Acknowledgments and dedications are great fun. People who see their names acknowledged in a book get a real spring in their step and they tend to feel really good about themselves and you for quite some time afterward. Giving someone a copy of a book that’s been dedicated to them is a pure pleasure that generates a warm glow in the giver and receiver. Best of all, Acknowledgments and dedications are great gifts that cost you nothing and one-size-fits-all.
Acknowledgments aren’t as big as a dedication. They’re simply a way of saying “Thank you” for something specific to the book. This doesn’t have to be big; little stuff is worth acknowledging, too. I’ve acknowledged people who came up with important ideas, reviewers, agents, publishing staff, and people who made a last-minute repair to a computer monitor or sent me information about one nitty little technical point.
Here’s a short list of people you may want to acknowledge:
- your spouse/significant other
- your agent/agency
- the staff at the publisher, including the acquisitions editor, the developmental editor, the production people, the copyeditor, the proofreader, the indexer, any artists connected with book design and cover or inside illustrations, the marketing team, and so on
- your tech reviewers and researchers–they’re very important to the success of your book and deserve praise
- friends who were supportive
- company representatives who provided support, as well as the names of companies who may have been helpful
- people who inspired you to do this book in the first place
Always keep track of the acknowledgments as you go. Don’t figure you’ll remember the names of everyone who helped or the circumstances by the end of the book. Start an “acknowledgments” file when you first start trying to pitch the book and make notes as soon as they happen.
Another interesting thing to consider is that you should make sure that the people want to be acknowledged. Sure, most people respond to getting their names in print, but you might actually hurt someone if, for example, their employer doesn’t allow them to have anything to do with outside projects even if they don’t make any money. You can make sure that someone wants an acknowledgment when you check on how they want their name to appear in print and that you’ve spelled everything correctly.
A dedication is a note at the beginning saying for whom the book was written. Think of dedications as being in honor of someone (or something). The dedication doesn’t have to be specifically related to the book; think of the dedication as a gift and the book is just the means of conveying it.
Who do you dedicate the book to? Think about who inspired you, who is important in your life, or who you’d like to make happy. You can dedicate it to a single person, to several people, a group of people, an organization, or even an idea. If there are multiple authors on a book, each author gets a dedication.
Dedications can be a great way of showing that you’ve made it to a point: for example, a dear friend of mine wrote a book about something I kept trying to tell him about years before. He had a dedication to me that said “And to my old friend, John, who kept trying to tell me about this when we were in high school–I got it, John, I finally got it!”
The dedication can be something as simple as “To [name of significant other]” or something a good deal longer. I dedicated an early book to my father, the history professor, and had several sentences of text about why I am so pleased to be his son.
Dedications (and acknowledgments) can be fun. One of my favorites was a friend’s dedication to his wife: “To Jill, without whom I would still be impossible.” It should probably also be pointed out that punctuation and structure are incredibly important in dedications. The best example of this was the following nugget resulting from the omission of a serial comma: “To my parents, God and Ayn Rand.”
I’ve dedicated books for wedding gifts, to friends on the occasion of the birth of their first child, to my high school graduating class, and in honor of the retirement of someone who was instrumental in getting me started in the writing biz. I’ve dedicated two books to significant others, but, oddly enough, both relationships broke up not long after. I am very keen on the woman I’m now married to, so I’m not planning on dedicating a book to her, ever.
Writing a book is a huge undertaking that never happens on its own. However, judging by the current crop of technical books, many authors are unaware of the value of dedications and acknowledgments… which is a real shame. As writers, we have a particularly large audience, and an exceptional ability to thank people for the help they have given us. People appreciate being remembered and having their contributions acknowledged publicly. This short series of posts will describe dedications and acknowledgments and give you some tips on how to use them.