There are two types of readers: those who skip over the “front matter” of a book, and those who read every single word (even the copyright information and publication date).
Okay, maybe that's a little black-and-white. Chances are, you've read one or two dedication pages in your time as a reader. Maybe you've even had a book dedicated to you (we should all be so lucky). No matter the type of reader you are, if you're writing a book, you may want to know how to write a dedication page.
Keep reading to find out how!
- What a book dedication page is
- Who to dedicate your page to
- Tips for writing a dedication page
- Examples of dedication pages
Table of contents
- What is a Dedication Page?
- Tips for Writing a Book Dedication
- Book Dedication Examples
- 1. No Thanks, E. E. Cummings
- 2. My Shit Life So Far, Frankie Boyle
- 3. Ruins, Dan Wells
- 4. The Selection, Kiera Cass
- 5. The House of Hades, Rick Riordan
- 6. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, C. S. Lewis
- 7. Death on the Nile, Agatha Christie
- 8. The Great Gatsby, F Scott Fitzgerald
- 9. Anansi Boys, Neil Gaiman
- 10. Visions of Cody, Jack Kerouac
- Writing Your Dedication
Why Should You Trust Me?
I've actually been writing and formatting books for a long time. Over 10 years so far, and counting.
But that's not the real reason, because there are plenty of authors who have lots of experience, but know next to nothing about the different parts of a book, or book formatting in general.
The real reason you should trust me is because I actually created my own formatting software that solved all my problems. I called it Atticus.
But this isn't meant to be a sales pitch. I just want to make sure it's clear that I know what I'm talking about. The amount of research that went into not only formatting my own books, but also creating a formatting software is huge.
I researched everything, which led me to learn all about every. single. part. of. a. book. And there were a lot more than I realized.
And of course, that includes Dedication Pages.
So if all that makes sense, hopefully you'll come along with me as show you everything I've learned.
What is a Dedication Page?
A dedication page is the author's chance to write a personal note to a person or people who have influenced them in some way. As the name suggests, it's the author's way of dedicating the book to that person or those people.
A book dedication is often short and generally comes at the beginning of the book, before the preface, foreword, and prologue but after the title page, copyright page, and table of contents. This portion of the book is also called the “front matter”.
Dedication vs Acknowledgements
If you've read a dedication at the beginning of a book, you've likely also read an acknowledgment page at the end of a book. While these two sections may seem similar, there are some distinct differences.
As mentioned above, a dedication comes at the beginning, before the body of the work. Acknowledgments come at the end, after the body. Another difference is that acknowledgments usually mention people who worked on the book. Common mentions include editors, research assistants, proofreaders, and the like.
Dedications are usually (but not always) reserved for someone not directly involved in the book's creation. Friends, husbands, wives, children, or other family members are often mentioned in the dedication.
Another difference between these sections is length. Sometimes, acknowledgments can be significantly longer than a page. Dedications are typically short and sweet; often only a line or two.
Are There Rules for a Book Dedication?
There are no hard-and-fast rules for dedicating your book to someone. It's really up to you. Often, there's a personal (rather than professional) connection that you want to recognize.
And there's no rule saying you even have to have a book dedication. It's okay to not have one at all.
If you do have one, you don't have to know the person you're dedicating your book to. Some authors will dedicate a book to their readers or to an author who inspired them, even if that author is no longer around.
You can even dedicate a book to your entire family! And no, you don't have to list each family member by name if you don't want to.
Tips for Writing a Book Dedication
While there are no rules for writing a book dedication, there are some norms that you may consider following.
Choose Your Subject(s)
The first step in writing your book dedication is to choose your subject or subjects. In other words, who are you going to dedicate your book to? Once you know the person or people you'd like to dedicate it to, then you can start crafting the dedication itself. Here are some common options for book dedications:
- Spouse, Partner, or Significant Other
- Family Member or Loved One
- Close Friend(s)
- Writing Teacher or Mentor
- Favorite Writer
Think about the writing process of the book you'd like to dedicate. Writing a book is hard work. Did someone help you along when you were stuck? Did you regularly bounce ideas off of someone? Maybe someone gave you the idea for the book with an offhand comment in a conversation. These are the kinds of people whom authors dedicate their books to.
Express Gratitude in Your Own Way
The dedication section of your book is the one place to express gratitude in a way that's uniquely yours. The power of a dedication comes from the number of people that will read it. But that doesn't mean that it has to make sense to everyone who lays eyes on the page.
Sometimes the dedication references an inside joke between the author and the dedicatee. Other times it's straightforward and sweet. And it can also be funny or sardonic. Really, there are as many different ways to write a dedication as there are authors.
Think of the person or people you're dedicating the book to. Then write something specifically for them. But also remember that lots of other people will read it.
Remember Your Readers
A book dedication is not the place for secrets. Although it should be personal, often highlighting an emotional connection between author and dedicatee, it's not like a private note or letter. As you write it, remember that lots of people will read it. Maybe highlighting that embarrassing incident that your dedicatee would like to keep secret isn't the best choice in a dedication.
Try a Few Different Versions
Most dedications are pretty short. Some are just a sentence long. Others are a couple of short paragraphs. You can make yours as long as you want, but you generally don't want to go over a page.
Since they're relatively short, you can try a few different versions and see which one you like best. Maybe one is a short poem, one is a couple of sentences, and one is just a line. It's up to you what style you use. As an author, it's good to write multiple versions of anything. Usually, my best work doesn't come out on the first try. It takes a little bit of poking and prodding to get things where I want them.
If you're still not sure who to dedicate the book to, write a different dedication for each of the potential candidates on your list. It may help you decide which person or people to go with.
You Don't Have to Wait
It may seem like common sense to wait until the book is finished before you decide on a dedication. But really, there is no specific time to write your book dedication. If you have an idea of who you'd like to dedicate it to before you've even written a word, you can write it first.
Nothing is set in stone until you've published (and even then, it's pretty easy to update your manuscript if you're a self-published author). Re-read the dedication as you write and edit your book. If something happens while you're writing and you want to change your dedication, go for it!
Unless, of course, you've already told someone you're dedicating the book to them. Then you should probably stick to your word and keep it as is — although you can change the style and tone if you want.
Take Inspiration from Other Authors
If you're not sure what to write in your dedication, see what other authors have done in their books. You can head over to your digital or physical bookshelf and start looking in the front matter, checking for dedications. You can also use the Preview feature that most online booksellers have to look for dedications in books you don't own.
But before you do either of those things, keep reading, because I've gathered some excellent real-life dedication examples.
Book Dedication Examples
The following book dedication examples highlight the wide range of possibilities at your fingertips for writing your own dedication. Choose a dedication example that you like from the list below and use it as inspiration for your own!
1. No Thanks, E. E. Cummings
“After his fourteen failures Cummings gave up and turned to his mother. She gave him $300, with which he approached the printer Samuel Jacobs to bring out the volume under his own imprint, the Golden Eagle Press. The title was changed from 70 Poems to No Thanks, in allusion to the publishers' polite refusals. To put the final nail in the coffin Cummings included on the book's dedication page a concrete poem, arranging the fourteen publishers in the form of a funeral urn:
Farrar & Rinehart
Simon & Schuster
Smith & Haas
2. My Shit Life So Far, Frankie Boyle
“To all my enemies,
I will destroy you.”
3. Ruins, Dan Wells
“This book is dedicated to everybody you hate.
Sorry. Life's like that sometimes.”
4. The Selection, Kiera Cass
5. The House of Hades, Rick Riordan
“To my wonderful readers:
Sorry about that last cliff-hanger.
Well, no, not really. HAHAHAHA.
But seriously, I love you guys.”
6. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, C. S. Lewis
“TO LUCY BARFIELD
My Dear Lucy,
I wrote this story for you, but when I began it I did not realize that girls grow quicker than books. As a result you are already too old for fairy tales, and by the time it is printed and bound you will be older still. But some day you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again. You can then take it down from some upper shelf, dust it, and tell me what you think of it. I shall probably be too deaf to hear, and too old to understand a word you say, but I shall still be
your affectionate Godfather,
-C. S. Lewis”
7. Death on the Nile, Agatha Christie
“To Sybil Burnett, who also loves wandering about the world.”
8. The Great Gatsby, F Scott Fitzgerald
9. Anansi Boys, Neil Gaiman
“You know how it is. You pick up a book, flip to the dedication, and find that, once again, the author has dedicated a book to someone else and not to you.
Not this time.
Because we haven't yet met/have only a glancing acquaintance/are just crazy about each other/haven't seen each other in much too long/are in some way related/will never meet, but will, I trust, despite that, always think fondly of each other . . .
This one's for you.
With you know what, and you probably know why.”
10. Visions of Cody, Jack Kerouac
“Dedicated to America, whatever that is.”
Writing Your Dedication
As you can see, there's no cookie-cutter formula for writing the perfect dedication. Trust your gut to tell you when the dedication is perfect for you. If you end up not liking it after your book is published, you can always improve on it in your next book!
While dedications are common in novels, you can also put one in your children’s book, nonfiction book, short story collection, thesis paper, dissertation, or research paper. The idea behind each is the same.
Good luck and thanks for reading!You can also learn about the other important sections in a book's front matter here.