@BesciNY, Res-can, Richard:
Thank you for your responses. It seems there are greater dissimilarities between types of translation (books, commercial shorter texts, patents and legtal papers) than between US and D within each of these fields.
BesciNY: The "Normseite" is not complicated when you translate a book, but I see the advantages of a word count if you translate patents. My calculation is similar to yours: I can translate, say, 6 pages a day, so I can roughly say how long it will take me to translate a book. I usually miscalculate, however, as it is very difficult to say in advance if you can keep up the pace over 500 pages. The book/style/author gets on your nerves, research problems crop up, publishers' readers interfere... Many colleagues have similar problems and see their calculations in ruins at the end of the year.
Res-can: The above is of course from a North American perspective. Yes, that was what I was interested in. I think that agencies work along much the same lines in Germany. I have met very few people in Germany who translate books and have an affiliation with one or more agencies. The deadlines get in the way of each other, and the requirements are very different. -- So Esp/E-translations are "cheaper". I suspected so much, but I didn't think of the obvious fact that there is more competition due Hispanic Americans undercutting each other. A comparable effect is undercutting for English translations in Germany. Sometimes publishers "accept" the offer of a rookie who is willing to accept 11 Euros per page and then have some editor smoothe it over (or, sadly, not even that). (I'm not talking of technical translations, of course.) And El boludo was, I'm afraid, also right in pointing out (#19) that in book publishing many women are ready to accept lower rates as they don't depend on this income. This, of course, is an insult to independent women as well as women or men who have to support a family. (If you want to support a family, translating books is not a good choice in Germany.)
Richard: Yes (#12), you confirm what I said at the end of #9. If you do legal translations, your qualification in law is much more important than any formal qualification as a translator. And you were able to raise your rates with experience. As far as I know, 50 Euros for 1,800 characters of legalese is a fairly good rate (I know a couple of people who charge slightly less). The point is, you are being paid for your expertise, your writing skills come second. In book publishing, this aspect is rarely considered. If you specialize in translating books on physics, you have to become an expert (and as long as you're not, you will spend hours and hours on the phone or the net, with the author or with other experts, in order to have it all explained to you. There are very few translators in Germany who have come to be regarded as experts in highly specialized fields (philosophy, linguistics, psychoanalysis) and are paid accordingly.
A slight correction to your #18, Richard. eine Normseite wird z.B mit 1.800 Anschlägen berechnet, d.h. ca 32/33 Zeilen -- the SNS (Schreibmaschinennormseite) is 30 lines of 60 characters on average. You type the text (as it is in the original, headlines and paragraphs and indentions and all) into this frame. Depending on the text, this frame may then contain 1,000 or 1,400 or 1,700 characters. As I said before, you can agree on payment per 1,800 characters, but you must be aware (as a translator of books, again) that this is less than an SNS. The thumb rule is, if you want 15 Euros per SNS, you must demand this plus 12% (for normal prose) if you are offered a 1,800-character-contract. (Thanks to CM2DD for putting the link to VdÜ in at #10).
This said, I'd like to know if tobocopter still wants to be a translator. If so, I'd advise that s/he try out a couple of options like working for anyone who has offers for freelance work. Try it out, see what you can get. If you think of translating books, get some other job on the side. (And thanks to Solveig #17 for adding weight to this warning.)
Back to work.