Please help with rates for lit. translation German-English
Thread poster: Olav Balslev

Olav Balslev  Identity Verified
Local time: 22:54
Member (2005)
English to Danish
+ ...
Apr 20, 2009

I have been approached by a well-renowned publishing house for the translation of a novel from German into English. Word count approx. 100,000.

I am unsure what rates to charge - for commercial work, my clients usually pay me 0.10 EUR / source word. Is this the same for literary translation.

The publishing house has approached me not only on the account of my capacity as a translator, but also on my capacity of a musician, the subject area of the novel.

Any rate suggestions?


Michele Johnson  Identity Verified
Local time: 22:54
German to English
+ ...
EUR 0 per word? Apr 20, 2009

Are you really sure you can render all the intricacies of a 100,000-word novel in English? Because reading your original post, I have my doubts. But maybe it's just me.


Olav Balslev  Identity Verified
Local time: 22:54
Member (2005)
English to Danish
+ ...
Thanks Apr 20, 2009

Thanks for your collegial help.
It is always baffling and heart-warming when people like you take time from your busy schedules to write enlightened posts.


Edward Vreeburg  Identity Verified
Local time: 22:54
Member (2008)
English to Dutch
+ ...
how much is it worth for the client?? Apr 20, 2009

What use would it be to you to take this job at say 0,05 euro / source word?
If your regular job can make you 0,10 / source word - you onnly need to translate 50.000 words instead of 100.000.

Generally books, literature etc is paid a lot less than technical stuff (or even manuals etc). So unless your client is willing to pay your normal fee, this is not a "win-win" situation... I wouldn't count on there being any more profit to be gained from it...
(but you could be pleasantly surprised...)


PS but why are they selecting a Danish specialist for a German -> English translation...., so the music angle is pretty important maybe... if it IS something specialized (idontknow... antique harp play from Roman balladeers or something...) add another 0,02 cents..

[Edited at 2009-04-20 12:53 GMT]


Local time: 23:54
English to Turkish
+ ...
A straigh answer Apr 20, 2009

It is almost impossible to ask for help on rates from the translation community and get a straight answer. This true for all language pairs, after 30 postings, lots of advice, do's and dont's, hints etc., you end up more confused than you have started.

Two large German publishers (the first two that comes to your mind) are paying 20 Euros per page for DE - TR translations and vice versa. Although not absolutely certain, I suspect other language paris are similar unless the language is a rare one.

Before anyone starts a discussion what constitues a "page", it is 1800 characters with spaces, of course not exactly but close enough to accept as an average.

This is also the rate Goethe Institut and DAAD pay. They are more specific on 1800 since they can provide the source text in electronic (countable) format more requently than the publishers who provide you a copy of the book. The latter pay this rate for a variety of texts including magazine articles, press bulletins and as such.

Lastly, converted into words this rate comes out roughly 0,07 Euro per word. Indeed lower than the general rates for technical texts.

All of the above are based on my personal knowledge and experience , I hope it helps.


Ann Krol  Identity Verified
Local time: 21:54
Member (2008)
Polish to English
+ ...
translation via. book translation Apr 20, 2009

Dear Olav,

I think you should hear from translators translating books and novels (DE


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