Potential in Literary Translation
Thread poster: Elani Koogle

Elani Koogle  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 04:56
Member (2014)
German to English
+ ...
Oct 21, 2014

Hi everyone,

I am looking at a business opportunity and would love to have your thoughts on the following questions:

Do you wish there were more opportunities for literary translation?

Do you have any texts that you love and wish you could be paid to translate?

Would you be interested in being paid royalties rather than a flat fee?

I appreciate any input you have!


 

Usch Pilz
Local time: 13:56
English to German
+ ...
Yes. Yes. No. Oct 22, 2014

Hi Elani,

Yes.
Yes.
No.
Reason:
Shifting all economical risk to the translator is not the way to go. Maybe there are translators out there who can afford working for royalties only. And once in a blue moon somebody will have a lucky break with a 'royalties only'-project. But in the meantime translators have their bills to pay - same as everyone else. The best way to go is a mix of flat fee and royalties.

Best - Usch


 

Ian Giles  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 12:56
Member (2012)
Swedish to English
+ ...
Fee and royalties please Oct 22, 2014

I require a fee for my work. I also require a royalties clause - we may both agree the book has no chance of major success, but if it does break those expectations then we should all benefit from the financial outcome.

 

DLyons  Identity Verified
Ireland
Local time: 12:56
Spanish to English
+ ...
Reads like an ad. Oct 22, 2014

Apologies if I'm wrong.

No professional would go with a royalties-only project.


 

Alexandra Schneeuhr  Identity Verified
Cyprus
Local time: 14:56
Member (2012)
English to Russian
+ ...
Fair fee would be enough ) Oct 22, 2014

DLyons wrote:
No professional would go with a royalties-only project.


Absolutely. I was approached by an author once ("What I am offering is a partnership based on a 50% of proceeds for the translator's life. It is a joint venture in which the writer and the translator offer the work for a publisher or a film studio, then share in the proceeds coming out of the venture..."), so I had to (very politely!) explain that my gambling days are over and now I am just an old boring translator who needs to be paid on the per word basis - and preferably upfronticon_wink.gif


 

Elani Koogle  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 04:56
Member (2014)
German to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks, and royalty amounts? Oct 22, 2014

Thanks for the responces everyone! That is a very clear consensus.

Sorry about sounding like an ad, DLyons. I've been looking both at doing a particular translation myself and at possibilites for a startup intended to get more literary translations published. Clearly I need to be wary, and a self publishing model for translations is not the way to go!

If anyone has done a literary translation and received royalties, I would love to know what percentage you got. (I need to know what to ask for...)

Thanks again everyone!

[Edited at 2014-10-22 19:53 GMT]


 

Elani Koogle  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 04:56
Member (2014)
German to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Oops! Oct 22, 2014

Just googled the royalties questions and there is more information out there than I thought there would be. My mistake!

I would still love to hear if anyone has had personal experience, though.

[Edited at 2014-10-22 19:52 GMT]


 

Sharon Heller  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 05:56
Spanish to English
Late input Oct 24, 2014

Hi Elani,

I have just wrapped up my second book project and would be happy to share my experiences, both positive and negative.

The first time, I was a student of translation studies and keen to grow my experience. I met an author looking for a translator and so the story goes - I agreed royalty only. I had read the book quickly, but when I started to read it again the Spanish grammar was not good, and I had several native speakers confirm this. This added to the challenge. Then I started to find flaws in the story line, and I would tell him..and then fix them. Suffice to say it was a huge amount of work and the book did not sell. I consider it a good but expensive experience (expensive because of the amount of time I dedicated to it). I noted a comment about no professional translator every agreeing to royalty only and I absolutely agree!

When I later took a Translation Project Management class, I used the book project in an assignment as example of how I would have liked it have been - very different! Then, years later, came my second experience. We had some negotiations and the author paid me to translate the introduction and chapter one as a sample - that was a great idea. We agreed a project schedule and a payment schedule. We slightly adjusted the project schedule and I ended up delivering chapter by chapter, but I was still able to edit the whole manuscript at the end. There is a small royalty too - but I feel satisfied that I was paid, and I thoroughly enjoyed doing it.

I will add that the rate per word was much less than for other types of work. I understand that is common but would welcome any other opinions.

Hope this helps!

Sharon


 

Ira Saied  Identity Verified
Panama
Local time: 07:56
Spanish to English
+ ...
yes, yes, no Feb 8, 2015

Yes, yes, no.

I translated a novel a couple of years ago, and since I loved the novel and wanted to translate it, I accepted to be paid in royalties. It turns out that I ended up having to "market" and publish the translated version, and given that I'm terrible at marketing, few copies have been sold so I haven't been paid. And this is a novel that was reasonably successful in the source language. No, I wouldn't do it that way again.


 

Daryo
United Kingdom
Local time: 12:56
Serbian to English
+ ...
translate and publish yourself Feb 8, 2015

I know of two books being translated in Serbian and published by the translator itself about 25 - 30 years ago.

Just as a reminder: at that time there was no affordable home equipment like PCs or reasonably priced or even source open DTP software, no internet, no dirty cheap printing abroad, no internet selling, no social media that could be used for free advertising ...

Still one book made a lot of money, the other one has done reasonably well.

An option to consider if you really like a book and want it translated.

Otherwise face the truth: literary translations are for glory, not for making money.


 


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