• Ellen Cassedy
  • TIPS OF THE TRADE: Without Whom: Why I always read the acknowledgments page first
TIPS OF THE TRADE: Without Whom: Why I always read the acknowledgments page first
Written by
Ellen Cassedy
November 2012
Written by
Ellen Cassedy
November 2012

The first thing I do when I pick up a book is flip to the acknowledgments page. 


I love acknowledgments.  I like standing next to the author as she lifts her book out of the oven, fragrant and juicy as a holiday roast.  She’s bursting with pride, awash in gratitude.  Who wouldn’t want to be there to share the love? 


Acknowledgments pages can forge a special connection with readers and prospective readers.  So do what you can to make the most of this opportunity.  Herewith, my highly idiosyncratic rules:


1.  Never thank a pet.  Maybe it’s just me, but when I see a cat or dog thanked in the back of a book, I feel totally turned off.  Especially if the pet’s name is mentioned.  Eww.


2.  Thank a librarian.  I love that.


3.  Thank partners, children, and research assistants.  But don’t overdo it by gushing too much about their favors.  I hate it when I get the feeling that the author is the emperor of a small kingdom revolving around the precious book project.  Pick up your own laundry.


4.  Be dignified.  “Thanks to Editor X or Agent Y for taking a chance on me.”  Enh. “Thanks to Friend Z for rescuing me when I thought I couldn’t go on.”  Not great.  I don’t like to see mentions of writers’ groups or MFA programs, either, even though I’ve found them helpful in my own writing life.  I don’t want to see the gears grinding.  I want to feel I’m in the hands of a master.   


5.  Be mysterious.  In White Field, Black Sheep, for example, memoirist Daiva Markelis thanks “Father Arvydas Zygas for just being who he is.”  Enticing!  I want to get to know both of them better. 


6.  Thank everyone.  I adore reading through page after page of names, even if I’ve never heard of any of them.  I revel in the feeling that the author is part of a big, warm gang of comrades who go the extra mile for one another. 


7.  Go easy on family members among the readers of early drafts.  I like to know that such readers brought credentials or a special expertise to the project.  That way they function like back-cover blurbers.  


8.  When thanking your agent, if you have one, use restraint. “So-and-so, the greatest agent on the planet, has become one of my dearest friends.”  Sounds dubious, even if it’s actually true.  I’m more likely to believe expressions of love directed at editors.  But maybe that’s just me.


9.  Show why you’re so pleased to be presenting the book to the public.  Not simply because you like the prestige, but because the content or theme of the book matters deeply – to you and, you hope, to your readers.    


Follow these rules, and your readers will already feel positively toward you and your book by the time they turn to Page 1.  And that’s something to feel grateful for.  Happy Thanksgiving!



Ellen Cassedy’s book – a blend of memoir, history, and cultural commentary – is We Are Here: Memories of the Lithuanian Holocaust (University of Nebraska Press, 2012). Her first post for SheWrites was “Who Cares about Your Family Story? Ten Tips to Ensure Readers Will ...” Her [TIPS OF THE TRADE] series appears monthly. See all of Ellen's Tips for Writers.





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  • Ellen Cassedy

    Agreed, Edie!

  • Edie Weinstein

    When I was writing The Bliss Mistress Guide To Transforming The Ordinary Into The Extraordinary, one of my favorite parts was the acknowledgements since a book is never a solo endeavor. Just as it 'takes a village' to raise a child, so too does it to birth a book. Each person mentioned is a precious part of my life and since the book is about (in part) relationships, having the reader get an inside glimpse into my relationships helps them to know me better. Each mention gives the reader a sense of who these folks are too. And who doesn't like to see themselves acknowledged in that way? <3

  • Ellen Cassedy

    I agree with you, Betsy -- the acknowledgments "add something extra, another dimension of the book-reading experience for me." So as writers, let's think of this page as a part of the book, and compose with care.

  • Betsy Graziani Fasbinder

    I save the acknowledgements page for last, sort of dessert after the book as main course.  After I've read the work, I like to get to know the author and her tribe a little, get a little insight into the struggle and the support she had along the way.  It adds something extra, another dimension of the book reading experience for me.  I just don't like it when there's a whole paragraph of names in a list.  I skip such list paragraphs as they seem more like an obligation than a genuine appreciation.  I love acknowledgements that are funny, or schmaltzy, or touching, or oozing with affection.  

  • My dad once threatened this dedication:  

    To my wife, in spite of whom this book was written.

    Gotta love an honest sense of humor!

  • Jo-Ann Mapson

    Of course, everyone needs squirrels to learn how to love.  We have packrats.  I wonder what they'll teach me?  How to briefly admire?  LOL SQUIRREL!

  • Ellen Cassedy

    Thanks for these comments, everyone!  I just heard about a renowned acknowledgments page that thanked three squirrels, who taught the author how to love.  

  • Tyra Brumfield

    I, too, enjoy acknowledgement pages. I'll have to agree with Catherine: I'd be hard pressed to find someone to thank. I would like to thank my husband, although I had to write on the sly when he wasn't hungry, etc. I'd like to thank my family, except I often feel like an orphan. Maybe I could thank the mailman for sending the script to the right agent who will take a chance on me. Yeah, that's the ticket...or maybe not. I like reading those "thank-yous" but I would have to agree with leaving out pets. Me thinks we give them too much consideration as it is.

  • Catherine McNamara

    I had trouble writing my own acknowledgements page for my first novel and now I am thinking about whom to include for my second. Family? Not really, they don't encourage and we both have to suffer each other. Pets? Are you mad? The amount of running around I do after them. My draft readers? Yes but, um, in the end they made me doubt, clashed with each other, left me alone in the cold.. I'd like to thank the people who fed me, told me to turn out the light, my publisher of course and my future readers!

  • Jo-Ann Mapson

    Interesting thoughts on acknowledgments.  I agree it can provide some intimacy, and too much is always bad.  I thank my dogs sometimes.  They're really good listeners, and provide only positive support, tho they occasionally steal my lunch.

  • Jenni Ogden Writing

    I too read acknowledgment pages. I love these gems from Lionel Shiver's acknowledgements for ""So Much For That."  "Novelists thanking spouses for their amazing patience during the agony of artistic creation gets pretty tired. Besides, I don't consider writing an agony, and my husband, Jeff, is not remotely patient. Yet he did furnish me one gift for which any author's gratitude is bottomless: a good title."  And this in thanking her agent, Kim Witherspoon: "I hesitate to let the secret out lest she be inundated with writers desperate for better representation, but I am blessed with one of the only literary agents in New York City who is not a nut."

  • Grace Peterson

    Great post, although I think I would get a kick out of reading an acknowledgement of a pet if it were written in an entertaining way. For instance if the book were of the horror genre, "Thank you Bowzer for keeping your ears tuned to the nighttime nuances during my all-night writing binges," for instance. No? Oh well... :) 

  • Kelli Swearingen

    I read acknowledgement pages too! I agree with number 2 also. The pet thing is kind of odd but if its a book about said pets its ok,I think. Number 5 is so totally true! If a name sounds familiar,I'll look them up and I have found other authors that way. Great list!