Where to start???
Thread poster: xxxtranslatingl
xxxtranslatingl
Local time: 05:50
French to English
+ ...
Aug 6, 2006

Hello everyone!

Although I have been practising, using and loving languages for a very long time, I am new to the world of translation when it comes to make a living of it.

Having a literary background and a love for books (especially old ones), my dream is to make a career as a literary translator. I love writing and reading beautiful words and sentences.

However, it seems quite difficult to start and I am a bit "lost" I have to say.

Are there any agencies specialized in literary translation? Or is it better to write to publishers?

Thanks for your replies.

Floriane


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Roomy Naqvy  Identity Verified
India
Local time: 10:20
English to Hindi
+ ...
going about things Aug 6, 2006

Try going to the American Literary Translators Association website. Try bodies like the local chapter of the P.E.N., they would publish a journal in your language... take the membership... subscribe to the journal of the national Academy of letters or a similar body in your country... Keep on getting noticed in the beginning... and then it should work out very well.

Roomy


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Peter Linton  Identity Verified
Local time: 04:50
Member (2002)
Swedish to English
+ ...
Cold water Aug 6, 2006

I belong to an association of literary translators, and in my experience:

- publishers prefer to give work to well-established translators (so far, that has ruled me out).
- publishers often expect you to do more than just translate. They may want you to be a publisher's reader, in other words to recommend whether a book should be translated at all.
- it is therefore very hard to break into the literary world.
- publishers do not place work via agencies.
- literary work is not well paid.

Sorry to throw so much cold water at your pet project, but that's life. Let me add one final nasty cold douche:

Publishers will expect you to translate into your native language, and they will be surprised that you offer to translate French to English as well as English to French. Your English is very good, (as you point out in your profile, you speak/write German and English in a bilingual way) but instantly betrays the fact that yoiu are not actually an English native speaker. Harsh words perhaps, but better now from me than later from a publisher.

My advice therefore is:

- Look for publishers who actively deal in translated books.
- Find some foreign book which has not been translated, or not translated recently (translations age and start sounding old-fashioned after say 10 or 20 years, particularly drama, so even if there is an old translation, it may be time for a new one).
- Prepare a report explaining why you think it deserves to be translated and/or would appeal to readers.
- Prepare a substantial sample translation (in your native language).
- Go to book fairs, conferences, literary meetings etc.
- Cultivate contacts.
- Keep trying (but you may have to do some non-literary translation as well).

Good luck! (You will need it).


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Roomy Naqvy  Identity Verified
India
Local time: 10:20
English to Hindi
+ ...
some disagreement with 'cold water' Aug 7, 2006

Peter Linton wrote:

I belong to an association of literary translators, and in my experience:

- publishers prefer to give work to well-established translators (so far, that has ruled me out).
- publishers often expect you to do more than just translate. They may want you to be a publisher's reader, in other words to recommend whether a book should be translated at all.
- it is therefore very hard to break into the literary world.
- publishers do not place work via agencies.
- literary work is not well paid.

Sorry to throw so much cold water at your pet project, but that's life. Let me add one final nasty cold douche:

Publishers will expect you to translate into your native language, and they will be surprised that you offer to translate French to English as well as English to French. Your English is very good, (as you point out in your profile, you speak/write German and English in a bilingual way) but instantly betrays the fact that yoiu are not actually an English native speaker. Harsh words perhaps, but better now from me than later from a publisher.

My advice therefore is:

- Look for publishers who actively deal in translated books.
- Find some foreign book which has not been translated, or not translated recently (translations age and start sounding old-fashioned after say 10 or 20 years, particularly drama, so even if there is an old translation, it may be time for a new one).
- Prepare a report explaining why you think it deserves to be translated and/or would appeal to readers.
- Prepare a substantial sample translation (in your native language).
- Go to book fairs, conferences, literary meetings etc.
- Cultivate contacts.
- Keep trying (but you may have to do some non-literary translation as well).

Good luck! (You will need it).



I am not stating that you are completely wrong.... but the route I suggested is also a route. I am 34... and in 2001... I could have been translating a book for Penguin ... but I didnt take it up because I didn't like the writer that they wanted me to do. I gave them a proposal which they didn't like... and I somehow didn't like the writer that they were interested in... but if I had kept my personal reservations aside, I would have had a book published by Penguin India, which is not such a bad idea after all... and is good for the CV....

The point is.. you have to get noticed.... if you haven't been noticed, you will be an unknown quantity always... so, you must do something to be noticed... and getting published in journals, etc... is not such a bad deal, after all.

Roomy


Direct link Reply with quote
 
xxxtranslatingl
Local time: 05:50
French to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thank you Aug 7, 2006

Thank you very much for your answers. I do know that it won't be that easy but I'd really love to be able to reach this goal of mine.

Direct link Reply with quote
 

farmor
Local time: 05:50
Danish to English
Make it easy for yourself. Aug 8, 2006

translatinglady wrote:

... I'd really love to be able to reach this goal of mine.


Make it easy for yourself: translate into your mother tongue. Your English is good, but I am 100% certain that your French is superb.

Why translate into good English, when you can translate into superb French?

Good luck!


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Marcelo González  Identity Verified
North Mariana Isl.
Local time: 14:50
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Identify an excellent book, get the translation rights to it, and begin Aug 9, 2006

Though it's somewhat of a risky venture, that is, without a publisher all lined up, translating books can be very satisfying (if not well paid).

I suggest finding an excellent book or well-known author (in his/her area), request the rights to the translation (utlimately from the publisher), and begin translating. If the book is as good a contribution to its field as you believe, you should be able to find a professional review that substantiates your belief.

In the end, you'll have to approach publishers with a letter of inquiry/proposal. If you go into the process knowing that you will have to convince publishers (which means writing a solid proposal and including a sample chapter and anything else they might require), you'll feel more confident about the whole process.

I also suggest visiting the websites of publishers you would likely approach with your proposals; this way, you can see what they look for in their letters of inquiry.

As for translating into a second language, in general, as long as a translator can write at a native-speaker level (which is no small feat, and something very few people can do), there should be no problem. Thus, if you do not, you might consider the advice of others in regards to French.

All the best,

Marcelo


Direct link Reply with quote
 

femmy
Local time: 11:50
English to Indonesian
+ ...
How it works in Indonesia, where I live... Sep 5, 2006

I don't know how it works in other countries, but in Indonesia, you will have to apply to publishers to be included in their network of translators. The application would be similar to any other job application, except that you have to include a sample translation. You don't have to be an established translator, you only have to be a *good* translator. If you can get included in this network, they are bound to give you a job sooner or later.

Suggesting an excellent book to a publisher is also a good way to start and you don't have to secure the translation rights. The publishers would be the one to do that, if they are interested in publishing the book. As a former literary agent, I know that in general copyright holder only sell translation-rights to publishers, not to translators.

Literary translation may not pay as well, but for years I've only done literary translation as it is a lot more fun and enjoyable than translating non-literary documents.

(Note: Indonesian publishers publish a lot of translated books, so literary translators here do not have to worry about running out of work.)

[Edited at 2006-09-05 06:23]

[Edited at 2006-09-05 06:24]


Direct link Reply with quote
 
xxxtranslatingl
Local time: 05:50
French to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thank you Sep 5, 2006

Thank you very much to the translators who gave me plenty of good ideas and suggestions to get started. They are very helpful.

Direct link Reply with quote
 
Cristina Golab  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 23:50
English to Spanish
+ ...
Very realistic Oct 14, 2006

Peter Linton wrote:

I belong to an association of literary translators, and in my experience:

- publishers prefer to give work to well-established translators (so far, that has ruled me out).
- publishers often expect you to do more than just translate. They may want you to be a publisher's reader, in other words to recommend whether a book should be translated at all.
- it is therefore very hard to break into the literary world.
- publishers do not place work via agencies.
- literary work is not well paid.

Sorry to throw so much cold water at your pet project, but that's life. Let me add one final nasty cold douche:

Publishers will expect you to translate into your native language, and they will be surprised that you offer to translate French to English as well as English to French. Your English is very good, (as you point out in your profile, you speak/write German and English in a bilingual way) but instantly betrays the fact that yoiu are not actually an English native speaker. Harsh words perhaps, but better now from me than later from a publisher.

My advice therefore is:

- Look for publishers who actively deal in translated books.
- Find some foreign book which has not been translated, or not translated recently (translations age and start sounding old-fashioned after say 10 or 20 years, particularly drama, so even if there is an old translation, it may be time for a new one).
- Prepare a report explaining why you think it deserves to be translated and/or would appeal to readers.
- Prepare a substantial sample translation (in your native language).
- Go to book fairs, conferences, literary meetings etc.
- Cultivate contacts.
- Keep trying (but you may have to do some non-literary translation as well).

Good luck! (You will need it).



I agree with Peter. Getting into the literary translation world is very difficult (though not impossible).

I have this loooong-term goal of someday becoming a literary translator. I once approached a publisher and was so shocked by the nature of the proposal they were expecting. They asked me if I had published any work or if "at least" I had any literary work of my own. They asked why I thought the book should be translated and even asked how many printed copies I had in mind.
I am working on my project and hopefully someday I'll make it, so good luck to you as well!


Direct link Reply with quote
 
hsiao-tung
Taiwan
Local time: 12:50
Chinese to Italian
+ ...
Knock to publishers' doors with a proposal in your hand Nov 15, 2006

Hi Floriane and hi to all of you!
Hope my contribution to this post doesn't arrive too late.
I agree - for one reason or another - with all that has been written here so far.

I agree with those saying that it is extremely difficult to get work as literary translator, and yet I also agree with those who say that it is not impossible, and that there are some ways that can speed up the process of getting noticed and thus allocated a translation by publishing houses.

One of these ways is to introduce yourself to a publisher, via e-mail, via telephone or by paying them a visit.Please, make sure you already have a book to propose them, though. In my opinion it is easier to propose an untraslated author rather than an author needing to be REtranslated (unless the translation already existing is obviously out of date or BAD!...this however can be only a matter of personal taste)

Since one of your working languages is English, I'd say that you are lucky enough; English-language literature being so vaste a field, there are many untranslated authors to propose to a French publisher (btw, before proposing a literary work to be translated, carefully check the kind of books they have in their catalogues!). In this sense I would also recommend you, if I may, to specialize in a particular field (I am not necessarily talking about genre, as drama, prose, fiction, poetry).
For example you could gain an in-depth knowledge (I don't know what literary specialization you have) of English-language literatures from the Carribean or from Africa, or from India or Singapore, or Asian American literature. Some of these literatures have very few/too few authors translated into other languages (I don't know what the situation is like in France, but in the country where I was brought up, Italy, there are few Carribean literary works available in Italian translation, for example, and I have never read anything from a Singaporean author in Italian!). If you decide for a very specific field within the vast field of literary translation, then you can contact publishers dealing with it: if you decide to translate fiction from English-speaking Africa, then you might want to contact publishing companies that have already published works by African authors, and so on.
You could also specialize in a particular literary topic: sci-fi, for example, or sexual minorities fiction, and so on.

Then you could send a translation sample to publishers, along with your proposal.

Last piece of advice: I agree with those advising you to translate into the language you feel most comfortable with (which for most translators is their native language).

The best of luck to you and many thanks to everyone for reading my post!

Ciao,
Antonio


Direct link Reply with quote
 
tiandaijun
China
Local time: 12:50
English to Chinese
A Chinese Literature-lover of tranlator say this way Dec 1, 2006

I am rather gratified to catch this kind of topic since me am a literature-lover, too.

I have the same feeling as you mentioned above there.

Anyhow, i am trying to translate some Traditional Chinese Poems only popular in some ethnic group into English. If you love these , i will give some . Of course, anyone who loves them, i will share with him/her.


Direct link Reply with quote
 
lucylee
Local time: 12:50
English to Chinese
+ ...
Deeply impressed Feb 26, 2007

Literature translation is a tough job, however,
so many valuable points were given by warm hearted
person here, it made me very impressed, and I believe you will benifit from their proposals..


Direct link Reply with quote
 


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


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

Where to start???

Advanced search







Wordfast Pro
Translation Memory Software for Any Platform

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

More info »
WordFinder
The words you want Anywhere, Anytime

WordFinder is the market's fastest and easiest way of finding the right word, term, translation or synonym in one or more dictionaries. In our assortment you can choose among more than 120 dictionaries in 15 languages from leading publishers.

More info »



Forums
  • All of ProZ.com
  • Term search
  • Jobs
  • Forums
  • Multiple search