PUBLISH: Studying Translation Dynamically

The deadline for this competition has now passed. We will be updating this page in June with the names of our five winners.

Calling all translators of Russian literary fiction!

Have you got a dream translation project you’d like to work on, but can’t afford the time to start? Is there an author whose work you’d like to pitch to a publisher, if only you could produce a sample translation? We might have the answer. Between June and December 2020, the RusTrans project team will financially support up to 5 original short translations of Russian literary fiction (almost any prose genre, except children’s and young adult fiction, will be considered) with a view to kick-starting a full-length project or subsidizing the preparation for a pitch. We will fund a sample translation up to a maximum of 10,000 words per translation project, at the rate currently observed by the Society of Authors (in 2019, approx. £95 per 1000 words). All translations must be into English. All we ask in return is that you keep us updated and provide us with progress reports over the following 18 months (to June 2022) on your progress in publishing your project. Additionally, we would like to publish all or part of your finished sample translation on our website (you retain copyright) – a great way to advertise your work to publishers.

Closing date for entries: March 31, 2020

Why we’re offering this

During the period 2019-2023, the ERC-funded RusTrans team (Project No. 802437) will be researching dynamic processes in Russian-English literary translation. You can read more here. We want to gather data directly from active translators of Russian literature (into English) in order to answer questions such as the following:

  • Which Russian literary authors and genres are most popular with translators?
  • Which Russian literary authors and genres are most popular with publishers?
  • How does a translator advocate for an author or a manuscript? To what extent does the translator act as an agent for the original Russian author?
  • To what extent do market trends and conditions influence the success or failure of a translation pitch?

To collect our data, we would like to follow selected translators through the process of pitching and/or submitting a new translation to publishers in real time. This is why we are offering to kick-start original literary translation projects intended for publication. For example, if you wish to publish a novel by a contemporary Russian author, we can fund the translation of the first chapter or chapters; we can also support the translation of selected stories from a short fiction anthology, if you intend to find a publisher for the entire anthology. In return, we invite you to place the funded section of your translation on our project website if your intention is to use these to pitch the full-length text to publishers; we ask you to provide regular updates plus a final report on how, whether, and where you place your translation with a publisher. This is the information we will use in our research.

Who is eligible?

  • Any Russian-to-English translator may apply, regardless of career stage. Preference will be given to translators who have a clear plan to publish their project and who show good awareness of appropriate publishers, although we will not fund any translations that have already been accepted for publication. Our aim is to subsidize the start of a new, independent translation project which translators might not otherwise be able to afford to begin or complete, in return for data about the publication process. This data will be anonymised before use and destroyed in 2023, when the RusTrans project concludes. There are no restrictions on the nationality or citizenship of the translator, but successful entrants must have fluent English.
  • You should propose to translate a text of up to 10,000 words into English. This will  either form part of a longer work (such as a novel) or consist of one or more short stories from a proposed anthology. This sample translation should form part of a current, active plan to publish the longer work in full. There are no restrictions on length for the longer work. To be eligible, the text proposed for translation must have been written in Russian since 1991.
  • If you are accepted, you must be prepared to deliver your translated text (up to 10,000 words) within a maximum of five months (final submission date November 20, 2020). Between November 2020 and July 2022, you must actively seek a publisher for your project; you also agree to share regular progress update reports with the RusTrans team, including a final report (for which you will receive a nominal fee). You must give consent for your anonymized data to be used by the RusTrans team in Open Access academic publications.
  • You must have obtained permission from the copyright owner of your chosen text to publish it in English.
  • If the work has been previously published in English translation, you may apply to re-translate it, but you should justify the need for a re-translation in your application.
  • Co-translations will be considered, but you should explain why the text requires more than one translator.
  • If you sign a contract with a publisher for your project between June and November 2020, we will continue funding your work up to the agreed word limit, and we will ask you to submit an additional report on how and where you found this publisher, by November 2020.

What is excluded?

Only Russian-language prose fiction intended for translation into English will be considered. We cannot consider fiction written in other Slavic languages. Poetry, drama, non-fiction, children’s and young adult fiction are not eligible for consideration.

How to apply

We ask prospective translators to send the following documents as email attachments in Microsoft Word or PDF format to by March 31st, 2020, with the subject line: “Publish Translations”.

  • a translation CV;
  • a synopsis of between 250 and 1000 words of the text you propose to translate (if you are proposing an extract from a novel, summarize the whole novel);
  • a brief (150 word) biography of the author;
  • a justification for translating this work by this author, including any translation problems which you foresee and a list of potential publishers to target;
  • a sample translation of up to 500 words, which need not be a translation from the text proposed for translation (our purpose is to pay translators, not force them to do unpaid work). The sample translation should be accompanied by the original Russian text for comparison.
  • confirmation that you have copyright for the text you propose to translate (this could be a letter or email signed by the author or the copyright holder, if this is not the author)

All documents should be received by March 31st, 2020.

Full terms and conditions will be issued to successful applicants prior to commencement of the translation work.