Monday, January 11, 2021

I Want to Thank.....



Q: How do you decide who to acknowledge and who to dedicate a book to, and have you ever had an awkward moment in making an “in” or “out” decision?


-from Susan


I looked forward to writing the dedication to my first book because I wanted so much to thank my partner Tim, who died only a few months before I found an agent. He had been so supportive, such a cheerleader and believer in my ability to get a novel in print. Less than two weeks before he died, he said, in front of a bunch of friends, “You have to get an agent before I die.” I huffed a bit and said it wasn’t that easy to find an agent, you know, lots of people send out scores of query letters before getting a nibble. I was a wee bit defensive. Since he was a professional artist who knew far better and for far longer than I just how hard it is to be visible and successful in a crowded arts field, I should have shut up and thanked him. Since I hadn’t done that when it would have mattered, my dedicating MURDER IN THE ABSTRACT “For Tim forever” was both an apology and a thank you.


Since then, he’s always been part of a dedication, and I’ve been able to send messages to the people I love – sons, grandkids, sister – all of whom have given me much more credit as a successful author than I deserve, and have boosted my ego enormously. For my first French mystery, LOVE & DEATH IN BURGUNDY, the dedication had to include the couple whose lives as American transplants inspired the story. So far, only five books in print. Not enough opportunity to get to a “can I leave this person out?” dilemma, but I am running out of family. 


Acknowledgements can be more awkward. If you thank writers who have made your book much better than it might have been, do you thank the ones who tried but didn’t help at all, maybe even threw you off course, all with a sincere desire to help? Will they look for their names and be hurt if they don’t see them? If a topic expert made herself available but it wasn’t at all fruitful for the manuscript, or you deliberately wrote something opposite of what she recommended, will she be afraid her peers might blame her for your misrepresenting it, or be embarrassed because she told everyone to look for your book? What if you parted awkwardly from one agent and got another during the writing process? Who to send prose flowers to?


I choose to err on the side of being grateful to anyone who so much as looked my way, didn’t throw mud at me, answered my phone call or my email, spent any time at all trying to help, as long as it’s not more than a page of names. I recently read an Acknowledgements section by an author that went on for three pages. I suspect she named every person working in the mailroom at her publisher’s company. The reverse is equally striking. The Acknowledgements for another book I read this year was a brusque, two-line note to his agent and his long-suffering (his term, not mine) wife. Period. 


Our voices and our personalities come through in our dedications and acknowledgements, don’t they? And getting to thank people in print is probably the most fun short of autographing copies of your book that you’ll have in the whole process.


P.S. I always read the acknowledgements. Do you?



Brenda Chapman said...

I always read the acknowledgements. Our partners always offer their unconditional love and support even when we're down and frustrated - maybe especially then. A lovely post, Susan.

Catriona McPherson said...

I always read the acknowledgements too. Well, I always start the acknowledgements but when they're really fulsome, I sometimes skim.

Frank Zafiro said...

Count me in on the Acks as well. I wonder if this the writer in us?

Susan C Shea said...

I'm glad to hear I'm not the only one who reads them.

Judi said...

I always read the acknowledgements, too, and get a tiny bit excited if I see a familiar name. I always stay for all of the credits at the movies too.