Charge for whole translation or shortened text?
Thread poster: Tanja Braun

Tanja Braun  Identity Verified
Local time: 17:56
English to German
+ ...
Jun 24, 2008

Dear colleagues,

this may be a stupid question, but I have thought about it for some time and cannot come to a conclusion. So maybe you can help:

I have just finished the translation of a novel. Part of the work was (substantially) shortening the text. So I translated the whole thing first, trying to be concise already, and then went over the whole book several times, until I arrived at the required no. of characters.

Now, do I charge for the full translation, or the shortened text?
The contract says "We pay XY Eur per 1000 characters. [...] The file to be delivered must comprise ABC characters." For the shortening (rather: editing + copywriting) work, I get an additional, but very low, lump sum (less than 10% of the total, though shortening was about 30% of the work).
Still, I'm not sure which character count I'm supposed to use as a basis for my invoice.

Thanks in advance for your opinions/help!



Catherine Reay  Identity Verified
Local time: 17:56
Member (2004)
Spanish to English
+ ...
decide before starting work Jun 24, 2008

Dear Tanja,

From the wording of the contract that you have included it looks to me as if the client will be able to demand you use the final character count for invoicing purposes as it is clearly stated in black and white.

My suggestion (easy with hindsight) is that for future projects you negotiate the character count you want to use before you actually accept the work, otherwise you run the risk of losing out.

Good luck,


Paul Lambert  Identity Verified
Local time: 17:56
Member (2006)
Swedish to English
+ ...
Agree with Catherine Jun 24, 2008

Couldn't have put it better myself. Adhere to your contract strictly and make sure you finalise any deals before starting from now on.


Tanja Braun  Identity Verified
Local time: 17:56
English to German
+ ...
Thanks + clarification Jun 24, 2008

Dear Catherine, Paul and all,

thanks for your feedback.
Just to make that clear: I don't want to complain about rates or conditions I accepted in the first place. I'm just not sure if the contract is really unambiguous - does everyone agree with Catherine + Paul that it is?
And if it's perfectly usual to charge for the full translation, of course I'd like to at least try this, or mention it as a argument in my negotiations for the next job from this contractor.

Of course you are right, I should have spotted this (for me) unclear point in the contract beforehand.

Anyway, thanks for your answer!


[Edited at 2008-06-24 15:25]


Local time: 17:56
English to Hungarian
+ ...
? Jun 24, 2008

"We pay XY Eur per 1000 characters."

... is as ambiguous as it gets. You couldn't be less clear if you wanted to. 1000 characters of what?
There should have been a prior agreement in such an unusual case as this (shortening isn't normally a translator's job, is it?).

I have no input on how to charge, other then to try to get paid based on source text, and, if they refuse, accept it without complaint.


Vilma Alvarado  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 11:56
English to Spanish
+ ...
Give it a try! Jun 24, 2008


Obviously you have learned from this experience for future contracts...for now if I happened to be in "your shoes" sinceyou know the percentage they will be paying for the shortening of the text I would invoice for the initial word count plus the extra charge for the extraservice....There is a chance they are looking at it the same way for your benefit!

Best of luck!!!icon_wink.gif



Amy Duncan (X)  Identity Verified
Local time: 12:56
Portuguese to English
+ ...
A job like that should be paid fairly Jun 24, 2008

To accept a job that involves translating an entire novel and then abridging it afterwards...hmm. I realize it's too late for you this time, but if I were offered such a job, I would negotiate as follows:

A per-word payment for the entire novel.
An hourly rate for abridging it.



Anne Bohy  Identity Verified
Local time: 17:56
English to French
Word rates usually apply to source text Jun 24, 2008

The problem is: do you know the word count of your source document? If yes, translation jobs are usually paid based on the number of words of the source documents (the use may differ depending on the language pair, though).
If you only have a paper copy of your source document, then the evaluation is more tricky. Knowing that there is an expansion factor, when translating from one language to another, and knowing that you had to perform a reduction, if you combine the two percentages, you may find that the final word count is not that different from the source count...


Katalin Horváth McClure  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 11:56
Member (2002)
English to Hungarian
+ ...
Tricky wording Jun 24, 2008

As it looks like, the quoted wording in the contract is ambiguous enough that they can argue either way, as they wish.
However, if you think about it, if they specified the number of characters they want at the end, and the rate for 1000 characters, than they essentially gave you a fix sum for the entire job, regardless how big the original source file was. A contract like that would be quite unethical, I would say.

You could invoice based on the source character count, and see if they say anything.
And yes, next time check the contract before signing it...

[Edited at 2008-06-24 21:42]


Tanja Braun  Identity Verified
Local time: 17:56
English to German
+ ...
A simple phone call... Jun 26, 2008

Dear all,
Thanks for your input!

I was right about one thing when I wrote this post: about feeling stupid.
The solution to my question, of course, is to call the publisher and ask what they meant.
Sure, I could try and charge the higher amount - but realistically, if that's not what they meant, they will not pay it, regardless of whether I try to invoice it or not. On the other hand, if they did mean the higher amount, they will surely tell me on the phone (they're a big publishing house whom I trust not to rip off their translators more than necessaryicon_wink.gif).

Life can be so easy if you add some communication sometimes.icon_smile.gif

The outcome of it all: They told me that they meant per 1000 characters target text, shortened. So I'll invoice that, and just try to negotiate a higher price next time.

So, anyway, thanks for sharing your thoughts and advice!


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