What does a literary translator do?
A literary translator is a translator who specializes in book translation, i.e. the translation of literary works, both fiction and non-fiction. Generally, they’re commissioned either by traditional publishers who have acquired the foreign rights of a manuscript — and therefore need it translated to publish it in their country — or by independent authors looking to have their book translated to reach new markets.
When working with publishers, translators will most often deliver an unedited translation, which will then be edited and proofread by the publisher’s team.
When working directly with independent authors, translators will generally strive to deliver a “ready-to-publish” translation. To achieve that, they’ll often partner with a colleague on a given project: one will complete the translation, and the other one will edit and proof it.
Translators may also be available to help the author market the foreign-language edition, mostly by translating any marketing materials such as the book description, author bio, editorial reviews, and advertising blurbs.
But where can you hire a professional literary translator with experience in your genre?
What makes Reedsy’s translators special
Like any other type of publishing professional you’ll find on our marketplace, Reedsy translators have all undergone our rigorous vetting system. We accept only the top 5% of translators in the industry to maximize your chances of matching with the right professional, valuing past experience, credentials, and proven quality above all. You’ll find that all of our translators have worked for the biggest publishing companies in their respective countries, and often on bestselling titles.
We’ve also taken the extra step to ensure that all translators you’ll find on our marketplace are ready to work directly with independent authors. To that end, almost all of our translators will take charge of not only the translation of your book, but also the editing and proofreading of that translation, so that you can be confident about having a high-quality “ready-to-publish” book in your hands at the end of your collaboration.
So whether you’re a publisher looking for a world-class translator for the foreign book you just acquired, or an independent author looking to establish your presence in new markets, Reedsy is the perfect place for you to begin your search.
How much does it cost to hire a literary translator?
This can vary greatly depending on a number of things: the genre, the complexity of the book (i.e. a straightforward novel vs. a technical manual), the language (translation to and from niche languages will generally cost more, as there are less available translators), and the type of contract.
When working with local traditional publishers, translators will often include royalties in the negotiation. As such, they’ll be remunerated both through a flat fee for the translation, and through royalties on future sales of the book.
When working directly with authors, most translators will keep it simple and charge only a flat fee that’s calculated based on the number of words in the book. Most translators you’ll find on Reedsy will charge in the range of $0.08-$0.12 per word for a “ready-to-publish” translation.
When should I hire a literary translator?
Considering the relative high cost of literary translations, it’s best to hire a translator only if you think you can recoup that cost in book sales. The German — and to a lesser extent, French, Italian and Spanish markets — have recently grown significantly in terms of digital sales, and have become viable markets for independent authors to pursue.
A good strategy when approaching foreign markets as an indie author is to enter one market at a time, and test it with one book. Generally, you’ll want to try a market in which you already have traction with your existing books.
For example, if you write in English and see that your books are starting to sell quite a bit in Germany, you should probably consider getting a first book translated into German. Your existing fanbase there will be of great help when you’re marketing the German edition.
What else can a translator do for me?
There is a lot more to literary translation than just “translation.” More than a skill, literary translation is an art: it’s about carrying the same feelings and emotions your book evokes into a new language.
A good literary translator will be faithful to the author’s original voice, but also be able to express their own creativity when transposing expressions and humor that wouldn’t necessarily translate literally into the target language. Translators will work closely with the author, often contacting the author to clear up any ambiguities. They may also involve other translators to untangle particularly complicated passages or issues.
Because of the depth of work involved, literary translations are actually considered original works in many countries like France and Italy, which means that the copyright and moral rights for the translated work are owned by the translator.