Publishing houses' translation contracts
Thread poster: Laura Majocchi

Laura Majocchi
Local time: 12:37
English to Italian
+ ...
Nov 26, 2009

I have been contacted by an Italian publishing house with a fine record of books translated into Italian. They would like me to translate a couple of books for them. We have agreed on working terms by e-mail and so far so good. The only thing that puzzles me is that they would not draw a translation contract, which goes against the good publishing practices I have seen in twenty years of work in this field. I would want to establish a steady working ralationship with this company but I do not know if I can trust them - i.e., be paid my dues when the time comes. Has any of you had a chance of working on satisfactory yerms with relevant Italian publishers even without being under contract?
Thank you in advance.


Attila Piróth  Identity Verified
Local time: 12:37
English to Hungarian
+ ...
Working without a contract is quite risky Nov 26, 2009

Hi Laura,

I won't be able to answer your question "Has any of you had a chance of working on satisfactory terms with relevant Italian publishers even without being under contract?", as I have never worked with any Italian publishers. But I have worked with some other publishers, and I would never venture into starting working on a book translation without a contract.

Or rather: never again. I did in the past, having received an oral go-ahead – and since it was a publisher that I had previously worked, I did not mind. I should have, as they canceled the project when I was halfway through – and it took quite a lot of effort to make them pay anything as I did not have anything written. I would definitely recommend taking precautions to avoid this situation. And for that, you need a written statement. That is, a contract. What are their arguments for not being willing to provide it?

Cite some authoritative references, for example the PEN translator's model contract: – which is a very good starting point for drawing up a contract. (The terms in it are fair to both sides -- which is not always the case for the standard boilerplate contracts publishers often want translators to sign.)

If they are unwilling to discuss these issues then it is likely that this whole thing will not develop into the business relationship you are after.

Kind regards,


Giuseppina Gatta, MA (Hons)
Member (2005)
English to Italian
+ ...
No way Nov 26, 2009


I am Italian, and have been working for publishing houses. There is no way I would work without a contract, never done it and never been asked to do so. I don't see any reason why you would accept something like this. Italian contracts with publishing houses are already not very favorable for translators anyway, but not having one at all is the worst case scenario...


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Publishing houses' translation contracts

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