As you’ve no doubt gleaned from many of the posts I’ve written and shared here, I believe literary translators must be compensated for the art and skill involved in our work, but I also believe compensation comes in many forms.
A while back I agreed to a profit sharing arrangement for the translation of a short story, with no money up front. I didn’t expect to earn much monetarily, and as it turns out that was truly the case. My total earnings over a six-month period, for a story about 4,000 words long, resulted in a royalty payment of $6.33.
You think I’d be upset. Consider this an insult. Rage. Demand more. Refuse to be involved in this venture.
Nope. I was fine with it. Because value came in another form. These are just some of the things I gained:
* I met, worked with and learned from another author. Who knows when he might think of me for a future project or what I might be able to propose to him.
* I formed a strong relationship with the founders and editors of a worthy publication, built on mutual respect and commitment. It’s quite likely we’ll continue to work together, perhaps on similar projects that won’t exactly fatten my wallet, but perhaps on much more lucrative ones as well.
* I was privy to royalty statements for an ebook, allowing me to see actual sales and payouts. This invaluable information will help me gauge future project profitability.
* I honed my translation skills just a little bit more, having wrestled with culture-specific references, pondered how to maintain ambiguity by avoiding pronouns and balanced two voices in a short ten pages.
Above all, I thoroughly enjoyed every step of the process, from earning the editors’ trust, to discovering more about the story each time I read it, to the indescribable feeling of channeling a story from one language into another, to consulting with the author, learning from the edits, and sharing my work, my passion with readers. That, to me, is worth an immeasurable amount.
Plus, all of this experience will certainly mean I can charge more for other projects.
What are your projects worth to you? I’d love to hear…