In this blog post, we’ll take a look at some of the most heartfelt and wittiest book acknowledgement examples that we’ve come across. We’ll also learn, of course, what book acknowledgements actually are and why they’re important to both readers and authors.
A book’s acknowledgement page is more than a page for thank yous and other profuse expressions of gratitude.
Here is where you can take an intimate peek into the author’s world. Like looking through a window into a part of their creative process that they normally hide from public view.
Here is where you can briefly meet the cast of people who made the very book you’re holding come to life. Like lovers, family, colleagues, muses, friends, and even strangers. We see the inside jokes and the endless revisions, the moments of doubt and the glimpses of triumph. All of them reflected in the names and descriptions that are laid out on this page.
Table of Contents
What you need to know about book acknowledgements
The word “acknowledgement” comes from the Middle English words aknow which means to “admit or show one’s knowledge” and knowlechen which means “to discover or reveal.”
Hence, a book acknowledgement’s section is a page (or a set of pages) that is dedicated by the author to thank those who they think played a huge role in the creation of their book.
Does a book have to have an acknowledgement?
Though it is a front matter staple in modern books,the acknowledgement page is a relatively new invention. A few decades ago, you’d be hard-pressed to find them in books. What you had then would be dedications, which were much shorter and more straightforward.
Another precursor to the acknowledgement page was called the Author’s Note. These notes were commonly found at the end of historical or autobiographical fiction. This was where authors provided disclaimers, added context, and yes, expressed gratitude to people who helped them with their research or writing. These kinds of notes are still used today by some authors and publishers.
So no, acknowledgements aren’t mandatory. But if you really want to thank people but do not want the formality of a book’s acknowledgements, then try using an Author’s Note or a Dedication page instead. Both of which are still acceptable and common forms of acknowledging and saying thanks to people.
You could very much publish a book without an acknowledgement and it’s safe to say that it really wouldn’t have any profound effect on your book’s readability or marketability at all. But it provides a nice little touch that can help you build a deeper connection with your readers.
Why do some authors not like book acknowledgement pages?
Not everyone is a fan of book acknowledgements though.
Ann Patchett, 2002 PEN/Faulkner Award winner and author of the novel Bel Canto, prefers to thank the important people in her life by giving them a copy of her books with a personalized inscription.
Sam Sacks wrote a whole piece against the practice of writing book acknowledgements in a piece for the New Yorker titled, fittingly enough, “Against Acknowledgements.” In it, he writes “What’s new about the current acknowledgments page is that it’s unsolicited— it appears like an online pop-up ad, benefiting no one but the author and his comrades.”
But these dissenting opinions are a minority. While a lot of readers do tend to skip the acknowledgement section in a book, the fact remains that many authors still put them in.
It’s a little reminder that the book wasn’t produced in a vacuum, that there are living, breathing people who helped bring life to it, and that it was a product of collaboration, not isolation.
Book acknowledgement examples – you can write them anyway you want
There is no right or wrong way to go about writing an acknowledgement for your book.
Just as there are a thousand ways to thank people, there are also a thousand ways to express gratitude through the written word.
You can be as heartfelt as you want, such as when Antoine de Saint-Exupéry dedicated The Little Prince to his best friend Leon Werth (or rather, to the boy that Leon Werth once was).
Or you can be as sarcastically resentful to everyone and anyone involved in your writing like what Brendan Pietsch did in his book “Dispensational Modernism”:
You could also “thank” your beloved family members, like how Joseph J. Rotman thanked his family for “helping” out when he was writing his book, An Introduction to Algebraic Topology:
“To my wife Marganit and my children Ella Rose and Daniel Adam, without whom this book would have been completed two years earlier.”
And no one’s going to stop you if you go crazy on the form.
You can do the traditional “thank you” essay for your book acknowledgement page, or you can try something avant-garde like what JK Rowling did for Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows (which was also the last book in the Harry Potter series).
Neil is Rowling’s husband. Jessica, David, Kenzie are her children. Di is her younger sister, while Anne is her mother (who sadly died before the first Harry Potter was published).
Whatever approach you choose, the important thing is that you always stay true and authentic to yourself. Don’t feel pressured to write in a certain way. If you want to express your thanks through haiku or free-form poetry, then feel free to do so.
What is the difference between a dedication and an acknowledgement?
There is so much confusion between these two because they both do very similar things and are found on pretty much the same part of the book. You can find books that only have a dedication, books that only have an acknowledgement, books that have both, and books that have none of them.
So, what exactly is the difference between the two? And which one should you write for what purpose?
The first obvious difference is the length. While there are short book acknowledgements that are just a single paragraph or a few sentences long, dedications tend to be much, much shorter.
When we say “short” we mean just a couple of words short. Like this dedication from The Selection by Kiera Cass:
And here’s something for mom, by Matthew Klein in No Way Back:
In contrast, acknowledgements are longer affairs, and they also involve thanking more people.
Below are some book acknowledgement examples that illustrate this fact:
From The Mindfulness Edge by Matt Teney:
And from Type Specimens, by Dori Griffin:
But just like in acknowledgments, dedication pages don’t always feature rainbows and butterflies. For instance, poet e.e. cummings pettily dedicated his 1935 poetry collection No Thanks to the 14 publishers who rejected it.
There is also a marked difference in tone between dedications and acknowledgements. Typically, dedications are more personal in nature, while acknowledgements are more formal. However, these definitions are not always followed.
Book acknowledgements vs dedications
The dedication is where you dedicate and indicate your sincere appreciation for the most significant individuals in your life. They don’t even have to be part of the book you’re working on. They also don’t need to be related to it. These can include, but are not limited to, spouses, children, friends, neighbors, and other acquaintances.
The people you dedicate your book to are those who have inspired you throughout, not just in your writing career, but your whole life.
Acknowledgements, on the other hand, can cover those who are instrumental to the creation of your book. Aside from the people also mentioned in dedications, this can also mean editors, beta readers, writing groups and other such institutions or individuals who provided their resources, as well as their expertise and assistance to you as you wrote and refined your manuscript.
If you’re an academic book writer, the acknowledgement is where you can thank people who have supported you in your scholarly efforts (e.g. schools, professors), and also those who may have helped you during research.
Where do acknowledgements go in a book?
Let’s briefly discuss the different parts of a book. A book has front matter, its body, and the back matter.
The front matter are those pages that you see at the beginning of a book before its main body like title page, foreword, preface, copyright page, introduction, and table of contents.
The back matter are those pages after the book’s body that usually includes the epilogue, afterword, postscript, bibliography, and appendix.
From what we can see in a number of book acknowledgement examples, the acknowledgements section can both be front matter and back matter.
A majority of them can be found in the front matter (usually before or after the table of contents if a book has it). If you’re working with a publishing house, this is probably where your acknowledgements page will be located as it is tradition.
But if you’re self-publishing or an indie author, you get to choose where you want to place your acknowledgements.
How long should an acknowledgement be in a book?
Just long enough for you to thank all the people that you feel deserve to be thanked, but not long enough to be tedious that it significantly detracts from your book’s content.
Yes, it can be short, like this one-paragraph book acknowledgement sample from Cassandra Clare’s Heavenly Fire:
Or if you have a long list of people to thank, then it can be as long as seven-and-a-half pages, like what Sheryl Sandberg did in her 2013 book Lean In.
But, a word of warning though. Make your acknowledgements too long and your readers will probably roll their eyes at it. For instance, this is what Noreen Malone has to say about the Sandberg’s behemoth of an acknowledgment:
“...now we are confronted with a chapter-long laundry list of name after name. Sandberg’s seven-and-a-half page section, for instance, thanks more than 140 people for contributing to her 172 page book. She doesn’t just thank her superagent, she thanks her superagent’s boss…”
As you’re the author of your book, you are the best judge of deciding how long your book’s acknowledgement section should be. But, as a general guideline especially for newbie authors, it’s best to keep everything concise. Try to stay under three pages in length.
Book acknowledgement examples – how to get started
It is easy to dismiss the acknowledgements section as something that people will skip over, but the truth is that many readers do enjoy reading them.
Here are some tips on how to write a book acknowledgement section that people would love to read:
Don’t be an author, be yourself
The acknowledgements section is YOUR space. In here you can use your own voice, and not the voice of your book’s narrator. Here is where you can get personal. Where you are not bogged down by the formalities and structure of your book’s narrative. Where you can be your regular old self for a while.
So don’t be afraid to show a little bit of your personality: make jokes, ramble on, put some grammar mistakes and typos if you want- anything goes in your book’s acknowledgement!
List down the names of those you want to thank and rank them properly
Though we might have popularized the image of the solitary writer scribbling away in a lonely table somewhere, the fact remains that writing is a communal activity. There are plenty of people who have made you the writer that you are today, whether you are aware of them or not.
As the old saying goes, credit should be given where credit is due.
One way to get started on the acknowledgement writing process is to start writing down a list of names, ranked according to importance, closeness, or how much they helped you with your writing.
But try to be mindful of the order in which you list down people. The names of those whom you are closest to and who helped you the most should be at the very beginning of your acknowledgement.
It sounds very unglamorous, but it’s the only way to ensure that you don’t miss any important names.
Don’t be boring
Some acknowledgements are better than others.
For example, if you’re writing a heartfelt message of gratitude to someone, a very bland and generic message like “Thank you very much for your help” just wouldn’t cut it. It doesn’t have personality nor depth, and may even come off as insincere.
So to make your acknowledgement meaningful and interesting, try to put some effort and thought into your message. Do you have any inside jokes with the person you’re trying to give thanks to? Any shared memories and experiences that you can reference? While your readers may not be privy to these personal connections, these little nuggets of detail are definitely a more interesting read than any other generic thank-you messages.
Ask for permission
For nonfiction authors and/or authors who are writing books that skirt on the edges of controversy, it’s probably best to ask for permission from those you plan to include in your acknowledgement pages. Especially so, if you’re not close to them personally.
Book acknowledgement examples of what not to do and what to avoid
Don’t exclude the reader too much
Yes, we did mention that acknowledgement is the author’s space. You can freely talk in it however you want, but it shouldn’t come at the reader’s expense.
Inside jokes and personal references that no one outside you and your thankee could understand should be kept to a minimum. Remember, you’re not sending a personal letter here. You’re writing something that can be read by the public.
Criticisms and personal attacks are a no-go
Acknowledgements should generally be positive. While you can inject a bit of snark if you want (remember that petty e.e. cummings piece from our book acknowledgements examples earlier?), people are not looking for mudslinging when they read acknowledgements.
Don’t ignore your tone
For a fiction book, the acknowledgement is the only place in your book where you can write in your own voice. But if you’re writing nonfiction, it can feel a little strange. Do you match the acknowledgement’s tone with the tone that you’re using in the book?
The answer here is that you don’t really need to match it. You can adopt a more casual tone in your acknowledgments, but make sure you don’t stray too far from the voice or tone you’re using in the rest of the book.
Don’t be repetitive
It’s easy to fall into the trap of saying something like: ‘Thank you to my family, who stood by me every step of the way. Thank you to my editor who cleaned up my unreadable manuscripts. Thank you to blah blah.”
These are very formulaic and it’s unlikely that they can hold anyone’s interest. Cliche as it may sound, variety is the spice of life; take a look at the various book acknowledgement examples that we’ve provided in this article and try to take inspiration from them.
Christopher Currie took the art form of writing book acknowledgements to a whole new
level. In the acknowledgements of his 2011 debut novel The Ottoman Motel, he wrote:
‘To my favourite, to the reason I live my life, Leesa Wockner, who, if she reads this, I hope will agree to marry me, despite the number of commas in this sentence.”
She said yes, by the way, despite the number of commas in that sentence.
We’re not telling you to propose in your next book’s acknowledgements, but it’s clear that Currie’s unique and heartfelt approach to acknowledging the important people in his life struck a chord with people.
Who knows, maybe your acknowledgements will become as memorable as Currie’s someday!