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Translating books for royalty fees only ???
Thread poster: LegalTransform

LegalTransform  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 12:09
Member (2002)
Spanish to English
+ ...
May 20, 2014

There is a new start-up (promoted by a large e-book seller) that offers translators royalties on sales (but no other payment) to translate books (mostly fiction) starting at 50,000 words.

This doesn't seem like adequate compensation to me, especially considering that you only get this amount if the book sells. There is a risk that you will not receive anything at all for all your months of hard work. Would you accept this offer? There are several translators who have already agreed to translate some of these novels.

The author/rights holder does not need to make an up front investment and will eventually take 75% of the profits. I think one would be better off to just write your own books and collect all the profit.

Here is the breakdown:
For the first $2,000 in sales, the rights holder would receive 30% ($600), the translator 55% ($1,100) and xxxx 15% ($300)

For the next $3,000, the rights holder would receive 45% ($1,350), the translator 40% ($1,200) and xxxx 15% ($450)

For the next $3,000, the rights holder would receive 65% ($1,950), the translator 20% ($600) and xxxx 15% ($450)

For all remaining sales after $8000, the rights holder would receive 75%, the translator 10% and xxxx 15%.



It's a crazy world where the person doing the work bears 100% of the risk and the author and publisher invest nothing.

It really is bizarre how almost every day there is a new start-up involving translation and none of them have bothered speaking with translators in order to find out if what they are proposing is even feasible.



[Edited at 2014-05-21 13:22 GMT]


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Bernhard Sulzer  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 12:09
English to German
+ ...
Payment for translation plus royalties May 20, 2014

Jeff Whittaker wrote:

There is a new start-up (promoted by a large e-book seller) that offers translators royalties on sales (but no other payment) to translate books (mostly fiction) starting at 50,000 words.

This doesn't seem like adequate compensation to me, especially considering that you only get this amount if books sales are successful. There is a risk that you will not receive anything at all for all your months of hard work. Would you accept this offer? There are several translators who have already agreed to translate some of these novels.


No, I don't. I translate for getting paid for the translation work plus royalties.

B


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TranslateThis  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 11:09
Spanish to English
+ ...
Wow! Another bright idea... May 20, 2014

Jeff Whittaker wrote:
you only get this amount if the book sells. There is a risk that you will not receive anything at all for all your months of hard work. Would you accept this offer? There are several translators who have already agreed to translate some of these novels.

[Edited at 2014-05-20 19:35 GMT]


Thanks for bringing this up, Jeff.

50,000 is a lot of work, so no, I wouldn't even consider this arrangement. Honestly, people should just do the math. If you translate 50,000 words at a relatively low rate of USD 0.10 per word, it's USD 5,000. OK, OK, I know translating books is not very well paid, but still, even if the going rates might be a bit lower for some language pairs, it's still takes a lot of effort and the amount you should be paid is nothing to sneeze at.

We've seen crowd-sourcing, translation contests (translating for points and stuff), now this... What's next?


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Hege Jakobsen Lepri  Identity Verified
Local time: 12:09
Member (2002)
English to Norwegian
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Not in this lifetime... May 20, 2014

I believe I was invited to have a look at the same "outfit" you're talking about through an outsourcer.
While I could envision a payment scheme where I'd get a lower rate + royalties, royalties alone wouldn't do it for me, especially considering that the language I translate into is spoken/read by only 5 million, so the potential profit is low.


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Andrea Diaz
Mexico
Local time: 11:09
English to Spanish
+ ...
It's all for love. May 20, 2014

Back when I was in university, I attended a translation conference. One of the speakers said that literary translation is a work of love, and that most of the people he knew translated literature as a hobby. Even though it's a large project, I can see why some people would accept to take this kind of work.

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Bernhard Sulzer  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 12:09
English to German
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Neither smart, true or wise IMO May 20, 2014

Andrea Diaz wrote:

Back when I was in university, I attended a translation conference. One of the speakers said that literary translation is a work of love, and that most of the people he knew translated literature as a hobby. ...


Just because somebody said that doesn't make it true, smart or wise.


B


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Andrea Diaz
Mexico
Local time: 11:09
English to Spanish
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Agreed. May 20, 2014

Bernhard Sulzer wrote:

Andrea Diaz wrote:

Back when I was in university, I attended a translation conference. One of the speakers said that literary translation is a work of love, and that most of the people he knew translated literature as a hobby. ...


Just because somebody said that doesn't make it true, smart or wise.


B


I know, but it's one of those things that stuck with me during my university years. I just said it because I think that might explain why would someone take such a large unpaid project. If it's a labor of love, perhaps you could trick yourself into doing this.


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Bernhard Sulzer  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 12:09
English to German
+ ...
Just don't get exploited May 20, 2014

Andrea Diaz wrote:

I know, but it's one of those things that stuck with me during my university years. I just said it because I think that might explain why would someone take such a large unpaid project. If it's a labor of love, perhaps you could trick yourself into doing this.


The problem with this is that if a few people can be convinced to translate a book for a large e-book seller practically for free (only agreeing to an unknown and probably small royalty percentage), it establishes a precedent that is dangerous in our industry and can lead to exploitative practices (as can be observed often in our sector), not so much because of the parties offering inadequate compensation for professional work but because of the likely acceptance of such terms by translators (there are so many) - which is even more likely to occur when the contractor is a large business entity which, based on its authority and stature, can make it sound so "obviously okay" to anyone who doesn't know any better; and with book translations - not so many translators know how to handle such offers. I always advise to be wary of any deals and offers, no matter who makes them. It all has implications for us all.

Now if you have a friend and you agree to translate his/her book/film and you deal with him/her only, I can see your labor of love working although even among friends, there had to be some sort of fair terms in case this all ends up being hugely successful.
"Love/respect/gratitude" by whoever this is for would have to enter somewhere into one's "labor of love" i.e. your own enjoyment of translating a book/film should not be all you ever have. The success should be shared fairly.

NB: But if it's a business entity you are dealing with, there should be clear terms compensating you adequately. And that doesn't mean much anyway for regular book translations.

B

[Edited at 2014-05-21 02:32 GMT]


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Phil Hand  Identity Verified
China
Local time: 01:09
Chinese to English
Fanfic, blogs... free writing is everywhere May 21, 2014

I think we just have to adapt to this new reality, like other writers are doing. The fact of the matter is that publishing is now free, and there are many people out there who just want to publish their work without worrying about payment for it. They write blogs and stories and news and essays and poetry (dear God, the poetry!), and all of it appears in your Google search jumbled up with the professional writing. This is the new world that every writer has to live in. And it's going to happen to translators as well, as just another species of specialized writer. People will translate for free. And we will have to tell clients: yes, you can have your text translated for free, by computer or by amateur or by crowdsourcing. And you *might* get a usable result. Or, you can pay me a reasonable fee, and I will guarantee you a readable translation. Take your pick.

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LegalTransform  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 12:09
Member (2002)
Spanish to English
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TOPIC STARTER
Translating books for royalty fees only ??? May 21, 2014

Perhaps, but if you have the skills to do literary translation, rather than work for free or next to nothing translating amateur novels, wouldn't it be better to just write your own book?

Phil Hand wrote:

I think we just have to adapt to this new reality, like other writers are doing. The fact of the matter is that publishing is now free, and there are many people out there who just want to publish their work without worrying about payment for it. They write blogs and stories and news and essays and poetry (dear God, the poetry!), and all of it appears in your Google search jumbled up with the professional writing. This is the new world that every writer has to live in. And it's going to happen to translators as well, as just another species of specialized writer. People will translate for free. And we will have to tell clients: yes, you can have your text translated for free, by computer or by amateur or by crowdsourcing. And you *might* get a usable result. Or, you can pay me a reasonable fee, and I will guarantee you a readable translation. Take your pick.


[Edited at 2014-05-21 13:10 GMT]


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Bernhard Sulzer  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 12:09
English to German
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What is acceptable? May 21, 2014

Jeff Whittaker wrote:

Perhaps, but if you have the skills to do literary translation, rather than work for free or next to nothing translating amateur novels, wouldn't it be better to just write your own book?


It probably is, Jeff. I agree. Although there is a big difference between translating a text and creating a new text altogether. I mean a good literary text.
But we should emphasize that translating someone else's novel successfully for a publisher or some other business should be something we can pursue as long as the terms are acceptable - including payment for the translation itself. But for royalties only - not possible if you want to live from your work. Not if it's not a bestseller. To Phil's point, there are actually publishers who are aware that translators need to be compensated reasonably. But more than that, it's the translators who need to be aware of what's acceptable and what's not. Therein lies the problem.

And we can still try to write our own books.

B

[Edited at 2014-05-21 03:50 GMT]


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Thayenga  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 18:09
Member (2009)
English to German
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A good deal May 21, 2014

Getting one's book translated for free is one great deal for professional book publishers. And I can't blame them for trying. After all, it's all and only about generating profits.

The translation of literature is usually being paid for less than e. g. technical or medical translations anyway, but to expect someone to translate an entire book (or more books) on the promise of future royalties (10 - 15 % of the NET revenue) is only a "nicer" way of telling the translator to do it for (absolutely) free.

Considering the prices on the ebook market, what type of royalty income can be expected from a book that sells at US $ 4.95 (gross)? Or even less? Unless, of course, that book becomes a bestseller. But how many books really do?

Sure, if I didn't have to worry about making a living, I would translate a book or two for a friend just for the pleasure of it. But for a profit-orientated company? Surely there's better ways of providing free translations such as for NGO's.


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Noni Gilbert
Spain
Local time: 18:09
Spanish to English
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What percentage of books... May 21, 2014

... net 2,000 dollars in sales even? The likelihood of reaching stage 2 of Jeff's calculation is small.

As you say, do the maths.


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Gudrun Wolfrath  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 18:09
English to German
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The "work of love" May 21, 2014

doesn't pay the rent. And you devalue the work by doing it for free.

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