Translator from Japan says I get no royalties, no advance, no profit when published

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Thread: Translator from Japan says I get no royalties, no advance, no profit when published

  1. #1

    Unhappy Translator from Japan says I get no royalties, no advance, no profit when published

    Hi all,

    I/we have a very popular selling book from 2015. It is translated into 5 languages so far. And we were solicited to publish in Japanese. But, the translator in Japan says that the foreign author gets nothing. WHAT???? They translate without costs and publish without fees. But, we get nothing!

    We have all foreign rights and North Atlantic has USA rights. We get royalties from all other countries. So, this is weird from Japan.

    Anyone know about such things? Or how I can find out more.


  2. #2
    First, welcome to the forums.

    While I've never had any of my works translated, I know a bit about translation. It can be a slimy business if not done correctly.

    I have never ever heard of this "foreign author gets no royalties" from Japan. You definitely should be getting royalties from this foreign market, it's your book, it's your work, it's your time, your effort. If I remember correctly they legally cannot distribute your book with out giving royalties, (I may be wrong since it's a foreign market were talking about here)

    The real question here is; did you state in your translation contract that you would get a form of royalties from your sales? Because if it's in your translation contract, then they legally must give you a form of set royalties or they legally cannot distribute your book, it would be a breach of contract. I mean it all depends on your (I think) subsidiary and translation rights in that country but you should definitely put the amount of royalties on the table before even dealing.

    You should just pullback with that publisher if you cannot get your royalties and find a more reliable company that will translate (probably for an increased cost) but will give you your royalties.
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  3. #3
    WF Veteran Bloggsworth's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2011
    Leafy suburb of North London
    Sounds very far eastern to me - If you have royalties/copyright and intellectual property protection you can't copy stuff...
    A man in possession of a wooden spoon must be in want of a pot to stir.

  4. #4
    Perhaps this 'deal' is one where the author is considered 'paid' by them ( the translator) covering the costs of translation and foreign distribution.It fulfills the definition of a contract in that each party receives something, services in your case, and possible future reimbursement (and profits) in theirs. They are taking a risk.

  5. #5
    It's a grey area.

    If I like Joe Soap's book and undertake to translate it myself, and post a copy of the translation on the internet Joe Soap can't sue me for copyright infringment as long as I don't say I am the author of the original book. His copyright extends to the original work, not my original work in the translation. That is to say the book in the original language belongs to him, my translation belongs to me. And if you think that's whack, I agree, but it is how it is.

    I don't know how this might be applied to your situation with your Japanese translation. I'd check the contracts you signed very carefully. I suspect though that you might need a very expensive lawyer to sort it out and will be better off chalking it up to lesson learned. Hope I'm wrong and everything is OK.


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