Jan. 26th, 2009

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There are times when the client-freelancer relationship absolutely boggles.

This morning is a case in point.

I was awakened by a call before 9am to tell me they have decided to go with a different translator for a project in question.

If they wouldn't call a business before business hours, is it really necessary to call an individual-who-is-also-his-own-business at such unprofessional times?

So much for us freelancers being able to call our own hours.

But this all ties in to the way so many clients seem to forget about the human element of us external contributors. Like sending us work way after deadline and expecting us to keep the deadline, very often without enough time to actually physically do said work in said period of time, and not understanding why we can't stay up all night working at their beck and call, etc.


The reason I won't after all be translating the project that occasioned this too early call this morning is because they got bogged down in what is or is not a page.

To whit, they want me to translate a few short novels, and are applying for a subsidy to cover the costs of said translations. They need to use the official EU rate as a result, which is a set amount per page, which they define as ever 1500 characters or less.

However, the client in question simply multiplied the per page rate by the number of printed pages in the book. They sent me the contracts with just their total sum as a lump sum, without showing me the math.

Now, I haven't seen the books still, so I told them I couldn't sign a contract blind like that, that they needed to include in the contract the rate, the total number of characters in the book, and then the total.

This was when I learned they'd just used the printed page as their measuring unit, instead of the actual unit stipulated by the rate.

They don't have electronic versions of the texts (the easiest way to measure characters) so I had them take a sample page, count how many lines, and then multiple by the number of characters of a full line.

This resulted in a bit over 1900 characters per page.

Which is why their calculation was not in fact equivalent to what they claimed to be paying, nor would it in fact equal what the EU official rate is.

The math is actually fairly simple: multiple the number of pages in the book by 1900, divide by 1500 and then multiple by the EU per page rate, and voila.

But it was beyond them, as a concept.

They kept getting bogged down that that was more pages than the book actually had, and they needed to use that according to the subsidy guidelines (although when they read them to me over the phone, it did not in fact say they needed to use the printed pages of the book as their guide but rather each 1500 character--or less--unit.)

All this negotiating and so on for a project which may very well not be approved for funding, in which case they won't go ahead with the project.

But in any event, I am no longer the designated translator for the project.

Which is fine.

(All of this was complicated by the fact that my original contact is not actually at the client but at an agency to whom said client had outsourced generating the subsidy application, and during the two weeks that all of this has been going on she left the company. So I've had to deal primarily with two different people on this, one at the client and one at the agency, neither of whom was involved in the original computation and therefore didn't understand what was done, why it was done, nor why it was wrong...)

The EU rate, curiously, is based on the source text, although almost everything I've translated to date has been paid on the final output, which is also how almost all translations INTO Spanish are paid here in Spain...

Although another client today, again a Public Administration, needed to know in advance what the total cost of translating a book on local products into English would be, so I had to give a price quote based on the source text instead of the destination text.

Actually, the fantasy novel I'm translating right now is also based on the source text, although we agreed on a set fee for the project that's not actually equal to a per word or per page fee. And, alas, when I finally got the electronic version, it was actually 15% longer than what we'd discussed when they gave me the physical copy of the book, which was the number I'd used to base my mental calculations on. Sigh.

Speaking of which, I should try and finally get some work done on it, instead of all this meta-work that's been occupying my day from way-too-early until now...
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Madrid launch
Originally uploaded by desayunoencama.
Here are the details of the Madrid launch for DESAYUNO EN LA CAMA, later this week.


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Lawrence Schimel

July 2009

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