As I explained in a previous post, you should aways specify a deadline in your translation contracts. Having a deadline will motivate the translator and, more importantly, should guarantee the delivery of your translated manuscript. That said, how much time should you agree upon? The answer depends on whether you’re in a hurry or not.
If you don’t need the book delivered before a specific date (ie. around Christmas), you may set a distant deadline. I would suggest one day per 1,000 words as a reasonable compromise: this will give even a slow translator plenty of time to work on the manuscript and edit their draft. This would mean giving your translator 50 days to translate, review and deliver a 50,000 words novel. You can agree to a different amount of time, but don’t make it too lax: a deadline that’s many months away is equivalent to “eventually”. Be decisive.
If you need your book translated before a certain date (again, it may be December 23 or around that)… well, that depends on how reasonable you’re being. I’m going to use myself as an example, because everyone I worked with considered me quite fast. I routinely do 5,000 to 6,000 words per day, so I can complete the first draft of the translation of that 50,000 words novel in 10 days (hey, I need a day off every once in a while). My proofreader would then need about 10 more (she reads and edits all my drafts three times – yes, she’s amazing). Then there’s the beta-reading phase, which could take from 2 to 10 days, depending on how much my wife likes your book. Give me a few extra days for the finishing touches, and let’s call it 30 days for the translation of a 50,000 words novel. If we sign the contract a month before you need the book on your hard drive, it will happen. I can work faster if you absolutely need it, but I may be forced to apply an extra fee for the urgency, since all the extra time I would be spending working would be subtracted to my family and my personal life.
Other people might be slower, or they might work faster but sacrifice quality; take this into account before trying to coax your translator into working much faster than they usually do. A bad translation released at the right time might be worse, for the author’s reputation overseas, than a good translation that comes out slightly late.
Translations take time, and time is usually synonymous with quality. However, infinite time is almost never synonymous with infinite quality, so unless you truly have no interest in seeing your novel translated before your newborn baby begins college, set a deadline.
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