Literary translation involves translating texts intended for publication. It is one of the most complex sectors for professional translators to work in. There are various reasons for this, and in order to explain further, we must first answer the million dollar question: what’s the difference between a literary translator and a translator who works for the publishing sector?

What does working as a translator for the publishing sector entail?

editorial translation

Translators specialised in this field work for publishing houses that need to translate texts from one language to another. Big publishing houses tend to publish a range of different texts, from tourist guides to technical manuals to literary prose and poetry.

A translator working in this sector tends to translate various different texts for publishing houses, although they often end up specialising in a certain sector. In terms of a specific definition, they are translators who create written works and enjoy the moral and property rights to them.

You may have gathered by now that it would be impossible to publish texts in a foreign language without the work of a translator.

The difference between literary translators and translators working for the publishing sector

You could argue that although not all translators working for the publishing sector are literary translators, most literary translators tend to work for the publishing sector. Literary translators specialise in translating prose (novels, long or short stories etc.).

If possible, literary translation is an even trickier task than translating other types of texts intended for publication. In fact, literary translators must “tune in” to the text to be translated and ensure that the same meaning, style and atmosphere is conveyed in the target text by making appropriate linguistic choices.

As such, literary or novel translation is an extremely difficult job, but it can also be incredibly rewarding. In fact, literary translators often become official translators for certain authors, establishing a partnership with them to gain greater insight into their writing techniques so the same artistic sensibilities can be applied to the target language.

How much does a translator working for the publishing sector earn?

Translating for the publishing sector isn’t exactly one of the most profitable professions in the world. Translators working in this sector are paid by the word or ‘cartella’ in Italy. This means that a set price is established for a certain number of characters included in a ‘cartella.’ The price is then multiplied by the number of ‘cartelle’ in the text.

Of course, it’s important to collaborate with a reputable publishing house in order to receive timely payments. Another point to consider when choosing a publishing house is whether or not the front cover of the translated work features the name of the translator together with that of the author. Unfortunately, one of the big problems with this sector is that translators are often left in undeserved anonymity.

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