If you’ve ever finished a novel and gone on to read the acknowledgments pages in the back, you know that authors are frequently thankful to lots of people. We thank our editors and agents, our copy editors, publicists and cover designers. We thank experts who helped with research and gatekeepers who may have granted access to research opportunities. We thank our partners and friends and writing buddies, and sometimes, we thank booksellers, teachers, and librarians who have been champions of our work. And all of that is lovely, but…
An acknowledgment in the back of a book is different from a quiet thank you note that arrives in a mailbox. It’s a very public thank you, and in some situations, it might not be comfortable for the person being thanked.
A museum employee or zookeeper who granted unusual access to records or an exhibit, for example, may have bent some rules in doing so. A public thank you could make for an awkward conversation with that person’s boss.
A teacher or librarian who enjoys an author’s work might be delighted to see his or her name in the back of a book. But what if that reader wants to be on a state or national awards committee and the author’s book shows up in the pile of titles to be discussed? Suddenly, having that public thank you in the book is awkward at best and at worst, could create pressure for the person to resign from a great opportunity.
I’ll be honest – I wouldn’t have thought of any of this until a friend brought it to my attention recently. Because what could be wrong with saying thanks? Nothing…as long as the person has a heads up.
Here’s what I’m going to do from now on… There are certain people I know are happy to be thanked – my critique partners, my agent and editor, my family. But for others– individuals who have helped along the way by assisting with research or spreading the word about my books – I’ve decided it’s probably best to fire off a quick note first. Something like this…
Dear awesome person,
I wanted to drop you a note to say thanks again for (awesome things that you did). If it’s okay with you, I’d like to say a more public thank you by including your name in the acknowledgments for (title of book that is awesome because of you). Please let me know if that’s all right, and even if it’s not, know that I’m so very grateful for your help.
So I’m curious now. How do other writers handle acknowledgments? I’d love to hear your thoughts in comments!