Giving Thanks, Or, the Trouble with Acknowledgments


Elizabeth Bluemle - December 2, 2009

Thanksgiving got me thinking about acknowledgments pages in novels, and my mixed reaction to them. Initially, my ambivalence confused me; I’m all for expressing appreciation and I love the generosity of spirit expressed in these pages. Why, then, do I sometimes wish authors would put those thankful words in a handwritten note to their intended recipients instead of into the novel?

Dedications, I understand. They are special, they are personal, they are brief. They generally preserve an author’s mystery and privacy, while still reaching out to someone special. And I have no quarrel with nonfiction acknowledgments; those are de rigeur. It would be, at the very least, unprofessional to ignore the sources and resources behind the research process. Acknowledgments pages for a fiction title, on the other hand, are trickier. I’m of two minds about them.

Here’s what happens when I come upon the acknowledgments pages of a book:

A) How thoughtful! Publicly thanking all the people who have helped one along the journey of a novel is a lovely thing to do. And it’s a little window into the personal life of the author. It’s fun to read these tidbits, and especially wonderful to know who edited the book. (Side note here: I wish publishers included the editor’s name on the copyright page. So interesting!)

B) Ack! Publicly thanking all the people who have helped one along the journey of a novel is so … public. And, it’s a little window into the personal life of the author. (Meaning, Wow, am I kicked right out of the world of the story and its magic.)

Mind B, I’ve discovered after much rumination, is disconcerted by two main issues:

First, acknowledgments pages have the potential to project a—certainly innocent and obviously unintentional—self-congratulatory air. When I mentioned the topic of this post to Flying Pig staffer Kelly Dousevicz, she succinctly observed, "They often read like an award acceptance speech, without the award." Especially disconcerting is the experience of reading acknowledgments pages before reading the novel itself. Designers, please don’t undermine your authors this way; acknowledgments belong at the back of the book, where the reader has a sense of the author’s accomplishment, and a chance to agree that the novel has earned its acceptance speech.

What’s paradoxical is that the purpose of acknowledgments pages is the opposite of self-congratulation; authors are self-deprecating, grateful, trying to pass around and share the appreciation. But I’m not sure the public expression of that gratitude serves the book itself, because of the second concern of Mind B: the revelation of the all-too-human wizard behind the curtain.

Acknowledgements pages can have the subtle psychological effect of undercutting the authority of the storyteller by being a little too revealing, by broadcasting an author’s private uncertainties about the work, self-consciousness as an artist, or by laying bare the scaffolding of craft. In this age of direct contact with fans, and Twitter and Facebook updates where personal and professional lines are ever more blurred, I think there is something to be said for a certain amount of reserve (not that I achieve that myself; I simply admire it). Many of the most revered writers are those who retain some privacy and mystery, and I don’t think that’s necessarily a coincidence.

The world of a book, after all, is a private conversation between author and reader. Acknowledgments pages break that spell by bringing in the outside world. When agents and managers start to appear in acknowledgments, things get even weirder: here comes the world of commerce and deal-making, crashing the story party.

I’m not as anti-acknowledgments as this post might make me sound. I just think it’s difficult to achieve the right balance of brevity, humility, gratitude, and self-restraint.  Don’t get me wrong; if I wrote a novel, I’m pretty sure I would be tempted to write Proustian acknowledgments, wanting to thank the village it took to rope me to my chair to work that hard, and who put their own hard work and amazing creative efforts into making the book its best possible incarnation. I put acknowledgments in my first picture book, and picture books don’t generally include acknowledgments. So I do understand the impulse, and sympathize. But I’m starting to notice acknowledgments "sticking out" from the book in a different way than they used to, and am trying to figure out why this bothers me.

How do *you* feel about acknowledgments pages in novels? Is it just me?

70 thoughts on “Giving Thanks, Or, the Trouble with Acknowledgments

  1. NancyNaigle

    I always flip to them and read them. I don’t know – as a reader it makes me endear the author and the journey of getting your story told. It’s kind of a “takes a village” journey. I like them.

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  2. Wendy Nelson Tokunaga

    As a novelist, I labor of writing my Acknowledgments page, making sure I leave no one out. And I know that when I was pre-published I found Acknowledgment pages to be a great resource for finding names of editors and agents. If you don’t like them, you can always skip over them. 🙂

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  3. Randi

    In this day and age where fewer and fewer people write thank-you notes or practice social niceties, I feel that it’s a lovely gesture to acknowledge the people who made the author’s goal possible. It also makes the book even more special for those people, because a book is a tangible keepsake, unlike today’s emailed thank-you notes. Too often in life we concentrate on the negatives, so it’s refreshing to focus on the positives.

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  4. Texas Librarian

    I appreciate the acknowledgments in mysteries because it tells me that the writer did some research in order to be somewhat accurate in how their characters and plot are presented. I guess I want to know that my “conversation” comes from someone with some real knowledge.

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  5. Sam

    I like acknowledgments and I confess that I used them when looking for an agent to figure out who repped my fave authors. In mine I thanked family, friends, people who provided research and many people at the publishing house. My mother tears up when she sees her actual name in print – it means a lot to her every time. I’ve also gotten more than one email from people at the pub house saying my book was the first they’d been publicly acknowledged and how much it meant to them. I agree that a personal thanks is always warranted but I also feel like it’s not fair that just my name be on the book when there were so many other people without whom the book wouldn’t exist (or wouldn’t be stocked in stores, etc). My hope is that people who don’t like to read them will just skip over and that everyone else will see them as what they are: heartfelt gratitude duly acknowledged for all to see.

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  6. Beth Kanell

    That reassurance about research and authenticity is surely of value. Beyond that, the tradition of thanking the “village” that walked through the process with the author is probably more of a “custom” at this point, than a necessity. I am often intrigued, though, to discover connections among new and established authors through the “Acks.” My own preference: Put them at the end of the book, not the start — so they are not distracting, and so they may answer questions that the novel has raised.

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  7. KT Horning

    Thank you! I don’t have a problem with acknowledgments per se; what I find annoying are the ones that go on and on in excruciating detail, thanking everyone the author has talked to while writing the book, everyone who gave the author inspiration along the way, and everyone who ever told the author he or she could write a book, back to grade school teachers. I think your colleague hit the nail on the head — it’s an award acceptance speech with no award, and a very boring acceptance speech at that. It’s only truly meaningful to the author and the people who are acknowledged — so why not just send each one a signed copy of the finished book, with a personal note of acknowledgment, and leave the rest of us in blissful ignorance?

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  8. Lisa Mantchev

    Acknowledgments–for me–are like the credits at the end of the movie… not just a public giving of thanks, but giving credit where credit is due to all the people, from editors and artists and design folks, to family, friends, and those who aided in research. The book itself should certainly be a private conversation between reader and author, but the truth of it is, the author alone did not put that book in the hands of the reader… a team of people did, working behind the scenes.

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  9. Deborah Wiles

    I have just finished writing the acks for my new novel. Five years ago I would have totally agreed with you, Elizabeth. And mostly I still do. But I also think that public acknowledgements are like an archive or a history of a book, and something that the old, doddering author can look back on, years hence, and say, “Oh, yes, I remember it well.” Writing acknowledgements is such a pleasure because it IS an acceptance speech. It may by (and usually is) the only one the author gets to deliver. And it’s such a pleasure to deliver it! Such a delight to write and remember those without whom, literally, your book would not have come to shining publication. It’s okay if you (the author) wax rhapsodic. The only person who is going to care about that, decades from now, is you. And that’s okay, too. And one last thought. You write: “Many of the most revered writers are those who retain some privacy and mystery, and I don’t think that’s necessarily a coincidence.” True. Also true in this electronic, social networking day and age, however, is that many of today’s revered writers (to use your term) are those who also maintain quite a voracious and energetic public discource with their readers. But this is a topic for another column (I hope!).

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  10. shelftalker elizabeth

    I love the discussion! Although I am sad that my author friends will feel a small dash of coldness toward me forever after this. 🙁 With regard to acknowledgments acting as post-movie credits, I just had the funniest image of walking into the Louvre and seeing a placard next to the Mona Lisa: “I’d like to thank Andrea del Verrocchio for his expert advice while I was an apprentice; to Ludovico il Moro, without whose patronage I might never have had time to develop my art; to his majesty Francis !—you rock, King of the Renaissance!; and of course to Mona Lisa, whose smile continues to mean everything to me.”

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  11. Carol Chittenden

    Acknowledgments are dandy and delightful. It’s the dedications that drive me nuts: seems like the smaller the book’s merit, the longer the book’s dedication. In my head that always translates to “this is who will forgive me for publishing such a piece of tripe.” Partly this is because self-published books are largely unedited and undesigned, so there’s no guidance as to what’s usual, appropriate, etc. — and so many are written by people who obviously haven’t opened a book since their last exam cram session. Superb books, on the other hand, most frequently have those delightfully cryptic dedications, and a cheerfully expressed page of acknowledgments at the end — IMHO.

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  12. Kate Messner

    I’d just like to say, Elizabeth, that I am just about to write the acks for my 2010 book, and this post has caused me more stress than you can even imagine. I may have to thank you publicly in SUGAR ON SNOW just to get even…

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  13. shelftalker elizabeth

    Aww, so sorry, Kate. There are acknowledgments pages I love! I’m sure, however, everyone’s read an example or two of the ones I’m talking about, the too-personal ones. I’m not saying it can’t be done well—just trying to tease out why sometimes they make me feel embarrassed. I’m pretty certain I’ll never get another acknowledgment in my career after this. *chuckle*

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  14. Deva Fagan

    As a writer, I agree with what Lisa Mantchev says above. I am very very grateful to everyone who helps put my books into the hands of readers, and I really love the chance to thank them. I can certainly understand that some folks may not care to read acks, however, and I can only hope that those people will simply skip over them. As a reader, I do enjoy reading the acknowledgments most of the time, but I definitely prefer them placed at the end of the book.

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  15. Beth Brezenoff

    I love acknowledgment pages and often read them first (though I agree, they should always be at the end of the book, preferably separated from the text by a blank page or two). But I’m an editor, so I read them almost as career development–it’s interesting to see who’s working on what. On that note, I was interested to see, Elizabeth, that you’d like to see editors’ names on the copyright page. I’ve always operated under the assumption that the designer is listed, but the editor, as her work is invisible, is not. But I will admit to having at times felt slighted by the omission, especially when I’ve worked really hard on a book. Here at Stone Arch, we tend to list editors only on the graphic novels, since that’s more of a comics convention. I’m curious if others have thoughts about this. (I suspect I have more thoughts about it than most people.)

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  16. Kim L.

    Some acks are too personal, true. But most aren’t, and speaking as a former seeking-tenure person, the acks help in terms of letting your tenure reviewers know what influence you’ve had on other people in the field. I treasure all the books where I was acknowledged for some small input into the author’s book.

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  17. kirby larson

    What an intriguing discussion! I do express my personal thanks to all who have helped me in the creation of my books but feel it is only fair and proper that they are recognized in some public way as well. I owe much to so many fabulous librarians, for example, and these are people who deserve every ounce of praise and celebration and acknowledgment they can get.

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  18. Janice Trumbull

    Publicly thanking your editor, agent, etc. can reflect genuine appreciation and affection–but it may also be political. Agents, editors, etc. like to see themselves thanked, and in many cases authors omit them at their peril. Alternatively if an author praises friends and other connections, but omits his or her editor or agent, that tells you something too. I’m fascinated by these dynamics in acknowledgments, and always read them.

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  19. shelftalker elizabeth

    Kim, I hear you. And I, too, treasure the books whose authors have thoughtfully included me! I’m still teasing out the refinements of what works and doesn’t work for me. Beth, I totally agree that editors, of all people, deserve to be listed in the book’s information. I love typography, but it’s so funny to me that I might learn the book has been set in 11-point Goudy Old Style, but have no clue about the shepherd of the work. Many editors I’ve talked to about this seem shy, or prefer to be invisible. I’d love to hear from more people about this!

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  20. R.J. Anderson

    I don’t consider acknowledgments to pull me out of the story or spoil the magic of the fictional world, because to me they’re completely separate from the story — for me, reading the acks is no different than putting down a just-finished novel and picking up a phone book or the newspaper. I’ve also seen very few acks that struck me as self-congratulatory — but then, admittedly, I often don’t read the acks at all unless I have some reason to believe they’ll be funny, or interesting, or contain the name of someone I know personally. I think I would get a more negative impression from an author who didn’t include acks in their book at all, than from one who acknowledged a lot of people. The former suggests arrogance, the latter humility and appreciation, IMO. Also, friends and family are often deeply moved by having their contributions acknowledged in a permanent form that ANYONE who picks up a copy of the book can read. Sending a personal note, while nice, doesn’t convey nearly the same level of prestige or appreciation on the one being acknowledged.

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  21. Lisa Mantchev

    *should have said that I, too, prefer the acks at the end of the novel, for the sake of suspension-of-disbelief* Also: Leonardo’s acks for the win… that made me snicker into my coffee.

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  22. AO

    As an editor of non-fiction books, my name is always on the credits page, so you would think that it wouldn’t be that big a deal to be on the ackno page too. But, no, it’s the total opposite. I love being in the acknowledgements, especially when I’ve worked with an author for almost a year fleshing this book out and helping to fine tune the work. It makes me feel appreciated. When I read the draft acknos that authors send me and I’m not included, I feel slighted. I wonder what happened to all the comraderie and cooperation we had going on with the project. Sure as the editor I could just stick my name in there myself and the authors would be none the wiser until they opened up their published copy, but they have to do it themselves because it would actually be coming from the heart (or from obligation, whichever way you would like to look at it). So, authors, always acknowledge your editors. We work hard for you.

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  23. Mary Ann Rodman

    I have been really aware of “acks” since I did some research at a small town historical society. Usually such places are thrilled to help out a writer, but this one had been “short-changed” by a writer who they had helped out, who mentioned not a word of their assistance in his book. Ouch! I convinced them that I WOULD mention them, and even spell their names correctly. I’m still working on that book but rest assured, those county historical society folks will get their due when (and if) it ever comes out! Aside from that, my family has spent countless hours sharing their memories and personal letters and pictures with me. To not thank them in the book just seems rude to me.

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  24. Elizabeth Dulemba

    I completely see your point – a letter at the end of the book definitely takes you out of the story. However, my stronger emotion is I enjoy learning the ‘behind the scenes’ story more. 🙂 e

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  25. Sarah MacLean

    I absolutely see both Mind A & Mind B’s point. My debut novel had an impressive list of acknowledgments. My second book went to print with a dedication only. But I’m also an inveterate voyeur…so I absolutely read acks when they’re included. I do think that there are two cases when acknowledgments are (i hope) to be expected (and forgiven): a) Debut novels – your first book is a big BIG deal. The biggest. I understand (and have, myself, experienced) the need to thank everyone and your mother. You might never get a chance to do that again. b) When research is involved. Historical novels take copious amounts of research…historical novels that take on interesting topics that aren’t in the public consciousness, even more. If you’ve had a researcher or a scholar help you, that person deserves a thank you.

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  26. Roy M Carlisle

    Historical perspective. Acks are now compensating for decades of editorial and support team invisibility perpetrated by publishing houses and publishing executives. In this regard I think they are legitimate and even necessary. That doesn’t mean that authors know how to write them, often they don’t, and I have gently suggested changes, additions, etc over my 35 years as an editor and publisher. And as a publisher I did move them into the back matter. They should not interfere in the reader’s journey until they want to read them, or not. But without them the author perpetrates and colludes in a lie, that somehow a book is done without help, support, or devotion on the part of many people. Obviously I have no ambivalence about this topic and I encourage all writers/authors to write an ack, fiction or nonfiction.

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  27. shelftalker elizabeth

    Hmm. I absolutely agree that editors and designers and art directors and publishers and agents deserve thanks, and since the team is not listed anywhere in the book, acknowledgments are the only opportunity for them. And, of COURSE thanks are vital and well-deserved. I really think that a lot depends on the wording. Some ack pages are just perfect; others, as you say, Roy, need editing. Mind B doesn’t have trouble with the purpose or intention of ack pages, but the execution. Note: I added some text to my last paragraph in the original blog post above that I think might help clarify what I’m getting at.

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  28. ex-editor

    As a former editor, I was always delighted to be acknowledged — I loved to see my name in the book, even if no one knew who I was or what I did. I do know there are some publishing houses who do not allow their authors to dedicate a book or acknowledge their editors, however. Back to politics, I guess…

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  29. Erin Dionne

    As a reader, I agree with RJ–the acks are separate from the story for me, and I read them with an air of curiosity about the author. I love finding those little connections between writers, or seeing a note to a family member who kept the writer going. As a writer, I feel that acks are so, so important because although I’m the one putting words on the page, there’s so much more to writing a book than just that. I did thank a lot of people in my debut novel, and am proud of that. Those people helped me, inspired me, and gave me the foundation to pursue this oftentimes difficult career. For my second book, the acks are shorter, but the designer and I had more “fun” with them–which probably won’t earn me points with ack-haters. Ultimately, the acks are not about the reader, they’re for the author and those who are thanked. It saddens me to think that acknowledgements can color a reader/reviewer’s impression of the novel. If some authors “share” more than others, so be it. They worked hard to create their book, and acks are one place where they can express how grateful they are to those who helped along the way.

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  30. Linda Urban

    I loved writing the acks page for my novel — and I’m afraid it does read like an award speech, too! Thing is, I doubt that my real readers — kids — ever even look at it. What pulls me out of a book is the author photo! Especially when I was a child reader, completely in sync with the main character of the story, totally believing she was a living, breathing real-life person just like me — it ruined everything to see the photo of the old lady who really wrote those words.

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  31. Suzannah

    I like reading acknowledgments pages. It doesn’t detract from the story. I am aware that I am reading something that is made-up, and I am also aware that while a person has to sit down alone and write for the time it takes to finish a book, that’s not all it takes for a book to get written or published. Acknowledgments are a way for the writer to give a public wink and a nod to the people who deserve it. You can be sure writers thank those people privately, too. It doesn’t take the place of other acts of gratitude (including thank you notes, but often much more).

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  32. AO

    Linda, that’s so funny, I totally agree. Here I am totally engaged in a story about something or other and when I get to the back there’s some picture of a guy who lives with his wife in two kids and two cats in Tennessee. No offense, but that’s not what I’m picturing while I’m reading my thriller du jour. Knocks the wind out of my sails.

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  33. Kristin Tubb

    An awards speech – absolutely! I’ve been blessed to write two acknowledgments now, and writing them made me extremely self-conscious. However, I can’t imagine NOT including one. I’d rather feel self-conscious than slight all the people who had a hand in the story. Plus, my mother cried when she read it. And *that* was totally worth every ounce of struggling with the right way to say “thank you.”

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  34. Laurie Calkhoven

    I’m torn about these. Like other writers, I used them in the past to find editors and agents who might like my work. But I find them jarring when at the front of the book, and a little embarrassing when the author gets too personal or goes into too much detail. They used to be reserved for nonfiction primarily, but it’s a rare novel today that doesn’t have at least a paragraph of thanks and I confess to feeling a small thrill when my name is included in one of those. I included an acknowledgments page in my March 2010 release, party because I was and am truly thankful to the people who helped me along the way, but also because everyone else is doing it and I didn’t want to appear like an ungrateful wretch.

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  35. Anon1

    Shelftalker, you commented: “With regard to acknowledgments acting as post-movie credits, I just had the funniest image of walking into the Louvre and seeing a placard next to the Mona Lisa: I’d like to thank Andrea del Verrocchio for his expert advice while I was an apprentice; to Ludovico il Moro, without whose patronage…etc…etc…” To begin with I think there are two types of acknowledgements. Acknowledging your High School English Composition Teacher is a whole lot different than acknowledging your editor for this specific book. Actually, if you step back for a moment, I would argue that publishing a book is much more akin to producing a movie, than an artist producing a single piece of fine art. Involved are literary agents, editors, designers, production people, sales, publicity, distribution. I don’t think you’d make the argument that movies should only include the name of some pompus movie director at the expense of everyone else(somehow I don’t think handwritten thank you’s from the director quite cut it). So why should book authors be any different? Shelftalker…it seems your main beef is having to go from the copyright page directly to the acknowlegements…before hitting Chapter 1 (or prologue, or whatever). I never considered this as an irritant. But now knowing that is, I would suggest standardizing on putting acknowlegements at the end. I, for one, am dying to know at the very least who the agents and editors are for every single book I read. It seems only right.

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  36. Beth

    This is a curious topic! I’ve been asking around the office and it’s pretty much split up the middle as to who reads them and who doesn’t. The comments generated here are an eye opener. I’ll be watching to see how many respond as the day goes along.

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  37. Hope Vestergaard

    I think you and some of the commenters make a great case for seriously trimming acknowledgements. I like to know about research help and editorial support, but I have to admit I prefer not to see names of all the people who ever critiqued it or listened to the author think about writing it, etc. I read a fluffy MG book which had 2.5 pages of acks. Really! I also had the unpleasant experience of standing next to a deserving someone who just realized she had been overlooked in a friend’s acks — overlooked by an author who even thanked her PETS for their assistance — and the overlooked author was quite wounded. I had a conversation about this once where someone said the solution is to make sure you thank every last person who might believe they helped with the book. Talk about “ACK!” I don’t believe the acks should exist to boost anyone’s ego. I appreciated what Deborah Wiles had to say about acceptance speeches — and I hold award speeches to the same standard — they should be short, sweet, meaningful and not too private!

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  38. shelftalker elizabeth

    The only trouble, Anon, with trying to list everyone involved in the project is the great risk of missing people. When my first book came out, I had three different people at Candlewick helping me collect the names of everyone from designers to tech folks to sales reps so I could thank them and send them a little gift. It was a big list, and I was grateful to have it! If I’d tried to put all their names in the book, the acknowledgments would have been three times longer than the book! I ended up acknowledging my editor and family (no agent yet, or I’d have thanked her, too, of course.) With movie production, everyone involved is listed with the production office. With a book, you usually have no idea who all has helped with the process; for example, which editorial assistant spent hours working on your book photocopying, proofreading, answering questions you’ve sent your editor, etc. I’d love for publishing websites to include editorial information for each book, and for agents to have lists of books they’ve agented on their websites. That way, a quick Google search could pull up that info. But again, that’s just me, obviously.

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  39. Julianne Daggett

    I agree with Stone Arch, comics seem deceptavily simple to do, but wit lots of art and lots of text grapic novels, manga, and comic books are a group undertaking it takes 200 editors to edit 1 of my CLAMP books and it took nearly 500 editors to get the last five books of Tsubasa into the stores (Book 18-22)and 700 editors for Tsubas Book 23&24 which yay! I just saw on B&N.com are now published. At least CLAMP comics are in black and white, color comics can take up to 9,000 editors to get into stores (DC,Marvel, Dark Horse etc.) and I agree the editors should be listed in the book because of all the hard work they do getting it (the book) into stores. Also I’m more on Alison’s yes side for deds and acks because even a lousy book is hard to write and good book even harder to write so who ever helped you along the way and tied you to the proverbial chair is important and should be acknowladeged even if 99% of readers have no idea who your talking about. And if your an author seeing your book on display in the store (faced out is the best!) its like recieveing an award and I’ve heard authors whisper small acceptance speeches in stores when they see their books. At least the editors edit the acceptance speeches in books! Most acpt. speeches I’ve heard begin with “I’d like the thank The Academy for—fill in the blank—.” while holding their book and end with “I love this little golden statue, my book.” And then the author goes and buys it and I alway imgaine that the authors that do this have little plastic Oscars statues besides their book(s) at home.

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  40. Hope Vestergaard

    PS: Anon1’s comment didn’t show when I posted. It sounds like you, Anon1, are comparing the author of a book (novels, in particular, since most PBs don’t have lengthy acknowlegments, and author rather than editor since editors names rarely appear prominently) to “some pompous director.” Hardly a reasonable analogy…movies are celebrity driven, and require much more collaboration than a novel. While I appreciate fine design, it’s hardly on the same scale of work as writing or editing a novel…or being the foley artist for a film, for that matter.

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  41. Anon1.

    Sorry Shelftalker, I didn’t elaborate enough. I’m not asking for an exhaustive list. As you rightly pointed out with your own book: “I had three different people at Candlewick helping collect the names of everyone from designers to tech folks to sales reps so I could thank them and send them a little gift.” Of course reaching out personally should be done if at all possible–and props to you for doing it!!!!!! Obviously things like this should be done behind the scenes. These multitudes of people shouldn’t (and usually don’t) expect mention in the book because of the very impossibility of doing so…and leaving people out. And good for you that you actually included an acknowledgement. I would guess most authors don’t! Maybe what I’m looking for should be termed “credits” rather than “acknowledgements”. For me this list of “credits” should include at least: agent, editor, illustrator, book designer, publicist…maybe we can come up with one or two more. I’m talking specifically about the major players here, those holding the job titles surrounding the book. Having this information within the book itself helps add to the book’s bibliographic record. Unless I’m missing something, and publishers regard this as proprietary information, and object to its release, I think giving credits such as these needs to become standard practice. Maybe some publishers or editors will weigh in… Kudos to Shelftalker–this is a engrossing subject!

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    1. Alt

      I don’t agree at all that giving “credit” to people who are just doing their jobs as a publishing team ” needs”” to become a “standard practice” – WHY??? You don’t want to stick out as a suck-up?
      To a publisher, your best-seller may be just one of the books they publish and they may not be as publicity-crazy as you imagine.

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  42. sue corbett

    If you are a kid who read my novel in manuscript or suffered through listening to me read it aloud as I was writing it, you get thanked in the acknowledgments. If you are a kid who lives in my house and you were forced to listen to draft after draft, the book is dedicated to you. It is least I can do. However, recently I was given a book to review by my editor at People in which the three-to-four page acknowledgments (which were at the front of the book) included a shout-out to the author’s dog groomer and her barrista. I almost didn’t need to read the book itself to know I wouldn’t like it but I did read it and I didn’t.

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  43. K. Q. Johnson

    I do prefer the acknowledgments at at the back, and yes, there are acknowledgements that go too far into detail, but I don’t have a huge problem with them. I like knowing who helped the author create the world I just inhabited. But I’m with sue corbett–unless a book could not have happened without the knowledge shared by the dog groomer and the barrista, I don’t really want to know about them.

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  44. Alex Flinn

    When I’ve written realistic books, I like to put in acknowledgments to, well, acknowledge, of course, but also, to prove that I did do research, that I talked to the person at the AIDS foundation or the domestic violence court or the State Attorney’s Office. If one hangs out on listservs (as I do), one is apt to see other authors’ research getting picked apart, and it is scary! And then, when one is acknowledging people to whom one spoke for an hour, it seems stingy not to acknowledge people who read the entire manuscript, one’s editor, one’s agent, etc. I’m toying with the idea of not including acknowledgments for my new book (which is fantasy, set in my hometown, so my research consisted of the rereading of Grimm’s Fairy Tales), but I wonder if people who read drafts would be offended. I don’t think my editor would care, though.

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  45. Mike Jung

    Fascinating conversation! I started reading acks after I started writing books myself, and for the same reasons that many have already stated – editor/agent research, interest in seeing the connections, interest in learning about the journey. I love ’em, frankly. They’re often interesting and informative, and I’m also enough of a sentimental drip that I just like seeing authors thanking people, I’m often moved by it. But I never DISLIKED reading acks – before I developed an interest in them I just ignored ’em, in the same way I often ignored the publisher info – flip, flip, get to the story. If the acks were in the back of the book I often never bothered to get there – “The End” and SNAP, I’d close the book.

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  46. Deena

    I know agents read them — my crit partner’s Ack helped me connect with my fab agent! author2author.blogspot.com/2009/10/re-agented-or-its-small-world-after-all.html

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  47. Audrey Vernick

    I read them religiously. It’s like my version of the National Enquirer–oh! I didn’t know that writer was in a crit group with him! It also feels like a way for me, as reader, to bear witness to the writer’s process. And I am deeply touched when I’m mentioned. I’m grateful, though, that I write mostly picture books, where you rarely see acknowledgments, because I wouldn’t feel comfortable writing one.

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  48. j

    An editor’s job is to be invisible. I find it so distasteful to see an editorial credit on the copyright page. As an editor at a major house, I don’t understand why one would take even a tiny bit of the credit away from the author just to boost your own ego. If you did your job correctly, no one should even be aware that you exist–why shove yourself into the limelight? I only know of one editor who insists on a credit, and really it doesn’t engender respect and is looked upon as a sign that this editor’s work is too much about the editor and not the author. It’s another matter if the author chooses to thank you. After all, the point is that it’s their book.

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  49. mm

    Foreign countries have more “credits” than we do. They often include editor, designer and publisher names. It’s merely a US convention, and one that won’t change anytime soon. If even one house began to include such a thing, it would face ridicule from within the industry, though I think the reading public would not care, or, probably, notice. Too bad for editors, in my opinion, who fought hard in the first place for that book to be published–no matter how much actual editing they did!

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  50. Nancy

    I think Elizabeth’s point is simply that acknowledgments should be as concise and and as well-written as the book. I’m always really excited to see acknowledgments (especially if I loved the book) mostly because it allows you a bit more time to spend with the author and their words, and it’s a chance to hear what their “thank you” voice sounds like, and if it’s much different from the voice of the novel. As an editor, I must say that it can sometimes a bit tricky to edit someone’s acknowledgements page, which may account for some of the more lengthy ones. I also agree that the ack. page should always be at the end. Always.

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  51. Meredith

    Tor Books does include the editor’s name, I believe. I generally skip acknowledgements since unless I know the people involved, it quickly turns into a laundry list of unknown names. But I don’t mind it being there for the people who do want it — like the ISBN.

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  52. Lauren Baratz-Logsted

    I like reading and writing Acks but I still enjoyed this post very much and do prefer Acks to be placed at the back of the book. Some Acks are so lengthy, I wonder if the writer had a few glasses of wine before starting. For myself, I always Ack those who helped with a specific book and a few key family members. In fact, Ack-ing Mom, which makes her insanely happy, is one of the main reasons I write Acks. She’s 86, soon to be 87. I can’t make her live longer and I can’t take the physical pains and emotional sadness of aging away from her, but I can write “Thanks go to…Lucille Baratz – for keeping copies of my books in her purse to show doctors, waitresses, bank tellers, and random strangers, and for being my mom,” as I did in my last book, and know that every time she looks at it she smiles. Thanks, Mom.

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  53. Susan E. Wigget

    As a reader, I skip Acknowledgements. As a writer, I’ve never thought about including them in a novel or short story collection, but I imagine writing Acknowledgements for my travel memoir, mentioning everyone I met in India and Nepal.

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  54. Lauren Baratz-Logsted

    Thanks, E-beth, if I may call you that. Mom is special. I do understand about some Acks being annoyingly long/self-congratulatory/over the top. But sometimes, it’s just all about Mom (and my 9yo – I want her to have those Acks to help remember my love for her after I turn up my toes.) Really, terrific blog post – got me thinking about why I do what I do.

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  55. Peter Glassman, Books of Wonder

    Although as a picture book author, I’ve never had the opportunity to write an acknowledgment (no room in a picture book!), as a reader I generally enjoy them. And, I must say, it has meant the world to me when an author has mentioned me in their acknowledgment. As to acknowledgments being an acceptance speech without the reward, I have to disagree — getting a book published is in and of itself a reward. Considering the vast number of unpublished manuscripts out there, I consider each book published a very high award indeed and give my kudos to whoever has been able to see their work published. Of course, like all awards, I don’t agree that all are deserving — but that’s what makes horse races! And, thank heaven, variety on bookstore shelves!

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  56. shelftalker elizabeth

    Hey, as I think I’ve said, thanks are wonderful and deserved. Many acknowledgments are written well and don’t fall into the “acceptance speech” category. (Just read a very good one tonight in an ARC, in fact.) I’m not trying to throw out the baby with the bathwater; just the bathwater. I do read hundreds of books a year. Maybe it’s the sheer cumulative experience of reading so many ack pages that has caused my uber-awareness of what I perceive to be their ins and outs, ups and downs.

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  57. TA

    This was very interesting to me…when I wrote my first book, I wanted to thank my editor, but I was told that, per their policy, I couldn’t. In subsequent books, with different publishers, I just assumed that was standard so I didn’t try to thank my editor. I guess I should have checked! Feeling guilty… I like reading other people’s acks, and I think having them at the end is reasonable.

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  58. Terry Golson

    I’m an author – picture books and cookbooks. I love writing the acks. It’s fun, it’s a gift to my helpers, and it gives my readers a little insight into what went goes on in the creation of the books. Don’t assume that the author doesn’t also privately thank the people mentioned. I do! I even write handwritten notes! But, Elizabeth, you’re right in that it can be overdone and look less than sincere. Even acks should be edited 🙂

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  59. Joanne Fritz

    Great post, Elizabeth. I always wondered why the book designer’s name is included on the copyright page, but not the editor’s name. A poster named j commented above that an editor’s job is to be invisible, so the name SHOULDN’T appear in the book (unless the author chooses to thank them). Interesting point. If I ever get a book published, I’d want to acknowledge the editor. I love to read acks, but definitely vote for putting them at the end. And I agree with Sue Corbett — I’ve been completely turned off by long acks that include the author’s barrista or dry cleaner or something. Could they really be as important to the gestation of the book as the editor or critique group? The best acks are concise. I really like the way some authors thank “the team at (name of publishing house).” That way you include all those people who worked so hard on the book, without having to go on and on (and you don’t have to worry about forgetting someone).

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  60. Jess

    Feiwel and Friends often has a page at the end of their books listing staff who (presumably) worked on the book. I’m looking at a copy of Victoria Forester’s The Girl Who Could Fly, and the last page before the endpapers lists things like publisher, editor-in-chief, creative director, and on throuh a list of 11 people. I think that’s a nice touch, and it’s in an unobtrusive place. Personally, I’ll read an ack page, especially if it’s more than just a list of names, and I prefer it at the end of the book.

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  61. Julius Lester

    It seems that some readers want the power to tell writers what should and should not be a part of their books. We writers would love to have the power to tell readers how we want our books read. One of my ex-wives always read the end of a book first, then pages in the middle, and only then would she start at the beginning. If we had not had other more pressing issues, the way she read books would have been grounds enough for divorce. Sometimes, it is editors or copy editors who want the acknowledgments at the beginning of the book. In one of my adult novels, The Autobiography of God, I had put my Author’s Notes at the back. The copy editor moved them to the front, and fought me when I insisted they return to the back, which they did. If reading the acknowledgments is going to interfere with your reading experience, why read them. Just as one of my exes insisted on reading books the way she wanted to,no one is is being compelled to read to read acknowledgments. Just as one chooses which books to read, one can also choose what to read inside the book. Putting the names of editors on the copyright page assumes that editors’ contributions to a book have been essential to the book. Sometimes that is true, and sometimes it isn’t. Having the editor’s name on the copyright page gives the editor coequal authorship, and that is simply wrong. All editors are not good at their jobs.

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