An acknowledgment section might initially seem like the simplest part of writing your book, but many authors feel stumped once they reach this part of the publishing process. How long should it be? Who to thank? How to say it? It can get surprisingly complicated surprisingly quickly. Read on for our tips on how to write a great acknowledgment page.
Who to Thank
Similar to making a wedding invitation list, the names of people you want to include may seem to pile on top of each other fifty per minute once you start brainstorming, leaving you overwhelmed with who to thank. A good rule of thumb is to stick only to the people who helped you directly in writing and producing the book (ie: not your friend from pre-K who showed you how to tie your shoes, as invaluable that life lesson may be). Common acknowledgment inclusions are family members, sources for nonfiction pieces, your editor and designer/illustrator, your publisher, and your book mentor. BPS also has a good piece of advice—“Be parsimonious in your praise of animals, too.” Sorry, Spot.
We’ve all read a few books whose acknowledgment pages drone on and on for several pages; don’t submit your readers to the same paper cuts. Keep your acknowledgment to one page. As the Technical Communication Center points out, you shouldn’t be afraid of offending anyone you leave out. If you’re only including Aunt Agnes so she won’t make a comment come Thanksgiving and your acknowledgment page is more than one page, it’s time to start mercilessly deleting.
The tone of an acknowledgment page can be tricky. If you’ve written a fiction book, it’s basically the only place you get to write in your own voice instead of a characters’, which can seem odd. If you’re a nonfiction author, you want to make sure that you’re writing in a casual tone, but aren’t straying too far from the tone used throughout your book. Taking a look at other acknowledgment pages of comparable titles will go a long way. Overall, stay personal, professionally casual, and descriptive (ie: don’t simply say “Thanks to my editor, Gil.” Tell us why Gil rocked.).
You might consider asking permission of those you plan to include in the acknowledgment page before penning them in, especially if you’re not close with them. This is especially relevant for nonfiction authors or authors whose books may be controversial; some interviewees you’d like to acknowledge may wish to remain undisclosed because of privacy issues. If you’re not completely sure they’re on board, it’s always better to ask first than risk losing a supporter.
Acknowledgment pages are traditionally placed within the front matter of books, though they will occasionally appear in the back instead. As we pointed out in a previous blog post, the acknowledgment section is sometimes grouped within the preface. If the acknowledgment section stands alone, however, it should follow the preface according to The Chicago Manual of Style. Alternatively, some authors choose to place the acknowledgments either before or after the table of contents. Discuss the placement with your editor to help select the best spot for your section.
Overall, you should have a little fun with your acknowledgments! This is a great opportunity to formally thank all of those who have helped you in the amazing feat of publishing a book. Once you’re finished writing your page, be sure to have a third party take a look and you’ll be on your way to a great and unique acknowledgement page—one your buyers might actually read. . .Well, maybe not, but we all have dreams, right?