Hi Lisa,

Thanks so much for writing back – and so quickly! I really appreciate the advice you gave me and hope you don’t mind that I have one more question. I would definitely like to reach out to authors whose work I adore and would love to see appear in translation. My question is how to best go about doing so and whether (and if yes, what) to charge for these services should they be accepted. How would you best advise approaching this? From the standpoint of a dedicated fan simply hoping to gain experience or a budding professional offering a new opportunity? Or possibly a blend?

Thank you so much again. I really appreciate it and hope one day to be able to ‘pass it forward’ and help others myself.

Best wishes,


Hey Kathryn,

Glad my first email was helpful!

In terms of writing to an author you admire, you’re going to have to think about what it is you want from this experience. Do you want to simply gain some experience? Do you want to get paid? Do you want to get published? A combination of all three?

There are no right or wrong ways to go about any of this. We will all have different needs and wants at various points in our career.

While I’m a huge proponent of getting paid what we are worth, I also fully recognize that literary translation is not just a word-based job that can be fully compensated by a per-word rate. It is an art. Some measure of what we do has to be done for the love of the art, and that means taking a risk, not necessarily getting paid up front but banking on the worth of the work and residual income. The author took a chance when he/she wrote and published the piece; I believe we also have to take some measure of chance.

If you write to an author and say that you’d like to translate their work and your rate is X per word, they’ll likely be much less interested in working with you. Writers aren’t business people and often have to struggle to make a living, too.

If, however, you write and say that you read their work and loved it, that you want to bring it to another audience (and mean this, of course!), then the author might be willing to discuss options.

Options can take many forms: some up-front payment and some royalties; a percentage of royalties only; all royalties for the target language; the possibility of applying for grants and bursaries. And yes, sometimes you do it just for the love of it, with payment in the form of a publishing credit that will grow your experience and credibility so you can later earn good money doing this kind of work.

The only payment rights and wrongs are what is right or wrong for you at a particular point in your career.

Readers, what do you think?

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