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Are Book Dedications Really Necessary?

Book dedications are a time-honoured tradition. But is your book really incomplete without one?

At a book signing one time, a girl was perusing my novel, when a man sidled up to her and said, “You can tell how good a book is going to be by its dedication.”
This, I have to admit, was something I was quite unaware of.

The man then smirked at me, picked up my book, and read its dedication aloud:

“To the Bearded One in the Sky

Or in the Ground

Or Wherever You Call Home These Days”

He looked a little astonished. I have a feeling that it wasn’t what he was expecting.

Book dedications bestow a high honour on those who have inspired us. Whether it be that certain teacher, a close family member, or anyone else who pushed us on with unwavering support, thanking them in permanent ink is our way of giving back.

The dedication tradition is so cemented in publishing that, although it’s usually completely disconnected to anything else in the book, it has its own page, and is often times considered a standard part of a book’s front matter, along with the table of contents, foreword, etc.

Some famous authors have had fun with dedications, or created ones designed to get back at people.

Yet author each felt the need to include a dedication, again, because of tradition.

But what if you chose not to include a dedication in your book? Are readers so used to them that they might feel something is missing?

As a reader, I believe that the dedication is a quick way to get to know the author better. There’s always the “About the Author” page, but dedications always seem more personal than a biography. In many cases, we learn what’s important to the author: their spouse, their cat, their editor, etc. We see who else really played a role in creating this work of art.

[tweetthis]Because, as we authors and editors know, creating a book is a team effort.[/tweetthis]

Even if you dedicate your work to the wind and trees, there’s always something to inspire us. So, as a writer, I will always include a dedication.

As you may have gleaned, I like to have a little fun and be lyrically ambiguous with my dedications. Here’s the one from my second novel:

“To the Pain I Feel

Whenever You Dance Across my Heart”

So who or what am I talking about? Not to be coy, but I think it would ruin the fun if I confessed its meaning. Rather, I prefer the reader take those dedications and apply their own feelings to them.

In other words, who or what has danced across your heart, and left such an indelible mark that it bled?

Richard Todd,Editor's Desk,About Us,About The Editor's DeskRichard S. Todd is President at The Editor’s Desk, providing professional business copywriting services, as well as comprehensive manuscript editing and proofreading.

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