Cost of translating a book
Thread poster: wizziebeth

wizziebeth
Italy
Apr 9, 2015

Hi all! I'm new to the forum and am in need of some expert advice.

I'm American, and have been living in Italy since 2006 minus one year. I was an English teacher/freelance translator for various years and now work as a translator for a multinational business consulting firm. I occasionally accept freelance projects to make a little extra money and have recently been asked by someone connected with the firm to translate a book from Italian to English. The book is of a philosophical/scientific/medical nature, though from the quick glance that I've given it thus far it doesn't look like anything completely out of hand.

My rates have always been around 15-20€ per page (a page normally being 1500 characters, spaced included, though I've also done 2000 for editorial translations). The book contains roughly 300,000 characters, or 200 pages.

I have never translated a book before (well, my final project in college was an "unofficial" translation of an old Italian play by a contemporary Italian femminist author), and realize that there are many issues to take into consideration. Contracts, copyright, paying someone to edit my work, etc etc.

Would anyone be able to help me get my bearings a bit as to prices, feasibility, time-line?

Thank you!


 

Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 13:00
Member (2008)
Italian to English
Just make sure.... Apr 10, 2015

Having translated various books, I'd say:

Deal with the publisher - not the author. If the author doesn't have a publisher, don't accept the job - because the book may never be published.

Charge your normal rate. This job is likely to be more challenging than a small translation job. So don't offer any discount.

If they want a discount, offer a VERY SMALL one but only in exchange for a longer deadline (say, an extra month) You should not need to have your nose to the grindstone. This is a job you ought to be able to do taking your time, quite slowly and carefully.This particular job should not take up so much of your time that you've no time to take on other jobs as well.

Don't expect to have copyright - you didn't write the book. You're only the translator.

Don't get involved in all the dodgy trafficking that publishers get up to - they sell books on to others, etc. I once found out that a book I wrote myself had been published in Chinese and sold thousands and thousands of copies. I never saw any royalties.

So do NOT under any circumstances enter into any deal that offers you royalties. You'll never see any money and you'll never be able to find out how many copies have been sold.

Just ask for a total sum, as payment, split into montly installments or a pay-by-chapter system. You don't need a contract. Just get an email confirming the job, the payment plan, and the deadline, and you're away.

Last but not least: make it clear at the outset that the text you receive for translation must be definitive and that once you've received it, you will not accept modifications or additions.

This is the Voice of Experience speaking !

[Edited at 2015-04-10 14:27 GMT]


 

Chris S  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Swedish to English
+ ...
Not sure about expert advice but Apr 10, 2015

I would just charge the same rate (per hour) as you normally charge. A lot of people give big discounts for big jobs, but I don't see why (admin savings are offset by unavailability). "Literary" translators tend to charge a lot less than "commercial" translators, but again I don't see why.
And if you're paying someone to edit your output at 2 units per word then add 2.2 units to your normal price. And so on. Don't sell yourself cheap.
IME ordinary companies and individuals pay whatever you ask. Only publishers and translation agencies quibble.
Hope that helps.


 

Jacqueline White
Austria
Local time: 14:00
Hungarian to English
+ ...
Possibly request payment in instalments Apr 10, 2015

I agree with Tom in London about being careful with respect to changes and additions as it can take up a lot of time.

I recently edited a book written by a Russian academic in English, and the text seemed to change on an almost daily basis.

It depends on how much you trust the person concerned, but personally I would prefer to deliver the text and be paid in instalments to reduce the risk of not getting paid.


 

wizziebeth
Italy
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks for all the advice Apr 10, 2015

Thank you!

The book has already been published in Italian, but I believe that one of the authors (who is the person who's asked me to give him a quote for the translation) would be dealing with the situation directly instead of me going through the publishing company.

Would you all expect to be paid a percentage of the work up-front?


 

Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 13:00
Member (2008)
Italian to English
$$$$ Apr 10, 2015

wizziebeth wrote:

Thank you!

The book has already been published in Italian, but I believe that one of the authors (who is the person who's asked me to give him a quote for the translation) would be dealing with the situation directly instead of me going through the publishing company.

Would you all expect to be paid a percentage of the work up-front?


That's optional. I would think it more appropriate to be paid on delivery of each chapter or section of the work.

That will also give you a guarantee that you are actually going to be paid!


 

Teresa Borges
Portugal
Local time: 13:00
Member (2007)
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Well, well... Apr 11, 2015

I have only translated one book, a medical handbook in collaboration with a physician, and I must say that I will not rush to repeat the experience! I learned a lot about obstetrics and gynecology, but it took up almost all my time for one year and it made quite difficult to accept other jobs as well. We dealt directly with the publisher and we were paid in monthly installments, chapter by chapter.

 

Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 13:00
Member (2008)
Italian to English
Time Apr 11, 2015

Teresa Borges wrote:

I have only translated one book, a medical handbook in collaboration with a physician, and I must say that I will not rush to repeat the experience! I learned a lot about obstetrics and gynecology, but it took up almost all my time for one year and it made quite difficult to accept other jobs as well. We dealt directly with the publisher and we were paid in monthly installments, chapter by chapter.



Yes - a book translation needs to be spread out over as long a time as possible - several months - so that you can take a breather and do other things as well. It also keeps your translation fresh if you stand back from it occasionally and don't try to do it all at once in a marathon of madness.

[Edited at 2015-04-11 13:21 GMT]


 


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