Readers Ask
Every now and then I present questions that readers of Intralingo have asked regarding different aspects of literary translation, along with my answers.


I just had a question about a freelance project of mine. It’s my first one ever and I’m a little nervous.

I have a client who would like their cookbook to be translated from French to English. There is about 100 pages of content, with between 300-400 words per page. Most of the terminology I’m already familiar with because of my food blog and experience with reading recipes.

My questions include the following:

– Should I charge for the project as a whole or should I charge by word?
– Do you have a ballpark suggestion about what I should charge? Like I said, this is my first freelance project ever and I don’t want to over-/undercharge.
– Do you have any suggestions regarding how often I should contact the client?

If you have any other tips, I would love any of your input.

Thank you so much!




Congratulations on this opportunity! It would be so wonderful to translate a cookbook.

I’ve done seven books for publication and the terms and conditions can vary greatly. Here are a few things to consider:

* Is this going to be a work for hire (ie. a contract fee) or will the English book be copyrighted in your name?
* If it is going to be copyrighted in your name, are you going to earn royalties?
* Are you working directly for the author or for a publisher or for an agency?

These questions will in part determine what you want to/are able to charge. An author is going to have a much smaller budget than a publisher. Similarly, an agency will want to make their cut so they’re going to look for the lowest rate possible from you. Royalties can increase your overall earnings, so a smaller advance up front might be acceptable. If at all possible, copyright should be in your name and royalties should be awarded (anywhere up to 10%, though more common is 1-3%).

In my experience, books are never charged on a per word basis, but as a whole project fee. As you’ll no doubt find out, there is much, much more work involved than a per word fee can ever cover, even if you’re familiar with the terminology etc. Particularly with food, a lot of research may need to be done.

I couldn’t hazard a guess at this point what you could/should charge because I’m not familiar with your experience or who the publisher is, or the other contract terms you’ll be working out (as mentioned above). Suffice it to say that I have earned everything from $6000 for a 200 page novel to over $20000 for a 450 page novel. The publishers were big ones in the US, and I still had to negotiate hard to get my due.

Contacting the client will again depend on who the client actually is. I personally tend to work through most of a book, compiling my questions and doubts as I go. Often I can determine what was meant the longer I work at a project, and so I’m not “bugging” the client constantly. I do then send off a few batches of questions, making sure they have plenty of time to answer before my deadline so I can follow up with additional concerns, etc. You’ll have to find a rhythm that works best for you and the client. Be up front and ask them what they expect or are willing to accept.

Hope this is helpful! Good luck and keep me posted.

Readers, do you have any further thoughts or suggestions on this topic? Do share in a comment.