Even the best of them give little thought to how the acknowledgment at the back of their books should read beyond making a careful list to include one and all, wording a diplomatic thank you to their agents and editors, and a final sentimental ‘love you’ message to their family. That’s the usual fare. And to be honest, if well written this is actually exactly what an acknowledgment should have. Only, mostly, it’s not well written – it’s written like the author was so exhausted by the entire publishing process that they had little enthusiasm for thanking anyone. I always read the acknowledgments. If I really like a book I want to know how much of the author’s life was put into the writing. The ‘thank you note’ gives you a glimpse of this because it’s supposedly a personal message worded to speak from those few pages straight to the people who influenced them the most.
I read two books by the same author in the last few days and really liked her acknowledgment pages. She wasn’t writing anything new – but if you read the excerpt below you’ll know what I mean——
This novel should have two sets of acknowledgments: one for Kiersten White and one for everybody else. Oh, Kiersten! Thank you for the backyard pirate games, the English seaside, the Gothic orchid mysteries, the Icelandic dancing, the French cafés, and for every other adventure we took while I was writing this book. Thank you for keeping me sane, despite the questionable sanity of that last sentence. Thank you for gently, persistently guiding me to The End. (Again and again and again.) And—most of all—thank you for being my friend. I am so grateful to have you in my life.
Kate Schafer Testerman: Remember that whole thing about you being my Dream Agent? I’m happy to announce that the reality is even sweeter. Thank you for being both kind and kick-ass. Julie Strauss-Gabel: I want to draw glittery hearts around your name. My novels are so much better, so much stronger because of you. Thank you for your guidance, for your patience, and for uncovering the story that I’ve always wanted to tell. Working with you is a pleasure and an honor. Further thanks to the entire Penguin Young Readers Group. …
Thank you to my family, my most enthusiastic cheerleaders: Mom, Dad, Kara, Chris, Beckham, J.D., Fay, and Roger. I am lucky to have you. I love you. …
Thank you to Chris Lane for living on the right street in the right neighborhood in the right city, to Anna Pfaff for letting me borrow her future dog’s name, and to anyone working for LGBT equality.
Finally, thank you to Jarrod Perkins. Who recognized the importance of a high school dance. Who flew across the country, swept me off to prom, and wore the matching Chuck Taylors. Who always makes me feel beautiful. You are beautiful, too. Thank you for ten dazzling years of marriage and for many, many more to come. Let’s ask Elvis to renew our vows, okay? We’ll wear our Chucks.
She not just thanks them but tells the readers (those quirky like me) what she feels grateful for. A general roll call of names and a thank you before them is all very well – maybe it makes the person at the other end of the acknowledgment feel all warm and fuzzy to have their name squashed between a dozen others – but if you really owe them something and want to tell the world of your gratitude, can you not at least tell us a little about why they are so important to you? – and how they contributed to your creative efforts?
Now, what I was looking for in those pages was what is in that last paragraph. Her story told a little bit about her own life too – as the best stories tend to do. I wanted to know if the characters she painted could possibly exist, if she knew anyone like that or if they only lived in her mind. How wonderful to know that some bits of them not only exist in her life but they are a daily part of what the author creates for us. Now that’s worthy of acknowledgment.
- The Art Of Literary Thank-Yous (andrewsullivan.thedailybeast.com)