A short discussion in a writers group I belong to prompted me to write this post. The question presented: What should an author say in the Dedication for a book?
First, I’m not sure an author needs to dedicate a book at all. I have a novel near my desk right now that doesn’t include one. But I gave my two cents worth in the discussion as to the individuals an author might mention.
That led me to think about all the other stuff, in addition to the manuscript, that an author writes or provides the publisher before the book is sent to press. Constructing or selecting them takes careful thought and precious time, so why not prepare them in advance?
This is usually short and poignant. I’ve seen a single name as well as one or two sentences, and sometimes they bring me to tears. The dedication mentions someone or something that inspired or supported you, your writing, or this particular book, but not necessarily took an active part in the writing or production. The dedication doesn’t have to mean anything to the reader. It indicates a close personal relationship with the author, and only the dedicatee needs to understand it. Yes, “dedicatee” is a real word.
Now we get to the thanking, sort of like an acceptance speech at the Oscars. The big-name authors tend to keep it down to a single paragraph or page, if they provide one, and it usually appears near the back of the book. Most of the authors I read include one to three pages of acknowledgments, three being rather long. But I actually read them. Mostly to see if any of the individuals mentioned are also in my acknowledgments. (I belong to a large network of writers that support one another.) Usually the acknowledgments start with thanking a spiritual influence, work through the publishing professionals that made the book possible, then the writing/critique partners, and end with family members or a spouse. Some authors give entire names, others only first names.
These sometimes appear right before the body of the work. I haven’t selected or included any in my books so far, but I often enjoy reading them in others. Sometimes authors choose biblical or other spiritual verses, or quotations from favorite authors or other notables. The quotations usually hint at themes or the author’s personal feelings.
List of Resources:
If a novel for middle grades or young adults addresses issues like mine do, such as coping with Alzheimer’s or adjusting to a blended family in 10 Steps to Girlfriend Status, the author or publisher may wish to include a list of resources in the back of the book. I appreciate such lists when I read fiction, as young readers, parents, and educators probably do.
Discussion questions come in handy for book clubs, librarians, parents, and educators. I include these. When writing them, I find myself digging deeper into the themes of my stories, and that benefits me when I speak about them.
There are additional pages that an author or publisher may include in novels or anthologies, fiction or nonfiction, prose or poetry.
The five I’ve mentioned are the ones I encounter most often and enjoy.
What is the most memorable dedication, acknowledgment, or quotation you’ve seen in a book—or perhaps written? How do you feel about resource lists and discussion questions?