Your book started with a blank page. Now it’s a finished novel with chapters and everything! Congratulations!
After all of that hard work. Who do you dedicate it to? Who is worthy of holding the weight of your masterpiece?
While it is true that your dedication page is likely the shortest page in your book, it shouldn’t be taken lightly. It contains the first words that you say as the author before the story begins, so they matter.
Who you dedicate your book to and the words you use give readers a glimpse into your personality and set the stage for what is to come. Admittedly, not everyone will read it because the font matter is secondary to the main content, but for the true fans, your dedication page can draw them even closer to you.
In this article, we’ll look at some of the whys behind your dedication page and how you can create one that sets the tone for your book while sharing insight into who you are as an author.
We’ll look at how your dedication page can spark interest in your book and the different types to consider before creating yours.
Table of Contents
What is a dedication page?
The dedication page is similar to your acknowledgments section in that it brings attention to those who’ve impacted your writing journey; however, it is more personal and generally refers to a limited number of people (unless it’s your book’s audience.)
Dedicating your book is optional, but most authors use it as an opportunity to customize a message to a recipient—positive or negative. It’s located at the front of the book (front matter) after the title page. Most are a couple of sentences long but can be much more.
Historically, before the time of copyrights, authors had to find support for their writing endeavors. This is where dedications came into play. After all, getting a book mass-produced and into the hands of readers was frightfully expensive without modern-day printing methods like offset printing and POD. A writer would often dedicate a book to a wealthy person in the hope that they would help them foot the bill.
According to Oxford Reference, in Rome around the first century B.C.
“…much of the circulation of contemporary texts took place through the private dispatch of copies or the organization of recitations, through the network of social relations which connected the élite of Rome, of Italy, and eventually of the provinces: an élite which was almost the sole public for literary production…So, writers needed the support of leading members of this élite, both materially if they were not themselves rich and more generally to enable them to become well known and appreciated.”“patronage, literary.” Oxford Reference. ;
Accessed 13 Sep. 2023. https://www.oxfordreference.com/view/10.1093/oi/authority.20110803100310790.
Though the original intent behind dedications has changed, (no more pandering to the powers that be) pointing someone out to give them a personal message has not.
A common mistake for writers is to see the dedication page as an obligatory homage to a spouse, kids, or mentor when it could be so much more.
This is your book. Make it what you want it to be. More importantly, share a piece of yourself with your readers that clue them into who you are as an author.
Some of the best dedication pages are those that catch the reader off guard, make them laugh uncontrollably or pull a few heartstrings. Even an inside joke between you and the recipient can spark curiosity in the reader if done right.
Who should be the recipient of your dedication?
Write your dedication to whomever you please. Single out someone, a group, or no one at all. This proclamation is the first place in the book where a reader gets to meet you, the author, and all first impressions leave a mark.
What and how much should you say?
Brevity can be mysterious or annoying and a full page of deeply profound sentiment can be endearing or awkward. So it’s not the length that matters as much as the content, the recipient, and how you marry the two.
The key to writing a great dedication is to focus on the recipient AND the audience. Every page in your book has the potential to be read by someone you don’t know, and while dedication pages can be deeply personal, you don’t want to leave your reader standing out in the cold. At the least, invite them in for dinner and introduce them to the people already sitting at your table.
How do you format a dedication page?
The first person speaks directly to the recipient and is more familiar than the third person which speaks “of” the recipient.
- First person: “Michelle and Brianna, being your mother has given me the courage to do the impossible. “
- Third person: “To my daughters Michelle and Brianna. Being their mother has given me the courage to do the impossible.”
You can title the page with the word “Dedication” or leave the title off. It’s up to you. And Left, center, or right alignment is a matter of personal choice.
The only rule with the dedication page is that there are no rules. Just be mindful that whatever you choose to write can impact a reader’s journey through the rest of your book.
Examples of Dedication Pages—From Traditional to the Unexpected
1. Ideal Reader or Tribe
Appealing to your ideal reader or tribe shows empathy and an appreciation for who they are and what they mean to you.
Making your reader grin or chuckle before they start your book is a great way to get them to lower their guard and put them at ease.
Messages that are intentionally cryptic or selective spark curiosity and often make readers want to decode the message so they can be in on the secret, too.
4. Book Publishing Team Member
Editors, designers, and publishers often hold thankless positions. Dedicating a book to someone who went above and beyond to help you during your book’s development is a thumbs-up to that person and the industry as a whole.
In a sea of predictability, giving your reader something they weren’t expecting gets their attention, and that’s a good thing.
The “other” category is a catch-all for non-humans. So, whether you dedicate your book to your cat, your favorite sweater that got you through final exams, or last night’s tacos, the sky’s the limit.
7. Dedication + Epigraph
An epigraph is a quote, poem or statement by someone other than the author. You can have an epigraph separate from your dedication, use it in place of your dedication, or combine the two.
Whether you have too many people to choose from and you don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings or you can’t think of a single person, animal, organization, or being you’d like to offer a few words to, then no dedication is the best way to go.
How to Make Your Dedication Page Stand Out
Once you know who you will dedicate your book to, think about your book’s theme and message first and then circle back to how you want to say it.
A book doesn’t begin with chapter one. From the front cover to the last page, there’s an opportunity to pull the reader into your world. Your book’s story should be woven throughout, including the dedication.
The dedication page can set the tone for the entire book, so always choose your words carefully. There’s nothing wrong with a simple, “I dedicate this book to _____(name)_____,” but if you dig a little deeper, you might find something more.