Saturday, April 9, 2016

Why Book Acknowledgments Matter

by Jean Kavich Bloom

Maybe because of my years in publishing, I nearly always read the Acknowledgments page in books. In fact, most often I read them first, even when they’re in the back, after the invisible “The End.”

The objects of these notes of gratitude can range from an author’s Fido or Fluffy, who provided good company during the many hours at a keyboard, to God himself—with any number of family, friends, assistants, and publishing professionals sprinkled in. 

It doesn’t necessarily matter to me where each is mentioned in the line-up (as long as God receives special mention!), but it does matter to me that the author cared enough to make acknowledgments in the first place.

Why, beyond a keen awareness that it “takes a village” to write and present a book in any form, do I find acknowledgments important? Because beyond the message, and certainly beyond the evidence of storytelling skills, acknowledgments tell me if gratitude resides in an author’s heart more than pride.

Now, it’s fantastic to see your name on the front of a book, and only the author truly knows the amount of blood, sweat, and tears that went into the work. A certain amount and type of pride is, in my opinion, appropriate and “allowed.” For Christian writers, the acknowledgment that God has called them to write informs how they can humbly manage success (as well as how they manage disappointment). “In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths” (Proverbs 3:6 ESV). God not only offers his ongoing support when he calls us on a journey, but he promises he will keep us going in the right, and I would also say humble, direction if we don’t forget he’s in charge. Now, that’s worth acknowledgment!

But God also allows human beings the privilege of walking alongside others’ paths, being part of the chain of help and encouragement that can make all the difference in the creative life. When authors write, complete, and even succeed, those who have lent their support or advice or expertise or assistance appreciate acknowledgment that they, too, answered God’s call to be a part of an author’s journey. Not because they are filled with pride, but because they are so pleased to have made a contribution.

I’ll tell you the truth: it kind of breaks my heart to see no acknowledgments in a book at all. Or acknowledgments that basically say, "You know who you are." Do they?

I realize the oft-included admission that someone may have been overlooked on an Acknowledgments page is necessary. After all, authors are human too, and sometimes the available space for acknowledgments is limited, or such a page is not traditionally included in a book such as a storybook for children. I also realize an author doesn’t always know the names of every hired editor, proofreader, designer, and so on. And I do not mean to offend any author who has a book out there without acknowledgments. You are not a terrible person! But to the degree authors can acknowledge that they have not accomplished their work alone, and can do so with honesty and humility, I recommend it.

Professor Randy Pausch, whose last lecture as a terminally ill forty-seven-year-old became the book The Last Lecture, got some help putting together his acknowledgments because he was too ill in his last days to write them himself. Though I am sure he would have preferred to write them himself, I have a feeling he would have loved the extensive acknowledgments others crafted for him. Not only because so many had a hand in his accomplishment, but because he recognized so many had a hand in his life

After God’s hand in a life, what is better than that?

So why not document the full extent of your acknowledgments now as an act of gratitude, even if they will never all appear in printed form? Who has a hand in your writing accomplishments? Who has a hand in your life as a writer? I’d love to hear about what acknowledgments mean to you.

Jean Kavich Bloom is a freelance editor and writer (Bloom in Words Editorial Services). Her personal blog is Bloom in Words too, where she sometimes posts articles about the writing life. She is also one of many contributors to a new blog for women, The Glorious Table. Her published books are Bible Promises for God's Precious Princess and Bible Promises for God's Treasured Boy. She and her husband, Cal, have three children and five grandchildren.

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  1. For The Methuselah Project, I kept a separate Word doc and added names to it each time someone provided information or feedback that warranted a public thanks. Those who provided the most important feedback also received a free copy of the book when it was published. Gratitude is a must!

  2. I, too, gift my books to those who've had a major role in helping it come to print. I like to give acknowledgements and read them, too. Of course I could do nothing without God. This was a good topic, I'd never seen addressed before.

    1. Thank you, Mary! I love receiving a book I have edited without having to ask if I may. It makes me feel great!