Translation of a novel : fees + royalties ?
Thread poster: Audrey Anzil

Audrey Anzil  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 13:00
English to French
+ ...
Feb 3, 2015

Hi all,

I have a few questions concerning a potential client who wants his 83000-word novel translated.
The book will be published through amazon publishing to be sold as an e-book - so no printing, no agencies, no publishers.

My questions:
-Do I only charge the translation or do I ask for a tiny percentage on sales as a copyright as well?

I've never translated books before so I'm new at this copyright matter..

-Also, do you think 0.09€/word is fair?

All above prices are VAT excluded.

Thank you!


 

paula13  Identity Verified
Argentina
Local time: 09:00
Member (2005)
Always negotiate royalties Feb 3, 2015

Hi Audrey,

Depending on your country, intellectual property rights over your translations might be yours, not the author's. Therefore, you shouldn't even have to ask for royalties. Most countries have government agencies that will advise you on this. You might want to check out your local agency/intellectual property law. That said, I negotiate royalties on all my books.

About your fee, there's a lot of information to consider, I use a little formula for figuring out mine. You can find it here: http://translatorsdigest.net/2014/12/18/translation-rates-lets-do-the-actual-math/


Hope this helps!

Best,
Paula


 

Henry Hinds  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 05:00
English to Spanish
+ ...
Novel Feb 3, 2015

0.09€/word is probably fair, but I would recommend staying away from royalties and just charging a flat fee, getting paid and letting the client sell it. You are in no position to determine how well the book sells, and you can never be sure the client is telling the truth. Furthermore, it could be a gernuine flop. Ask for an advance and partial payments as you deliver.

 

Kevin Fulton  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 07:00
German to English
e-books sell for very little money Feb 3, 2015

Get your money upfront. There's no telling how many (or few) copies will sell. The author won't get rich and neither will you.

 

Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 12:00
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
Maybe the quote will be a surprise Feb 4, 2015

Kevin Fulton wrote:
Get your money upfront. There's no telling how many (or few) copies will sell. The author won't get rich and neither will you.

With the author in debt to the tune of over €7400 for the translation, I doubt he/she is going to make much, if any, money. That's not to say I think the translator should accept less - I don't; it just doesn't really seem a viable proposition. Presumably this book has rave reviews in the original language and there's some reason to suppose that it will do really well in the target language. Otherwise, it's a very poor decision on the part of the author. Or maybe the author is expecting the quote to be in the region of €740icon_smile.gif.


 

Audrey Anzil  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 13:00
English to French
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thank you - I'll stick to a flat fee and no royalties Feb 4, 2015

You did point out all my concerns. E-books sell for little money, that's why I was thinking about the price and/or royalties. I don't know if the author realizes the price of a translation but as you said, Sheila and Kevin, he'll have to sell a lot a copies before starting to get some money back...

I'll stick to a flat fee (1/3 upfront and the rest at the delivery). This still represents quite a sum.
We'll see how this goes...

Many thanks to you all for helping me out.


 

Michael Wetzel  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 13:00
German to English
royalties are a normal part of literary translations Feb 4, 2015

Literary translations are at least as badly paid as agency work, so I think 0.09 EUR is probably a pretty typical professional ("fair") rate. It is normal to be paid royalties for literary translations and I don't see any reason to not include this in your contract unless you are very certain that the book will sell very poorly or, alternatively, you demand a very high flat rate for the translation.

While a lot of authors (but certainly not all) sell their e-books at ridiculously low prices, they pocket an astronomically high percentage of the sales price (ca. 70% vs. ca. 10%), which means that, even if they sell their books for a few euros, their income per sale is equivalent to those from a book sold at normal prices through a traditional publisher.

I would also suggest delivering the work and being paid in 3-4 stages (with partial payment due after each delivery) to keep yourself honest in terms of planning your time and to give you and the author an opportunity to work out any issues or even to back out at a relatively early stage if things just aren't working out.

You should find a model contract for book translations provided by a reputable organization (a translators' association, publishing house, etc. or there is also a model contract from PEN) in the author's own country to find out about appropriate percentages for e-books and to try to get things as clear as possible before starting work.

That said, I wouldn't get my hopes up about actually being hired for this project, but this way, at least it would be a good thing if it does somehow work out.


 

Sandra Mouton  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 12:00
Member (2008)
English to French
+ ...
See ATLF website Feb 4, 2015

Hello Audrey,
I see you're in France. I'm not sure your potential client and the Association des Traducteurs Littéraires de France really live on the same planet but perhaps you should check out the "Profession traducteur" section of their website http://www.atlf.org/
It gives interesting info on rates and there is a contract template.
Bon courage !


 

Alison Sabedoria  Identity Verified
France
Member (2009)
French to English
+ ...
Weigh up the investment and risk Feb 4, 2015

As Sheila suggests, any reasonable quote is likely to come as a surprise.

If the author has no track record, an e-book is unlikely to earn you any significant royalties. Whatever model you decide to follow, bear in mind that an author might find it difficult to pay royalties without being charged contributions on them, depending on his/her professional status. Also, if there is no editor, to earn royalties, it might well be enlightened self-interest to take on at least some of the role yourself, organising and supervising a proofreader, promotion, writing/translating press releases, articles, etc. and what you charge should take all this into account.

I was in a similar situation a year ago. An author approached me with the intention of self-publishing a 100,000 word novel as an e-book. He is at least someone with an established reputation, albeit in a different field.

After reading about wildly differing experiences from authors, publishers and translators, I offered 3 options:

1) Straight fee, no royalties (hard cheese for the translator if the book sells well)

2) Moderate fee plus royalties at a normal level (classic publishing model)

3) Minimal or no up-front fee plus generous profit-share royalties (translator invests as a real partner in the project - for the right author and book, I'd be happy to try this)

The author couldn't afford option 1, I was wary of option 3 for this particular book, though, based on what I now know (the book has come out in a printed edition), I could have made that pay. So, we agreed on option 2.

While the contract was being drafted, the author was even on the point of paying me an initial upfont instalment, then started to drag his feet... The project was put off as too expensive, then he eventually came back to me, happy as a dog with two tails, to say that another "professional" translator had offered to do the work for less than half what I had quoted (my quote was already pared to the bone) and without royalties - well under the Centre Français du Livre accepted threshold, effectively less than the minimum wage and in clear breach of the SFT code! I left them to it.

Bon courage !


 

Audrey Anzil  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 13:00
English to French
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
high flat fee this time - I'll dig the matter deeper Feb 4, 2015

All your experiences are very helpful. This is a tough matter indeed.

I've just made a proposal of a reasonably high flat fee and specified in my Terms and conditions that my name must appear on the cover etc and that I am entitled the right of having a free copy. (which I believe must be the case in any literary translation anyway..)

Edit: I didn't even have time to publish my above message: the author has already replied. The figure is, as expected, far too high for him.


 

Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 12:00
Member (2008)
Italian to English
He should wait Feb 4, 2015

Audrey Anzil wrote:

The figure is, as expected, far too high for him.


He should first publish the book in its original language. If it meets with success, he could then apply for a translation grant. For established authors that is the usual way of funding a translation.

On that subject here's an interesting article by Anne Enright, one of my country's foremost writers, on "How the world reads Irish writers" and the general subject of translating and translation grants.

Quote: "Sinéad Mac Aodha of the Ireland Literature Exchange says rates for translation vary from a few thousand euro to a prime, and rare, €18,000 for books that take up to six months to translate."

http://www.irishtimes.com/culture/anne-enright-how-the-world-reads-irish-writers-1.2085668

[Edited at 2015-02-04 16:26 GMT]


 


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