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Dedications, Acknowledgements, Forewords, Prefaces and Introductions: When to Use What

Part One

“You mean I’m not finished yet?!”

That’s the response I usually get towards the end of the editing process when I tell a client they still have to put some finishing touches on their book manuscript. By this point they have taken a year or more to write their manuscript (MS), and we will have been working together on the editing process for between six months to a year. As we get closer to publication, there are a number of “finishing touches” that still need to be created before the book is ready to be sent off into the tender care of the publisher.

This is where things can get confusing: a book will typically need a Dedication, an Acknowledgements Page, a Preface and, quite possibly a Foreword. But what do any of those mean? I’ve put together this two-part blog series to deal with the intricacies of each.

Dedication

The dedication usually goes on the Dedication Page, which usually goes in the very front of the book, after the Title page. This is your chance to honour someone who has meant a lot to you and you can dedicate your book to anyone you like. The dedication is usually short and it’s usually personal, rather than professional.
Here are the categories of people that are common focuses of a book dedication:
1. Family members (spouse, children, siblings, parents)
2. Close friends
3. People impacted by the book or featured in it
4. The readers of the book
5. Inspirational or supportive figures in your life
6. People you want to highlight in some way

And here are some sample Dedications from some of my favourite books:

Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery:
“To the Memory of my Father and Mother

Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach
“To the real Jonathan Seagull
Who lives within us all”

Winnie the Pooh by A. A. Milne:
“To HER
Hand in hand we come
Christopher Robin and I
To lay this book in your lap
Say you’re surprised?
Say you like it?
Say it’s just what you wanted?
Because it’s yours—
Because we love you.”

Acknowledgements

An Acknowledgement Page is the place where you thank all the people who helped you get your book written and published. It’s your chance to give them credit for their contribution to your book and it’s a way to publicly display your appreciation for their assistance and support.
This page is usually found in the front of the book after the inside cover page, and the copyright/information page and the dedication page. Some authors put the acknowledgements page before the table of contents, if your book has one, and others place it directly after the table of contents.

Who Should be Acknowledged?
There is no set policy regarding who to include in your acknowledgements. However, as a rule of thumb, you will want to include:
1. Family members
2. People who did research for you or provided you with data, case studies, etc., for inclusion in the book
3. Your editor
4. Your illustrator
5. Your graphic designer or book cover designer
6. Your mentor(s) or book coach
7. Your publisher

The Acknowledgment:
There are a few standard guidelines you should follow when writing an acknowledgement:
1. Typically this is never more than one page long.
2. Before you get started, take a few minutes to review other acknowledgement pages so you can get a sense of how other authors have handled this issue.
3. Make sure you mention the reason(s) why you are acknowledging each individual.
4. Keep it simple.
5. Keep it relevant – lots of people care about you and may have wished you well in the writing of your book; that doesn’t mean you have to include them here. Trust your heart.
6. Ask someone to review your Acknowledgements Page prior to publication to ensure you haven’t inadvertently left someone out who should be there.

Stay tuned for Part Two of this series, where I’ll be discussing Forewords and Introductions!

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