Seeking advice on how much to charge for literary translations
Thread poster: Ali Reza Emrani

Ali Reza Emrani
United Kingdom
Local time: 18:17
English to Farsi (Persian)
+ ...
Nov 19, 2013

I have been approached by a friend who aims to write, in Farsi, his reminiscences of a certain period. He does not want to translate them himself as that might interfere with the process and also he knows my English is much better than his.

I have not done much literary translation before and would appreciate any suggestions as to charging compared to "normal" and/or technical translation.

Also, would it be advisable to suggest part (say 2/3) payment during the process and the rest (say 1/3) after publication or advance payment from potential publisher?

Will be much obliged for any help/guidance.

Ali emrani


Stefan Hofmeister  Identity Verified
Local time: 15:17
Member (2008)
English to German
+ ...
For Germany... Nov 20, 2013

Here in Germany it's less than 20 EUR per page (!) on average for literary translations. So it's nearly nothing, compared to a normal technical (etc.) translation. And then there should be a kind of profit-sharing: 0.8% of the retail price from the 5000th copy on for the translator, but you won't get that from the most publishers...
If you do it as a hobby - fine. If you want to do it for a living - forget it.
Source: VdÜ



Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Local time: 19:17
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Don't do it Nov 20, 2013

Maybe this sounds a big harsh, but personally I think that in general we should not work for friends, and should recommend some other good and seasoned professional to them. True friends are a rare gift and doing business with them is something to be avoided at all costs, since a long and good friendship can easily derail because of business disagreements.

[Edited at 2013-11-20 07:30 GMT]


Natalia Mackevich  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 18:17
English to Russian
+ ...
It's not about money Nov 20, 2013

I agree with Tomás. I'd also like to add that in many countries this kind of translation is extremely underrated, so even if you decide to help your friend it would rather be a charity/volunteer job, as you'll spend several months working free of charge. What you can do (as an option) is help him find a good translator AND a proofreader (both of them should be English speakers, otherwise the work will be useless).


Kay Denney  Identity Verified
Local time: 19:17
Member (2018)
French to English
No need to worry yet Nov 20, 2013

I personally wouldn't bother to even discuss the matter until the text has been *written* let alone published unless you're prepared to do it as a favour.


Attila Piróth  Identity Verified
Local time: 19:17
English to Hungarian
+ ...
Words of caution Nov 20, 2013

From what you write, Ali, I understand that the text is not yet finished; if I'm not mistaken, your friend has not even started.

It does not make any sense for a translator to get engaged before:
1. the manuscript is fully finished and published in the original language*
2. a contract is set up for the translation of the book between the author and a publisher in the target market (US or UK).

*If the book is not to be published in Farsi, a fully edited, camera-ready manuscript should be available. But the chances are very slim that any publisher would be interested without the book being published in its original language.

If 1 and 2 are met, the translator will make a contract with the publisher.

Before a target-language publisher is involved, any arrangement between the author and the translator is extremely risky. Neither of you can ensure that the book would be published (and marketed). Translating the book first in full and convincing a publisher second is not recommended: if the MS is refused, all the translation work was practically in vain. If the translator and the author are friends, it is a lose-lose proposition, no matter how the loss is shared between the author and the translator.



Jamal hameed
Arabic to French
Literary Translations Nov 20, 2013

Literary Translations depend on your knowledge. If your knowledge is very weak of literature in general and poetry in special, it seems that your translation is misunderstandable.

[Edited at 2013-11-20 16:26 GMT]


Amel Abdullah  Identity Verified
Arabic to English
+ ...
Agree with Texte Style Nov 21, 2013

I agree with Texte Style. There is really nothing to discuss at this point. Lots of people have the desire to write their memoirs, or even a novel, but few ever do. If this person turns out to be in that small percentage of people who writes a completed memoir, it may take him years to finish. When the manuscript is finally completed, you will then have something to base your agreement on as you will know the length of the text and be able to estimate the time it will take you to translate it. You will also get a sense of the writing style and whether the story is compelling enough to be attractive to publishers. Regarding this last point, a professional writer or editor with experience in memoir publishing may be able your friend identify the factors that would make a memoir of interest to the general public. Many people include a lot of details in their memoirs that are only really interesting to themselves and their families. In order to be published by a traditional publisher, a memoir usually has to have some hook in the story and read almost like a novel, which is hard for most people to pull off. Regardless, the first step is for the text to be written.


To report site rules violations or get help, contact a site moderator:

You can also contact site staff by submitting a support request »

Seeking advice on how much to charge for literary translations

Advanced search

Manage your TMs and Terms ... and boost your translation business

Are you ready for something fresh in the industry? TM-Town is a unique new site for you -- the freelance translator -- to store, manage and share translation memories (TMs) and glossaries...and potentially meet new clients on the basis of your prior work.

More info »
Wordfast Pro
Translation Memory Software for Any Platform

Exclusive discount for users! Save over 13% when purchasing Wordfast Pro through Wordfast is the world's #1 provider of platform-independent Translation Memory software. Consistently ranked the most user-friendly and highest value

More info »

  • All of
  • Term search
  • Jobs
  • Forums
  • Multiple search