Monday, 31 March 2014

German Literary Translators Reach Joint Remuneration Agreement

It has been a very long time coming, but after numerous government rulings and court cases, the German literary translators' association VDÜ has reached an agreement with a group of publishers on pay.

The agreement states, in essence, that translators should be paid an appropriate fee for their work and sets an absolute minimum fee, a basic fee and a special fee for difficult translations. It specifies additional services such as cutting texts or extraordinary research that shall be paid separately. Most importantly, the agreement provides for a one-percent royalty on every copy sold, not offset against the basic fee. The royalty decreases with higher sales figures and if the publisher goes on to publish a paperback edition. Higher royalties are specified for e-books.

The translators' association and publishers' representatives will meet every two years to discuss whether the basic fees are still appropriate.

This is the most progress that has been made in this area since 2002. On the down side, only six publishers have signed up to the agreement, which is valid as of 1 April. The VDÜ hopes that others, especially the major publishing groups, will join them for the sake of stability. So do I.

Börsenblatt has a report on the press conference, featuring a lot of smiling faces.


Katja said...

It's a step in the right direction, to be sure -- but by no means is it good enough. Considering that a book in only its source language would barely sell in its target market: 1% royalties? And how much does the author make? 25% 30% Also, "The royalty decreases with higher sales figures". So what publishers are saying is that a translator deserves no share in the pie of, say, a next Harry Potter or Fifty Shades? Amazon Crossing typically offers 2% on paper & 9% on e-books: now that's what I call a fair deal.

Mytwostotinki said...

Amazon Crossing was critisized from several European Translators Associations for its extremely low remuneration (one third of the average rate for translators in France for example) plus the infringement of basic legal standards - to take them as a positive example and call this "a fair deal" is shocking! And to say that authors receive 25-30% royalties is far from the reality of authors. The usual fee is 8-10% for belletristic books, non-fiction might be up to 12% of the net price of the book. And regarding translation rights, it is usually 8-10% of the retail price of the books and this amount (including VAT) is divided between the publisher and the author in almost all cases. The 1% is an additional royalty and therefore an additional income for the translators beside the lump sum they get for their work. So compared to the previous situation this is a (modest) improvement. It disadvantages though translators into "small" languages, since the circulation in these markets of translated books will be much smaller than in English for example.