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Translation Fee for an entire book
Thread poster: Ramiro Bestilleiro Rey

Ramiro Bestilleiro Rey  Identity Verified
Chile
Spanish to English
+ ...
Apr 25, 2014

I have been approached to translate an entire book, from Spanish to English, which consists of 250 words, 150K words. It's a non-fiction travelog/living abroad effort. The usual rates I have seen would make the fee prohibitive, i.e. priced out of the buyer's supposed budget.

I was wondering if anyone out who does this kind of sized work can give some guidance or have a view.

Thanks


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dianaft  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 11:42
Member (2013)
German to English
+ ...
No books, but Apr 25, 2014

I had a very large volume agreement with a client where we faced a similar issue - a small company with a small budget, a huge text production over the course of a year and genuine people who were willing to go out of their way to come to an agreement.
I gave them a discount on my rates, they gave me relaxed schedules. That way, I was able to fit their projects in whenever I hit a quiet spot, but I didn't have to forego any work paid at full price.
If you are interested in the book itself, I would think along those lines - negotiate a very generous deadline and keep it running in the background. Unless you are always booked up to your neck, it will serve as a "filler".


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Natalia Mackevich  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 11:42
Member (2009)
English to Russian
+ ...
In most cases like this one Apr 25, 2014

the client has no idea how much time and effort is involved in translation of a big book. If the client's budget is too low for you (and you must take into consideration that accepting a long-term cheap work will make you unavailable for better paid projects), you just need to inform them about your rate (it is the minimum decent rate you are comfortable to offer). On the other hand, in my opinion, if you don't care about income, you don't need our advice and can simply agree to anything they offer you as a reward. Some writers offer royalties, but one cannot guarantee that the book ("a non-fiction travelog/living abroad effort") will become a bestseller. The decision is yours.

[Редактировалось 2014-04-25 20:43 GMT]


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LilianNekipelov  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 06:42
Russian to English
+ ...
More or less a regular rate. Let them take a loan, if they cannot afford it. Apr 25, 2014

Many banks would give them a loan for a project like that. It is usually your regular rate, or a slightly lower rate plus royalties. Some people work for royaltis only, but I would not recommend it--you never know if the book sells, plus collecting the payments may be sometimes a hassle.


[Edited at 2014-04-25 21:10 GMT]


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Noni Gilbert
Spain
Local time: 12:42
Member (2007)
Spanish to English
+ ...
How long did it take them... Apr 25, 2014

... to write the book?

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Karen Stokes  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 11:42
Member (2003)
French to English
Book / text Apr 26, 2014

If it's important to you to have translated 'a book' and you're willing to negotiate your rate downwards because of that, then dianaft's approach above sounds sensible. If you simply see it as a long-ish text / project with a normal deadline then I can't see why you wouldn't apply a normal rate, as you'll presumably be turning down other work to do it. The author may simply not be being realistic in calculating their budget (which isn't blameworthy in itself if they've never commissioned a translation before) – but that lack of realism doesn't mean you're obliged to go along with it. Ultimately, if they can't afford to pay for a translation at a decent rate, then translating their book isn't a viable project.

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Thayenga  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 12:42
Member (2009)
English to German
+ ...
There are several factors Apr 26, 2014

You need to consider the following:

the expected/anticipated delivery deadline (will you have time for your regular clients?), your lowest affordable rate (how little can you afford to charge them and still make a living), the royalty percentage, the payment terms to be agreed upon.

If their budget is small, then perhaps they can pay you in installments, either per delivered chapter (or 2 - 3 chapters) or on a monthly basis. Even if you enjoy the subject of the book, you still have bills to pay.


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Phil Hand  Identity Verified
China
Local time: 18:42
Chinese to English
Don't compromise your rate Apr 26, 2014

Books are hard! A travelog sounds especially hard - you're going to have to look up every single place name and the name of every cultural institution and tradition they mention. Then you're going to have to do extra work to maintain consistency over the length of a very big document.

"priced out of the buyer's supposed budget" = they didn't plan properly. Not the translator's problem.


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KateKaminski
Local time: 11:42
German to English
assuming that you work to earn money ... Apr 26, 2014

... rather than as a hobby, it would be silly to translate this book at discounted rate and earn 40% less than you would have on many smaller projects.

If anything, you should increase your rate for travel translations, as it can involve rather a lot of research.


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José Henrique Lamensdorf  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 08:42
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Some figures Apr 26, 2014

dianaft wrote:

I gave them a discount on my rates, they gave me relaxed schedules. That way, I was able to fit their projects in whenever I hit a quiet spot, but I didn't have to forego any work paid at full price.
If you are interested in the book itself, I would think along those lines - negotiate a very generous deadline and keep it running in the background. Unless you are always booked up to your neck, it will serve as a "filler".


That's the way to go, and I've done it over and over again. I call it the "book program".

My rate is lowered by 30~35%, and the committed deadline is expanded ~4x.

To illustrate, if the translation were to cost $10K and take 4 weeks as a "priority commercial translation", in the book program it will cost $6.5~7.0K and take up to 4 months, as a "filler".

I divide the book in sections, which may be parts of chapters, entire chapters, or groups of them, all of roughly* the same size, and build a table with their respective word counts and prices at the reduced rate.

*The first section is usually half of all others, so if their plan was to default on me, my risk is diminished. On the other hand, if they don't like my translation (hasn't happened yet, however it IS possible), their risk is lower too.

They have this table, so they know exactly how much the next payment will be, though not when. Since they want it finished ASAP, they should be prepared.

I take only one book at a time under this program, and work on it every time I have to spare. The agreement is that they pay me the corresponding amount immediately (within two business days) after each section delivery.

The agreement also entitles them to tell me any time - and without giving any reason - to "Finish the section you are working on, deliver it, I'll pay you for that, and then STOP!" From the moment I stop, they have one year to ask me to resume.

I had one such case. The author told me to stop and, three months later, asked me to resume. Though I didn't require it, he explained that a business opportunity had come up, and he'd need the available funds temporarily.

The last section is delivered together with the entire book translation revised from cover to cover. That's included in the price, but only provided if they really go all the way with it.

I commit to the extended deadline as the latest. If I haven't progressed enough, and it's coming near, I'll work on that translation as a priority to the end, and deliver on time. However that's MY problem. So far, I've delivered all books translated within 2/3 and 3/4 of the allotted time, and no book has been dropped midway.


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Helen Hagon  Identity Verified
Local time: 11:42
Member (2011)
Russian to English
+ ...
Translators' Association Apr 26, 2014

Is your client a publisher? If so, you could take a look at the Translators' Association website. They suggest that £88.50 per 1000 words is a reasonable guideline for UK publishers: http://www.societyofauthors.org/translators-association

However, I have translated several books directly for authors or small institutions and find that their expectations are somewhat different. I am prepared to lower my usual rate a little in order to secure a long-term and interesting job, but not enough that my family would have to go without food while I am doing it.


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Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 11:42
Member (2008)
Italian to English
Books Apr 26, 2014

In the cases where I have translated entire books, I have only done so because I was interested in the contents of the book itself, and was conscious of, shall we say, the cultural dimension of making a translation available to a wider audience than would have been possible if the book had only been available in the Author's original language (in my case, Italian).

By translating a whole book, you have to content yourself that the book itself is a worthy thing, and that your efforts serve a wider purpose in which you believe.

On that basis, translating a book enables you to engage closely with the subject with which it deals, and to have an exchange of views with the Author.

However you should not do this at a loss. You should aim to be reasonably well paid for an effort that usually goes beyond the call of duty. Publishers have a bad habit of pleading poverty but they have access to a wide range of sources of funding, including for non-commercial books.

The books I have translated have broadened my horizons enormously and opened up lines of personal inquiry that I didn't have before. But these cultural rewards should not diminish your entitlement to ask for sufficient monetary reward as well. Translating a book, especially if it is a thoughtful, intelligent book, will require your very best work.

I do strongly agree with point made above: that this should not be allowed to interfere with your other translation work, and that a very generous deadline should form part of your agreement.

[Edited at 2014-04-26 19:17 GMT]


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Natalia Mackevich  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 11:42
Member (2009)
English to Russian
+ ...
Exactly! Apr 26, 2014

Helen Hagon wrote:

Is your client a publisher? If so, you could take a look at the Translators' Association website. They suggest that £88.50 per 1000 words is a reasonable guideline for UK publishers: http://www.societyofauthors.org/translators-association

However, I have translated several books directly for authors or small institutions and find that their expectations are somewhat different. I am prepared to lower my usual rate a little in order to secure a long-term and interesting job, but not enough that my family would have to go without food while I am doing it.


I second that. With £88.50 as a standard rate (just as an example to illustrate the ratio) I'd agree to a dicounted rate of £80 (or even £75, if the book is so good), but definitely not to £19.50. Everyone has their own range, of course.


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Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 11:42
Member (2008)
Italian to English
RIght Apr 26, 2014

Natalia Mackevich wrote:

I second that. With £88.50 as a standard rate (just as an example to illustrate the ratio) I'd agree to a dicounted rate of £80 (or even £75, if the book is so good), but definitely not to £19.50. Everyone has their own range, of course.


Those rates sound about right to me.


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acetran  Identity Verified
English to Hindi
+ ...
Rates depend upon many factors. Apr 27, 2014

The rate suggested by Natalia Mackevich, £88.50 for 1000 words, appear right.
However, I have translated books at lower rates than this when I liked the subject.

Kind regards,

[Edited at 2014-04-27 07:00 GMT]


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