Quotation for translating Poetry
Thread poster: Marcella Segre

Marcella Segre  Identity Verified
Singapore
Local time: 03:10
Italian to French
+ ...
Nov 16, 2013

Hello,
I have received a job proposal for the translation of a book of poems. Although I have already translated short essays and fiction stories, it is the first time I have to quote for translating poetry.
I do not know how to quantify the amount of work. these poems are many [100] and short [15 lines max]. should I quote by estimated working time [how to assess?] or a standard forfait per poem?

Any advice is more than welcome.
Thank you
Marcella


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Alexander Onishko  Identity Verified
Local time: 22:10
Member (2007)
Russian to English
+ ...
I heard that.... Nov 18, 2013

Marcella Segre wrote:

Hello,
I have received a job proposal for the translation of a book of poems. Although I have already translated short essays and fiction stories, it is the first time I have to quote for translating poetry.
I do not know how to quantify the amount of work. these poems are many [100] and short [15 lines max]. should I quote by estimated working time [how to assess?] or a standard forfait per poem?

Any advice is more than welcome.
Thank you
Marcella


I heard that a stanard price is 10 euro per line.


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Thayenga  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 21:10
Member (2009)
English to German
+ ...
Time Nov 18, 2013

Hi Marcella,

before you quote you need to find out whether these poems are rhymers, and do these rhyms have to be adopted in the target language.

With 15 lines per poem you can estimate approximately 1.5 - 2.5 hours minimum per poem, provided you are an expert poet in your language.

To translate poetry can become a real challenge, so it will best be charged by the hour.

Alternatively (and quite common), you could charge per line (source text), taking into consideration the amount of words per line. This could mean that you might be working for an hourly rate of 1 - 2 Dollars or Euros, or which ever currency you prefer. So you need to ensure that your per-line-rate is high enough to ensure a moderate to decent hourly income.

Another important factor is the copyright of your translation, which is actually creative writing. Creative writing merits a higher price than the translation of e. g. a technical document.

Will you retain the copyrights to your "translation"? Are there any royalties included and/or copies of the books? If not, you must charge accordingly.


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Alexandra Schneeuhr  Identity Verified
Cyprus
Local time: 22:10
Member (2012)
English to Russian
+ ...
Flat rate? Nov 18, 2013

Hello Marcella,

I found interesting the last post in http://www.proz.com/forum/literature_poetry/245575-how_to_charge_for_poetry_translation.html :
QTE
The Translators' Association in the UK suggests a "minimum rate" for poetry translation of £1.10 per line for poetry (with a minimum of £32 per poem).
UNQTE

I guess every literary project is unique so there's no such thing as a standard rate, but the flat-rate approach seems to work for at least one of my regular customers; I find his writing (song lyrics) sort of predictable and easy to translate (not that I'd ever admit it to him) so we long agreed on a flat rate of EUR80 for each new song, usually of 12 lines + refrain.

Alternatively, I would personally charge per line (anywhere from EUR5 to EUR10, depending on quite a number of different things involved).

[Edited at 2013-11-18 15:09 GMT]


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Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 21:10
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Should you do it? Nov 18, 2013

May I ask you whether you have ever written poems yourself in your target language? Do you read/enjoy poetry in your personal life?

In my opinion, only someone who has experience writing the same type of poems as in the job should accept such a job, since it demands specific capabilities.

Having said that, I have to say that translating poetry does not pay financially at all. Poets don't have the money to pay for the time and mental/emotional effort each poem requires. Consider it a hobby and, so that you get more out of it, make sure your contract with the customer includes adding your name as translator to any form of publication.


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Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 21:10
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
What, and what? Nov 18, 2013

Thayenga wrote:
With 15 lines per poem you can estimate approximately 1.5 - 2.5 hours minimum per poem, provided you are an expert poet in your language.

This is an unfounded guess. We know nothing about the poems at hand, the type of poem, and the demands it will place upon the translator. One poem could be done in a couple of hours, another one a matter of days or work.

Thayenga wrote:
Alternatively (and quite common), you could charge per line (source text), taking into consideration the amount of words per line. This could mean that you might be working for an hourly rate of 1 - 2 Dollars or Euros, or which ever currency you prefer. So you need to ensure that your per-line-rate is high enough to ensure a moderate to decent hourly income.

I think you haven't thought much about this. Do poem books sell like Harry Potter novels? Not at all. A poet can consider him/herself lucky if he/she sells 500 copies of the poem book. Poetry is not something poets do for money, but for pleasure and/or prestige. We translators cannot expect to make decent money out of poetry translation, but should make sure our name is clearly printed in the book.


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Thayenga  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 21:10
Member (2009)
English to German
+ ...
An educated guess Nov 18, 2013

Tomás Cano Binder, CT wrote:


Thayenga wrote:
Alternatively (and quite common), you could charge per line (source text), taking into consideration the amount of words per line. This could mean that you might be working for an hourly rate of 1 - 2 Dollars or Euros, or which ever currency you prefer. So you need to ensure that your per-line-rate is high enough to ensure a moderate to decent hourly income.

I think you haven't thought much about this. Do poem books sell like Harry Potter novels? Not at all. A poet can consider him/herself lucky if he/she sells 500 copies of the poem book. Poetry is not something poets do for money, but for pleasure and/or prestige. We translators cannot expect to make decent money out of poetry translation, but should make sure our name is clearly printed in the book.


Regarding the sales of poetry, some do sell. I should know since I am a poet with 2 printed books and 4 e-books on the market.

The issue of royalties are (or should be) always part of the contract. At least there has not been one single contract I've signed that didn't include the copyright and royalties.

Tomás Cano Binder, CT wrote:

Thayenga wrote:
With 15 lines per poem you can estimate approximately 1.5 - 2.5 hours minimum per poem, provided you are an expert poet in your language.

This is an unfounded guess. We know nothing about the poems at hand, the type of poem, and the demands it will place upon the translator. One poem could be done in a couple of hours, another one a matter of days or work.


This is why I had suggested to check with her client. I have already "translated" several poetry projects, and know that a poem could be done in as little as half an hour, provided the words "flow". On the other hand, a single line could take a couple of hours or even much longer.


[Edited at 2013-11-18 18:48 GMT]


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Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 21:10
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Sorry! Nov 18, 2013

Thayenga wrote:
Tomás wrote:
I think you haven't thought much about this. Do poem books sell like Harry Potter novels? Not at all. A poet can consider him/herself lucky if he/she sells 500 copies of the poem book. Poetry is not something poets do for money, but for pleasure and/or prestige. We translators cannot expect to make decent money out of poetry translation, but should make sure our name is clearly printed in the book.

Regarding the sales of poetry, some do sell. I should know since I am a poet with 2 printed books and 4 e-books on the market.

My apologies then. You certainly do know more about the matter than me. Although I have written my bit, I have only translated one published book of poems.

[Edited at 2013-11-18 19:01 GMT]


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Thayenga  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 21:10
Member (2009)
English to German
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:) Nov 18, 2013

Tomás Cano Binder, CT wrote:

Thayenga wrote:
Tomás wrote:
I think you haven't thought much about this. Do poem books sell like Harry Potter novels? Not at all. A poet can consider him/herself lucky if he/she sells 500 copies of the poem book. Poetry is not something poets do for money, but for pleasure and/or prestige. We translators cannot expect to make decent money out of poetry translation, but should make sure our name is clearly printed in the book.

Regarding the sales of poetry, some do sell. I should know since I am a poet with 2 printed books and 4 e-books on the market.

My apologies then. You certainly do know more about the matter than me. Although I have written my bit, I have only translated one published book of poems.

[Edited at 2013-11-18 19:01 GMT]


Thank you, Tomás. You had no way of knowing this, so all is good.

You do have a valid point, though: poetry books are, unfortunately, not found on the Bestseller list.


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Marcella Segre  Identity Verified
Singapore
Local time: 03:10
Italian to French
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
translating poetry Nov 20, 2013

thank you very much for all your replies, they are all relevant.
I will consider your suggestions and make a reasonable quote.
thanks!
Marcella


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Paweł Hamerski
Poland
Local time: 21:10
English to Polish
+ ...
It is quite simple - read them first Nov 20, 2013

and if you feel them and can recreate a poem in translation - make your quote. For me it's unpaid work.

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Quotation for translating Poetry

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