How long should an unpaid translation test for a book be?
Autor de la hebra: Lara Barnett

Lara Barnett  Identity Verified
Reino Unido
Local time: 17:20
Miembro 2011
francés al inglés
+ ...
Jul 3

On submitting my details for a literary translation, which I think may be for a book, I have just been asked to do an unpaid test of 2,213 words. On asking for clarification on this, I was told by the respective agency "We have rules." I have done unpaid tests of a little over 500 words, which I thought may be worth doing, but this sounds completely unnecessary to me.

 

Thayenga  Identity Verified
Alemania
Local time: 18:20
Miembro 2009
inglés al alemán
+ ...
500 is the absolute maximum Jul 3

Usually a test translation is between 250 and 350 words. So 2,213 might possibly be a very short chapter. If it is then a literary translation.

If you really want to get this project you can offer to do it for half your rate and to be paid immediately after you've submitted the test translation.

Keep in mind that, if the potential customer sends such a lengthy test translation to 10 or 20 people, s/he might get a free translation of his/her book or of whatever nature th
... See more
Usually a test translation is between 250 and 350 words. So 2,213 might possibly be a very short chapter. If it is then a literary translation.

If you really want to get this project you can offer to do it for half your rate and to be paid immediately after you've submitted the test translation.

Keep in mind that, if the potential customer sends such a lengthy test translation to 10 or 20 people, s/he might get a free translation of his/her book or of whatever nature the project might be. And it doesn't really matter whether it's an end client or an agency.
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Lara Barnett
Christine Andersen
Sheila Wilson
Philip Lees
Elsa Johnson
 

Lara Barnett  Identity Verified
Reino Unido
Local time: 17:20
Miembro 2011
francés al inglés
+ ...
PERSONA QUE INICIÓ LA HEBRA
No Pay Jul 3

As I have said, they are not paying. Normally tests I do for agencies have ranged from between 180-500 words. As they are not paying, I was just wondering what others thought of these conditions.

 

ATIL KAYHAN  Identity Verified
Turquía
Local time: 20:20
Miembro 2007
turco al inglés
+ ...
Nice Qualifications Jul 3

You have an impeccable ProZ profile, 35 positive reviews, 4 rating, certified PRO, excellent qualifications. I would make them see that in the first place. I would not accept an unpaid test of 2,213 words because you are not trying to "prove yourself" to a potential client in this case. If they have rules, so do you. Tell them your absolute maximum is 500 words (or whatever). I can easily reject clients based on the length of free translation test they require me to take.

Bernhard Sulzer
Lara Barnett
Josephine Cassar
Philippe Etienne
Teresa Borges
Edwin den Boer
 

Bernhard Sulzer  Identity Verified
Estados Unidos
Local time: 12:20
Miembro 2006
inglés al alemán
+ ...
Completely unnecessary Jul 3

Lara Barnett wrote:

On submitting my details for a literary translation, which I think may be for a book, I have just been asked to do an unpaid test of 2,213 words. On asking for clarification on this, I was told by the respective agency "We have rules." I have done unpaid tests of a little over 500 words, which I thought may be worth doing, but this sounds completely unnecessary to me.


No one I have translated books for has ever asked me to do such a voluminous test unpaid. I have done unpaid tests for private clients before, but they were much smaller. And as far as payment for the book goes, 50% up front and 50% after completion is the standard. HTH


Lara Barnett
Edwin den Boer
Elsa Johnson
 

Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Dinamarca
Local time: 18:20
Miembro 2003
danés al inglés
+ ...
Long enough to show your style Jul 3

250 - 500 words should be plenty. If the client wants more, they should pay - 2200 words is a full day's work.

There might be reasons for wanting to see how you tackle different aspects of the text, but they can't expect too much for free.

Likewise the amount of time translators are sometimes asked to spend reading NDAs, filling in details in databases and registering on platforms without ever being certain of getting any paid work!


Philippe Etienne
Teresa Borges
 

The Misha
Local time: 12:20
ruso al inglés
+ ...
It all depends on how badly you want this job Jul 3

Though I have translated a few full-size novels and short story collections over the years, all of them (well, OK, almost) were the usual commercial junk that the authors themselves hoped to publish and sell on Amazon and such. Well, good luck with that. I never did any tests, unpaid or otherwise, and I charged my regular (at the time) rate per word. End of story. Either way, they were not particularly lucrative jobs seeing that it takes so much more time and mental anguish to translate fiction.... See more
Though I have translated a few full-size novels and short story collections over the years, all of them (well, OK, almost) were the usual commercial junk that the authors themselves hoped to publish and sell on Amazon and such. Well, good luck with that. I never did any tests, unpaid or otherwise, and I charged my regular (at the time) rate per word. End of story. Either way, they were not particularly lucrative jobs seeing that it takes so much more time and mental anguish to translate fiction. Even if it's bad commercial fiction, and sometime because it is junk and you have to doctor it to make it remotely palatable.

However, from what I know, regular publishers who finance translation of foreign fiction often do require lengthy tests - sometimes as long as 5-6K words - to make sure they have a long enough chunk of text to gauge before they decide on who to hire. That said, generally, they do not send those samples out to 20 translators, and probably not even ten. No one has the time to read and assess 20 writing samples these days. The idea that you can split a book across 20 tests, then put them together and voila, you have your translated book, is ludicrous to anyone who has ever dealt with translating literary texts. It simply doesn't work this way, not if you hope to be able to sell the final product, that is.

Do your legwork. Find out what the text is and how reputable the publisher is. Make sure you know what the proposed rate or payment arrangement will be and that you can live with it. Then decide if you want to invest a day or two in the test, however long they want it to be, for a chance of winning that job. It may even take longer since, naturally, you will want to show your absolute best on it, or it will simply be a waste of your time in the end. If you do get it, it may well bring a stream of similar texts in the future because publishers like working with translators they know. Finding a new literary translator worth his or her salt is always a pain - hence the lengthy tests.

Better yet, simply walk away. There's easier ways to make a living than writing or translating fiction. Trust me, I speak from experience.

Good luck to you.
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Edwin den Boer
 

Tanja Tilch  Identity Verified
Local time: 18:20
inglés al alemán
+ ...
It depends on how much money you want to earn per day Jul 31

My policy is: No test translation without payment.

I work 8 hours a day, I expect to receive payment to cover all my cost/working time.

I don't receive services for free either - be it at the hairdresser's or from the craftsman/car mechanic.

Best regards,

Tanja


 


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