Translator Book Contract



(a) The Publisher agrees not to make any changes to the Translation except for copyediting to conform with the Publisher's standard style of punctuation, spelling, and capitalization. No other changes may be made without the Translator's approval.

(b) Prior to initial publication, the Publisher will send the Translator the copyedited manuscript of the Translation. The Translator agrees to provide any revisions or corrections within 30 business days of receipt.

(c) The Publisher will also send the Translator page proofs of the Translation prior to publication. The Translator agrees to return the proofs to the Publisher with corrections or revisions within [7/14] days after receipt. The cost of alterations made by the Translator in the proofs (other than correction of artists', copy editors' and printers' errors) above 15% (fifteen percent) of the original cost of typesetting will be paid by the Translator.


Provisions governing the publisher's authority to make editorial changes to the translation ought to be framed narrowly. Ideally, they should be limited to copyediting changes, such as style, punctuation, and capitalization. If your contract gives the publisher the latitude to make all editorial changes at their discretion, you should negotiate with them for a narrower clause, such as the one we use here, to prevent the publisher from making changes that alter the meaning, content, or substance of the text without your approval. Many contracts contain language precluding the publisher from making "material changes" to the text, which is another way of restricting the publisher's editorial interventions to stylistic changes.

Be clear who has the final say over the finished text. You may also want to press for the right to be consulted (or, much rarer, a right of approval) regarding the title of the translation.

It can be problematic when a translation is subject to the approval of the original author, in particular if the author's command of English is not as sophisticated as they believe it to be. Therefore your contract should be clear as to who has the final say in the event of an impasse (you, the author, or the publisher). Regardless, you should be entitled to the full fee or advance for doing the work even if the project fails to move forward for lack of author approval. If your contract states that the translation is subject to author approval, you should also ask for language stating that you will receive an additional fee if you are required to do unforeseen additional work in response to excessive intervention by the author (see Clause 4, Fees and Royalties).

Publishing contracts typically hold the translator responsible for the costs of any changes or alterations to the proof copy (the last version before the manuscript goes to print), except those that result from publisher's errors. This is a way for publishers to keep translators diligent during the editing process. Often, the publisher will only ask to be reimbursed for costs exceeding a certain percentage (between 5% and 15%) of the original cost of typesetting borne by the publisher, although we have seen contracts that make the translator responsible for the full amount. If your contract stipulates that you will fully reimburse the publisher, you should try to negotiate a change in the contract so that you are responsible for reimbursing the publisher only if the costs of the changes to the proofs exceed 15% of the original cost. For example, if the original typesetting cost is $100 and the cost of re-typesetting is $50, under the Model Contract formulation of this provision you would be responsible for only $35, rather than the entire amount (15% of $100 = $15 and $50-$15 = $35).

Finally, be sure to insert a deadline that will give you plenty of time to review the publisher's comments and make any necessary edits.