"I'd like to thank God, who was super supportive during all this."
March 8, 2013 6:33 AM   Subscribe

Thank You to the Author's Many, Many Important Friends - How the acknowledgments page became the place to drop names.
posted by Chrysostom (54 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

 
Sandberg’s seven-and-a-half page section, for instance, thanks more than 140 people for contributing to her 172 page book.

Acknowledgements should be there for the acknowledged as a small token of gratitude for services rendered. I actually like reading them - maybe not 7.5 pages... - when it gives insights into the author's life and how the book came about.

I wouldn't have been able to write this comment without the mutual love, support and respect of Buddha, Alexander The Great, Al Einstein, Warren B, and Ben and Jerry. Thank you for pushing me on and keeping me grounded xoxo
posted by Foci for Analysis at 6:54 AM on March 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


Oh yeah, this is that article Beyonce told me to read.
posted by orme at 6:56 AM on March 8, 2013 [5 favorites]


Is there a term for a creeping horror that you might leave someone out of acknowledgements and thus, wildly insult them leaving you in a cone of shame and ignominy for ever and ever?

( well okay other than " massively insecure worrywart" )
posted by The Whelk at 6:56 AM on March 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


Having been thanked in acknowledgment sections a few times myself, I can say that at the receiving end, it feels nice that authors do this, even if the average reader doesn't give a shit who all helped out. I don't really get this writer's beef, unless maybe some author neglected to thank her. She writes:
How did we get here? “You don't see Joseph Conrad thanking Ford Madox Ford, or Virginia Woolf giving shout-outs to Leonard, Lytton, Vanessa, Clive, and Vita,” the (often thanked) editor of the Paris Review, Lorin Stein, told me via e-mail.
Well, of course not. Acknowledgments generally appear in non-fiction, not fiction. But you'll find plenty of acknowledgments in biographies, histories, etc. published throughout the 20th century.
posted by beagle at 6:57 AM on March 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


Why Is the author complaining about Al Gore thanking the servant who cooks his meals? I get that thanking Oprah can be a way of bragging about being her pal, but what's wrong with thanking the cook?
posted by Area Man at 7:04 AM on March 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


Some good lulz up in here.
posted by turgid dahlia 2 at 7:05 AM on March 8, 2013


One of my former roommates just wrote a book. The acknowledgments runs about a page. I was not acknowledged, which is fine as I had nothing to do with the book other than paying part of the rent while he was writing it. He did, however, acknowledge both PepsiCo for the creation of Mountain Dew and the Taco Truck that is down the street from us (which admittedly is so good that I was hit by a car trying to get to it because I was focused on getting a sope). I thought this was amusing and was not offended.

Whatever happened to the dedication? You acknowledge or give a joke or make a loved one feel even more loved and move on. You can hope to one day have a book dedicated to you, but unless the person is a spouse or perhaps a parent, you really won't expect it or be offended when you are not the subject of the dedication. Removes the entire aspect of being worried about forgetting someone.

Maybe they should do award speeches like that as well.
posted by Hactar at 7:08 AM on March 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


Does anyone even read the acknowledgements? Unless you expect to be in them? Always seemed kinda pointless to me as a reader.
posted by dellsolace at 7:09 AM on March 8, 2013


No one ever got mad at the dude who only thanked his grandma.
posted by 1adam12 at 7:11 AM on March 8, 2013 [6 favorites]


Writing finely-crafted and exhaustive acknowledgments is a great way to procrastinate on writing your book. (Or PhD Dissertation. Not that I would know...)
posted by BrashTech at 7:23 AM on March 8, 2013 [3 favorites]


Does anyone even read the acknowledgements?

Never.
posted by turgid dahlia 2 at 7:27 AM on March 8, 2013


Does anyone even read the acknowledgements?

I can honestly say: always, and quite often first. In some ways they're the best part, whether they're done classily or horrifyingly. (Any errors in this comment remain my own responsibility.)
posted by oliverburkeman at 7:33 AM on March 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


So what is the book about?
posted by lampshade at 7:33 AM on March 8, 2013


If I thank and acknowledge the IRS on my tax return maybe they won't be permitted to review it.
posted by surplus at 7:33 AM on March 8, 2013


I often read the acknowledgment and I don't know why.
posted by Area Man at 7:33 AM on March 8, 2013


In the acknowledgments for Old Man's War I thanked just about everyone I knew, because you know what, I didn't know if I would ever have another novel again, so why not? The publisher was happy to let me go on for three pages (it's a cheap way of making an author happy) and those friends were happy to see their name in print in a book of mine. Everyone wins.

For The Human Division, the acknowledgments run roughly the same length and I thank roughly the same number of people, although now for generally more specific reasons. I thank them because they were helpful for me in ways I specify and also, again, why not? It doesn't harm the book itself to take a moment to say "thanks" to someone, and the fact of the matter is that people do, in fact, like to be acknowledged.

Acknowledgments are a fine way also to call attention to the other people who work on a book: For The Human Division, I acknowledge the editor, the copy editor, the page designer, the art director and artist, and my publicity people. Why? Because they helped to make the book and get it out there. They appreciate the acknowledgment and also, for the people who do read acknowledgments (I'm one, and did even before I started writing them) it brings home the point that publishing is in fact a collaborative process.

In a general sense, banging on writers for acknowledging other people just seems a bit weak sauce to me. It's nice to thank people, it's nice to be thanked.
posted by jscalzi at 7:38 AM on March 8, 2013 [18 favorites]


Just thank the coffee shop you wrote the book in, your editor, your mom, and the person you are currently having sexual relationships. Hopefully, these aren't all the same person.
posted by cjorgensen at 7:39 AM on March 8, 2013 [3 favorites]


Can we go after those end pages that go on about the typeface next?
posted by mediareport at 7:40 AM on March 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


I am too fucking lazy (and uncreative) to publish any work of whatever, but I am not too lazy to have reviewed and/or copy-edited whole manuscripts gratis for friends and colleagues, so getting the odd acknowledgment here or there is not only nice but the only way I'll ever see my name on a book.
posted by FelliniBlank at 7:42 AM on March 8, 2013


I hope you're not sleeping with a coffee shop; that just seems logistically problematic.
posted by punchtothehead at 7:42 AM on March 8, 2013 [3 favorites]


Since this thread is going to be full of book-botherers, can someone explain somethign for me?

Why do US editions of fiction almost always contain the words 'A novel' on the cover? It's very uncommon in the UK, so I wonder if this is a marketing thing or a case of publishers thinking audiences can't identify fiction without being warned prior to turning to the back-cover synopsis?
posted by mippy at 7:44 AM on March 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


Can we go after those end pages that go on about the typeface next?

Don't tread on my colophon.
posted by glhaynes at 7:47 AM on March 8, 2013 [4 favorites]


Whew! I thought we might run out of reasons to hate that book without addressing what it says.
posted by Linda_Holmes at 7:47 AM on March 8, 2013


Why do US editions of fiction almost always contain the words 'A novel' on the cover?

Previously!

posted by oliverburkeman at 7:48 AM on March 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


Acknowledgments generally appear in non-fiction, not fiction.

I have read a LOT of contemporary novels over the past few years that have extensive acknowledgements at the back. The one I just finished thanked her therapist. I've noticed this increasing recently where once a dedication was all that would appear. Pick up a bestselling novel in your nearest train-station bookshop and turn to the back - you'll struggle not to spot one without.
posted by mippy at 7:48 AM on March 8, 2013


THANK YOU. That#s been bugging me for ages. Still not sure why it's done there and not here, though. Maybe because the only big book chains here have been/are Waterstones and Smiths, and they don't market in the same way B+N do. (Borders pulled out of the UK a while before the US, but I did like their stores. I also had my mind blown the one time I went to a B+N in the US. SO HUGE.)
posted by mippy at 7:49 AM on March 8, 2013


Can we go after those end pages that go on about the typeface next?

I actually love this page and wish more books had it.
posted by gauche at 7:49 AM on March 8, 2013 [11 favorites]


THIS WEBPAGE HAS BEEN SET IN BEMBO
posted by mippy at 7:56 AM on March 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


I used to read acknowledgements in dead tree books, but I skip them on my Kindle.

No idea why.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 8:00 AM on March 8, 2013


Bembo was created by Jose Marquillado de Assisi in Genoa in 1587, as a variant of the Dendo typeface created by his predecessor in the Fatuosa workshop in Heidelberg in 1465, a stolid workhorse font often used by lapsed Cathars....

Seriously, there's hardly one of those pages that doesn't make me laugh out loud. Font freaks crack me up sometimes.
posted by mediareport at 8:04 AM on March 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'd like to thank every bean on this plate.

I'd /like/ to. But I can't.

Screw you, beans.
posted by clvrmnky at 8:12 AM on March 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


The article made me wonder if anyone ever fact-checks acknowledgments. What if E.L. James (50 Shades of Dreck) had thanked, say, Philip Roth? Would anyone notice, wonder, query, or challenge? (I'm assuming, of course, that these two luminaries are not acquainted.)
posted by scratch at 8:17 AM on March 8, 2013


Why do US editions of fiction almost always contain the words 'A novel' on the cover?

Because Americans are about as bright as those Python women that couldn't tell Whizzo butter from a dead crab. Unless you tell us it's a novel, we're likely to assume that it's actually a plate of pulled pork or a rabid wolverine.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:17 AM on March 8, 2013


Barnes & Noble's decision to start stocking rabid wolverines isn't going to save the chain and could end up hurting sales.
posted by Area Man at 8:23 AM on March 8, 2013 [3 favorites]


Be fair, it was only nine out ten British housewives who couldn't distinguish between Whizzo butter and a dead crab.
posted by Chrysostom at 8:33 AM on March 8, 2013


Can we go after those end pages that go on about the typeface next?
I lately read a book and loved the typeface so much that I turned to the front matter to find out what it was. Not a peep! I would gladly have a half side going on about the typeface's history than no word whatsoever. The book is rather old so I don't know if I'll ever find out now.
posted by Jehan at 8:48 AM on March 8, 2013


Bembo was created by Jose Marquillado de Assisi in Genoa in 1587, as a variant of the Dendo typeface created by his predecessor in the Fatuosa workshop in Heidelberg in 1465, a stolid workhorse font often used by lapsed Cathars....

Fraud! The Cathar's were exterminated well before the end of the 1300's and Gutenberg did not create his press until the late 1400's. Whoever is marketing this hogwash is clearly misleading you. You should demand a full refund of the purchase price of the book.

We now return you to your regularly scheduled thread.

/pedant
posted by Hactar at 8:56 AM on March 8, 2013


Jehan, you could try WhatTheFont. I've had mixed success with it.
posted by glhaynes at 9:09 AM on March 8, 2013


And then there's crowdsourced books.

I just ran a Kickstarter. Finished a week ago. Anyone who pledged £12 or more will get their name in the book. I thought I was being clever: the more you pledged, the larger your name will appear, up to 24pt type.

I hadn't expected to end up 800% funded, and needing to find space for more than 800 names.

I'm pretty sure they'll be placed at the end.
posted by Hogshead at 9:10 AM on March 8, 2013


Why do US editions of fiction almost always contain the words 'A novel' on the cover?

Look! A Book!
posted by cjorgensen at 9:11 AM on March 8, 2013


The article doesn't talk about the supposedly "tasteful" but perhaps ultimately even more horrible practice of acknowledging the author's super-famous friends by first name or nickname only. This form of supposedly tasteful restraint in name-dropping has always struck me as even more creepily self-congratulatory, in the mode of a stereotypical Hollywood agent, turning the acknowledgements page into a sort of mini-roman a clef which only an insider can fully interpret.
posted by RogerB at 9:40 AM on March 8, 2013


I like acknowledgments in non-fiction books. They're frequently a convenient way to find more information about what archives an author consulted and other authors who cover the same or a similar subject. I also like reading the acknowledgments for historical fiction books, or fiction books that otherwise clearly required a lot of research, to get an idea of just how much I should trust the facts behind the author's fiction. For most books though, I just don't care. It's nice for the people being acknowledged and doing the acknowledging, but acknowledgments generally seem superfluous to the average reader. They're just not really there for the reader.
posted by yasaman at 9:49 AM on March 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


I used to read acknowledgements in dead tree books, but I skip them on my Kindle.

No idea why.


Huh. Me too, and I too don't know why. When I read something I really like I'm much more likely to pore over every bit of additional info when I'm done, but if I'm reading digitally I do it online rather than scour the ebook. I look up author blogs, articles about them, reviews and info about cover art and book design, etc., if I can find it. With a paper book, I do both.
posted by taz at 9:52 AM on March 8, 2013


i don't like acknowledgement pages for some of the same reasons i don't like oscar speeches that thank agents and lawyers. who besides the agent and lawyer wants to hear it? your duty is to the audience/reader. if you want to thank someone personally, write a personal note.

another reason: how do they know where to stop? why the editor but not the proofreader? how about the printer? the delivery truck driver? it takes a village to put out a book.
posted by ecourbanist at 9:56 AM on March 8, 2013


Does anyone even read the acknowledgements?

If it's short yes. Like if the author thanks their spouse and clips in a stanza of poetry in dedication. Longer than that may as well be the second half of the credits of an action movie.
posted by 2bucksplus at 10:04 AM on March 8, 2013


Does anyone even read the acknowledgements?

I do. Sometimes, just because I can't believe the book is really over and I'm not ready and at least there's something left at the end to drag out my experience reading this book that I'm not ready for it to be over.
posted by stoneweaver at 10:18 AM on March 8, 2013 [4 favorites]


Longer than that may as well be the second half of the credits of an action movie.

Sigh ..no one ever cares about the Second Unit.
posted by The Whelk at 10:21 AM on March 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


Writing acknowledgements was scary. Biggest scary question: do I thank the girl who gave me helpful editorial advice and then with whom had a dramatic falling out with because homophobia? I erred on the side of caution and just thanked everybody. But still, the drama.

Oh, one thing I liked: getting a choice about putting them in the beginning or the end. I don't know why anyone would ever put them at the beginning. Tacky, IMO. Let the book speak for itself! I don't want my personality or relationship to other people changing a reader's interaction with text.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 10:50 AM on March 8, 2013


Acknowledgements are part of what Gerard Genette called "paratexts" - the bits hovering around the actual text and providing the reader with a context for the text and help shape the reader's reception of the text. See also: the blurb, the table of contents and the footnotes.

I think there is a strong case to make that the author can try to posit him/herself within a certain context by thanking them - the difference between thanking Paris Hilton and Toni Morrison for "excellent company and feedback". It's a way of stating your space, your context to the reader and announcing your importance.

Playful acknowledgements are always a lot more interesting to me than try-hard acknowledgements, but in either case they certain shape my expectations as a reader.
posted by kariebookish at 11:23 AM on March 8, 2013


A family friend/ author referred to me as a "violinist-gadfly" in this book's acknowledgements.
http://www.amazon.com/Encyclopedia-American-Music-Edward-Jablonski/dp/0385080883

I was rather embarrassed, but Ed, bless your heart/RIP - you were on the money. (Not fiddling so much these days, but still a gadfly.)
posted by NorthernLite at 12:01 PM on March 8, 2013


"I understand from the Pope that you just finished a movie."
"Well, he just can't keep a secret."


Any excuse to link to Nichols and May.
posted by benito.strauss at 12:07 PM on March 8, 2013


I always read the publication date first to get a sense of the context the book was published in, then the copyright notices to see which songs Stephen King will be quoting in the book.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 7:03 PM on March 8, 2013


I'd like to thank cortex for that thing he did with the corgi and the slag pile and the molten nickel.
posted by dmd at 6:56 AM on March 9, 2013


Don't tread on my colophon

Mama don't take my colophon awaaaay.
posted by hattifattener at 12:08 PM on March 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


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