In that book I eventually want to write about the milestones you reach on the path to publication, there has to be one about the people you meet.
The author published this photo along with his CraigsList ad to show what the lucky candidate would get.
There number is legion. They’re the people who dream impossible dreams. They want you to critique their manuscript. They want your advice on writing. They have a great idea for a book and need someone to whip it into shape. As if that wasn’t enough to draw you from the ideas that are tugging at your sleeve, they’ll even offer to split the royalties with you.
When they approach you and make the offer, you know that you’ve reached a certain level of notoriety. You’ve climbed the ladder a bit, even if it’s only one or two rungs, because now someone wants to use you, maybe just as much as you wanted to use someone above you.
I’m not talking about those who would genuinely benefit from help: the good writers who need feedback or polishing advice, the potential self-publishers sharing information about marketing, and the people genuinely curious about the state of writing and publishing today.
I’m talking about the self-delusional, the arrogant and the oblivious. When they approach you with their dream project, it can be a breath-taking experience.
Fortunately, I hope never to meet this fellow whose CraigsList ad for a book translator should be preserved as a monument, to be admired by some and a warning to others.
Here’s how it begins:
Book translation English to French, Spanish, Italian, German, Russian (Paris Le Marais)
THIS JOB IS NOT A SCAM AND YOU MUST BE LOCAL TO PARIS AND AVAILABLE FOR A MEETING IN PERSON WITH VALID ID. PLEASE DON’T OFFER TO DO THIS REMOTELY FROM OUTSIDE OF PARIS FRANCE. THERE ARE NO FEES YOU MUST PAY, ETC.
ALL OF MY WORK IS ALREADY PRE-COPYRIGHTED. DON’T BOTHER TRYING TO STEAL IDEAS FOR YOUR OWN COMPANY OR YOUR OWN WORK. IT’S NOT WORTH RISKING PRISON, FINES, AND PERMANENT DAMAGE TO YOUR REPUTATION AS AN AUTHOR.
This is an opening that’s certain to bring out a flood of applicants. There’s nothing more reassuring that you’re not being cheated like saying “this is not a scam.” Nor demonstrating your understanding of copyright law by insisting not only that your work is “pre-copyrighted” but threatening prison for idea theft.
Of course, he might have reason to be concerned. He identifies the book as “a romance novel / romantic comedy with a little military style action” and you know how big of a market there is for that genre. He also provides the book’s “novel concepts and topics” and a list of characters. The novel concepts are subjects such as “falling in love,” “divorce and affairs” and the breathtaking “personal happiness above or below the happiness of one’s family or personal happiness above or below one’s responsibilities.”
Each of these topics could provide the basis of a writer’s career. Dumas cornered the marked on “vengeance, justified vengeance,” and John Cheever seemed to have the “divorce and affairs covered.” This author’s tome promises to cover everything, it seems, but lawyers, guns and money.
Fortunately, our author’s needs are simple. He wants someone who can speak French, Spanish, Italian, German or Russian. Preferably a native of those countries. The candidate must have “translation experience, language education, etc.” They must be able to “maintain the imagery, and the ‘voice’ of the author.” Since translators are supposed to do that, his request is like asking a doctor to treat sick people.
Then there’s the offer: to translate a book of 108,000 words to French, Spanish, Italian, German or Russian. In six weeks.
As for pay, he’s willing to be flexible. He’ll consider any offer between $1 and $999 (or, as he so elegantly put it: “in the 100s, not the 1000’s or tens of 1000’s.”
Which means, assuming you work all 42 days, that you’re expected to translate 2,500 words into prose that maintains the imagery and the voice of the author, for, at best, $23 a day. Or $2.97 an hour.
I think our man has a great future in the New York publishing industry.
Despite his grandiose dreams, he wants you to know that his mental boat is not completely unmoored from reality.
I know the price I can pay is low. There is no need to write an email to me specifically to complain or insult me if you are a professional translator who charges a truck load of money to translate. I have already pre-instulted myself for offering such low pay for this job. I even did the finger pointing and shouting of insults in the mirror on your behalf.
This, however, makes me reconsider his statement:
IF I CAN GENERATE ENOUGH MONEY SELLING THE ENGLISH VERSION, I intend to start a small physical company in Paris France specifically to hire people to translate about 20 novels into multiple languages (2 for each language). It should take 3 years just to translate all of my novels. I have written many good novels, but I am not a rich author yet. Please keep that in mind when you make an offer. I have spent far more than I have made for my work.
As we used to say in the South, this boy’s cheese done slipped off his cracker.
Even now, I keep returning to this ad. There’s so many unanswered questions. What is this book like? Why Paris? What is he going to do with five more versions of this novel? Will he self-publish it? What if it becomes a best-seller, say, in Germany, but not anywhere else? What would that do to him?
And this translation factory. Will it be rows of scribes industriously scribbling away, like in Sherlock Holmes story “The Red-Headed League”? Will he sit at the front, overseeing the operation, making sure that the right amount of “sex for women way over 50” (one of the novel concepts I forgot to mention) is in there? I’m fascinated by the phrase, “I have written many good novels, but I am not a rich author yet.” How many novels has he written? And does he really expect to be a rich author?
I don’t know, but I hope he succeeds. I’d read the book, if only to find out what “a little military style action” is.