Doing the numbers

A comment asked how much the various elements of the projects I am doing actually cost, aside from the hours and hours of time.  I thought a post on this might be of interest.

My trip to Cambridge to look at Anastasius of Sinai was 120 miles and cost me around $45 in petrol, plus about $7 of copying.

Translating has no fixed cost; it is entirely about supply and demand.  There are other considerations also, which I will come to.

Some translating can be got for nothing.  Much of this is worth what it costs, but an academic will tend to do a good job, even if unpaid.

As a rule I offer 10c per word of the original language, for smaller amounts, and I find that I can usually get someone decent at this price.  For larger amounts I tend to have Migne as a control; I offer $20 per column of Migne (about 400 words).  These numbers apply to Latin, Greek and Christian Arabic.

I have found it quite impossible to get people to translate Syriac at less than 20c per word.  While a lot of people claim to know it, in practice those able and willing are not available for less.

This leads me into the other important aspect — reliability.  There are few things as infuriating as someone who agrees with you to do the work and just doesn’t, or does it to an inferior standard if at all.  I always follow my gut; people who are going to be a pain tend to be a pain pretty early on.  It doesn’t get better — if it isn’t any good initially, it will be worse later. 

You do have to check what you’re being offered, of course.  I always make the first chunk of stuff a sample; if it’s OK, I pay them; if it isn’t, I don’t and cancel the job.  This is essential, unless you want people who wish they could translate offering you gibberish.   The price bears no relationship to the quality of work done, by the way.

Checking means hiring someone to do some work which is really time-related.  I tend to pay $20 an hour for odd bits of work, setting a maximum if I don’t know how long it will be.  Again, this is probably too high, and I try to constrain the price in other ways.

Transcribing text is something I have just started to do.  The web suggests a price of $10 per 1,000 words.  This is probably too much also, but we’ll see how it goes.

Typesetting the book; I haven’t actually done any of this, but the quotes I have are between $300-$700.

Copying in libraries tends to be 15c a sheet.

Are there other costs?  Probably, but these come to me off the top of my head. 

Searching for people to do work: these days I post an ad in BYZANS-L for Greek stuff,  HUGOYE for Syriac.  For Christian Arabic I now have a little pool of people I know are reliable.

So … it can be an expensive business.  But translating the Eusebius and the Origen is turning out to be around $3,300 each.  Now that is not a small sum.  But … it isn’t the end of the world, is it?


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