When I was a kid, I had a fascination with book dedications. I saw them as pockets into an author’s personal world—I rarely had any idea who the person or place was, but knowing they existed and hearing the author talk about them made the author feel tangible and real. And this made the entire book to follow feel more personal.
Book dedications are a wonderful way to honor someone or something integral to you or your writing. They’re meaningful to you as an author, since you’ve been inspired and moved by them, and they’re meaningful to their subject. Writing a great one can be a ton of pressure, especially if you feel particularly strongly about your subject.
Good news, though—it doesn’t have to be stressful! In fact, it can be incredibly gratifying or even fun, so long as you know what you’re doing when you get started.
In this article, we’ll talk about what book dedications are, how they work, and cover some tips for how to write a great one. We’ll also give you some real examples of book dedications to get you brainstorming your own!
This Blog on Book Dedications Will Cover:
What is a book dedication?
A book dedication is exactly what it sounds like—it’s a small section, generally given its own page before the beginning of the book, where the author gives special mention, thanks, or acknowledgments to a certain person or group of people.
To have a book dedicated to you is considered an honor. Imagine having a statue dedicated to you, for example, or an entire building named for you.
Book dedications might be brief sentence fragments, like “to my mother,” or they might be paragraphs listing multiple people to whom the author would like to dedicate the book. That being said, book dedications are usually no longer than a few sentences.
Some authors will also use book dedications to set a specific tone (especially in comedy writing) or to make a joke.
There’s no hard and fast rule for what book dedications must include, except that they should be short, and should come before the beginning of the book.
You also don’t have to include a book dedication if you don’t want to! It’s very common to do so, but there’s no rule that says you have to.
Book dedications vs acknowledgments
Crack open just about any book you own, and you’re likely to find a dedication right before the opening page, as well as acknowledgments immediately after the last page. What’s the difference between book dedications and acknowledgments?
Well, most obviously, there’s length. Dedications are meant to be short, succinct, and a sort of honorary gesture.
You might dedicate your book to your partner because you love them, to a teacher who always believed in you, or to your hometown for giving you lots to work with.
In the acknowledgments, however, you’re specifically thanking the people who helped you write the book.
This may also include loved ones who provided emotional support during the writing process, but it’ll also include people like your editor, beta readers, friends who read your work at different stages of the process, professionals with whom you may have consulted, and so on.
In the acknowledgments section, you’ll have more room to list these people and what you’re thankful to them for.
Book dedications are usually right after the title page, while acknowledgments are at the end of a book, but these aren’t hard rules. Acknowledgments might appear at the beginning of a book, for example, on either side of the table of contents.
While there may not be any hard and fast rules for writing a book dedication, but there are definitely some tips and tricks to making your dedication the best it can be. Let’s discuss how to write top-quality book dedications.
How do you write book dedications well?
What to learn how to craft compelling book dedications? Here are some ways to make your dedication pop:
Pick someone or something to dedicate the book to
This might sound obvious, but have someone or something in mind when you’re writing the book and when you start on the dedications.
Some examples include: partners, spouses, children, teachers, siblings, close friends, places that inspired the book, parents or grandparents, and so on.
Is there someone in your life who has inspired you to write, or has offered you special encouragement on your journey?
Is there a particular place or period of time that inspired you?
Dedications are often made to real, living people close to the author, but they don’t have to be. If you write historical fiction about a specific person or group of people, you might dedicate your book to them, for example.
Some authors even take a more comedic approach to this and dedicate their books to people who might have bullied them. Spite is a powerful motivator, after all. This is something to be careful with, as you don’t really want to outright mock someone by name in your dedications, but something vague in a teasing tone can be funny.
Having this person or thing in mind before you start writing can be a powerful motivator, too.
When you’re stuck in a writing rut or trapped in some hellish stage of revising, it’s nice to be able to reflect on the reason why you’re doing this in the first place. This will give you something pleasant to look back on during the process, and it’ll make it all the easier to write your dedication after the fact.
Make it personal
You can choose to address the dedicated subject directly or write the dedication in the third person, but either way, you want to make it personal.
Again, this should be the subject that has inspired or motivated you to write this book. This is already a powerfully personal connection to have with something—tap into that while you’re writing the dedication.
Like I mentioned earlier, this is a great place to start an emotional connection with your audience, too.
Making a sincere dedication will give your readership a small sense of what you’re like as an author. Besides the acknowledgments, this is one of your few chances to do so, especially if you’re writing fiction. Let the dedication take on your own voice and personality.
If you’re dedicating the book to someone with whom you have a ton of inside jokes and history, don’t be afraid to keep that dedication personal, even if this means your readership might not get it. It should be, first and foremost, for you and the dedicated subject.
If you’re sincere, then the audience will pick up on that, even if they don’t necessarily “get” every single thing you mention.
Keep your target audience in mind
While your dedication should be written with your dedicated subject as your first priority, you should also keep your audience in mind. If you’re writing a comedy, for example, this might be a chance to either offer a heartfelt dedication to show your emotional range, or to write a funny dedication to set the tone.
You might also be writing for a specific target audience with whom you strongly identify. If your book revolves around a single mother struggling to make things happen in her love life, you might dedicate your book to other single mothers and offer them some empathy and connection.
You can also match your dedication to the overall theme and tone of the book.
If you’re writing a particularly atmospheric gothic novel, for example, your dedication might ring with mystery and intrigue. A lighthearted romance’s dedication might be witty and clever as well as heartfelt and sincere. This isn’t necessary, but it can be a nice primer for the reader.
Above all, the dedication is to the dedicated subject, but that subject is not going to be the only person to see it. Nods to inside jokes or personal moments are fine, but sharing sworn secrets or slandering former bullies is not. If you or the dedicated subject wouldn’t want a stranger to see it, you shouldn’t put it in your dedication.
Draft dedications in different styles
If you’re stuck between a few different dedications, that’s okay! It can feel like a lot of pressure to get a dedication just right, especially with so many different options with regard to tone and style. Do you make it funny? Do you make it serious? Both? Neither? Ah!
When you have your subject, or even if you’ve just narrowed it down to a few, draft a few different book dedications.
Try funny ones, serious ones, and sappy ones.
Try dedications to specific people, multiple people, places, or whatever you’re torn between.
Play with different lengths—you may find that you need a paragraph to say what you need to say, but you might surprise yourself by stopping two sentences in.
Draft a few, put them away for a few weeks, and come back to them. If you’re still stuck, have a trusted friend take a look to see which of them reads best.
Read lots of book dedications
As is the case with anything you write, the best possible tip is to read widely in that area. So, if you’re working on a book dedication, you’ll want to read lots of other book dedications.
While you can read dedications specifically in your own genre, you don’t have to, strictly speaking. Dedications can be as varied as the authors who write them, so you’ll get a ton of variance in tone and style even within a genre.
What’s most important is that you read a bunch of different book dedications, and preferably those that vary in length, style, and tone.
Read snarky ones, romantic ones, dedications to people, dedications to places, and dedications to groups. This will help you get a sense of how to put your own dedication into words and it can give you ideas for how to best structure and stylize your dedication.
If you know your dedicated subject, it might be especially helpful to look for how other authors have dedicated their books to the same subject. For example, look for how other authors dedicate their books to their spouses, children, or parents. Obviously, the exact relationships are wildly different, but it’ll give you some ideas.
And remember: you don’t have to write a book dedication if you don’t want to. If you find yourself struggling to write anything compelling for your book’s dedication, even after reviewing these tips, or if you don’t feel that your book requires a dedication at all, you’re more than free to skip it and just write an acknowledgments section.
However, dedications can be incredibly special to the reader, the audience, and the person or people to whom the book is dedicated. It’s an important opportunity for building an emotional connection with your reader, and that’s worth your best shot!
Not sure where to start looking for book dedications? Well, great news—we’ve done the legwork of compiling a bunch for you to get started.
10 successful examples of book dedications
Here are 10 examples of great book dedications to get your inspiration flowing:
1. The Field Guide to the North American Teenager by Ben Philippe
This dedication in The Field Guide to the North American Teenager by Ben Philippe is great for a good laugh. It immediately helps you connect with the author and sets the tone for the story.
2. Skulduggery Pleasant—Mortal Coil by Derek Landry
Just look at the dedication from Skulduggery Pleasant—Mortal Coil by Derek Landry. It’s hysterical. You not only get insight into the author’s complicated relationship with his editor (we know he is only half joking here), but we also get to see his sharp wit on full display before we even start the story.
3. Austenland by Shannon Hale
Remember when I said you don’t have to get the inside joke? Austenland by Shannon Hale provides a great example of a solid dedication. Because Colin Firth played Mr. Darcy (and this book is recovering Darcy fanatics) she thought it would be great to dedicate the book to him in a cheeky way.
She of course, also sent Firth a letter so he wouldn’t be too alarmed.
4. The Great Gatsby by F Scott Fitzgerald
Short, sweet, and to the point, The Great Gatsby is dedicated to Fitzgerald’s loving wife. It also makes you want to figure out which other works have been dedicated to Zelda, so it’s a sneaking way to spark intrigue.
5. The Moorchild by Eloise McGraw
If you have (in fact) ever felt different, then this dedication will feel as though the author is speaking directly to you at the beginning of The Moorchild. And you will feel seen. That’s an instant connection right there.
6. The Selection by Kiera Cass
Another dedication that is short and simple, Kiera Cass gives us a quick laugh in The Selection.
7. The End Games by T Michael Martin
Some book dedications are funny and witty at the same time, and The End Games by T Michael Martin walks that line beautifully. It speaks to the love of video games and is a cheeky connection to any gamer who happens to pick up the book – but it is also an ominous foreshadowing of the more sinister game within the pages.
8. Winnie-the-Pooh by A. A. Milne
This is such a sweet dedication. We don’t know exactly who it is dedicated towards, so any girl who picks up Winnie-the-Pooh can feel the sense of being cherished.
9. No Thanks by E. E. Cummings
What a hoot! In No Thanks, E.E. Cummings not only gives us an insight into his difficult publishing process, but also calls out all the publishing houses who didn’t want to work with him.
10. House of Hades by Rick Riordan
Last but not least, in House of Hades, Rick Riordan shows us the perfect example of how to connect with your readers in your book dedication. He speaks directly to his fans, and I am sure they were just tickled.
Ready to practice your own book dedications?
Now you can use these examples and tips for writing book dedications to good use. Of course, a dedication is only one small part of the publishing puzzle, so if you have any other questions or concerns about the publishing process, you can reach out to our team for help.
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