Sample contract for book translation?
Thread poster: James Harris

James Harris  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 03:05
German to English
+ ...
Jun 7, 2010

Dear colleagues,

My name is James Harris and I am a 27 year old German - English translator and interpreter resident in Berlin.

I have recently gained my first book translation, translating a sociology book with funds from the European Union. I have been paid the full amount up front and am starting to translate now.

However, at the moment there is only the verbal agreement between myself and the client and the payment of the money. There was a wobble a few weeks ago but it now looks as if the translation will definitely go ahead - besides, it would be difficult for them to reclaim their money now. The client and I have agreed we would like to have a contract between us. I have agreed to deliver the translation for the end of the year.

Due it being my first translation, however, I do not know what this contract would like like. Does anyone have any sample contracts or suggestions for templates I might use?

Thank you for your help in advance.

With best wishes,


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Brita Fiess
Local time: 04:05
Member (2008)
English to German
+ ...
Translation agreement - Book translation Jun 7, 2010

here are some samples:

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James Harris  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 03:05
German to English
+ ...
Wow, super! Jun 7, 2010

Thanks a lot! Megadank!

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Attila Piróth  Identity Verified
Local time: 04:05
English to Hungarian
+ ...
PEN model contract Jun 7, 2010

The American organization PEN (which stands for "poets, playwrights, essayists, editors, and novelists") provides a model contract with notes as well as further explanation on their website. See the links and – and much more.

In a recent survey about the publishing industry, one of the questions was
In the negotiations of the terms with the publisher...
a) I had the choice to take or leave the publisher’s standard terms
b) I was pleased with their standard terms, so I had no problems with accepting them
c) I negotiated better terms than what they initially offered, but the negotiated terms were still not advantageous for me
d) I was considered as an equal business partner, so I negotiated the fair terms
e) I gave them my terms and conditions, giving them a choice to take or leave them

Speaking about their first book, half of the answerers selected option a) and one-third selected option b). Speaking about their last book, the answers were more evenly distributed: option d) and b) came out on top.

As a general tendency, other terms of the contract (e.g., fees) showed also some important improvement for later books. Which means that the boilerplate contract that publishers often give to prospective translators to sign can be improved – but for that, you need to negotiate confidently. The PEN model contract and other model contracts give a very good basis for such negotiations: backed up with the recommendation of a reputable organization such as PEN, it may be much easier to overcome the psychological barrier of not signing the first draft contract.

Published translations are, in a sense, the shop window of our profession: that is what the general public sees most. Decent contracts will allow professional translators to work very regularly for publishers – whereas publishers' standard terms are often so unfavorable that one can only consider this as a part-time activity or a hobby. And if the conditions do not let one pursue a professional career in this field, many professional translators will not bother. And those who will replace them are very often not up to notch. And this can seriously harm the general public perception of the translation profession.

Best regards,

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Karen Stokes  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 03:05
Member (2003)
French to English
Translators' Association Jun 7, 2010

You could also have a look at the website of the Translators' Association of the Society of Authors: Contract vettiing is one of the services they offer.



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Sample contract for book translation?

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