How to quote a literary translation.
Thread poster: Patricia Carreira Payne

Patricia Carreira Payne  Identity Verified
Local time: 15:22
Member (2009)
English to Spanish
May 4, 2009

Can someone help me with the following? I have translated a book (approx. 200 pages from English into Spanish), specialised psychology terminology, and presented it to a Publishing House, and now I have the satisfaction to receive an email accepting my translation and asking me which my conditions would be. Whether I demand an advance payment or directly accept a 10% on the sales of the first edition and the following ones. Of course, I would like the advance payment, but I am not sure how much to charge for it. Has anyone had a similar experience and give me some URGENT advice, please? It is about a Spanish publishing house.

Thank you in advance for a prompt answer.


 

Attila Piróth  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 20:22
Member
English to Hungarian
+ ...
Get more information from the publisher May 5, 2009

Hi Patricia,

Congratulations! I can confirm that it is a very good feeling to see your translation published. Just make sure to sign a good contract -- otherwise your previous efforts won't pay back.

First of all, 10% can be a very good offer. It is very common that authors get an 8-10% royalty, and translators are paid much less. Still, find out what 10% exactly means, as books have several prices. The highest (therefore best for you) is the list price, but "price" can also refer to the retail price. When you see books on Amazon with a 30% reduction, say, USD 7 instead of USD 10, then the list price is USD 10 and the retail price is USD 7. The price may also refer to the amount the publisher gets from the distributor -- whose margin can be as high as 40-50%, or in some countries even higher --, so the difference can be enormous. If you sign a contract with a royalty, you may wish to get a percentage of the list price (rather 9% of the list price than 10% of the retail price).

The second very important factor is the print run. How many copies will printed for the first edition? What will be the price of the book? And by when will it be published? What happens if the publisher fails to publish it by the given date? The contract should cover such specific terms.

Figuring these numbers out by yourself is not easy, and the trap of wishful thinking has to be avoided. Certainly, you know what the book is worth -- but will the potential buyers also know? Are there similar books in the market, or will this book really fill an important gap?

A lot depends on these answers, but the safest may be to demand a combination of advance payment + royalty. For example, if the first print run is known, a ballpark figure would be
[first print run (number of copies)] * list price * 10%. Take a look at this figure -- does it sound like a good payment? Maybe yes (great then), maybe not. In certain cases it may be extremely low. Can the first print run be increased realistically then? If not, you may prefer to settle for a fixed payment with your regular price. But will that be OK for the publisher -- I mean, will they have the budget? The particular thing about the publishing industry is that it is the text itself that is sold -- unlike for a user's manual, where the product itself is the home electronic device, and the manual is just an auxiliary documentation. So, in the publishing industry the text itself has to be sold at the appropriate price, which makes the whole thing very different from other types of translation. In several countries publishers offer such low prices for literary translation that anyone posting a job on ProZ.com with a similar budget would be almost lapidated.

I seriously hope that this is not the case for your publisher -- but you may need to be ready for negotiations. And you need much more information for that. Getting back at them with something like: "Both the fixed payment and the royalty scheme have advantages, and at this point I cannot decide which one would be the best solution for you and me -- perhaps a combination of a first fixed installment and a royalty. To decide, I definitely need more information, such as the first print run, the expected price of the book, the date by which the book would be published, the duration of the contract, etc."

If you have that information, feel free to post some details here -- we may be able to help you better.

Kind regards,
Attila


 

foghorn
English to Turkish
+ ...
pays less May 5, 2009

Market conditions may differ from country to country so a precise figure may be misleading (unless it is the same country & the same publishing world). People who do that often do it for prestige and it isn’t supposed to be much lucrative; perhaps even slightly lower than the average specialist rates in the market & 10% on the sales is not a good deal unless it is a potential bestseller. What i can tell from my experiences is that it can be more rewarding compared to routine translation office work but unfortunately pays less.

Good luck.


 

Patricia Carreira Payne  Identity Verified
Local time: 15:22
Member (2009)
English to Spanish
TOPIC STARTER
Thank you very much Attila May 5, 2009

I really appreciate the time to spend to give me such a clarifying answer. Indeed, there are a lot of questions to be made to the publishing house, as I can see.
I translated for you the mail I received from them (as it is in Spanish), and it says as follows:
"Dear Patricia, I have received a very positive report from Dr. xxx (he is the Director of the collection in which the book would be published, as the publishing house has several collections, and he is a psychiatrist and the person who had to read the book and provide an evaluation) regarding the eventual publication of the work you sent to us.
We believe that the book can be published and see the light early next year, 2010.
I would like to ask about your conditions, whether you demand an advance for the translation or you want a percentage for the rights earned from the sale of the work. In this case, we would offer a 10%for this edition and subsequent reprints.
I wait for your answer"

I can elicit from the text that they are offering "either" an advance "or" the royalties. Is it right? As I don't know whether the book is going to be a success or not (nobody knows) I'd rather demand a proper advance, but, as you say, I don't know if they are willing to pay what a translation really costs.
Yesterday I answered that I would prefer the advance, but y expected them to tell me what this amount would be to then proceed to set further details.
Do you think I did OK?

Thank you in advance for your reply.
Cordially,
Patricia.


 

Attila Piróth  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 20:22
Member
English to Hungarian
+ ...
Your answer was fine May 5, 2009

Hi Patricia,

I think your answer was fine -- it left the door open for further negotiation, and you asked for more information. So asking for further information is quite logical.

The review that you have received is excellent. It is certainly clear for them that you are the right person for this job -- so you are in a good position to negotiate. Just don't be afraid to say that you need more information. If the publisher is in your town or close to it, pay a visit -- meeting them in person would be a great occasion. If they are in Spain, this may be out of question -- but picking up the phone may then be a good idea.

Early 2010 sounds OK -- the delay is not extremely long according to publishers' standards, but it is not too close, either, so you are not under extreme time pressure to sign a contract. Take a look at the PEN model contract, and ask for the publisher's standard contract -- emphasizing that you know that each contract is individual, so some points in the standard contract may be changed upon your or their suggestion.

Advance payment is a kind of insurance for you. It may be the best solution if a second print is unlikely. On the other hand, they may not mind too much paying a percentage of the second edition, since it means they also make profit on the book.

In short, my most important advice is this: get all necessary information. While there are certain details that they will not tell you (e.g., how much the production would cost them), they can easily give you all the details that concern you. I know it is not always easy to ask -- but take a deep breath, and you'll see, it is easier than you thought. You are a professional, so it is perfectly natural that you need to make informed decisions.

Attila


 

Celia Recarey  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 20:22
English to Spanish
+ ...
Acett May 5, 2009

Hi Patricia,

Since you are dealing with a Spanish publishing house, you may want to check out the model contracts and minimum rates provided by Acett.

Good luckicon_smile.gif


 

Patricia Carreira Payne  Identity Verified
Local time: 15:22
Member (2009)
English to Spanish
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks a lot May 5, 2009

Attila, Celia & foghorn:
Thanks a lot for your time and advice. Yes Attila, I will take a deep breath and ask those important questions that will help me to figure out the general conditions of this deal. I will read the contrat at the link you provided, and I also will visit acett once again to find the standard contracts there.
I'll let you all know how this novel ends, I hope it is not a thriller!!!

Thanks a lot again!!!
Patricia


 

Katalin Horváth McClure  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 14:22
Member (2002)
English to Hungarian
+ ...
Copyright issues? May 6, 2009

Patricia,
You did not mention anything about copyright. Since you already completed the translation, may we assume that the copyright issue has already been taken care of either by you or by the publishing house? I think in most cases the publishing house would obtain the permission/rights for publishing the translation and bear the expenses related to that, but it is important to clarify that point in writing.
Katalin


 

Patricia Carreira Payne  Identity Verified
Local time: 15:22
Member (2009)
English to Spanish
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks May 6, 2009

Thank your for your comment Katalin. I will take note of your advice, as nothing is in writing yet.
Regards,
Patricia


 


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