First, let me make a distinction between a book’s dedication and the acknowledgements. The acknowledgements page is usually the place where you thank people who have helped with the book (e.g. beta readers, editors, publishers, experts you consulted, supportive family and friends, and the nice people who let who stay in their 5-star hotel while doing research on the beach—I wish!). A dedication sometimes includes a vote of thanks, but it is something more. In a dedication you’re saying, ‘This person is important to me and this book is my gift to them.’
Do You Need a Dedication?
Not necessarily. If you’re a podiatrist and you’ve written a book on treatments for tinea, would your loved ones want you to dedicate the book to them? Maybe, but it could give mixed messages. If you’re a prolific author and you’re up to Book #40, it might be difficult to think of something new to put in a dedication. The choice is yours. Don’t sweat it if you really don’t have a burning desire to dedicate it to someone.
To Whom Do You Dedicate Your Book?
Of course there are no right or wrong answers. Many authors dedicate books to family or friends. Some write dedications to thank people who were particularly involved in the development of the book. Sometimes the content of the book itself may give you some ideas about possible recipients of your dedication. For example, if your heroine has had to overcome a lot of obstacles to succeed in the world, you might like to dedicate it to Aunty Dot who also overcame a lot of barriers in her life. Other times, a more generic dedication might be warranted (e.g. to readers in general or to those who have had to grapple with the issues discussed in the book). Some Christians also dedicate their books to God, but I’ll say more about that a bit later.
Do You Need to Ask Permission to Dedicate a Book to Someone?
It depends. You might want to keep it as a nice surprise. That was the case with me. I wanted to dedicate the book to my parents, so I kept it secret until they could hold the book in their hands and read the dedication for themselves. However, I was also confident that my parents would be pleased. It might be worth running your dedication past the recipient ahead of time if (a) you don’t know them very well, (b) you consulted them in a professional capacity, (c) the book contains sensitive material, or (d) you’re thinking of putting some personal information in the dedication that may not be public knowledge.
Should Dedications in Christian Books Be Different?
We could have a big discussion here about what makes a book ‘Christian’. Some have obvious Christian content, while others may have a more subtle Christian message or worldview. It’s not my intention here to open that whole can of worms, but one issue of difference might be that a Christian author has to think through whether they include God in their dedication or not.
Terri Blackstock typically dedicates her books to ‘the Nazarene’, which of course is a reference to Jesus. Carolyn Miller dedicated The Elusive Miss Ellison to Joshua and ‘the Giver of the Ultimate Gift’. Karen Kingsbury also combined family and God in her dedication to Someone Like You:
Dedicated to my husband, David, and our beautiful family. The journey of life is breathtaking surrounded by each of you. And every minute together is time borrowed from eternity. I love you more than words. And to God, Almighty, who has—for now—blessed me with these.
Some authors also include a scripture. For example, Jeanette O’Hagan dedicated Akrad’s Children to her husband, but concluded with a paraphrase from Song of Songs 8:6-7: ‘Drenching rivers love’s flame will not quench.’
I thought long and hard about this question when I was writing my dedication, but I decided to thank God in my acknowledgements instead.
And finally, I would like to thank my Heavenly Father, who planted the first seed of an idea and watered it as it continued to grow. ‘You are He who took me from my mother’s womb and you have been my benefactor from that day. My praise is continually of You’ (Psalm 71:6b, AMP).
Tips for Writing a DedicationIt can be short and sweet, but think about the wording. Apart from the cover and title, this is the next impression someone will have of your book. I always feel a little disappointed if I read a beautifully-written, well-plotted book, but the dedication just says something like ‘For Anne’. Really? After 80 000 words of beautiful prose, you couldn’t think of anything better to write?
Think about the mood you want to convey. Humorous? Heartfelt? It’s often a good idea to match the mood of the book with the tone of the dedication. If you’ve written a gut-wrenching book about childhood trauma, it’s probably not a good idea to write a flippant dedication. However, a touch of humour can also show the reader something of your personality. What do you want readers to think or feel when they read your dedication?
Can you somehow tie the dedication to the themes in the book? This isn’t always necessary, but it’s a nice touch if relevant. For example, in her book Unnoticed, a revisioning of the Cinderella story in an Australian historical context, Amanda Deed dedicates the story ‘to lovers of fairy tales and of happy ever afters’.
Don’t leave it until five minutes before your deadline. A good dedication takes some thought. Put the same effort into it as you would a beautiful passage in your book.
Do you write dedications for your books? What dedications have you read that left an impression on you? I’d love to hear your examples. Here’s what I wrote in my inspirational historical novel Scattered:
For my parents, Lex and Dawn Wildermuth, who’ve nurtured me from infancy;
and my English birthmother, Monica Hope Sewell (Monny), who died ten years before I started searching for her.
You have all helped make me the person I am today, and I am forever grateful.
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