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Authors Guild publishes results of a survey on working conditions of U.S. Literary translators
Authors Guild publishes results of a survey on working conditions of U.S. Literary translators
19 Dec, 2017

On 15 December the Authors Guild (https://www NULL.authorsguild NULL.org/industry-advocacy/glimpse-world-u-s-translators/), the oldest and largest professional organization for writers in the United States, released results from a survey of U.S. literary translators. The survey, distributed online in April 2017 and conducted in collaboration with the American Literary Translators Association, the American Translators Association’s Literary Division, and the PEN America Translation Committee, collected information from 205 translators on payment, royalties, copyright, and various other aspects of the literary translation profession. The survey was prepared and analyzed by translators Jessica Cohen and Alex Zucker, working with Authors Guild staff.

”Advocacy for literary translators is increasingly important to us. Many of our members are both authors and translators, and with the number of books in translation growing each year, many of which are very high-profile titles, it is important for us to understand the landscape,” said Authors Guild executive director Mary Rasenberger on the organisation’s website. The Guild’s translator members are also working with Guild legal staff on a model contract for literary translation, which the Guild is planning to roll out early next year as part of its commitment to incorporate translators’ concerns into its ongoing Fair Contract Initiative.

The survey confirmed some long-held assumptions, while shedding light on new issues.

  • Contradicting the belief that royalties for translators are a rarity, nearly half of the respondents reported always or usually negotiating royalties in their contracts. Similarly, over half reported receiving royalty payments, and over half of those whose contracts did not stipulate royalties said it was because the publisher refused.
  • Two-thirds of translators reported always or usually retaining copyright to their work; over half of those who did not retain copyright said it was because the publisher refused.
  • Half of the respondents who translate prose (where pay, as a rule, is significantly higher than it is for poetry) reported receiving 13 cents per word or more—slightly higher than the rate the Society of Authors states that UK publishers are prepared to pay. On the other hand, a disturbing number of respondents reported working for subpar rates of 7 cents per word or less.
  • On the whole, the survey showed that income for literary translators has not changed significantly over the past five years. Although 39% reported spending more than half of their time on translation and translation-related activities, just 17% reported earning more than half of their income from that work.

To read a detailed summary of the results, with commentary and advocacy recommendations, please click here (https://www NULL.authorsguild NULL.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/2017-Authors-Guild-Survey-of-Literary-Translators-Working-Conditions NULL.pdf).

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