One of the last items on the book publishing to-do list is to create the Acknowledgement Page – the ‘Thank You’s to the team that assisted you in creating your masterpiece. Your family, friends and colleagues who supported you and encouraged you through the process. Your sources who may have carried out research, interviews or surveys for inclusion in the book. Or someone who penned down a foreword for your book or provided you with their expertise in the publishing industry.
These are the people who got you here. Don’t ignore them. An Acknowledgement Page is the place where you have the opportunity to thank them publicly and give them credit for their contribution to your book. It’s a way to display your appreciation for their assistance and support and to let your readers know who was on your team.
Acknowledgements are also one of the few places in a book where an author can break out of their fictional world and address readers in their own voice. This is something a lot more powerful than most authors realize. While the text is supposed to be the most important thing, and the biographical details of a writer’s life should be incidental to the reading experience, the acknowledgement pages can have a subtle effect on the way readers perceive a book.
This is because readers can’t help but slightly judge an author by the way they acknowledge their debts: too effusive and they seem a bit needy and try-hard; too brief and you run the risk of appearing cold and dismissive. It is a difficult line to tread.
There was a time when acknowledgements were brief and rare, and only dedications sufficed. Case in point being, Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre which was signed off to fellow author, Thackeray, plain and simple; as also Anne Brontë’s Agnes Grey, offering no dedication at all. But even though novels went along for more than a century without them, acknowledgements have now become an expected part of a novel’s presentation. Everyone reads the acknowledgements. In fact, for many readers, it is the first thing they do once they pull a book off the store shelf. While the aspiring writers among them might be searching for the agent or the editor they could partner with, friends and family might be seeking their own name in the list. Most readers, though, do it for the drama and the human story revealed therein.
Who goes into the acknowledgements of a book and who a book is dedicated to are entirely personal decisions of the author. Over the course of a writer learning his craft and bringing his novel to life, there are an awful lot of people who can claim to have contributed in one way or another. But does that mean you have to put them all in your acknowledgements?
No. In fact, you should only ever put in people you want to include. There will always be a select group that you feel contributed significantly and really made the completion of any given book possible. Those are the ones you want mentioned in your acknowledgements page. Everyone else will just have to accept your in-person gratitude.
A well composed acknowledgement page can truly be a work of art; expressing with finesse and sincerity the gratitude for a supportive family, a patient and understanding spouse and kids or a best friend who saw the writer through difficulties so that we can glimpse a bit of the author’s life. At their best, acknowledgements also have the potential to be finely-wrought short stories with the author as protagonist.
Here are a few standard guidelines authors could follow while writing their acknowledgement page.
1. An acknowledgement page should be one page in length. If it goes over one page, revise or rewrite it so it can fit on one page. A two-page acknowledgement is too long and runs the risk of making the reader lose interest. Short and sweet works well on the acknowledgement page.
2. Before you get started, take a few minutes to review other acknowledgement pages. Pull a few books off your bookshelf or take a trip to your local bookstore and get a feel for the way they’re written and the content you’ll need to include.
3. Don’t include too many people in your acknowledgements. Authors need to be careful not to be too elaborate in their acknowledgements and appreciation for fear that someone may feel left out or offended. Include those closest to you and the project – the others will understand.
4. Be sure that the person you are thanking is comfortable with his assistance being acknowledged publicly. This could be in case someone granted you unusual access to particular records or exhibits and bent some rules doing so. A public thank you could make for an awkward conversation with that person’s boss and hence a personal thank you note would be more appropriate here.
5. Make sure you spell names correctly. It’s more than a little ironic to misspell the name of someone who means so much to you.
6. Have a third-party review your acknowledgements page before it is set in stone. Did you inadvertently leave an important person out? Is it written well? Could it be written better or condensed even further?
Who Should be Acknowledged?
There is no set policy regarding who to include in your acknowledgements. However, as a rule of thumb, most authors include:
Family members – Parents, spouse, children, or siblings who supported your efforts while writing the book.
Friends – The ones who put up with you in your worst days and did not hesitate to point out the loopholes in your story.
Mentor(s) – Thank the people who inspired you and encouraged you to follow your dream. Their contribution to your success is noteworthy and, most likely, invaluable.
Sources – Considerate authors use this opportunity to thank the people they interviewed as well as those who carried out research or surveys for inclusion in the book.
The Editor – Many authors take a moment to publicly express their gratitude for their editor’s expertise and time in polishing their manuscript.
The Illustrator – It’s common to give credit to the illustrator for their contribution to your book.
The Publishers – That’s a given!
When you’re done, you’ll have a well-written acknowledgements page that gives credit where credit is most definitely due – to the people who helped you make your book possible.