How to close a book translation deal?
Thread poster: igonzalez030

igonzalez030
Spanish to English
Aug 30, 2017

Hi,
Today i was offered to translate a 350-page book. As far as I know, once the book is translated, the translation rights would belong to me (please correct me if I am wrong). The author wants to publish it in the language to be translated and add my name as the translator, but he is offering to provide 10% payment of royalties once it is on the market, and not for the work itself beforehand. Also, the author is not taking in consideration a proofreader.
I would really appreciate any advice on this matter.


 

Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 17:46
Member (2008)
Italian to English
Royalties NO Aug 30, 2017

Take it from someone who's been there:

Summarising:

- Make sure there is already a publisher for your translation (get the publisher's name)

- Quote your price for the full translation and agree a payment plan

- Do not agree to be paid royalties



[Edited at 2017-08-30 09:37 GMT]


 

Rebecca Hendry  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 17:46
Member (2005)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Caution Aug 30, 2017

I would be very wary of translating a whole book for royalties only. What if the book doesn't sell? You won't receive a penny, and while all your time is taken up translating the book you won't be able to take on any other, paying projects.

 

Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 17:46
Member (2008)
Italian to English
Extreme caution Aug 30, 2017

Rebecca Hendry wrote:

I would be very wary of translating a whole book for royalties only. What if the book doesn't sell? You won't receive a penny, and while all your time is taken up translating the book you won't be able to take on any other, paying projects.


And be aware that publishers sell books to other publishers. I once found out (by chance) that one of my books had been sold on to a Chinese publisher. I never saw a penny in royalties.


 

Nikki Scott-Despaigne  Identity Verified
Local time: 18:46
French to English
Translation rights Aug 30, 2017

When a work is to be published overseas, more often than not, the translation rights are assigned to the publisher overseas. Here the author is offering you the opportunity to translate his work, pre-publication. You say the author wants to publish abroad. The work may never be published abroad and even if it is, that does not mean it will sell for profit. How will he pay you? When? Probably never.

This may seem pessimistic, but let's be realistic for a moment. Imagine that you translate the work and it is never published. Can you afford to offer your professional services free of charge for the translation of 350 pages? I suppose your answer is no. In that case, offer to translate the work on your usual basis. For a job of that size it would be perfectly usual to:
- obtain a 30% payment to start the work
- to supply the work in instalments (monthly)?
- to received staged payment for the remaining 70% (for example, a monthly payment).
If the author cannot or will not accept that type of agreement, then you would be wise to turn down the job, unless the answer to the question was that yes, you can afford to do the whole job for free.

If you wish to do projects of this type, then consider contacting publishing houses who publish works of the type you are interested in working on. Publishing houses generally hold the translation rights and have a better state of financial health than most authors.


 

Robert Forstag  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 12:46
Member (2003)
Spanish to English
+ ...
I agree with everyone else here Aug 30, 2017

My strong suspicion is that the author here is well aware of the high probability that no appreciable royalties of any kind will be generated for this book. If he did not indicate this to you up front, then this raises issues of honesty and integrity.

I do not think you should touch this with a ten-foot pole. You can offer a translation rate and payment plan, as others have suggested, but this will almost surely be refused.

The only situation where a royalty agreement would make sense would be for those relatively few publications whose translation can be expected to turn a considerable profit, and such projects are typically assigned to proven translators with a load of similar experience under their belt.


 

Teresa Borges
Portugal
Local time: 17:46
Member (2007)
English to Portuguese
+ ...
I also agree with everyone else here Aug 30, 2017

Though I have been translating for over 30 years I have only two books under my belt: 1. a medical handbook in collaboration with a physician (“Handbook on obstetrics and gynecology”), translated some 10 years ago for a well-known American publisher, and 2. A children’s book on migraine (“A Piece of Mind”) to raise awareness about invisible disabilities, translated in February this year. In the first case I dealt directly with the publisher and was paid in monthly installments, chapter by chapter. In the second case, I dealt directly with the author who paid me for the full translation. Later she charged me also of selecting and coordinating the dedicated team assigned to the project into other European languages (it’s still underway).

 

Tina Vonhof
Canada
Local time: 10:46
Member (2006)
Dutch to English
+ ...
Some things to consider Aug 30, 2017

I would be wary of taking on the translation of a book that has not been published in the source language and has no publisher lined up for the translation. The author needs to find a publisher first and then it is the publisher who approaches you and that you negotiate and sign a contract with.

I agree with Tom: don't work for royalties because you may end up getting little or nothing. I would also advise you to negotiate a reasonable timeline (I would recommend 3-4 months minimum), so you can still take on some small jobs for your favorite clients and let them know that you will be back full-time after such and such a date. If possible, give them a few referrals to colleagues you trust.


 

Lianne van de Ven  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 12:46
Member (2008)
English to Dutch
+ ...
No, unless you want to Aug 30, 2017

Here are a ton of opportunities along the same lines:
http://www.babelcube.com/
This is completely set up the way you describe: you invest time in translating the book, just like an author invests time in writing a book. If it works, great, if it doesn't, too bad. If you don't have anything else to do or want to try your hands on something new, go for it.

I recently translated a few chapters for a book proposal to a (already selected) publisher and the author paid me for that work. I proposed to get some more when the book is accepted for publishing (i.e. royalties), but the publisher could also choose their own translator, so I charged a fee for what was acceptable to me for the work I did.


 

igonzalez030
Spanish to English
TOPIC STARTER
Thank you all! Aug 31, 2017

Thank you all for your feedbacks and thoughts on this matter! They have been an eye-opener!

 

Parrot  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 18:46
Member
Spanish to English
+ ...
Is the book worth it? Sep 2, 2017

Another option is to consider taking on a chapter (or two/three) on your normal freelance terms by way of helping the author find a publisher. In the end, he or his agent will be responsible for selling that.

The publisher will most likely have a list of its own translators - another thing to consider.


 

Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 17:46
Member (2008)
Italian to English
A good idea Sep 2, 2017

That's a good idea

 


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