Tips for Writing an Acknowledgments Section | NY Book Editors
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How to Write a Winning Acknowledgments Section

FEATURED IMAGE New York Book Editors 01 31 2022 How to Write a Winning Acknowledgments Section

Writing acknowledgments is an art form.

Although easy to overlook, this one-page message of gratitude is one of the first things that your reader will see. Your acknowledgment section doesn't just give you the space to thank those who mattered in the creation of your book, but it also provides an opportunity to publicly recognize that it takes multiple people to create a story.

Sure, you’re the storyteller, but if it hadn’t been for that conversation with a friend, or the encouragement of a spouse, or the babysitting services of a family member, or the tireless work of your literary agent, or the insightful tips from your editor during the drafting process, your story may not be.

Writing an acknowledgments page shows that you appreciate the support others have provided you on your journey.

But even though you can churn out 100,000 words for a novel, the process of writing 100 words of acknowledgments can be overwhelming. Who do you thank? What do you say? How long should your acknowledgment be? Will anyone else feel slighted?

In this guide, we're covering everything you need to know to create a superb acknowledgments page.

What is an Acknowledgments Page?

An acknowledgments page is a dedicated page to thank those who've played a role in the creation of the book. You've probably already said “thank you” in person, but adding your gratitude in print adds extra weight to your recognition.

The acknowledgments page lives in the front matter of your book. These are the first pages of your actual book, prior to the story or main body. The front section includes the following pages:

  • The Title Page - This is a restatement of the book's full title and author name and sometimes the publisher.

  • The Copyright Page - This contains information about the publication of the book, including when it was published, by whom, and where. It may also share book designer information.

  • The Dedication Page - This page is different from general acknowledgments. On this page, you honor a special someone by dedicating your entire book to them. It's like an upgraded acknowledgment and is typically only bestowed on one person.

  • The Epigraph - This is a short quote that sets the tone or echoes a sentiment for the book ahead.

  • Table of Contents - This is a reference list of chapter titles and what pages each chapter starts on.

  • The Acknowledgments Page - This is the subject of our guide. As you see from this list, the acknowledgments page is usually nestled between the table of contents and the foreword sections of your front matter.

  • The Foreword - The purpose of this section is to encourage and excite the reader to continue on the journey.

  • The Preface - In this section, you can discuss a little bit about why you wrote the book, and maybe how. It's often used for non-fiction.

  • The Introduction - In the intro, you prepare the reader for what's ahead by giving them insight that they could not otherwise find in the book.

  • The Prologue - This is the background of the story. It's what happened right before the start of your story. It may be pertinent to the story ahead. But because readers may skip the prologue, it's highly recommended that you do, too.

There’s a lot to think about when it comes to the front portion of your book. However, none are as sweet as the acknowledgments and dedication pages.

Who Should You Thank in Your Acknowledgments?

Writing an Acknowledgments Section

Who you need to thank is one of those sticky questions that have no clear-cut answer. Your mom since she birthed you? Your spouse since they tolerated you? Your mentor since they inspired you? Your editor since they fine-tuned your work? Your readers since they supported you? Your agent since they helped you secure the bag?

The best thing to do is ask: Who helped me during this time in my life? Create a list of all of the people who spring to mind.

If it helps, you can separate the list into three groups: Personal, Professional, and Technical.

In the Personal section, you can list any friends, family members, coaches, mentors, readers, pets, or other loved ones that served as emotional support or inspiration.

In the Professional section, you can list business partners, including your agent, publisher, business manager, and colleagues who made it financially possible to produce your book.

In the Technical section, you can list people who worked with you to directly develop the book, including any contributors, collaborators, beta readers, your editor, research assistant, advisor, illustrator, photographer, book cover designer, and interviewees.

Writing an acknowledgments page shows that you appreciate the support others have provided you on your journey.

Whittle Down Your List

After you've created a list, it's probably a good idea to cut that list in half.

The longer your acknowledgments page, the less potent it is. Don't dilute your acknowledgments page by listing everyone you can think of. Instead, focus on the five to 10 people who made the biggest impact on the creation of your book. It may be difficult, but it will make for a more impactful section.

How do you determine who to keep from your list? Focus on those who've directly impacted your work.

Arrange Them in Order of Importance

This process gets harder and harder, doesn’t it?

When we're talking about emotional support, it can be difficult to quantify who helped more. But it's a good idea to organize your thanks in decreasing order of importance. List the most important “thank you” first, the second most important “thank you” next, and so on.

While it’s technically not necessary to do it this way, the reader will automatically assign the biggest thanks to the person on your list. So, if it’s important to recognize a particular person above all others, position them as number one on your acknowledgments list.

Be Yourself

When writing an acknowledgments page, you're not writing as the narrator. Instead, you'll write in your personal voice. This tone may differ considerably from the written voice in your book.

Most authors maintain a certain amount of distance from their work, especially fiction authors. But an acknowledgments page demands closeness and vulnerability. And it requires you to speak directly to the person that you’re acknowledging. This is why you need to be yourself fully in this small section of your book. Don’t be afraid to let your personality shine through these words. Use your voice. Be conversational. Be you.

Explain Why You're Grateful

Writing an Acknowledgments Section

Saying “thank you” is a nice start, but it's also hopelessly generic. Be descriptive in your gratitude. Explain why you're recognizing this person. How exactly did they help? It's okay to dive into specifics as long as you steer clear of compromising their privacy. And on that note, consider getting their permission ahead of time before adding a special note to them on your acknowledgments page.

Don't Add Syrup to Candy

While an acknowledgments page is already super sweet, you don't want it to cause cavities. Don't go overboard by thanking them too much. One sentence per person is all you need to express gratitude.

Keep It Short

Like everything else in your book, edit your acknowledgments page for wordiness. The typical acknowledgments page doesn't exceed one page in length. In addition to recognizing those who've helped or inspired you, write your acknowledgments page with the reader in mind. Yes, you're thanking someone, but you're talking to the reader when you're doing it. Keep the acknowledgments page brief, powerful, and punchy.

Final Thoughts

While you don’t have to acknowledge anyone, doing so is a wonderful gesture and shows gratitude for the support you’ve received. Use the above tips to create a rousing acknowledgments section.

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