Checking translation contracts
Thread poster: Hannah Juby

Hannah Juby
Local time: 13:20
French to English
Jun 4, 2012

Hi all.

I've been contracted to do some translation of an online gamebook. It will be paid by royalties (10%). I have been sent the contract two or three times, each time with a different error; last time the error stated that I wouldn't be paid for the work!

I've spoken to the man who's outsourcing the work and it's quite possible that he is inexperienced and genuinely kept making mistakes; however, I am naturally concerned, especially as it's a big piece of work (approx. 54,000 words).

I have two questions:

1) is a 10% royalty normal? (It seems a bit low to me, but I am inexperienced in this)
2) does anyone know how I go about checking that the contract is sound? I presume I need some kind of specialist but really don't know where to look!

Thanks for all your help.

Hannah Juby.


Vikki Pendleton  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 13:20
German to English
+ ...
mistakes keep changing? Jun 4, 2012

Hi Hannah

I'm not really in a position to comment as I don't have any experience of royalties contracts but I'm a bit concerned if the contract comes back with a different mistake each time - surely he should be correcting the mistake on the copy he sent you previously? I'd be very wary and if you know any lawyers or even just a law student, get them to check it over for you.

Other than that, I'd say for a job that size I would want some upfront payment as well as royalties, but I really don't know what's normal. Do you know what the sale price/projected sales are?

I hope you sort it out and it turns out to be everything it promises



Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Local time: 14:20
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Only by royalties?? Jun 4, 2012

If you are only offered royalties... I would clearly say this is a no-go. Too big a job that will probably require over a month of your time for just POTENTIAL income.

[Edited at 2012-06-04 18:59 GMT]


Rolf Kern  Identity Verified
Local time: 14:20
English to German
+ ...
Royalties Jun 4, 2012

On what?


Paweł Hamerski
Local time: 14:20
English to Polish
+ ...
a desperate or not-bothering-about-mere-fee translator Jun 4, 2012

a pie in the sky, I presume. It requires a desperate or not-bothering-about-mere-fee translator to settle for un uncertain royalty.


Pavel Mondschein  Identity Verified
Czech Republic
Local time: 14:20
English to Czech
+ ...
Be very careful Jun 4, 2012

If the client wants to pay you just royalties, insist on paying something called "minimum guarantee" or "MG". Basics of MG can be found here:

or here:

or anywhere on Google, actuallyicon_smile.gif

Please note especially these two sentences (they are related not only to MG, but to royalties in general):
"It should only be used with well established customers with excellent credit ratings. "
"The seller has the right to inspect the buyer's records to verify all sales."

It is imperative that the client is reliable and trustworthy. And the client must allow you to inspect his records. If these two conditions are not met, back away from the job.

Keep in mind that it is you who is investing considerable amount of time in the project, so you should be paid for it accordingly regardless on success of the project. You are translator, not a co-owner of the project. Business success of the project is out of your hands, so your payment cannot depend only on this (quite uncertain) success.

But sometimes royalties can be fine - if the project is successful; so here is what I would do:

- I would try to check background of the client
- I would check the project; if it would seem to me that the project cannot make any money, I would run away
- I would insist in paying MG, at least 30-50% of my standard price
- I would insist in having the right to inspect the sales figures

I have spent quite a lot of time in licensing. If you want, you can send me the contract draft for comments (and to check if it is serious offer or just scamicon_smile.gif ).

[Edited at 2012-06-04 22:08 GMT]


Hannah Juby
Local time: 13:20
French to English
Thanks for advice re checking translation contract Jun 5, 2012

Thanks everyone for your helpful comments. It looks like I've been right to be cautious.

I'm actually outsourcing the work to a translator who is interested in the job and wants to do it for the experience, but I don't want to be a part of scamming her!!

Pavel, thanks so much for your advice. I'd really appreciate your looking over the contract for me. Would you like me to email it to you?

Thanks all,



Pavel Mondschein  Identity Verified
Czech Republic
Local time: 14:20
English to Czech
+ ...
contract Jun 5, 2012

Hannah Juby wrote:

I'd really appreciate your looking over the contract for me. Would you like me to email it to you?

Sure, feel free to email it to me -


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