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Best Practices for Working with Literary Translators

By Elina Taillon Date: November 30, 2023

For independent publishers, the world of works-in-translation holds immense potential for expanding their catalogue, diversifying their offerings, and connecting with wider audiences. Collaborating with literary translators can be a huge opportunity to present captivating new stories across linguistic divides. However, navigating the complexities of working with translators requires care and adherence to best practices to ensure a successful partnership.


In this fifth and last post of our translation series, we explore the realm of working with translators for publishers who have yet to do so or are looking to foster stronger relationships with translators, maintain editorial integrity, and make the most of the multilingual literary ecosystem of Canada and the world beyond.


Fair Pay


Translation isn’t just about bringing a text from one language into another; translators also bring with them familiarity with the original literary context of a work and the source language—layers of knowledge and experience that can take years to build up. If they pitch translations to publishers, then they also do the work of reading extensively to stay aware of the latest literary developments, ensuring the rights are still available, putting together a pitch, and approaching publishers that would be a good fit for the work.


Taking all this into account, it’s important to compensate translators fairly for their work—including any readings, interviews, or other activities beyond the scope of text translation. The Literary Translators’ Association of Canada (LTAC) maintains a recommended rate schedule, and the Canada Council for the Arts translation grant pages display rates based on the amount applicants can request in the Translation Rates tab. Please keep in mind that these are only references, and more complex or involved translation projects might call for higher pay or other forms of remuneration.


Establishing Expectations and Communication


Effective communication is key in collaborative endeavours, and translation is no exception. Clearly outlining expectations, deadlines, and project scope at the outset ensures that the publisher and translator reach an agreement that works for both. Providing a house style guide or sheet is important, especially for first-time collaborations. Although translators may have an accurate idea of what’s involved just by reviewing the manuscript in the original language, it may be helpful to specify the unique challenges of a project. Does it touch on obscure jargon? Is the publisher expecting thorough verification of historical/geographical accuracy? Do certain passages require more careful handling than the rest of the manuscript? Is the text thoroughly linked to other works in an original author’s corpus? Communicating such factors in advance will help both parties undertake the project with maximum transparency.


Once the project is underway, it is also vital to keep communication channels with the translator open and easily accessible, and to address any questions or concerns promptly—just as with authors and editors.


Respecting Translators’ Artistic Vision


As is becoming more recognized with movements such as Name The Translator, translators are creatives in their own right, not only authoring a new work but ensuring that it faithfully follows the original text. The workarounds, aesthetic risks, and creative decisions made by translators result in a draft that should be engaged with based on its own merits as well as its fidelity to the original. When editing drafts of translations, it’s important to recognize this creative contribution, and not merely treat the translation as a mechanical conversion to be corrected.


Marketing and Promotion


It’s important to ensure that adequate resources are available to promote the translated title with the same attention as non-translated works. Submitting the work to awards and engaging translators in interviews, blog posts, or public events—and paying them a fair market rate for their time and effort—can generate interest around the unique relationship between the original work, the translation, and translator.


The LTAC also provides recommended rates for translator services such as round table/panel appearances, conference appearances, readings, and workshops that might be useful to keep in mind when planning the promotion of a translated title.




Independent publishers play a vital role in Canada’s literary scene, and especially in the creation of works-in-translation that transport and transform unique stories across languages. By establishing and abiding by best practices when working with translators, they can ensure the quality of individual works and of their working relationships with talented language professionals.