PEN Translates FAQ | What’s the process?

PEN Translates helps UK publishers meet the costs of translating new works of world literature into English, while ensuring that translators are acknowledged and paid properly for their work.

PEN Translates awards two rounds of grants a year. The spring submission window is open April–May, with awards announced in the November, and the autumn submission window is open October–November, with awards announced the following May.

All submissions are assessed by an independent expert in both the source language and literary landscape of the country of origin, and final awards are determined by an independent panel of literary professionals.

Submission

UK-based publishers can submit applications for book translation projects during the submission windows. Submissions must include an application form detailing how the project meets the PEN Translates assessment criteria, the original-language manuscript, a sample translation, the translator’s CV, confirmation of rights, and a budget. It is not essential for publishers to have acquired rights at the point of application as long as they have permission from the original publisher.

Initial assessment

English PEN assigns each submission to an independent expert assessor from a pool of literary translators and language specialists. The assessors evaluate each submission against the assessment criteria:

  • Literary quality (40% weighting)

PEN Translates supports literature of outstanding literary merit. This will be judged on the quality of the original text, the sample translation, and evidence included in the application.

  • Strength of the publishing project (30% weighting)

PEN Translates supports projects that are accompanied by a strong business plan which identifies the target audience for the book, shows how this audience will be reached through a marketing and publicity campaign, and gives a realistic estimate of all costs.

  • Contribution to UK bibliodiversity (30% weighting)

PEN Translates supports the translation of quality books that will contribute to, or enhance, bibliodiversity in the UK. The programme is committed to championing harder-to-access languages and cultures by supporting the translation of books that might not otherwise be published in English. You can read our ‘What do we mean by bibliodiversity?’ FAQ here.

Selection Panel

The independent assessors’ evaluations and the publishers’ submissions are passed to the PEN Translates Selection Panel – a rotating group of seven independent individuals, drawn from across the literary sector.

This group of writers, translators, scouts, agents, publishers, publicists, booksellers, media representatives and cultural managers review the assessors’ evaluations and publishers’ submissions, and decide on the final list of awards. These decisions are made against the assessment criteria.

Announcement

PEN Translates awards are announced on the English PEN website shortly after the Selection Panel finalise the grants. This announcement is made around six months after the applications have been submitted.

If you have any questions on this process, please email will@englishpen.org

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