Legal agreement between agency/translator and client for book translation project
Thread poster: Keego

United States
Jul 20, 2016


I am PM at a small translation agency.

We were assigned by a client a large translation project - a book - for which we will need to sign a contract.

In these cases does the agency sign on behalf of the translator or does the translator sign the contract with the client directly?

The contract from the client states that 50% will be paid upon delivery and 50% when the translation is accepted (the translation will be accepted up to 2 months after delivery).

Is this a common practice?

Does anyone have experience with this matter? Any advice would be highly appreciated.

Thank you.

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Jack Doughty  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 20:19
Member (2000)
Russian to English
+ ...
With the author Jul 20, 2016

My experience is limited and not directly relevant, but I have translated books and signed contracts with the authors. For the first of these, I was dealing entirely through the author's agent, not the author himself, but the contract was between me and the author, but with the agent's role being mentioned in it. An author's agent is not quite the same thing as a translation agency, but I should think the same principle would apply.

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Kelly Neudorfer  Identity Verified
Local time: 21:19
German to English
I think between translator and rights holder Jul 21, 2016

I've translated several non-fiction books, and my contract has always been either directly with the author (who was looking to publish the book in English on their own initiative) or with the publisher (who held the foreign rights). I've never gone through an agency, but I would think that since any distribution rights would have to be signed over by the translator and any royalty payments would also be agreed on by the translator that the contract would have to be between the translator and the publisher/author.

It's possible that that varies depending on the country, though. You could try contacting someone with the ATA - they're likely to know the legal situation in the US fairly well.

As for the 50/50 split, I don't think that's all too unusual, although if the book is very large then I would work out partial deliveries and payments. In other words, it's unfair to ask the translator to work for 3 months on a project and not get paid anything until after that time. If I were the translator, I would arrange for 2 or 3 partial deliveries with a payment of something like 20% after each delivery. So after one month I would deliver 1/3 of the book and get 20% payment, after another month the same, and at the end of the 3rd month I'd deliver the final product. Just as an example.

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United States
Thank you Aug 3, 2016

Jack and Kelly. Thank you very much for your kind and exhaustive answers.

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Legal agreement between agency/translator and client for book translation project

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