Translating a novel AND getting paid for it
Thread poster: Marla Sanchez (X)

Marla Sanchez (X)  Identity Verified
Local time: 16:40
Italian to English
+ ...
Dec 15, 2005

After 21 years of translating mostly legal documents, I want to translate this wonderful French novel I just finished AND get paid for doing it.
What are the steps to going about it? Do I contact US publishers and include a few translated chapters to pique their interest (or is there a copyright problem with doing that?).
Or do I first contact the French publisher to obtain translation rights? (But why would they give them to me? I've never translated a book, and have no contacts with the US publishing industry)
What are the rates for this type of work? How much could I demand as an advance, and/or in royalties. I'd be willing to do the translation upfront for free in exchange for a cut of royalties, since I'm so sure it's going to be a tremendous publishing success in the States.
Thanks for any hints.


idemasi  Identity Verified
Local time: 15:40
English to Italian
+ ...
ask the french publishing house... Dec 16, 2005

A single person cannot buy translation rights, usually a publisher sells the rights for a given book in a country to another publisher, for example this French publisher may have sold the rights for that book to an American publisher, this latter holds the rights for the translation of that book in the US. I would suggest you to write to the French publisher and ask if they have sold the rights for that book in the US,
- if they have, you should contact the American publisher and propose yourself as the translator, perhaps accompanying your letter with a translation sample of the book in question.
-If they still haven't sold the book rights, you can propose the book to an American publisher, the procedure changes depending also on the publisher and you can find out later. But you first need to know if the rights have been sold or not.
I hope what I wrote makes sense,
good luck


Özden Arıkan  Identity Verified
Local time: 15:40
English to Turkish
+ ...
Best advice Dec 16, 2005

should come from US-based book translators, for procedures might vary from country to country. But as far as I know, you should better try to find a publisher in the USA, and introduce the book to them, probably together with your sample translation of a chapter or two (this shouldn't present any copyright issues). It is possible to check with copyright agencies -or from the agent of the author- whether the US rights of the book are already sold, but copyright should be handled by the publisher anyway.

As for the rates, it might be per word, per page, or a percentage of the copies printed (not of those sold). This again depends on the country, it seems, but if the last method applies in the US, as an experienced legal translator you would know how to access the resources on related legislation.

And finally... good luck!

[Edited at 2005-12-16 11:41]


Nikki Scott-Despaigne  Identity Verified
Local time: 15:40
French to English
Speaking from experience... Dec 16, 2005

Agree with Imma, you will need to find out who has the translation rights. This matter was probably solved ages ago. The trick is tracking it down and then getting your foot in the door with the publishers in charge of the English version. There is a strong chance they already have a number of peaople on their books. I know what it's like when you feel inspired - you really want to do this.
Beware of not selling yourself into losing money over it if you are that keen too !


As for payment, it is not that unusual to have 1/3 up front and then be paid at agreed intervals as work is submitted. I managed to get deals like that and it certainly spurred me on to work regularly on it and to continue working with regular clients too.


Dr Sue Levy (X)
Local time: 15:40
French to English
+ ...
some useful information from the AAEESIT Dec 16, 2005

This is a special dossier on literary translation and full of good advice:

Good luck!


silvia b (X)
Local time: 15:40
ALTA Dec 17, 2005

You might also find useful info on the American Literary Translators Association website:



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