To charge per page or to charge per project? That is the question
Thread poster: Amanda Tozer

Amanda Tozer
Local time: 10:34
Spanish to English
+ ...
Feb 27, 2008

Dear colleagues:

I have been approached to translate 3 books within a space of about 15-18 months -sounds impossible I know. At present, I know the 2 authors and I have been supplied with some scanned pages from one of the books. But, I have no access to an electronic copy of the text and, therefore, do not know the amount of words to be translated, only that there are 301 pages.

So, I need to come up with a price per page (in euros). My question is: taking into account the research I would need to do as part of the project, the liaising with experts on the author as regards style, meaning, etc. and the fact that the book contains references and citations from works by other authors (i.e. poems), should I merely get an avergae er of words per page and multiply that by my rate? Or should I assess the project as a whole and arrive at a price?

Obviously, I do not want to lose the project because of an extortionate estimate, but at the same time, I do not want to undersell myself. It will mean saying "no" to all of my other clients for over a year so it has to compensate.
Any views, experiences would be greatly welcomed.


Paul Merriam  Identity Verified
Local time: 04:34
Member (2008)
Russian to English
+ ...
Some considerations: Feb 27, 2008

1. You indicate that it's going to take up most of your professional time for a year. You might want to consider asking for payment terms that involve payments during the year.

2. You should discuss copyright issues. Who will hold the copyright to the translation? Who will track down the copyright to the various poems and other works and get permission to quote them?

3. You can provide a quote based on your estimate of the word count. Bear in mind though that you may not be paid as much as an equivalent volume of annual report texts (or whatever you usually translate).


Amanda Tozer
Local time: 10:34
Spanish to English
+ ...
Good thinking Feb 27, 2008

Thanks Paul. You mentioned a few issues that I hadn't thought of, such as the copyright to quoted texts and payments throughout the year.


Daina Jauntirans  Identity Verified
Local time: 03:34
German to English
+ ...
Quoted text/entire texts Feb 27, 2008

I don't think you need permission to quote/cite texts, but if they are reproduced in their entirety in the book, then the author will need to get permission. This was the case when my step-father edited an anthology of plays (in English). If the play was translated to English, I believe he had to get permission to use the play from the author and the translation from the translator. So, Paul is right - it's definitely an issue to bring up. In my experience, though, this wasn't the translator's responsibility.

Now, the copyright to the translation of the book - that's another matter that you should definitely pursue.

[Edited at 2008-02-27 21:32]


Jaroslaw Michalak  Identity Verified
Local time: 10:34
Member (2004)
English to Polish
Some things to consider... Feb 27, 2008

I suppose it is even easier to arrive at a figure for the whole project, as you know the timeframe. If it takes one year and a half, then you must consider your yearly average (desired?) income and multiply it by 1.5.

Of course, I assume that your daily output would be significantly lower than your average output - if you think that you can maintain your average output throughout the year or you hope to exceed it - think again...

Also, take into consideration the fact that after the project you will virtually start afresh - all old clients will be gone, the market will be different etc. It will definitely take some time to regain your position, so the project should pay for that period as well.

On the other hand, if you are not always working right now, you have already included the slow periods into your rate - therefore a year and a half fully booked could be, in fact, quite profitable even at your regular rate.


Local time: 10:34
English to Italian
+ ...
Does it really take that long Feb 28, 2008

This may be really a different thread, but since it is mentioned here...

Is it normal to set aside five or six months for the translation of a 300-page book?
If we assume 300 working days per year, that comes to a final productivity of 2 pages/day, give or take a decimal. We don't grok. Where is our reckoning wrong? Or is this an acceptable standard?



Gary D
Local time: 18:34
I would think to also include. Feb 28, 2008

If you are going to translate one Job for 18 months you will have to include a lot of sundry items.

Like the loss of short higher paying jobs, and the lag you will get coming back into main stream.

You have to some how include 6 weeks of leave time, Some one has to pay for it, why should it be you?

Of course there is the CPI index which for the third six month period would have to be increased by 3.8% or there about.

Business is business.. Good luck on the poetry one, as images expressed in the free and open word are hard to translate. I write poems, one below, it would be so different in another language.

Good luck.


With these words I do digress
For what I am about to say is not to impress
As I look for words that we seem to have lost
I feel I need them heard as to me they did possess
Something special when I press hard against my chest

Full on and furlong wee little words we have lost
And now we know not where they belong
Pathways through time have covered their gleaming
With the passages of never-ending timeless meaning

For where art though thy wondrous words
From our bygone past have you been deferred
With history of emerging bind over your elusive time
Do you struggle to be seen in the streets of the well read
Is your time in the sun covered under what we said
The murky waters of an unimaginative clasp
Have clipped you from our ears grasp

Wonder oh wonder was it me
Who failed to utter thee instead of you
I choose the easier critique to express my views
When you were there for me just waiting to bemuse
And pluck your fetalis petite coronet from natures amuse

Climb out from under your dusty text book pew
Present again your clever amusing tongue
For we have miscued over your descriptive valor
You carried such glamor and grace when sprouted from
Greats like James, Ann, Jane, Henry, William and the other fella

From under yonder fallowed log must you lie
Struggling to gasp and contrive
Wind and rain doth drown you not
Time and tide will unleash you to the untried lot
Gather from whence you came word prince to
Enlighten we again with your gladiator meandering slur of fame

Doth you hide under melting snow
Only while the cold winds blow
Unfrock your hidden sheath to reveal
Once again your clever unabashed beak
We of us who wait in vain protean
Wish to hear your sounds said again

Come hither from yonder this hidden tomb
Rise up oh word prince and visit us this noon
Shyness was not your buoyant game
Reframe with critique you slandered and defamed
You gestured with words those of which I could never explain
Toss your tethered cloth and come to us again.

Gary Duffy 2007


Amanda Tozer
Local time: 10:34
Spanish to English
+ ...
TO GFE Feb 28, 2008

Maybe I should clarify: The project includes the translation of 3 books within an 18-month period. But, to give them a ballpark figure of how much I am going to charge, they have requested an estimate for one book.


Local time: 10:34
English to Italian
+ ...
This has worked for us Feb 28, 2008

Start with a reasonable assumption on productivity. We know we can translate a 300 page "lite science" essay in 3 months of not-really-dedicated work. Based on desired period income, this gives a target total billable amount. To get a unit price you need to divide by units.

We make it into a formula this way. The billable unit is the target text character, as actually counted at delivery. How many of them will there be? Easy: count the source language chars, and if only paper copy is available, total chars = number of pages times number of chars actually counted in two or three sample pages. Factor in (very important) the rate of conversion from source to target language; e.g., for scientific En>It we use 1.20: on average we produce 12 chars output per 10 chars original. We are committed cutters though.

The publisher may like the idea of putting a cap on this: no more than so-and-so chars paid, whatever happens. But you will have been careful in your reckoning and the maximum amount you propose will be just a bit over your initial target.

I would not be surprised if this is not clear; in that case, please contact offline.
And, please, handle with respect. We do expect a Nobel nomination for economicsicon_smile.gif


Amanda Tozer
Local time: 10:34
Spanish to English
+ ...
More economics...GFE Feb 28, 2008

Hi there:

Firstly, this is not "lite science", but hardcore literature from several centuries ago, so the productivity rate -when you factor in ongoing research, referencing and consultations regarding lexis, style, idioms, dialects, orthographic elements, etc.- would not be my normal daily output for non-literary texts. Secondly, I only have a paper copy, so I have counted a full page and arrived at an average number of words, which I have multiplied by my rate for literary- which I don't know whether it is too high, and voilà, I have an average rate per page.
Of course, this does not take into account factors such as loss of other clients, prior research etc.
So, is this the right course of action?


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