TRANSLATION - José Henrique Lamensdorf - translation - tradução

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Yes, I do translate books. Some that I've translated are listed here. I did translate others, either entirely or in part, however due to agreements made, these translations were credited to third parties, usually companies.

My specialty is human resources management books, with emphasis on training and development, however I have already translated books spanning from breakthrough technologies to mystery novels.

An important issue is about finding a way to make the translation cost in a book affordable. Book publishing involves a formidable investment at the outset, especially if it's a foreign original.

Some of the initial costs will be:
    • Advance payment on guaranteed royalties to original copyright holder
    • Translation
    • Reviewing
    • Layout
    • Cover art
    • Photoliths
    • Paper
    • Printing
    • Finishing/Binding
    • Inventory
    • Logistics/Distribution
    • Advertising/Promotion
    • Sales

As it happens, the publisher will only see any return on their investment after the first copies are sold. The solution is to cut costs every step of the way, especially to make its retail price affordable to consumers.

E-books and POD (print-on-demand) printing have eliminated or significantly cut down many of these costs, especially where it is possible to save (at some risk, described next) in comparison to conventional publishing.

In conventional book publishing, if cost cuts are done on visible, physical items, e.g. layout, cover, paper, printing, binding, this may impair the edition's initial sales. I mean, if the book looks cheap, it will have to be widely known as good, in order to enable sales to bring some ROI.

Cost-cutting in translation, on its turn, has a delayed effect. The book may sell well initially, however those who read (or tried to read) it will be the town criers who will tell the world that "it's so badly translated that it defies comprehension". And this will cause sales to halt, so the remaining copies of that edition will be... remaindered!

How is it possible to make the cost of a good translation viable, in order to avoid compromising its results on both the short and long runs?

First of all, there are translators who specialize in books; some of them only translate books. These translate most of the literature available. Thanks to their specialization, their m.o. is adequate to their offer, and they manage to work relentlessly on one or more books offering affordable costs and acceptable turnaround.

However what happens when the book requires a translator having expertise in a certain technical subject? The solution is to hire a translator specialized in this field, possibly one who does not focus on book translation. Their cost might be prohibitive, to the extent of rendering that publishing project unviable financially, or at least compromised.

The solution I adopt for such cases is to extend the timeline. A translator working on several fronts constantly faces urgent jobs. Some news must be published, an agreement must be ready for signature, a movie will be aired with subtitles, there are countless things that must be translated in a short time. On the other hand, the entire book publishing process is so long on its own, that, if its translation takes longer, the difference won't be so noticeable.

This enables a translator to put books as their second priority, working on them between one urgent project and another. The price may be more affordable, thus rendering the project viable.

I would like to take this opportunity to highlight one specific situation: Many people ask me about translating books for their personal use.

One wants to read that novel in English her cousin was so enthusiastic about. Another has a list of American books recommended for his graduate course. Yet another one bought some equipment overseas, and can't understand its instruction manual.

The cost of having a book translated for individual use is hardly viable!!!

Envision this... A book publisher will spread the translation cost over thousands of copies. If you want a translation done for you alone, you'll have to pay for all of it, instead of just a few cents per copy.

In such cases, if you really need it translated, the best solution is to find a friend who is capable and willing to translate for you, or resort to a free online automatic translator like Google Translate. It is likely that you'll get a lot of nonsense, however if you are knowledgeable enough about the subject you might, to some extent, get the gist of what's it all about. No point in looking for a cheap translator, especially if the volume of text is considerable, because the chances of getting similar nonsense will be high.

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