Do you read the acknowledgements page/s in books? It’s easy to skip over these sections, but they can contain interesting information. How else would you know that the author received free accommodation at an Hawaiian hotel while researching her book? I actually came across that snippet and made a mental note to set a novel in a location I’d like to visit! The acknowledgements can also give you insights into the author’s world and even provide you with some tips you could pursue for your writing (e.g. names of publishers, editors, agents in your preferred genre).
However, there is an art to writing good acknowledgements. It’s not something to be dashed off in five minutes before your book goes to print. Here are some suggestions that will help you to craft an acknowledgements section that people will want to read.
Who Do You Thank?
The list is endless, but here are some people you would typically thank:
- Those who helped you brainstorm ideas.
- People who helped with any research you did for the book (e.g. experts you interviewed).
- Readers who gave you feedback at various stages of manuscript development, such as editors, your critique group, or beta readers (i.e. readers who gave your book a ‘test run’).
- People who helped with the production of the book (e.g. publishers, in-house editors, cover designers).
- People who supported and encouraged you through the process, such as family and friends, writing groups, and readers who have embraced your writing and spurred you on.
Do You Need Someone’s Permission to Acknowledge Them?
You don’t usually need permission, but you might want to check in some cases. For example, if you’ve consulted experts working in sensitive areas (e.g. police officers, child protection officers, medical personnel, psychiatrists), you might want to check whether they’re happy for their names to be used. If you’re using people’s personal stories in a non-fiction book, you might also want to check whether they are happy for their names to be used or whether they would prefer a pseudonym.
If you paid someone to work on your book (e.g. an editor), you’re not obligated to thank them, though it is a nice gesture. However, ask how they would like to be acknowledged. As an editor myself, I appreciate it when people thank me for my help. Rather than being acknowledged as the editor, however, I usually prefer a more generic reference such as thanks for my feedback on an earlier draft of the book. The reason for this is that I rarely see the author’s final version, and don’t know what they’ve actually done with any of my suggestions. If in doubt, it’s a good idea to check with the person.
How Much Detail?
This is a bit like, ‘How long is a piece of string?’ It will differ depending on how many people you’ve consulted, how much research you had to do, how complicated your manuscript was and so on. However, avoid doing the catch-all list of everyone who’s ever helped you with anything to do with your writing. Do you really need to thank the Grade 3 teacher who gave you a good mark for your first story? Probably not, unless that person really encouraged you to pursue your dream when everyone else made you feel worthless.
I had to think about this issue when writing the acknowledgements for my debut novel Scattered. It took me more than seven years to write and there are so many people who’ve helped me hone my craft. If I’d thanked every workshop instructor, writing teacher, blogger, colleague and fellow writer who’d inspired me or taught me something, it would have been a very long list. So I opted for something more generic:
I’m grateful for the many creative people in my life who have provided friendship, instruction, support and inspiration over the years, especially my friends in Omega Writers, Christian Writers Downunder, Australasian Christian Writers; the Creative Writing staff at Tabor College, Adelaide; and the facilitators and fellow students in QWC’s Novelist’s Boot Camp and Year of the Edit. You’ve all helped more than you know.
I’ve read some acknowledgements sections where the author says something like, ‘I would like to thank the following people for their help’, and then rattles off a list of 50 people. I don’t know what any of these people did and I tend to skip over that whole paragraph.
I know space can sometimes be an issue, but it’s often better to say something specific about the key people who’ve helped you where possible. For example, I named four people who’d helped me ‘hone the synopsis and/or some sections of the novel’; and I mentioned a Canadian friend who’d given me advice regarding ‘horses and all things Nova Scotian’.
Take Care with Your Writing
Although readers wouldn’t expect your acknowledgements to be written as creatively as the rest of your book, you’re still showcasing your writing. Can you add things that reflect your personality, such as humour or heartfelt insights? Can you mix up the writing so that it’s not boring? Instead of repeating ‘I would like to thank’ a dozen times, intersperse your prose with gratitude, appreciation, indebtedness and so on. If you’re not sure what to write, check out some books in your genre and read their acknowledgements sections to get a feel for how different authors handle this task. The acknowledgements say more about you than you think, so it’s worth the effort to get it right.
The God Factor
If you’ve written a book that is overtly Christian or has a Christian worldview, you may also like to thank God. Afterall, He’s the one who has given us our creative gifts. Whether you do that in your dedication or acknowledgements section is up to you. For some ideas on that, you might like to see my recent post about book dedications.
There is also an obvious connection between our relationship with God and the overflow of thankfulness in our lives. As we acknowledge all He has done for us, we will want to pour out that gratitude to others who have helped us along the way:
I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus (Philippians 1:3-6, NIV).
Let's show our appreciation to all those who have helped make our books the best they can be, and so bring glory to God.
Do you read acknowledgements sections? What makes you read all the way to the end and what makes you skip?
Nola Lorraine (aka Nola Passmore) wrote her first mystery story in primary school. She used the word ‘suddenly’ five times and Mr Cuskelly circled every one of them. She’s come a long way since then, with more than 150 short publications, including fiction, poetry, devotions, true stories, magazine articles and academic papers. Her debut novel Scattered was released in October 2020. She is also the co-editor of the Christian charity anthology Glimpses of Light, with Jeanette O’Hagan.
When she’s not tinkering with her own writing, she’s assessing and editing other people’s manuscripts through The Write Flourish, a freelance business she and her husband Tim run from their home in southeast Queensland, Australia. She has a passion for faith and social justice issues, and loves weaving words that inspire others with courage and hope.
Featured photo by Gerhard G. on Pixabay.
Checklist by Deedster on Pixabay.
Author photo by Wayne Logan from WRL Photo.