Quote for translating self-published book?
Thread poster: Amanda Grey

Amanda Grey  Identity Verified
Local time: 16:09
French to English
Dec 3, 2006

Hi all,

I have been asked to provide a quote for translating a self-published book into English (sold via the web). Rather than provide a per-word quote, I asked the author to call me to discuss in more detail and rightly so, as it would seem that there is hardly any budget for this.

However, I believe this is an interesting project and it may be possible to work something out based on a flat fee up front plus a share of the sales of the translated book.

My question is, has anyone else done this and what are the "usual" rates for such an arrangement?

Obviously, one criteria would be a mention as the translator, but how does "copyright" work in this case?

Many thanks in advance for your experience and advice.


Angela Dickson  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 15:09
French to English
+ ...
approach with extreme scepticism... Dec 3, 2006

... would be my starting point. That's not to say that this might not be an interesting project, but I'd say only do it if you haven't got any other work and if you don't mind not making much money for a while.

If the book were going to sell a large number of copies, it would have been picked up by a publisher. That it is self-published indicates (in the absence of any other evidence) that the author loves it more than the general public does. Translations into English don't generally sell all that well (with the odd exception) so a royalty-based deal involves a good deal of risk on your part.

Then again, the e-book market is quite new, and this might perhaps be an exceptionally good e-book - have you read it? In any case, it might be good publicity for you (depending on the nature of the book).


Claudia Krysztofiak  Identity Verified
Local time: 16:09
English to German
+ ...
Calculate what you need Dec 4, 2006

I largely agree with Angela.

Calculate what you absolutely need for this job and make this the basic amount you charge for the translation. If you cannot get this money, it means the author him- or herself seems to have little confidence in the success of his or her work.

Translating books normally brings you no more than 0.02 to 0.04 EUR per word, if at all.

If the payment you require is too high for the author and you still wish to do the translation you should make sure it cannot interfere with the business you have to do to earn your living and regard it more as a kind of leisure pursuit or hobby: you need a very far-off deadline.

And you should receive a fair share of the sales of the translation. There is the next problem: How do you find out, how many times it has been sold? For books published by publishing houses there are lists, for self-published books there is no such thing.

Of course you need to be mentioned as a translator. You are, after all, the copyright owner of the new version of this book! So whatever is done with this book has to be agreed upon between you and the author of the original. This is normally done in form of some written contract or similar agreement. You get the money so the author e.g. may sell your version on his/her website. He/she may not change your translation without your consent. This is something most people in this business tend to ignore. But if your name is on it, you should make sure, nobody changes it without your prior consent.

Just my two cents.
If you love it, you can try it. icon_smile.gif


nordiste  Identity Verified
Local time: 16:09
English to French
+ ...
French Literray Translators Association Dec 4, 2006

You could have a look at the website of the French Literary translators association www.atlf.org

They have guidelines regarding literary translation in France, and even a model for the standard contract to be agreed between the translator ad the publisher (of the tranlated version).

You should receive a flat fee calculated on the number of pages (standard page = 25 lines x 60 keystrokes, including blank) AND royalties depending on the level of sales above a certain number of books sold (usually 5000 or more).
The fee for 1 page should be in the range of 15 / 25 euros minimum.

The flat fee is paid partly in advance and partly when the book goes to the printer. Of course you keep it even if the book does not sale well !


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