Friday, September 9, 2011

On Dedications and Acknowledgements

I thought I'd write a little blog post on these two often overlooked parts of a book: The Dedication and The Acknowledgements pages. Maybe not everyone cares about these two pieces, maybe not every book has them, maybe they're not essential to the enjoyment of reading a book but for an author (and sometimes a reader) these two things can add another layer to the story. A personal slant that can give some insight into the author's thoughts and feelings when writing that book.

Before I began writing, I never used to think much about, or necessarily even read, the dedication or acknowledgement pages. Well, perhaps the dedication because it was at the beginning of a book and maybe only consisted of a few lines. But half the time the dedication was so cryptic: e.g. For L.M. Huh? Who was/is L.M. ? What kind of influence did they have on the author? Was it their wife? Maybe it was the librarian at the public library? Who knew? Sometimes the dedication was more personal and offered a little tease like: For Alice. The woman who changed my life. Really? Again, who is Alice and how, exactly did she change the author's life?

Maybe I'm just an overly curious person. I know a dedication is a very personal thing. Maybe it's best that a dedication be cryptic. Maybe the person being dedicated to is very private and doesn't want their name splashed over the pages of a book. There is no rule that says the author has to explain anything about who he/she is dedicating the book to and why. Still, I kind of like to know. When I dedicated ILLEGALLY BLONDE I wrote the dedication to my parents both in Portuguese and English so that they understood why I was dedicating it to them. But, again, that was a personal choice.

The Acknowledgement page is a different beast altogether. I've read some beautifully crafted words that acknowledge the special people who have influenced or inspired the author in their writing. I've also read just a long listing of names that have no meaning for me whatsoever but, with space constraints, maybe a listing was all the author could do. I'm sure the author at least wanted to make note of all the people who have had some role in making the book come to fruition - whether with research, moral support or as part of the publishing team. Again, how an author wishes to acknowledge the people involved in their personal or writing life is up to them but in the case of acknowledgements, I feel like cryptic or a long list of names doesn't work.

Now that I'm an author I often read the acknowledgement page with as much interest as the book itself. Sometimes, an author will give the reader a little story as to how/why they wrote the book or who inspired them. Maybe the issue in the book has touched them personally in some way. Also, from a purely selfish publishing perspective, I love to read the acknowledgements that authors give to their editors or agents. Those shout-outs can tell a prospective author a lot about who they would love to work with in future. I find that in debut novels the acknowledgements page can go on for quite a bit. But that's understandable - who knows if a writer will ever get another chance to publish their thanks?!

I've just finished writing the dedication and acknowledgements for my second book, THE BREAK. For some reason this time it was harder. My dedication for the book is not to one particular person but is more generic in nature and it gave me a lot of trouble for being only one line in length! My acknowledgements were easier but I still fretted about acknowledging some of the same people I did in ILLEGALLY BLONDE while saying something different to them. I also acknowledged people who have passed away and hope I did it with caring and respect and didn't make it too maudlin. What I always worry about the most is the people who I have NOT acknowledged. Many of my friends and family may not be identified specifically but since I like to acknowledge a name with a statement as to why they're being acknowledged if I named everyone I'd have an Acknowledgement book not a page. Ah, well. I wouldn't be me if I didn't fret about something.

So, what do you think about it? Are Dedications and Acknowledgements important? Or do you not think about/notice them at all?


  1. I love reading the Dedication and Acknowledgements pages! Like you said, a lot of times there's a story involved. Other times, it's because it's a small world and you never know who knows the same writer or CP you do. And always because these pages show we seem to be alone in the journey but we're truly not...when we step away from the page!

  2. I love dedications and acknowledgements, especially when I get a deeper glimpse into the author's world.

  3. Oh, how we think alike, Nelsa. I always read the acknowledgments and dedications, often before starting the book. I feel, rightly or not, that they hold some key to a part of the story.
    In A Series of Unfortunate Events, the author turned the dedication of each into an art-from all its own. My son looked forward to them, and who could blame him with memorable lines such as ‘For Beatrice –You will always be in my heart, in my mind, and in your grave.’

  4. I'm terrified I'll accidentally leave somebody important out of the acknowledgements. I so don't want to hurt anyone's feelings!

  5. Hi Anne: I know, right? I sometimes go straight to the acknowledgements page before I even start reading the book!

    Hi Caroline: Yes,those little glimpses are fascinating for me too.

    Hi Mirka! Now I'm going to have to dig up my daughters Lemony Snickett books and remind myself of how hilarious the author is! There should be an award for most entertaining acknowledgment page, dontcha think??

    Hi Linda! Oh, I know. I wish I could write pages and pages of acknowledgements - especially to each and every one of my writing friends who give support in too many ways to mention...

  6. I am also a dedicated reader of the acknowledgements page. Even as a child, I loved these pages because they made the author into a real person with friends and family who cared about them.

  7. Hi Vonna! Yes, I think that's it exactly. It's that connection - the insight - into the author's world that is fascinating to me.

  8. I don't look too much into dedications, but I enjoy reading acknowledgments from an industry standpoint. It's interesting to read about the author's agent, editor, crit partners, conference activity, etc.