Mom taught you to be gracious. She reminded you to say thank you and to write notes after birthday parties. Should you be so lucky, getting your book published is not the time to forget all the good habits she pounded into your head. Because let’s face it: your book did not get published without the generous attention of about a dozen or a hundred or a thousand other folks who dedicated their precious time to assisting you with your special project. Perhaps you slaved away in an ivory tower, unaware of the party outside your arched window as you struggled to tame and taunt your writing muse. Other folks traipsed up and down the narrow staircase, checking up on your progress, offering advice, reviewing your work until it was ready to be seen by the rest of the world. You got your book published because you created a masterpiece, but someone else out there in Writerland helped, and you know it.
I write this post out of a bit of tiff. I’m not published yet but that isn’t the problem. It will happen someday. I’m not certain of the details, like when or how. I write with my feathers ruffled because an acquaintance published. Even that is not what’s eating at my craw. I’m thrilled it happened, as in, that was one swoopy roller coaster ride, let’s-do-it-again thrill.
This acquaintance self-published his/her work, an honorable strategy and one I might accept as my own path to book-in-print. Those of us in his/her writing critique group waited anxiously, delighted to purchase our copies and see his/her words between the covers. This isn’t about being jealous of Author’s success at publication by whatever method. I do, and we must, support each other on this long journey. I was, and continue to be, pleased at Author’s success. What bugs me is a lack of genuine acknowledgement for my part in helping him/her get the book into print.
At the beginning or end of a book are a few pages devoted to extra stuff, none of which is part of the story and much of which no one reads. Maybe Mom reads them, but then we all know about Moms – they crow about everything we “kids” do – it’s part of the Kingdom of Momdom Responsible Obligations Unwritten but Enforced Contract. The dedication page allows Author to share the limelight with one or two truly special people in his/her life. Author includes a brief biography and a photo, perhaps lists some of the items researched for the story, might even plug other works or other personal ventures and interests, and lists the names of people of most import – parents, spouse, kids, pets, close friends, mentors. Then there is the paragraph or two of professional recognition. Author writes a sincere if gushing thank you to agent, editor, publicist, and all the interns at the publishing house. Somewhere on this page are the thank you’s to the members of the writing critique group.
The people in your crit group listened to your story over and over and offered the best of their advice to help you whip it into shape. They encouraged you to cut the extra helping out of chapters, forced you to revamp the disorganization, and praised when praise was due. They read the same chapter over and over, deciding whether or not the rewrites improved the story or just added wordiness. We knew our names were in his/her book, as it had been announced that he/she had done so. I bought the book to add to its purchase footprint (it’s what partners do) and was frankly anticipating my name in the book.
Imagine my disappointment at what I read on that page. Not, “Thanks to all my writing partners,” with all our names listed, first and last. Nope, it was the truncated version of saying thanks. There was my name, beside those of the other crit members. We were listed as: Tom, Dick, Harry, Jane, Susie, and Shari. My first time in a published book and there it was: Shari. Yep, I am the only Shari in the whole wide world, folks. The hours I devoted to reading and commenting on the story, and what I got was, “Thanks, Shari.” No last name because he/she didn’t think me worthy of being recognized as that unique Shari Pratt who helped him/her with that confounded book. None of us got our last name published.
Upon seeing the acknowledgement page, I was and I remain, irritated. It just isn’t nice to do that, and Mom will tell you the same. When you get your book published, in whatever format, be generous and sincere in the thank you department. Through whatever lens you write – rosy, dark, historic, fractured, prismatic, or sharply focused – give a genuine shout out to all the folks who helped you on the way. Last names must be graciously included. “Hats off to all my partners and colleagues in the Someday I’ll Be in Print Critique Group: Tom Vandover, Jane Brubaker, and Shari Pratt. You are each unique and special in your own ways, and I couldn’t have written this book without your heartfelt contributions.”
In advance, thanks, and I was happy to help.