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Rates for translating a book
Thread poster: Christiana Tziortziou

Christiana Tziortziou  Identity Verified
Local time: 15:18
English to Greek
+ ...
Aug 26, 2011

Hey everyone,

I've just been contacted by someone who wants a book translated and asked me for a quote. Good thing is they had a pdf format of the book and I transfered it to msword for the word count and it comes to 72500 words (300 pages). I know this question must've been answered before but should I put my standard rates? It's the first time I'm getting such a large job and I don't want to lose it. And living in Cyprus makes matters worse in the translation department as everyone prefers not to pay and get these services f.o.c. (I'm sure it happens everywhere but I've had many people rejecting my rates cause they considered them too high -0,03-0,05EU per word, and that's my minimum for when I'm 'too desperate').
I was thinking to tell them about my standard rates first and add that they are negotiable so that I can have the option to discuss with them for a better price but thought I'd ask here first.
Any advice would be highly appreciated.


Thanks in advance!
Chistiana Tziortziou


 

Alexander Onishko  Identity Verified
Local time: 15:18
Member (2007)
Russian to English
+ ...
*** Aug 26, 2011

Christiana Tziortziou wrote:

Hey everyone,

I've just been contacted by someone who wants a book translated and asked me for a quote. Good thing is they had a pdf format of the book and I transfered it to msword for the word count and it comes to 72500 words (300 pages). I know this question must've been answered before but should I put my standard rates? It's the first time I'm getting such a large job and I don't want to lose it. And living in Cyprus makes matters worse in the translation department as everyone prefers not to pay and get these services f.o.c. (I'm sure it happens everywhere but I've had many people rejecting my rates cause they considered them too high -0,03-0,05EU per word, and that's my minimum for when I'm 'too desperate').
I was thinking to tell them about my standard rates first and add that they are negotiable so that I can have the option to discuss with them for a better price but thought I'd ask here first.
Any advice would be highly appreciated.


Thanks in advance!
Chistiana Tziortziou


You should request 0.1 Euro per word and not less.

"Volume" discounts from the side of translator is nonsense.

Unlike a peddler who may sell more products at a lower prices and thus get bigger profit in the long run, you have a limited resource - your time, which you are going to sell.

[Edited at 2011-08-26 14:59 GMT]


 

neilmac  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 14:18
Spanish to English
+ ...
Deadline etc Aug 26, 2011

In my opinion it depends on the deadline and other factors. If it's quite flexible, you might consider dropping your rates a little.

As it's a large volume, I'd probably be prepared to do it at about half my usual basic rate (in Spain, this is about twice the euro rate you quoted) if I really wanted the job (whether out of personal interest, or simply for the cash). As you say, there is a lot of competition and the economic situation your way is not favourable so someone will always be willing to undercut you. It's a tough call.

Your idea: "tell them about my standard rates first and add that they are negotiable " usually works for me...

[Edited at 2011-08-26 15:08 GMT]


 

neilmac  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 14:18
Spanish to English
+ ...
In your dreams Aug 26, 2011

Alexander Onishko wrote:

You should request 0.1 Euro per word and not less.

"Volume" discounts from the side of translator is nonsense.



10 cents a word? I recently tried to up my rates to 8 cents from 7 with one client who proceeded to send me copies of offers he'd received from several agencies offering him much cheaper services. I gave in, because the texts are actually very simple and require almost no effort on my part; they come in every 2 months and he always pays on time.

The asker in this case is in Cyprus (= sort of Greece) where the economy is really struggling, so I'd imagine that ten cents a word is actually pie in the sky for most translators working there.


 

Christiana Tziortziou  Identity Verified
Local time: 15:18
English to Greek
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Rates for translating a book Aug 26, 2011

My rates are actually 0,08EU per word. When I first came back from the UK to Cyprus 2,5 years ago I had them for 0,05EU and people thought it was EXTREMELY expensive for 'something so simple to do'; and kept asking me if I also charge for the articles and prepositions on the documents..... so you can imagine the situation and ignorance here...... but lately I decided not to tell them so cheap rates as I'm spending so much time and many sleepless nights for a few big translations I get every once in a while.
However, I don't want to lose this job cause it's been months since I had a decent translation offer, and STILL not put very cheap rates... sometimes it's getting so confusing!!!


 

Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 13:18
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
What type of book? Aug 26, 2011

Christiana Tziortziou wrote:
I've just been contacted by someone who wants a book translated and asked me for a quote.


Hello,

I'm afraid I can't contribute anything very useful to the discussion as I've never translated a book, but I do know that there is a big difference between rates for fiction and non-fiction, work-related books.

People are often prepared to translate fiction for below-minimum because they really enjoy doing it, they can often spread it over a fairly long period which allows them to take better-paid "bread and butter" jobs, and there is sometimes the possibility of royalty payments. If nothing else, there is the satisfaction of having your name quoted on every copy.

However, for a non-fiction book, these factors don't normally apply - so nor do below-minimum rates. There is certainly no justification for working more-or-less full-time on a job that is not bringing in enough to live on. Better to take only small jobs in the hope that there is something just around the corner that will pay better.

Sheila


 

Kevin Fulton  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 08:18
German to English
Rates Aug 26, 2011

Christiana Tziortziou wrote:

[snip] people [snip] kept asking me if I also charge for the articles and prepositions on the documents


You can offer to leave them out if they don't want to pay for them. In Germany, the charge is frequently by the number of source characters, including spaces. One client said he didn't want to pay for spaces, so I sent him a paragraph from the file without them. He changed his tune quickly.


 

philgoddard
United States
Member (2009)
German to English
+ ...
. Aug 26, 2011

I never give volume discounts - I actually say very politely that large jobs are in many ways a disadvantage as they mean turning down work from other clients, and people usually accept this.

Two important things when translating a book:

1. Ask for half the money upfront, or something similar. This is normal commercial practice.
2. If it's a subject you have no interest in, turn it down. There's nothing worse than translating something big that you hate. A day or two is fine, but weeks or months can be torture.

Also, if you're being repeatedly told by customers in Cyprus that 8 cents a word is extremely expensive, that does suggest that rates there are lower than in (say) northern Europe. You might want to concentrate on getting more customers outside the country.


[Edited at 2011-08-26 19:15 GMT]


 

Callum Walker  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 13:18
Member (2010)
Russian to English
+ ...
I agree with Sheila Aug 26, 2011

Sheila Wilson wrote:
Better to take only small jobs in the hope that there is something just around the corner that will pay better.
Sheila


You have to ask yourself if you would be disappointed having taken on a project of that scale at a rate such as 0.03 EUR to then find a company offering you a 25k project (or larger) next week at 0.06 EUR (or better)?

There have been occasions where I have turned down bigger jobs from companies that pay me less than many others in the hope that other more lucrative work will come along. As yet, I have not made the wrong choice, and other large, better paying work has indeed arrived from other sources. But as with so many things in business, it is very much a gamble.

You need to really ask yourself how much you actually want to translate this book (for pleasure or personal gratification) and decide whether or not the potentially lower rates you are planning to offer makes it worth your while (or more importantly time, which could be spent translating more ordinary (read 'boring' in certain circumstances) texts. I think only you can make that choice really.

I personally would work out an absolute minimum rate and below which you would reject the offer of work. Where possible I try to stick to my minimum - so far it has worked out fine, and I would actually say that since I've been working for no lower than my minimum rate I have actually been earning more as a result.


 

Christiana Tziortziou  Identity Verified
Local time: 15:18
English to Greek
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Not getting many translations anyway.... Aug 26, 2011

....so it would be inconsiderable for me to deny the offer straight away just because it's a large project. The largest I've done so far was 32000 words and for my minimum rates and it worked just fine (with time). For me, time is not an issue. And it's not like I'm getting tons of translation work because the Greek language is considered as 'an exotic language' and there are not many translations in language pairs with Greek, and things in Cyprus -as I mentioned before- aren't the same like the UK or France (or any other European country) with terms of translation/interpreting work.
My only issue is not falling to the trap and put them a high rate because it's a big project and it would be too much time-consuming to finish it, without being negotiable for it.
It's a psychology book, by the way Sheila, easy terminology with a few idiomatic expressions that would need some work. And considering I am only getting 1-2 (serious) translations per year, I can't afford rejecting the project just cause of its length; it would be a challenge for me.


 

Krzysztof Kajetanowicz (X)  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 14:18
English to Polish
+ ...
out here Aug 27, 2011

Maybe the West/South-European market is different but out here rates for book translations are 30%, maybe even 50% lower than normal rates.

Reason: such is the market and there's no arguing with it. You can either say yes or no (and of course negotiate, in any case).

Translators go for it probably because:

1) it's nice to get your name on a book (even if not on the cover), both for your ego and probably your marketing potential,
2) the deadlines are usually quite long, so you can do the book betwen other projects (you get paid little but otherwise you'd be sitting around, looking for a client call),
3) a large project gives you confidence; it's reasonable to reduce your risk (assure a certain amount of income for a certain period of time), and if you prefer less risk to more risk, you may be willing to accept that it costs money (just as you would likely make less money as an in-house translator than a freelancer),
4) a large project means you only go through the whole administrative ordeal once per large number of words - your "fixed costs" in terms of time are low compared to the size of the project,
5) while enjoying the benefits of (3) and (4), unlike other large projects you don't have to reject other clients (see (2)).

[Edited at 2011-08-27 06:44 GMT]


 

Tina Vonhof
Canada
Local time: 06:18
Member (2006)
Dutch to English
+ ...
Good points Aug 27, 2011

Those are good points Krzysztof, especially in Christiana's situation and the general state of the economy in Greece. If she negotiates a generous deadline, so that she can still accept other jobs, payment in installments, and preferably also her name mentioned in the book, that could be an asset on her resume and profile. That may be worth working for a few cents less. In any case it will be beneficial to get the extra experience and not having to sit on her hands waiting for jobs.

Christiana, I do agree with others who have said that you should only do this if you like doing it and are interested in the topic. Otherwise you will very soon wish you hadn't taken it on.

if you don't know this already, check Word for its special features for writing a book, such as using styles for the headings (then you can also easily generate the table of contents), marking words that should go in the index, etc. These things can make your job a lot easier and the formatting more consistent.


[Edited at 2011-08-27 17:05 GMT]


 

Laurent KRAULAND (X)  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 14:18
French to German
+ ...
Good one, Kevin :) Aug 27, 2011

Kevin Fulton wrote:

Christiana Tziortziou wrote:

[snip] people [snip] kept asking me if I also charge for the articles and prepositions on the documents


You can offer to leave them out if they don't want to pay for them. In Germany, the charge is frequently by the number of source characters, including spaces. One client said he didn't want to pay for spaces, so I sent him a paragraph from the file without them. He changed his tune quickly.


I never did that but would not have hesitated one second to do it.


 

Christiana Tziortziou  Identity Verified
Local time: 15:18
English to Greek
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks everyone for the advice Sep 7, 2011

I replied to the potential client last week with my rates and willingness to negotiate and waiting for their reply - a positive one, I hope!

 

Attila Piróth  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 14:18
Member
English to Hungarian
+ ...
Who is the client? Sep 7, 2011

You did not mention explicitly whether the client is the publisher. If no, then the project can fall through quite easily. In a typical scenario, the intermediary will take your quote into account, and start to negotiate with publishers. But convincing a publisher to publish a book is not easy - you can find long lists of very well known books that were refused by several publishers. And it is probably harder when it is not an original work but a translation: publishers usually know what kind of books fit in their profile, and select the books to translate themselves in most cases.

So, before giving a quote, I think you absolutely need to find out whether there is a publisher behind. And if there is none, I would suggest that you not invest too much energy in the negotiations. The outsourcer is not in full control of the situation: if you agree to lower your rates (as indicated quite strongly by your comment on the willingness to negotiate), and you find an agreement, what will you do when the outsourcer comes back and says, "I have finally managed to secure a contract with a publisher, but they imposed their rates, which are too low to pay the fee agreed with you."?

Sorry to be rather critical, but I hope my comments can help you avoid some pitfalls.

Best,
Attila


 
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