In a previous post, I gave you 5 places where you can find translators for your book or your marketing materials. In this article, I’ll go over 3 actions that will help you find the right translator for your literary project.
Check credentials and previous experience
Though it is perfectly acceptable to hire a newcomer, it is very unusual that someone would be a true newcomer. For example, I was given literary translation assignments 99,99% of the time in the course of my Master’s Degree in English. Some translators, can also boast a (literary) translation degree, and have extra internship experience in traditional publishing. Others will also have translated books on Babelcube (royalties contracts only) in order to gain a first experience translating a book.
Generally, you would do well to check the following:
- Do they have training in their source language (yours), translation, writing, literature, and particularly in their target language (theirs)?
- Can they prove they have a very good mastery of their target language (usually their mother tongue)?
- Does their specialisation match with yours?
This last point is very important. I have refused work before (even with a really good rate per word) simply because the genre was not my I specialised in. For example, I will never again accept to translate contemporary erotica with a lot of US slang. I have also worked with Fantasy in the past, and I remember that because we were 2 literary translators working on two series in the same universe, there was quite a lot of back and forth between us and the proofreader about the neologisms and the technobabble. In the absolute, even if I enjoyed the books and the assignment, I love historical novels better, particularly those set in Northern Europe.
Are they a team player?
As authors, you know the saying that “no man is an island”. Beware translators who would send you back a translation without needing a second pair of eyes!
Would you publish your book without a beta reader or at least an editor/proofreader? I don’t think so, and the same goes for translation. A novella or a novel is quite long and it would be improbable that a translator would not leave out an anglicism, a typo or a downright mistake (we learn something new every day).
Willingness to work with a proofreader or even having their own is a sign of humility and something that should reassure you rather than make you suspect that they are not good enough. Believe me, having a good editor by your side is a gift… for translators as well as authors!
I am booked months in advance. Not fully, but at least 50%. I work with series and I receive regular projects from the copywriting agency I work with. I also work on my own books and side hustles.
When you start working with a translator, it is important that you check their availability for the duration of the project, as well as their turnaround time. All in all, you can count on 3 months for the translation of a short novel, as you have to add a couple of proofreading rounds to the translation time.
If you agree that you want to “try it out” for 1 or 2 books, it is okay if your translator does not want to go on translating your series, and it is also fine if you decide to hold further translations until you start to see results. I would, however, recommend not to start localising your books for foreign audiences if you do not have the means to work on a full series and proper marketing, but it is your choice.
Draw a contract with your linguist (here is a free example from PEN.org) with the precise dates of delivery and ask them how best to contact them should you need anything. Email, Skype, Slack? That availability goes both ways and you need to inform your linguist of any holiday you might take so as not to leave them in the dark… and it will be a great partnership!
Finding the right translator for your book is not only a matter of finding someone with your language combinations who happens to be available. Personality and competence play a huge part in a successful partnership. Good luck!