While realising it’s getting way ahead of ourselves, I know there are a number of people to whom enormous gratitude is due, from both David & myself, for their support & encouragement of our co-authored work November Deadline. I’m not going to attempt to list them now, for I dread missing anyone unintentionally, and I not only hope they already know how we feel, but that we’ll get the chance to thank them properly in future.
This train of thought started when I read an article about acknowledgements – for the real question as far as I’m concerned is – does anyone read the acknowledgements?
I know I don’t, for I’ve always considered it a bit like that boring bit in an Oscar acceptance speech – you know, when winners get to name check all those people who don’t usually get the chance of being acknowledged – by name – to a TV audience of over 25 million.
Most viewers mentally switch off during the list of names being recited by rote, and I presume any reader who actually does check the acknowledgements, does so while allowing their eyes to skip over the names, or while keeping a look out for the unusual or the famous. Sometimes an author will even dedicate a book to someone who’d normally be included in the acknowledgement, although – in my experience – dedications tend to be family members or loved ones, sometimes even a secret one. Again, unless a dedication named you, can you remember the dedication in any book you’ve read?
But back to that article I read recently entitled “Pretentious bores make me want to burn every book: why can’t a single novel end without acknowledgements to every ‘darling’ from George and Amal to the Middletons?” in which Giles Coren expresses his frustration, nay loathing, of this particular practice. So strong is his feeling, he believes this is what’s wrong with the modern novel. Certain of his barbs made me literally laugh out loud, including this one about authors rushing “to kiss the completely irrelevant arse of everyone they’d ever met …” or name-checking famous people such as “Zadie S and Phoebe W-B (you know who you are) for just being there on the end of a phoneline from NY or SoCal when I couldn’t find the mot juste” – and yes, I did embolden than particular bit for making me positively hoot and snort. The article is well worth a read, even though it’s behind a paywall on The Times (you can register your email address for a free peak every now & again) for it didn’t just make me laugh, it made me stop & think.
You see … I’m certain the author genuinely feels gratitude and means the heartfelt thanks they are expressing, and hopefully, those on the receiving end get – at the very least – a degree of warm feeling.
So, what can we learn from this? Well, what I came away with was this – do write an acknowledgement, but …
- Use it to make your professional thanks – editors, beta readers, publishers & the like.
- Don’t use it to brag about the famous people you know, unless you want to to be on the end of eye-rolling, or to incite Giles-Coren-like rage.
- Don’t bore the pants off readers by naming Every.Single.Person you know (it’s not a radio show shout out).
- Don’t name a vast amount of people, or it will turn in to one of those Oscar-like mind-numbing recitations, instead limit it to those who made a significant contribution (and by that I don’t mean financial).
- If you’re going to thank your loved ones and/or family members for putting up with you, make it brief.
- Make sure you give thanks to everyone who is due it – do it in private, and do it properly.
As I see it, we should all bear in mind this final bon mot from the pen of Giles Coren: “when I pick up a novel in a bookshop, I shall no longer flick through the pages to see if it sounds like my sort of thing. I shall turn straight to the acknowledgements and if you sound like a dick, it’s going back on the shelf.”
What’s your view on acknowledgements? Do you have any tips you’d add to my list?
© Debra Carey, 2020