Dear Person Tempted To Add an Unnecessary Number of Acknowledgments to Your Novel:

Thank you for sending me your precious work to read. If I like it, I will be happy to blurb it enthusiastically or send it to my agent with a rave recommendation.  Let me inform you now, however, that the first thing I will read is the acknowledgments.  And if they make me feel queasy, our relationship will be over before it begins.

Here are some helpful hints:

A line thanking the foundation that allowed you to take a sabbatical from your job in the donut factory in order to write for a year, is fine. Alternately, a line thanking the Alliance National des Lettres Militaire for providing you with copies of the complete correspondence between Napoleon and his aide de camp — also fine.

Here is what is NOT fine.  Three pages of anything.  Particularly three pages thanking every person you’ve ever met, from your nursery school teacher for first recognizing your writing talent, to the guy at the coffee shop who always remembers you take your latte with soy, to your gynecologist for sorting out that stubborn yeast infection. NO acknowledgments may be made to the animal who sat on your lap on cold days and kept your knees warm, especially if it has a stupid name like Snuffles or Bilbo.  You may NOT thank your husband by his pet name, and in fact, if you love the guy so much, dedicate the book to him. Call me bad-tempered (you won’t be the first) but I once refused to read a ‘brilliant’ first novel by someone whose acknowledgments thanked her “love muffin.”  When I finished gagging, I e-mailed the editor and explained why I couldn’t bring myself to read the book.

If your book has NOT yet found a publisher, hold off on the acknowledgments.  It looks presumptuous and premature, neither of which is good.  And no one wants to be acknowledged in a mediocre unpublished novel anyway.

Your kids are spoiled enough without being thanked for not bothering you. Dedicate the book to them by all means, but don’t thank them for watching TV while you worked. And not everyone will agree here, but my feeling is that your agent and editor should know how much you love them anyway (assuming you do). So send them flowers. Or an e-mail saying the luckiest day of your life was the one on which you met him/her.

DO NOT thank every famous person you’ve ever met in the hopes that people reading your book will be impressed by what fabulous friends you have. It smacks of desperation (and, if you’re lucky enough to have famous influential friends, it’s probably best to shut up about it).

Remember: This is NOT the Oscars.  And even if it were, do you want to be remembered as the duh-brain who thanked her (or his) hairdresser, the postman who delivered the acceptance letter, and the wonderful man who invented pantyhose?  I think not.

By all means feel free to ignore this advice entirely, and acknowledge whom you damn well please.  But be warned. I happen to know I’m not the only one on the love muffin warpath.

Yours very sincerely,

Meg

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13 thoughts on “An Open Letter On The Subject of Acknowledgments

    1. Meg 6 years ago

      Fantastic, Simmone — hilarious article….

  1. bookwitch 6 years ago

    But, but, that was MY book! I thought putting the price on the back and adding the ISBN thingy was particularly effective. Makes it look so genuine.

  2. Jon Mayhew 6 years ago

    I wanted to ‘not dedicate’ Mortlock to my cynical eldest son, who was up for it as well but my wife wouldn’t let me, so I had to settle with…”even to Jack.”

    1. Meg 6 years ago

      I love the idea of a non-dedication. Or a reverse-dedication. As in, ‘this book is not for xxx.’ Brilliant.

  3. Fiona Dunbar 6 years ago

    Excellent! Going to share. So agree with most of this, only…argh. Guilty here of the thanking editors thing. Elizabeth Wurtzel piece is hilarious…would be fun to see examples of other particularly egregious offenders.

  4. Helen Graves 6 years ago

    Meg, too funny. LOVE MUFFIN?!

    @Jon – my father spent years threatening to dedicate a book to my mother: “To Jane, in spite of whom this book was written.” In the event, however, he wrote something pleasant, as well he should have.

  5. Kathryn Evans 6 years ago

    I give grateful thanks to Meg Rosoff, without whom this comment would never have been written.

  6. Lorna Stallard 6 years ago

    The best acknowledgement I’ve ever seen is in the album sleeve of Rufus Wainwright’s album ‘Want One’, which reads: ‘This album is dedicated to me’.

  7. Lucy Coats 6 years ago

    Like Fiona, I’m guilty of the thanking editor and agent thing–but only once. I promise never to do it again, Meg! Luckily had 12 dedications to think up this year, so have got rid of everyone in one huge orgy of dedlove, and didn’t have to do a single ack. Phew!

    1. Meg 6 years ago

      I’m a little torn about the editor/agent thing. But ask yourself, what would Philip Roth do? What would James Salter or Cormac McCarthy or Alice Munro or Doris Lessing do? I get a definite lack of “oh golly gosh, I’m so grateful you helped poor little me manage to publish my hopeless little book” kinda vibe from all the people I admire.

  8. immie thomas 6 years ago

    thank you for last night’s talk, it was great to meet you . I’ve started to read I Coriander, thank you for the suggestion. Hope to meet you again soon.

    1. Meg 6 years ago

      Hi Immie — it was great to meet you too! (And Nell and Lizzie…) Thanks so much for coming to hear me talk, and let me know what you think of I, Coriander. I’m going to tell Sally Gardner that you’re reading her book, I know she’ll be really pleased!
      xxxMeg

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