 10:59
Member (2006)
English to Hindi
+ ...
Would copyright free novels interest you Jan 10, 2013

I think books comes into the public domain after 70 years after the death of the author. These can be translated without seeking anyone's permission. So all you need to do is find out which copyright free novel has not yet been translated into your target language and start work on it, assuming that the old stuff is interesting to you and your current audience. This may very well be true for the better novels, but the catch here is, such better novels would already have been translated. Even then, there is no harm in presenting a fresh translation if you feel that the existing translation can be improved.

For new books, you will need to get the permission of the copyright owner.

But the real difficulty would be in finding a publisher for your translation. Book publishing and marketing require substantial money and most publishers already have their hands full with original work to be too keen to take up a translation. And the more popular novels would have already been commissioned out for translation to translators with proven records.

An option would be to epublish your translation on your own. You can easily do this with Google Books, etc. But you may not make much money this way from your translation.


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Sarah McDowell  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 00:29
Member (2012)
Russian to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
I'm a bit confused about what the public domain refers to Jan 28, 2014

I'm bringing my old post up because I am translating some literary works as samples.

The stories I would like to translate were published in 1943. Is 70 years after publication when literary works enter the public domain? Would it be fine for me to make these translations? They are not for commercial purposes and just to be used in my portfolio as translation samples.


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Lincoln Hui  Identity Verified
Hong Kong
Local time: 13:29
Member
Chinese to English
+ ...
Public domain Jan 28, 2014

Sarah McDowell wrote:

I'm bringing my old post up because I am translating some literary works as samples.

The stories I would like to translate were published in 1943. Is 70 years after publication when literary works enter the public domain? Would it be fine for me to make these translations? They are not for commercial purposes and just to be used in my portfolio as translation samples.

Every country has different laws on how long it takes for works to enter public domain, and some allow copyright to be renewed if certain conditions are met. There is no set answer.

[Edited at 2014-01-28 08:54 GMT]


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Elizabeth Tamblin  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 06:29
Member (2012)
French to English
Recommended reading: Jan 28, 2014

http://www.llvs.lt/img/File/Translation_in_Practice_book.pdf

If you haven't already read this, it's available to read in PDF form - Translation in Practice: a Symposium, edited by Gill Paul. It's a practical guide to the process of translating foreign works into English and preparing them for publication.


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Elizabeth Tamblin  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 06:29
Member (2012)
French to English
. Jan 28, 2014

Project Gutenberg is a good source, as they only publish books that are in the public domain. There are a few Russian language books listed there:

http://www.gutenberg.org/browse/languages/ru


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Jane Proctor  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 07:29
French to English
Thanks Elizabeth Jan 30, 2014

For both those useful links

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Sarah McDowell  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 00:29
Member (2012)
Russian to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks! Feb 28, 2014

Thank you very much Elizabeth. I looked at that PDF and it's full of invaluable advice. This will certainly be useful as it seems like lately I keep getting more and more requests about books.

Thanks also for the link to Project Gutenberg. I had heard of this project and even been on their website but for some reason I did not see any Russian books there when I first looked at it.


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Marionlam  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 06:29
English to French
+ ...
How do you go about translating....? Mar 25, 2014

Hi all,

Having spent some time trying to approach publishers for translation work, it does seem that there is little point doing so until you have a project for them, ie a foreign book with the rights still available in the target language.

So, I have 2 questions:
- What is(are) the best way(s) to check if the rights have been sold in your target language?
- Assuming the publisher understands both languages, when translating, would you prioritise loyalty to the source text, or style of the target text?

Thanks for your help, and good luck!


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FarkasAndras
Local time: 07:29
English to Hungarian
+ ...
Not publication Mar 25, 2014

Sarah McDowell wrote:

I'm bringing my old post up because I am translating some literary works as samples.

The stories I would like to translate were published in 1943. Is 70 years after publication when literary works enter the public domain? Would it be fine for me to make these translations? They are not for commercial purposes and just to be used in my portfolio as translation samples.

I know this is an old question but here's what I know: the rules are indeed different from country to country, but I believe most (all?) countries start the clock at the author's death, not at the time of publication. Copyright protection usually expires either 50 or 70 years after the author's death.
If you just want to use short snippets, you may be able to use copyrighted works under the fair use policy. You can probably get away with using a paragraph or two, but likely not a whole chapter or more. I don't know the specifics of course. Either way, you are unlikely to get into trouble. If the rights holder complains, just remove the material in question. I can't imagine anyone going to court over a short snippet if it is removed on request.

[Edited at 2014-03-25 14:04 GMT]


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How to find novels to translate

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