Cooperation with a novelist - advice needed
Thread poster: Cecilia Negri

Cecilia Negri  Identity Verified
Local time: 12:17
Italian to English
+ ...
Jan 10, 2013

Hi everybody,
I'd love to receive your suggestion on this: an American novelist I had contacted asking if I could translate his novel, answered me. This is the first time I'm directly contacting an author. He is interested but obviously he asks me how does it work and if I can accept that we share something of the actual sales of the book.

Now, I know I should start looking for an Italian publishing house and see if someone is interested in the book, after having translated a part of it.

But, how do you suggest me to cooperate with the novelist? Somebody had this experience?
Thank you
Cecilia


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David Wright  Identity Verified
Austria
Local time: 12:17
German to English
+ ...
My take Jan 10, 2013

Ithink your author would get a share of the revenue anyway, that would be for the publisher and him to work out between them,. As for your share, you can either try and negotiate a share of the royalties or a fixed price for teh translation. I think the latter is the more usual, and is probably what a publisher would want, unless expected sales are going to be very low.

Do check that his US publishing company hasn't already signed a deal for an Italian edition of the book, your author may not be aware of the state of play.


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Diglossos  Identity Verified
Argentina
Local time: 07:17
English to Spanish
+ ...
Interesting. Jan 10, 2013

Check if he has sold anything before, have him sign an agreement (ask a lawyer) in which he gives you your share (in writing!) and then, I wouldn´t do anything else than translating it, as you´re not being paid for promoting, representing, etc (unless it´s included in the deal).



[Edited at 2013-01-10 21:22 GMT]


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Meta Arkadia
Local time: 17:17
English to Indonesian
+ ...
None of his business Jan 10, 2013

Cecilia Negri wrote:
But, how do you suggest me to cooperate with the novelist?

I don't know the situation in other countries, but I translated dozens of books into Dutch, and the publication of a novel in another language is none of the author's business. It strictly a matter between publishers. Even if you can attract the attention of a publisher for the novel, chances are that they pick their own translator to do the job.

Cheers,

Hans


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Catherine Howard
United States
Local time: 06:17
Portuguese to English
+ ...
Options for getting paid Jan 11, 2013

What kind of sales did the English version have? Unless the book sold a whole lot of copies, it's usually pretty hard to make much money as a translator sharing in the royalties. Obviously, if the original book was a best-seller, you'd want to take the risk of negotiating a cut of the royalties. If it has just "average" sales (whatever that means), you could put in a whole lot of work for very little compensation (and I mean VERY little). Unless it's a best-seller and/or you're independently wealthy, don't count on this to make you enough money to support yourself, although it can be a super-enjoyable sideline. But that doesn't mean it's not worth doing, just be clear about what you want to get out of it. Be sure to factor in the non-monetary benefits you want out of it too (such as the chance to really hone your craft and work with a fine writer, earning some recognition for translating a novel, etc.).

I'd recommend negotiating a set per-word fee with the publisher if you can. It'll still be low (the argument will be that a novel is a large volume of words, it's not going to be a money-maker, blah blah blah), but probably much more than a share of the royalties, and a lot more certain. It depends on the degree of risk you're willing to take on and what the track record is for this author and whatever publisher takes it up. Make sure you're given plenty of time to do the translation, and especially make sure the publisher will put your name on the cover and title page -- no anonymity for novel translations! Whatever you decide to do, *get the agreements in writing and get a reputable lawyer to review them.*

Early in my translating career, I took on an entire book manuscript in my field of specialization, written by an author I thought the world of. I thought I could keep the project part-time while I was in graduate school, but as the deadline drew closer, it took up more and more of my time, eventually becoming full-time. I was paid what was considered a "reasonable" per-word rate for a book-length manuscript, but, since it was my first large-scale project, the text was much more difficult than I imagined, and I was very slow, I ended up earning around a dollar an hour, all told. But let me tell you, I sure as hell learned how to translate and how to really write decent English (my native language) through the project. I don't think there are many other ways to learn one's own language as intensely as working with a fine writer. The book launched my career, so in the long run, it was worth more than the low per-hour wage I got.

Good luck!


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Woodstock  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 12:17
German to English
+ ...
Work with the publisher Jan 11, 2013

If you have no experience marketing a book, it's not very likely to meet with success. The publishers are generally the ones who make the decisions about whether the book seems promising enough to make money, then negotiate the rights with publishers in other countries, who then contract the work to translators, usually ones they have worked with already. The other possibility would be for him (or you, if you are willing) to find an agent who knows the publishing industry and would be able to target the publishers for his type of book. Publishing companies are generally specialized, and it would take quite a bit of time and research to find the right one(s) to begin with. It's not merely a matter of contacting the author, making an agreement with him/her and then seeing what happens. If you are still willing to take the risk of never earning a red cent for your work, then go for it for the experience. However, be realistic about it from the outset and be aware that it would take an inordinate amount of luck for this project to result in some kind of living wage.

I have a little experience because I a) knew a few people in publishing when I lived in New York and b) looked into translating plays early in my career, and found it was much more complicated and time-consuming than I had first thought, and for little return, so I didn't pursue it.


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LilianNekipelov  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 06:17
Russian to English
+ ...
None of the author's business Meta? You must be kidding, unless the author has been dead Jan 11, 2013

for at least fifty years. (it may vary from country to country). The copyright belongs to the author, and he, together with the publisher share the profit. The translator may be entitled to a small portion of the royalties, if this has been in the contract. Usually about 4%.

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Chiara Beltrami  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 12:17
English to Italian
Not so easy to find an Italian publisher! Jan 11, 2013

I think that couldn't be so easy to find an Italian publisher interested in an American author who probably isn't appreciate outside US. I do work for an American author and we share the royalties. But we put our books on Amazon, so it's easier to find new readers and let them know the new writer. Yes I'm speaking of e-books, probably the future for literature.
Good luck and if you are pleased to write me, do it please. Maybe we'll find new ideas.

Chiara Beltrami


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Cecilia Negri  Identity Verified
Local time: 12:17
Italian to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thank you!! Jan 11, 2013

First of all, thank you all for your kind replies.
It took me a while to get how all this works in Italy; it's not my first novel to translate but the first time I actively get in contact with an author.
In the meantime I found out that the author has the right on his books, so I guess at this point I wil have to find an Italian publishing house and see what happens.
I decided to choose a specfic genre, which is not so common for the Italian literature, thinking it will be more easy to find someone interested in it

Is there any way to avoid the risk that the publishing house down here take my proposal and turn it to some other translator? I guess your answer, but better asking than not

@Chiara, I'm going to write you pvt, thank you!

@Catherine, thank you so much, your post was so helpfull.
I know that the first one, and probably only the second, will be an hard work for a few coins, but I also have toher clients so I think I can make it. And, I truly believe this is necessary to start having my Novel Portfolio...also being a writer I can't think about translating technical texts all my lifetime!! What do you think? Would this be a good way to start?! I have never simply send my resume to a publishing house saying, look I'm a translator, without having a book to refer to ( the other novel I translated, obviously were anonymous), considering this a waste of time.

@all of you Thank you so much; I know this will require a lot of luck, but I also believe that working hard and in a professional way always pays. During my career I've seen many "miracles" happening, trusting them and trying my best to achieve them. I think positive...should be a good start

[Edited at 2013-01-11 12:58 GMT]


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Cecilia Negri  Identity Verified
Local time: 12:17
Italian to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Yes...I think in Italy is 70 years :-) Jan 11, 2013

LilianBoland wrote:

for at least fifty years. (it may vary from country to country). The copyright belongs to the author, and he, together with the publisher share the profit. The translator may be entitled to a small portion of the royalties, if this has been in the contract. Usually about 4%.




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