Translation of Psychology Handbook for Translation Newcomer
Thread poster: RegMir

Local time: 08:40
German to English
Apr 13, 2008

I am not an official translator, however as an American living in Germany being trained as a psychotherapist, I have been asked to translate a very topic-specific handbook of psychology from German to English. The book is 998 pages. Author and I did a test run and he is enthused with my capabilities. Now we are talking money. I have seen that you have mentioned the rate calculator, however this is a one-off thing for me and not a career. I was thinking of charging 30 Euros an hour or perhaps 3 cents per word. Could one of you please help me with a ballpark figure as I am not sure what to charge and do not want to undermine the community! THANKS!


Mikhail Kropotov  Identity Verified
Russian Federation
Local time: 09:40
Member (2005)
English to Russian
+ ...
Some basic rates math Apr 13, 2008

Your fellow translators working in the same pair would be better prepared to advise on the exact rates.

I'll just give you some basic math. 0.03 euros per word will typically amount to much less than 30 euros/hour. It all depends on your speed, of course, but an average translator might produce 300 finished (proofread) words an hour (and some work much faster). So, multiplying 300 and 0.03 we get 9 euros an hour. If you want to effectively get paid 30 euros an hour, and assuming your speed is similar to average, consider a per-word rate of about 0.10 euros. This rate, as far as I understand, is pretty good for your pair. But like I said, let's wait for other German-English translators.

Hope this helps.


Steven Capsuto  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 02:40
Spanish to English
+ ...
300 words an hour may be ambitious Apr 13, 2008

Given the German propensity toward compound words, I suspect the words per hour in German will be fewer than for other combinations.

I can approach 300 words an hour for Spanish>English work, and about 225 an hour in most of my other combinations.


Mikhail Kropotov  Identity Verified
Russian Federation
Local time: 09:40
Member (2005)
English to Russian
+ ...
Speed depends heavily on your experience Apr 13, 2008

When I started out (i.e. had zero experience), I could do 200 words per hour at the most, and usually did less, as little as 100-150. Today, 4 years later, I can do up to 800 words in fields I specialize in.

However, this doesn't mean that as a beginner I was entitled to a greater rate **per word**. So, hourly rate and word rates cannot be linked so simply. I think RegMir might be looking for a specific range of rates regardless of his/her speed.

[Edited at 2008-04-14 03:27]


The Misha
Local time: 02:40
Russian to English
+ ...
Make sure your client is good for the money Apr 14, 2008

On an unrelated matter, in most cases involving book translation the author first finds a publisher, and then the publisher hires the translator. This way as a translator you may have a reasonable assurance that you will actually get paid for your effort. To mitigate the extra risk inherent in dealing with a private individual directly, I would personally require full prepayment or at least a substantial advance with subsequent progress payments upon delivery of relatively small sections. Good luck.


Marie-Hélène Hayles  Identity Verified
Local time: 08:40
Italian to English
+ ...
Make sure the author knows how much it's likely to cost Apr 14, 2008

If he's never had a book translated before, he's probably got no idea how much it's likely to cost. It's impossible to know how long it will take you to translate the book, but assuming a rate of 30 euros an hour (pretty reasonable in my opinion), and assuming you can translate 300 words per hour (a fairly average speed), you'll need to charge 10 cents per word, as Mikhail suggests. We can now make a (very rough) estimate of the total cost:

You said it's about 1000 pages long. The number of words on a page will vary with page size, font and font size, how many illustrations there are, spacing etc., so without actually looking at the book we can't say how many words there actually are. But we can say that on average, there are unlikely to be less than 200 words a page or more than 600 words a page (bearing in mind that a full A4 page of single-spaced text in TNR at font size 12 is about 600 words of English).

So assuming 200 words a page: 200 x 1000 = 200,000 words, x €0.10 = €20,000 (twenty thousand) euros

And obviously at 600 words per page, a reasonable price would be 60,000 euros.

It's possible that the author has no idea how much work and hence time is involved, but however outrageous this estimate may seem, it really isn't. Translation of a book like this is a huge undertaking and it will certainly take you several months, even if you work at it full time.

So as The Misha says, money up front and/or at regular intervals is essential.


Margreet Logmans (X)  Identity Verified
Local time: 08:40
English to Dutch
+ ...
Compare to your usual income Apr 14, 2008

Another calculation could go like this:
How much time do you expect to spend on this (you should have a pretty good idea from your test run), and how much would you earn in just as many hours in the profession you're trained for?

In other words, if this is going to take you two or three months ( probably more), how much would you have earned in your usual profession? What is your usual monthly income?
Remember to calculate taxes.

Good luck!

(Edited for stylistic reasons/grammar errors)

[Edited at 2008-04-14 11:01]


Ken Cox  Identity Verified
Local time: 08:40
German to English
+ ...
further comment Apr 14, 2008

I agree with all the suggestions so far, and especially with the answer by Marie-Hélène. Authors often have little appreciation of how much time translation takes, and publishers often pretend that they don't or seem to think that translators work for pocket money.

Furthermore, before you start you should determine who holds the translation copyright -- in many cases this is the publisher. If the publisher holds the copyright, you or anyone else cannot legally publish a translation without the permission of the publisher, and any agreement you may reach with the author is at best useful ammunition for negotiating with the publisher.


Attila Piróth  Identity Verified
Local time: 08:40
English to Hungarian
+ ...
Working with the author - some words of caution Apr 14, 2008

Working with a specialist can be a very rewarding experience, and you can certainly learn a lot from it. However, there are some pitfalls that you should avoid, otherwise you can find yourself in a very unpleasant situation.

1.) As the others have already suggested, make sure there is a publisher who will publish the book. And in that case you will have to agree with them on the price. Their budget depends highly on the initial print run; if they plan to sell it in 1,000 copies - which is not unrealistically low for a high-level specialized text - then forking out 50,000 euros for the translation means they have to build in 50 euros of translation cost in the list price of the book. That is, in all probability, unrealistically high. The print run depends on the demand, and the author may be very enthusiastic about the success of his work in English - but all depends on the publisher. You have to be ready for triangular negotiations. So, make sure not to promise too much in advance to the author before knowing all the details.

2.) Set down in the contract who is responsible for what. Ideally, the author should submit a full and final manuscript. You should translate it, and he will probably proof-read your translation, and advise on terminology, plus correct misunderstandings, etc. Then you should have the final word on the actual wording. The publisher should provide an expert editor of the subject field who is available if any questions arise.
Now that is the ideal scenario. What should be avoided?

a) The author may want the book to be up-to-date at the moment of sending it to the printer. Therefore once you have finished translation, he will add new material. That entails a lot of extra work for you - really a lot. Make sure you are paid for it - but the publisher might be quite reluctant to allow that.

b) The author may not agree with your choices: there may be an interference between the emphasis required by the precise formulation of his scientific ideas and the most natural-sounding solution you find for your translation. Up to a certain point this is completely normal - but the author may be overwhelmed: he speaks English, knows what he wants to express, so who could do it better than him? That can be extremely frustrating for the translator. A good way to avoid it is that you demand detailed written explanation for each and every correction, which you may also forward to the publisher to justify any extra work.

3.) Make sure that the deadline is very comfortable - and that it can be extended without excessive negotiations should additional tasks arise (they will). Make sure that you do not have to justify deadline extension toward the author - that every question of deadline is communicated to the author by the publisher. Don't forget: this book is probably extremely important for him, he wants to see it in print as soon as possible, and conflicts about that can easily take great proportions.

4.) Make sure that the publisher acts as a conflict manager should any problem arise. Even though you will invest much more time in this project than the publisher, authors tend to accept their decisions and opinions much more easily. Owing to their position, publishers have a lot of authority.

5.) Make sure every reference (style, terminology, typography, etc.) that should be used is specified beforehand. It is probably a good idea to translate the index and the table of contents first - that can give a backbone of the terminology.

If you take the necessary precautions, this can be a very interesting and rewarding project, and an excellent reference. Just be sure to take your time and clarify everything before committing yourself to it.

Been there, done that.

Best of luck,

[Módosítva: 2008-04-14 11:51]

[Módosítva: 2008-04-14 12:16]


Local time: 08:40
German to English
Thank you so very much Apr 14, 2008

I am so very grateful to you who have taken the time to help me. You have gone above and beyond what I expected - and I have learned so much! From what I understand the two co-authors (therapists) of the book have found an American publisher who is leaving it up to them to find the translator. They began with someone who translated two chapters. They were not happy with the work and wanted an American with a psych background to proofread. This I did - I proofread (and re-translated with so many corrections as the initial translation work was indeed quite bad) 12 pages of German, a bit larger than A5 format, approx 350-500 German words per page. This proofreading took me 10 hours. They liked my re-translation as said, this now the reason for me getting the entire translation job. I am assuming that starting from scratch and not proofreading will take me 1,5 the time or perhaps double?
Thus my quote to the author will be that I want at least 30 Euros, as this really is a lot of work. I think it may be better than per word (if he accepts that), as German words are quite long and taking them apart to get an English equivalent is one of the challenges of doing this job.
I am not in contact with the publisher, do you believe that is vital? It seems that the author wants to negotiate with me tomorrow morning without publisher involved.
Thanks again to all of you and if you have any other ideas, how that I have given you more details, bring it on! Best,


Hildegard Klein-Bodenheimer  Identity Verified
Local time: 08:40
English to German
+ ...
Get it in writing Apr 15, 2008

"From what I understand the two co-authors (therapists) of the book have found an American publisher who is leaving it up to them to find the translator."

If there is no more time to get in contact with the publisher I would at least, get all the information about the publisher, their agreement to publish the book, and their written consent that the authors can decide on the translator. That should be a statement written by the publisher and not by the authors. Even if you negotiate tomorrow you can ask for that before you give your final ok and sign a contract.


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