Relative pricing levels: commercial v academic
Thread poster: suew

suew  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 22:00
Member (2008)
German to English
+ ...
Oct 5, 2015

In the 7 years I've been working as a translator, by far the majority of my texts have been for the world of business (contracts, ARs, marketing material etc.), typically 1,000 - 5,000 words in length, with the odd 25,000-word document thrown in.
I now have the opportunity to bid to translate an academic text of 80,000+ words (a big research project in book form). I would like to get this project, as I'm really interested in the subject matter. I would therefore like to put in a competitive tender, but without giving anything away in financial terms unnecessarily. I am assuming the world of academia is not as flush as the world of commerce, but is this true?
So my question to anyone who has worked in both spheres: if you take your commercial rates to be 100, how would you index your rates for academic works? 80? 120? 50?!
I would also be really interested to know how you view literary translation pricing relative to business texts. I've been told you take a far lower price per 1000 words for the privilege of translating literature and being credited with so doing, but is this true? MTIA, Sue


 

Soonthon LUPKITARO(Ph.D.)  Identity Verified
Thailand
Local time: 04:00
Member (2004)
English to Thai
+ ...
Contexts Oct 5, 2015

suew wrote:

I now have the opportunity to bid to translate an academic text of 80,000+ words (a big research project in book form). I would like to get this project, as I'm really interested in the subject matter. I would therefore like to put in a competitive tender, but without giving anything away in financial terms unnecessarily. I am assuming the world of academia is not as flush as the world of commerce, but is this true?
So my question to anyone who has worked in both spheres: if you take your commercial rates to be 100, how would you index your rates for academic works? 80? 120? 50?!


Academic texts are possibly difficult in certain domains. Your time consumption should dictate your bidding rate, I assume.

Soonthon L.


 

Kevin Fulton  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 17:00
German to English
Academic translation funding Oct 5, 2015

I live in a university community and colleagues occasionally contact me for advice, or I am sometimes contacted directly regarding translation work. In my experience, most academic translations are funded by grants (or privately by the academicians themselves). This means that the budgets are generally very small, and not really worth my time (I once offered to take on a very interesting project for 1/3 my rate and was told I was too expensive). Consequently such translations are frequently performed by students, with varying degrees of success.

If the subject matter really interests you, then negotiate a long deadline so that the project doesn't interfere with making a living.


 

David Hayes  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 23:00
Member (2009)
French to English
Depends Oct 6, 2015

My experience is that it depends on the university. I have worked for three universities here in France. One wanted the job done cheap, whereas the other two were more concerned about quality. For the latter two universities, I charged almost double my usual rate. They didn't seem to care about the cost. I guess it depends on their own grant situation. I don't think academics commission and pay for translations themsleves - it all has to go through the administrative officer of a particular department/research unit.

 

Chris S  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Swedish to English
+ ...
Same Oct 6, 2015

IME universities can be very cost-conscious but they are generally also very quality-aware.

If you really really want the job, by all means go in low on that basis, but in general I see no reason to charge different rates for the same product.

From what I hear, literary rates are about the same as agency rates in my languages at least.


 

Kelly Neudorfer  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 23:00
German to English
Same pricing concept as usual Oct 6, 2015

I do quite a bit of academic translation, and I don't charge differently that with my business clients. I can't see what your language pair is right now (forgot to look before hitting "reply"), but I do DE->EN and German universities are usually very quality conscious. They also usually understand that quality comes at a cost, and so I use my regular pricing concept. How difficult is the text? How much time will I need to translate it? Then you calculate based on what you want to make per hour and deduct some if you think getting the job for whatever reasons (you want to gain experience experience, the topic really interests you, you're hoping for continued contact and more jobs from the university, etc.) justifies charging a lower rate.

If it's a topic in which you have a lot of experience and you're not *that* invested in getting the job, though, I would say quote your regular prices.


 

Michael Wetzel  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 23:00
German to English
varies greatly Oct 6, 2015

Agree with David: Certainly funding in the humanities tends to be very feast or famine: individuals, departments and projects do occasionally have money to burn and very often just enough to scrape by.

My fees are the same for all my different groups of clients (0.20 EUR/ word for German to English), and while they are accepted more often by businesses (like galleries) than by public institutions (like museums and universities), the results in any individual case are completely unpredictable.

If you have solid qualifications or work experience (excluding translating experience) in the subject field and you're trying to low-ball your way into this particular project, 0.10 to 0.15 EUR might do the trick, but as I said, the situation is actually completely unpredictable any time you are only dealing with one specific project.

As far as literary translations go, you shouldn't charge less because of any "privileges", but if your other rates are reasonable, you will have to charge less if you actually want to have more than very occassional offers accepted, because the market for book translations is simply awful. (However, if you're happy to only have one in several dozen or 1 in 100 offers accepted, then just make offers at your normal rate and some day you'll get a pleasant surprise.)


 

KuaLanx  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 23:00
Chinese to Dutch
+ ...
literary translation is very different Oct 6, 2015

Chris S wrote:

From what I hear, literary rates are about the same as agency rates in my languages at least.


Then you are very lucky. In Chinese-Dutch, rates for literary translation amount to less than half of the rates for commercial translation. The good thing is that there are grants available in the Netherlands if you've done at least 1 literary translation before (published by an established publisher). However this differs per country.

I would say that literary translation is a different thing altogether, in terms of pricing, but also in terms of how you go about translating.

Also it is important to be aware of how it works in the industry: the rights are sold to a publisher in the target country, and the publisher then looks for a translator. So if you're contacted by an author to translate her/his book, the project is probably not going to be a great success, unless the author is willing to pay for printing on top of translation, or if the author is lucky enough to find a publisher. And you're probably going to end up helping the author find a publisher and trying to convince them.

Academic translation is difficult to say. I have once done part of an academic textbook for a big university press and that was quite nicely paid. But other than that I've never heard back from other quotes that I've sent to scholars who contacted me, presumably because of the rate (I generally quote my usual rate or +20-30%, depending on the text).


 


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Relative pricing levels: commercial v academic

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