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, knowing from where the author drew inspiration.
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 guide to book dedication examples covers:
- What is a dedication in a book?
- Dedication vs acknowledgements
- How do you write a book dedication?
- Book dedication examples
What is a dedication in a book?
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 acknowledgements to a certain person or group of people. To dedicate the book to this person or to these people is considered an honor—imagine having a statue dedicated to you, for example, or an entire building named for you.
A dedication might be a brief sentence fragment, like ‘to my mother,’ or it might be a paragraph listing multiple people to whom the author would like to dedicate the book. Dedications are usually no longer than a few sentences.
Some authors will also use this section to set a specific tone (especially in comedy writing) or to make a joke. There’s no hard and fast rule for what a dedication must include, except that it should be short, and it 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.
Dedication vs acknowledgements
Crack open just about any book you own, and you’re likely to find a dedication right before the opening page, as well as acknowledgements immediately after the last page. What’s the difference between the two?
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 acknowledgements, 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 this section, you’ll have more room to list these people and what you’re thankful to them for.
Dedications are usually right after the title page, while acknowledgements are usually at the end of a book, but these aren’t hard rules. Acknowledgements might appear at the beginning of a book, for example, on either side of the table of contents.
How do you write a book dedication?
There may not be any hard and fast rules for writing a dedication, but there are definitely some tips and tricks to making your book’s dedication the best it can be.
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 instead list out all of the people involved in helping you write the book in the acknowledgements 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!
All that said: here are some ways to make your book dedication pop.
1. 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 which 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’s 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 drafting slog 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.
2. 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 which 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 acknowledgements, 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.
3. 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 an 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, remember: the dedication is for the dedicated subject, but the dedicated subject is not going to be the only person to see it. Nods to inside jokes or personal moments is 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.
4. 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 regards 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.
5. 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.
Book dedication examples
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.
The Field Guide to the North American Teenager by Ben Philippe
The Moorchild by Eloise McGraw
The Selection by Kiera Cass
The End Games by T Michael Martin
Winnie the Pooh by A. A. Milne
No Thanks by E. E. Cummings
House of Hades by Rick Riordan