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Book translation rate?
Thread poster: jamesfowler

jamesfowler
Local time: 03:54
Italian to English
Nov 12, 2010

Hi,

I have recently been asked to quote on a 180 page book? How would you recommend constructing a quote? Would you suggest writing a contract in order to guarantee payment? Is is usual to ask for money upfront or half-way through the translation..it will be a long project and I cannot afford to be not paid in full at the end.

Any help would be much appreciated.

The book is not a major success and the person in question is not backed by a major publisher and therefore I am not looking for an industry standard rate, although it would be helpful to understand what this would be?

Many thanks
James


 

Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 02:54
Member (2008)
Italian to English
Like every other kind of work Nov 12, 2010

jamesfowler wrote:

Hi,

I have recently been asked to quote on a 180 page book? How would you recommend constructing a quote? Would you suggest writing a contract in order to guarantee payment? Is is usual to ask for money upfront or half-way through the translation..it will be a long project and I cannot afford to be not paid in full at the end.

Any help would be much appreciated.

The book is not a major success and the person in question is not backed by a major publisher and therefore I am not looking for an industry standard rate, although it would be helpful to understand what this would be?

Many thanks
James



Like every other kind of work, you should be looking for a level of remuneration that enables you to do a good job and make a profit.


 

Kuochoe Nikoi  Identity Verified
Ghana
Local time: 01:54
Member (2011)
Japanese to English
Something that lets you make a living Nov 12, 2010

Granted I've never translated a whole book before, but I imagine it might take weeks and months of focused, dedicated work to do a good job. And in those weeks and months you've got food to eat and bills to pay and you won't be taking on any new jobs either. So I would get a rough count of the words, apply my standard rate to it and add a little extra. And I'd take at least 25% of the fee upfront because man must eat.

I'm sure those with more experience in literature will be along soon enough, though.


 

Armorel Young  Identity Verified
Local time: 02:54
German to English
High quality essential Nov 12, 2010

For me books are at the higher end of my price range, largely because of the need to ensure really high standards of quality and accuracy - not that translators aren't careful and accurate in everything they do, but a book is likely to be around for longer than most of the ephemeral things we translate so it needs to look good, sound good and be 100% error-free. So you need to charge a rate that is high enough for you to feel happy to spend time giving lots of attention to detail, rather than fretting and feeling that you are putting in more time than you are being paid for. Also, if the book takes up a lot of your time you may lose other clients through not being available for several months, so you may need to factor that in.

My policy on long jobs for an unknown client is to ask for payment of 1/3 before word starts, 1/3 upon delivery of the translation and 1/3 after resolution of any queries. If it's a long job you might want a larger number of staged payments.

I would definitely have a contract regulating all the details, including the timetable, how illustrations, indexes, proofreading etc. will be handled, payment, the scope the client has for requesting revisions and additions, the way in which your contribution will be acknowledged etc. It also needs to be established right at the start whether you will get any share of the royalties from sales of the book (or whether you will charge a higher fee but forego the right to royalties).


 

Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 02:54
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
a contract doesn't actually guarantee anything Nov 12, 2010

jamesfowler wrote:
Would you suggest writing a contract in order to guarantee payment?


Unfortunately, I really don't think this type of contract exists. All a contract can do is minimise the risk of non-payment by making it clear what is expected of each party. There's nothing a contract can do to get you paid if:

the company goes into liquidation, or
there are quality issues that you are not able to refute.

People tend to wave contracts or stand behind them, but nothing is certain. I once had a client who hid behind a contract that I had (stupidly) signed - only to discover that the courts dismissed the clause as abusive and they had to pay me my hard-earned cash plus interest and fees. Fortunately, I haven't been on the losing side of a court case, although I have lost money when clients have gone bankrupt.

I'm not saying don't push for a formal contract - the reverse, in fact - but don't expect it to guarantee anything.


 

philgoddard
United States
Member (2009)
German to English
+ ...
. Nov 12, 2010

I agree with Armorel about payment in instalments - most customers agree to this in my experience. And no, I wouldn't bother with a contract (unless they habitually use translators and have a standard one ready) - I've done about 20 books and never had a contract. Just an exchange of emails should do.

And make sure it's a subject you're at least vaguely interested in! A 180-page book that you find mind-numbingly boring is more of a liability than anything - especially if it means turning down all your other customers.


 

Sergei Tumanov  Identity Verified
Local time: 04:54
English to Russian
+ ...
a contract doesn't actually guarantee anything Nov 12, 2010

If a contract doesn't actually guarantee anything why don't we require an advance payment always?


[Edited at 2010-11-12 21:01 GMT]


 

jamesfowler
Local time: 03:54
Italian to English
TOPIC STARTER
proofreading and thanks Nov 12, 2010

Is a proofreading rate generally about 1/2 that of a translation rate? if my rate was 0.04 per word of translation it would be 0.01 - 0.02 for proofreading?

Thanks a lot for your help. I think even without a contract some of the points that have been raised are going to help me structure a quote more accurately and cover my back more fully!

fingers crossed it comes through..the book is based on pop-culture, so not massively interesting but topical and fairly simple..not containing any grand philosophy or theories (explicitly anyway!).icon_smile.gif


 

Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 02:54
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
Advance payment would be nice Nov 12, 2010

Sergei Tumanov wrote:
If a contract doesn't actually guarantee anything why don't we require an advance payment always?


I'd love advance payments, but then that would mean the clients always taking all the risk - they'd probably prefer to go elsewhere with less risk.

We don't systematically ask for advance payment because we are businesses - it's a business risk. We try to minimise that risk by being absolutely sure we know what is expected before we start the job and by researching the client to be as sure as we possibly can that they intend to pay for the job.

Do you take out a contract with a restaurant when you go in for a meal? Do they ask for payment in advance? No! They take a business risk, hoping that you'll pay up - the exception being that if they don't like the look of you (e.g. if you seem penniless or drunk), they'll refuse to serve you. In 99% of cases, the diner pays for what (s)he's eaten - most of us are honest, after all.


 

Bernhard Sulzer  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 21:54
English to German
+ ...
contract as security Nov 13, 2010

philgoddard wrote:

And no, I wouldn't bother with a contract (unless they habitually use translators and have a standard one ready) -


For a book translation, I would certainly expect the client to co-sign a contract, preferably one that I have drafted.
What else is going to help me in court if it comes to that?
In my contracts, clients agree to abide by the terms I have posted online, on my website and any special provisions stated in the contract.

Bernhard


 

Ilze Paegle-Mkrtchyan
Local time: 05:54
English to Latvian
+ ...
Literary translation Nov 13, 2010

Hi,

I have done some book translations and here is what I can say about the subject. First of all you may want to have a look at this pdf document to get a general idea what is going on and what your rates could/should be:

http://www.ceatl.eu/current-situation/working-conditions/

Of course you will need a contract - that goes without saying. The main question is what kind of contract. If you are going to work for a publishing house they will certainly have a standard/model contract that is used in every case. However, the rates and deadlines (submission of the translation, submission of the edited manuscript etc.) are negotiable. If it's your first book translation you won't probably get much, also I don't think the publishing house would agree to pay anything in advance, at least they never do in my country. Literary translators are usually paid a certain percentage (something like 30-50%) of the previously agreed lump sum when the manuscript is submitted and the rest after the book has been published. You may consider also asking for royalties but in this particular case I wouldn't advise it - most probably the book in question won't be a bestseller::)) Will you really get all your money in the end? Hmmmm... that is the question. A major publishing house will certainly pay, but small ones might find all possible and even impossible excuses why the payments are delayed and again delayed - also be careful and do some research before your final decision.
The situation could be entirely different if you are going to translate the book for its author or for any other company/organization. In that case you can negotiate almost anything which is also most advisable.

Good luck!

Ilze


 

Heinrich Pesch  Identity Verified
Finland
Local time: 04:54
Member (2003)
Finnish to German
+ ...
Work part-time Nov 13, 2010

If you are able to get other work along with the book translation do not work on the book 100%. As it seems not to be a big seller there should be no rush, so take your time and work on it only when you have no other work. Never commit your time to one single project.
Regards
Heinrich


 

InfoMarex
Ireland
Local time: 02:54
Member (2008)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Look at the book translation from a yearly perspective. Nov 13, 2010

Dear James,

As the translator of several books, I would suggest that you have various aspects to consider under professional, business and financial headings.

Professional:
Is the work in your language pair, in a field in which you are wholly comfortable. You may not want to do military or porn professionally, and out of preference, you may not want to do the historical novel, etc. Are you up to dialogue in sixteenth century English? Is the novel realist in the sense that you produce the written word as it sounds in speech?

Business:
Get thee a signed contract on the double! Take a standard one from any writing or author source and put in the things that you want. State what you want to paid with absolute clarity and, first a retainer of one-third, and then in tranches according as the work is done, and finally delivered.

State that your translation e.g. to English, is not subject to the approving review of editors or others. One presumes that the author of the mss. does not write English with your fluency.

Make it very clear that you are being paid for the translation, not the creation of a new style, i.e. in Ireland, we say that you cannot create a silk purse out of a sow's ear.

Ensure that the ms. is the final one from the author, not a work in progress.

Ensure that your name appears on the booktitle and author page as the translator, and even better with your email address under your name. And even better still, with a blurb on the jacket under the author's blurb.

Financial:
Describing the work as a 180-page book is not very helpful. How many words does it have? 180 pages could range from could be anything from 36K to 72K words. If you translate 10K a week, that could range from 18 working days (a month) to 36 working days (two months). Do not charge by word, but rather by the month. What professional translation salary do your need for 2 months' work? You do have to live and pay the bills and your tax at the end of the year.

Think of your year as being occupied with the transaltion of 6 books. What yearly income do you want to have - assuming that you are a top-drawer translator?

Please do not think that by quoting a low [month /two month] fee that you are doing the author a "favour". You are not. You are merely making yourself a long-term candidate for the bankruptcy court. By all means translate pro bono - for free - for the good causes you support. But recognise such latter translations for what they are, i.e. one of your good causes.

My two eurocents' worth for the day. Let me know how you get on.
Best of luck,

Michael J McCann


 

Mandeep Singh  Identity Verified
India
Local time: 07:24
Member (2009)
English to Panjabi
+ ...
Financial Aspect is easiest to consider and implement... Nov 13, 2010

Do not charge by word, but rather by the month. What professional translation salary do your need for 2 months' work? You do have to live and pay the bills and your tax at the end of the year.

Michael J McCann


I completely agree with this as i do use this method to quote for jobs (for large volume jobs) and i find it very easy to figure out whether i should proceed with this or not.

[Edited at 2010-11-13 15:08 GMT]


 

Bernhard Sulzer  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 21:54
English to German
+ ...
thanks for your great input Mar 10, 2011

Michael, I just came across it!

Kind regards,
Bernhard


InfoMarex wrote:
Business:
Get thee a signed contract on the double! Take a standard one from any writing or author source and put in the things that you want. State what you want to paid with absolute clarity and, first a retainer of one-third, and then in tranches according as the work is done, and finally delivered. ....

Michael J McCann


 
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