How to Write Awesome Acknowledgments

Janet Grant

Blogger: Janet Kobobel Grant

I love to read book acknowledgment pages. I feel as if I’m peeking into the Who’s Who in the creation of the work. But the acknowledgments I like best are those in which the author shows that he/she has the mojo to cast a creative eye on this page that often tends toward the unimaginative.

In actuality, acknowledgments are a great place to stretch your writing muscles and allow your voice to be full-throated.

My mind recently turned to stellar acknowledgments when I checked out Cynthia Ruchti’s resounding commendations in her An Endless Christmas novella. Her approach was original and wouldn’t fit any other book she’s written. Let’s take a look at what she did as a lesson in how to write awesome acknowledgments.

The first sentence, like all good writing exercises, announces the acknowledgments’ theme: “An Endless Christmas was a Joy-to-the-World kind of project.” In the rest of that paragraph, Cynthia explains how the novella came into existence, much like the joyous fanfare surrounding Christ’s birth.endless-christmas-LG-WP

In the second paragraph, the theme continues to unfold: She thanks the publishing team for their contributions to the book’s existence and then writes: “They shepherd book projects well.” Ho-ho-ho, how clever. We’re headed down the Christmas story path, the reader realizes.

The Christmas song by Michael W. Smith, All Is Well, is referenced in the next paragraph when Cynthia thanks Jamie Chavez, her freelance editor, and Cynthia announces that she sings “All is Well” when she gets to work with Jamie.

In the fourth paragraph Cynthia waxes playful when she thanks her agent, Wendy Lawton, and the other agents of Books & Such.Β  “Hark the Herald Agents Sing! Wendy Lawton, you and the entire Books & Such Literary Management team are a perpetual source of blessing and encouragement. Thank you for championing this story.”

Do You Hear What I Hear? O Come All Ye Faithful, and The Hallelujah Chorus chime in for the other people mentioned in the ensuing paragraphs.Β  You can read all of Cynthia’s acknowledgments here. But I’m sure she’d much rather you read them by buying the book!

A completely different take on writing acknowledgments–all over the place but funny and clever, just like the author–is found in Rainn Wilson’s The Bassoon King: My Life in Art, Faith and Idiocy.

Acknowledgments

I appreciate his creative touch for completely different reasons from the tightly-written and neatly-focused Cynthia Ruchti direction.

So, when it comes time for you to write acknowledgments for your WIP, don’t afraid to just…be you, the clever, smart writer you are. Make your acknowledgments the perfect topper for a rewarding reading experience, as these two examples were.

What acknowledgments have you read that made you appreciate the author all the more? Why?

What questions do you have about acknowledgments for me?

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46 Responses

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  1. Great post, O Daughter of the Divine, Kindly Mystery Spirit of The Publishing World, O Janet!
    * Really relevant for me, as I hope – this week – to launch a free short ebook on my blog, “Can You Hear Me, God? – Faith In The Night”. There will be acknowledgements, of course, and I was wondering how to approach them gracefully.
    * Since the topic of the book is kind of serious…with flashes of what I hope are at least gallows humour…to what degree should the voice of the thanks hew to the overall tone? My thought is that it should be consistent, but if you could comment on this, I would be most grateful
    * To my mind, the military historian Jay Stout – who I count as a dear friend – has written the most gracious, and sometimes funniest acknowledgements I’ve ever seen. Those found in “Hell’s Angels”, a history of the 305th Bomb Group in WW2, are an excellent example (and it’s a GREAT book).

    • The answer, Andrew, is where your cutting wit meets true gratitude. Even the most serious of books benefits from the occasional snicker and even a laugh-out-loud moment. You do both so well.

      • Shirlee, thank you so much! I’m afraid that much of my humour is unintentional. Here’s something Barbara will never let me forget –
        * One day we were in town, and I commented on a sign advertising a rodeo event, Bikini Barrel Racing.
        * “Who the heck wants to see a horse wearing a bikini?”

    • Andrew, you be you. You display the best of both worlds … you make people laugh, and then bring them to their knees weeping. That’s a good thing. Those are my favorite authors and speakers. Because that is living proof that there is hope in the morning. Regardless of where we awake.

      • Shelli, I’m both honoured and blessed by your words…and by your friendship.
        * Aside to Janet…THIS is what you have wrought, in creating and nurturing Between The Lines…a place where a person largely bereft of human contact can find some of the truest friends he’s ever had. I would not be writing, without this community, and my quality of life would be far worse. Between The Lines is the first thing I do in the morning (except for the Sunday night posts)…well, after taking out Barking Bella, of course (who can now walk a few steps).

      • Janet Grant says:

        Shirlee and Shelli are absolutely right. Be you, Andrew, and the acknowledgments will end up being profound and witty.
        I’m so thankful and humbled by how God has created a community via Between the Lines. I had no idea, when I decided we should have a blog, that this would happen. But it makes me very happy.

  2. peter says:

    Yep. An easily overlooked thing. I have spent time on all my acknowledgements, because it goes to my heartbeat – I deeply appreciate so much, so leaving this as an afterthought, even though its generally the first thing read – not so good. I, like you, read it first as well, because he reveals something of the writer to me. Thanks.

  3. Reading the acknowledgements brings me a step closer to the author. I love when they thank the fireman who helped understand back draft, or the ER nurse, or whoever helps make their story better.

    In my current WIP, Andrew has been helpful sharing his insights and offering suggestions of books to read for research. I’d definitely add him to my acknowledgements.

    Janet, thanks for encouraging us to be free to be ourselves in the acknowledgements.

  4. Acknowledge my topic while joyously acknowledging the people who helped me acknowledge my topic. What a glorious goal!

  5. I’m so glad you addressed this, Janet. I almost always read the acknowledgments because I love reading who had a hand in making a book what it is.

    *I confess, I’ve never realized how much of my personal voice can and should go into the acknowledgments I’ve created a list of people to thank for each book I’ve written, but the how of putting it together? I’ve not braved that yet. This post is incredibly helpful. Thanks, Janet!

    • “…to Jeanne Takenaka who picked me up even thought I was on the wrong level of the Denver Airport and hosted me and ALL my luggage during my trip to New Mexico in November of 2013. And who wheezed through movies and took me out for barbeque and to an outlet mall and pulled over that time the bacon double cheeseburger didn’t want to drive anymore.”
      Although, I am SURE my brown glove is in that vehicle.”

      • Jennifer, I’m doing a little bit of chortling over here right now. πŸ˜‰ Time with you is always time well-spent . . . even if we’re pulled over to the side of the road . . . πŸ˜‰

        And I never found a brown glove. πŸ™

  6. Jenny Leo says:

    I ‘m still so early in the publishing process that haven’t given much thought to acknowledgements. Thanks for the reminder that they deserve thought and effort and are much more than a hastily compiled afterthought.

  7. Betsy Baker says:

    Thanks again for such helpful information. I bookmark this blog more frequently than any other I read.

  8. I love it when authors add a little fun detail about the different people. Like when Marissa Meyer thanked the fan who came to her launch party dressed as the wicked queen attempting to attack her with her super long scary fingernails. She thanked the fan for not actually attacking her. So funny. Yes, I read the acknowledgements to books that I just don’t want to finish because they are so good. When they give a glimpse at the writer and the history of the story, that is the best.

  9. You’ve got my mind on the move. πŸ™‚ Most acknowledgements just seem simple … thanking all who helped. But I like the idea of getting creative with it. I know one thing … if I ever get a fiction work published, I’ll be trying to list everyone here. And I have to admit that every acknowledgement I read, I half expect to see Jennifer Major’s name listed. She’s everyone’s cheerleader. πŸ™‚ She’s definitely one of mine.

    • Shelli, I specifically thank Jennifer in my upcoming novel–Song of Silence (April 2016), for her help both in what infuriates the deaf and how it feels to have your vocal cords hyper-extended. She’s a treasure-trove of knowledge!

      This was a fun blog to read today for many reasons. The first page of Rainn Wilson’s acknowledgement section is even more hysterical.

      • Oh my word! You total sweetheart!!!
        I was more than happy to help! As for treasures, you are one of the best ones ever!

      • Cynthia, I am not surprised. Jennifer is so knowledgeable. Just don’t play her at Scrabble! πŸ™‚ And your page was so sweet … my favorite part is where Jamie asks you to dig deeper, and you write, “The best finds are often the ones buried deepest.” Oh, amen to that. And that can so relate to friends in this writing world, too. Those who go deep with us, praise with us, and feel our pains.

    • Awww, you are too sweet!!!
      And as for the cheerleading? Only vocally. No jumping. No cartwheels. We don’t have the health coverage for “just plain shouldn’t have tried that”.

  10. This is my 3rd attempt to comment. The first 2 went poof.
    If you can’t find my lost comments in the vast interuption of the space-time-internet continuim, trust me, they were awesome.
    For moi, all those dear hearts who hosted me on my research trips will get BIG thanks!!
    Of those people, several hang out here, including Jeanne Takenaka and Shelli Littleton. Road trips are always fun. But road trips where you get to see new places and be with like minded friends are even better. And if one of them needs just a wee bit of translation, that just adds to the fun.
    Some other things I’ve learned:
    1)The plural of ‘you’, is ‘y’all.
    2)Sometimes, you underestimate your reaction to altitude, and you’re buzzed but you don’t know that so you try to act fine and then your friend is all, “SIT DOWN”.
    Then you write something pithy and deep like “Thank you Shelli and Jeanne for surviving me.”

    Question: does the pub house have a say in the acknowledgements? Length, etc?

  11. Gayla Grace says:

    This is a great subject, Janet, that you don’t often see much information on. I tend to skim acknowledgments because a lot of them are written in a boring, list-type fashion. But I’m currently reading American Wife by Taya Kyle and took a peek at the acknowledgments (in the back of the bookβ€”aren’t they usually at the front?) They were beautifully written and let the reader see some emotions and personality of Kyle that you don’t gain from the book. I will look at acknowledgments now with a different eye, Janet!

    • Janet Grant says:

      Gayla, it’s true many of them seem like lists. Bor-ing! But how fun that you checked out your current read’s acknowledgments and found that a rewarding exercise.
      Acknowledgments used to be in the front of books, but lately they’ve started appearing in the back. I guess publishers thought they just got in the way of people getting to the book’s beginning.

  12. Wendy Lawton says:

    I thank those who acknowledge their editor because I often go to the library or bookstore to do research when I have an outside-my-box book to present to an editor. I find comparable books and use the acknowledgements to find an editor who likes that type of a book well enough to take it all the way to publication. That’s an editor I will make a point to meet and to whom I may send the manuscript. Acknowledgements as a research tool. πŸ™‚

    • Janet Grant says:

      And acknowledgments also tell writers who agents the author. If you’re reading a book in your category or genre and looking for an agent who likes your kind of writing, it can help in creating a list of agents to approach. Thanks for mentioning the research helps acknowledgments can offer, Wendy.

    • Sheila King says:

      Wendy, I do that, too, but looking for agents.
      “If she like (blank), she just may like my work.”

    • That is so smart, Wendy! I also like when an author acknowledges an editor because I feel that means the author was willingly open to criticism and that after ALL the revisions he or she went through with the editor, the author was still able to appreciate the advice received.

  13. D. T. Holcombe says:

    The best one I’ve read in awhile was in the latest book by Peter Enns, “The Bible Tells me So.” His opening line was, “I’d like to acknowledge myself. Writing is hard, and I’m wiped.”

  14. Thanks for this post, Janet. I am not far enough along in the publishing process to have written my acknowledgements section, but this will be a helpful reminder to add my voice and creativity to it. I DO always read this section in other books. I actually like to read EVERYTHING in a book. I love when authors include ‘About the Author” pages or notes about the story–what inspired the events, for example.

    • Janet Grant says:

      Laura, I’m like you. I read everything in a book. And the acknowledgments, especially now that they’re appearing at the end of books, are a lovely way to savor the book and celebrate the author and everyone who made the book possible.

  15. Jamie Chavez says:

    I always look forward to your posts. Today I’m particularly grateful for it! πŸ™‚

  16. I read Cynthia Ruchti’s book, “When the Morning Glory Blooms” before I met her. When I read her acknowledgment that included Jamie Chavez, I stopped and said a prayer a thanksgiving, because I too have been blessed by Jamie’s talent. I was encouraged and lifted up by her writing and her acknowledgments.

  17. Jen Harwood says:

    I have to say that I’ve never thought of the acknowledgements page as a place to be creative. I love your examples! I know I’ve lost respect and interest in some writers after having read their acknowledgements page. There’s nothing like reading this blog to make me realize how much there is to learn about being an awesome author.

    • Janet Grant says:

      Jen, sometimes authors reveal more about themselves than they intend in their acknowledgments, right?

      • Jen Harwood says:

        It would seem so in some cases! The individual I was thinking about was likely trying to build rapport and be cool, but it wrecked my (false) view of who she was! I guess she can’t be blamed for not living up to my faulty expectations though!

      • Janet Grant says:

        Jen, hmm, well that is one of the consequences of being ourselves in our acknowledgments…perceptions may be altered!