A Model Contract for Literary Translations

Updated 10/1/16. Be sure to see also our Translation FAQs.

This agreement is entered into on [date] between [Translator’s name] (hereinafter the “Translator”), whose address is [Translator’s address] and [Publisher’s name] (hereinafter the “Publisher”), whose address is [Publisher’s address], concerning a translation into English (hereinafter the “Translation”) of [title of original Work] (hereinafter the “Work”) by [Author’s name] (hereinafter the “Author”) from the [name of language], presently titled [working title in English].

1. The Translator agrees to deliver the Translation to the Publisher on or before [date] in the absence of delays due to circumstances beyond their control and unless otherwise extended in writing by both parties.

2. The Publisher shall pay the Translator a fee of $______ for the Translation, payable as follows: The Translator shall receive the first half ($______) within 30 days of signature of this contract by both parties, and the second half ($______) within 30 days of delivery by the Translator.

3. The Translator shall receive the following royalties from sales of the Translation:

a) XX% of the Publisher’s list price on all hardcover copies sold;

b) XX% of the Publisher’s list price on all paperback copies sold;

c) XX% of the Publisher’s net receipts from sales of the electronic edition;

d) XX% of the Publisher’s list price from sales of the physical audiobook edition;

e) XX% of the Publisher’s net receipts from sales of the downloadable audiobook edition;

f) XX% of the Publisher’s net receipts for any license permitted under this contract.

4. The Publisher agrees not to make any changes to the accepted Translation without consent of the Translator, except for copyediting to conform with the Publisher’s standard style and punctuation, spelling, and capitalization. The Publisher will send the Translator the final copyedited manuscript and final page proofs of the Translation, and the Translator will review and revise them for any errors within [X] weeks of receipt of such from the Publisher.

5. The Publisher agrees to register copyright for the Translation in the name of the Translator with the U.S. Copyright Office within three months of initial publication.

6. The Translator grants the following exclusive rights to the Publisher for the legal term of copyright:

a) the right to reproduce and distribute the Translation in the English language in print (hardcover and paperback) formats, verbatim text electronic book format, and audiobook format throughout the world.

b) the right to license (hereinafter the “License”) the following rights throughout the world, and the Publisher agrees to pay the Translator the accompanying percentage of its net receipts:

i) first serial rights XX%

ii) second serial rights XX%

iii) anthology and quotation rights XX%

iv) live reading rights XX%

v) retranslation/relay translation rights XX%

7. The Publisher agrees to retain any required permissions and pay any fees incurred.

8. The Translator warrants to the Publisher that, to the best of the Translator’s knowledge, no defamatory or libelous material will be introduced to the Translation by the Translator that was not present in the original Work; that the Translator has every right to enter into this agreement; and that the Translation is original to the Translator. The Translator agrees to indemnify the Publisher from any final binding judgment declaring the Translator to have breached any one of the aforementioned warranties. The Publisher agrees to indemnify the Translator and hold the Translator harmless against all lawsuits, legal claims, causes of action, and any related expenses or costs of any kind, including all attorney’s fees incurred if such lawsuits, claims or causes of action arise from any of the content of the original Work or the Publisher’s right to have the Work translated. The Publisher agrees to add the Translator as an insured to any liability insurance policy applicable to the Work.

9. The Translator shall receive accounting statements from the Publisher under the same schedule as for the Author.

10. The Translator shall have the right, no more than once per calendar year, to examine the Publisher’s books, records, and agreements relevant to the Translation at Translator’s expense, upon the provision of ten (10) business days written notice. Notwithstanding the foregoing, if such audit reveals accounting errors of at least five (5) percent of the amounts due to the Translator, then the Publisher will reimburse the Translator for the costs of the audit and the amount due as a result of the audit within thirty (30) days thereafter. Regardless of the amount owed, the Publisher agrees to pay any outstanding balances to the Translator within 30 days of completion of the audit.

11. The Translator’s name shall appear on the front of the jacket/cover and on the title page of all editions of the Translation, and in all publicity and advertising copy released by the Publisher, wherever the Author’s name appears. The Publisher agrees to print the Translator’s approved biography on the back flap of the hardcover edition, on the back cover of and/or within any trade paperback edition of the Translation, and within any electronic edition.

12. On first publication of the English translation, the Publisher shall give the Translator ten (10) free copies of each edition of the Translation, and the Translator may purchase additional copies from the Publisher at a discount of fifty (50) percent from the retail list price.

13a. [Standard reversion clause] If at any time the rights to the Work revert to the Author, then the rights to the Translation shall at the same time automatically revert to the Translator.

If the Translation shall become out of print in the Publisher’s own edition, or if the Publisher’s stock falls below fifty (50) hardback copies or one hundred (100) paperback copies, and the Publisher does not reprint a new edition of the Translation within nine (9) months after receiving such a written request from the Translator, the contract shall automatically terminate and all rights granted by it shall revert to the Translator.

Should the Translation be available only as print on-demand and/or as an e-book, and sales have been below [XX copies] in the preceding 12-month period, provided the advance has been earned out, or more than three years have passed since first publication (whichever is the sooner), then the Translator may terminate this agreement on one month’s notice.

13b. [Alternate reversion clause for e-book contracts] If the Publisher fails to keep the Translation in print and does not reprint it within [X] months of its receipt of written request to do so, then the Translator will have the right to terminate this agreement by written notice to the Publisher. The Translation shall be considered “in print” as long as the Publisher

Option 1: sells more than one hundred (100) digital copies [number of copies negotiable] of the Translation in the two (2) preceding accounting periods.

Option 2: remits more than $125 [negotiable] in royalty income resulting from sales of digital copies of the Translation in the two (2) preceding accounting periods.

14. The Publisher shall inform and make available for purchase to the Translator any unsold books at or below manufacturing cost (defined as the cost of paper, printing, and binding).

15. This contract may be amended, modified, or terminated only by the express agreement of both parties in writing.


___________________________                  _______________________________

   [Translator's signature]                                              [Publisher’s signature]



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