What Is a Book Dedication?
A book dedication is a device that some authors use to bestow a very high honor on a person (or small group of people) they want to praise or otherwise spotlight. It is not fundamentally different than dedicating anything else, like a ship or a monument.
This proclamation usually goes on the dedication page, which is in the very front of the book, after the title page.
Who Can an Author Dedicate Their Book To?
Anyone they would like. A dedication section is short and usually focused on one person (or specific group of people). It is usually personal, rather than professional. These are categories of people that are common focuses of a book dedication:
- Family members (spouse, children, siblings, parents)
- Close friends
- People impacted by the book or featured in it
- The readers of the book
- Inspirational or supportive figures in one’s life
- People the author believes should be highlighted in some way
Do You Need to Dedicate Your Book?
No. Most authors do dedicate their books, but it is not required or mandatory.
How to Dedicate Your Book
1. Decide Who Will Be the Focus
Think about the people to whom you want to dedicate this work. Who was the most important person? The seminal influence? The people you care the most about?
Many people write their book dedication to a child or dedicate their book to a friend who has impacted their creative process. There’s no magic formula, and you don’t have to get everyone in there. This should be short and sweet, and there are no wrong answers. You are expressing a personal sentiment, so only you can decide.
The worst thing you can do is get stuck on it. Either do it or don’t, and if you do decide to have one, don’t fret over it. Go with your gut. Anyone you leave out can be thanked in the Acknowledgments.
2. Remember: Everyone Who Reads the Book Will See This
As the dedication is at the beginning of a book, many of the readers will read it and be influenced by it. Think not just about the person or people named in the book dedication, but also about all of the readers who will pass by this page and be impacted. Make a conscious choice about what you want that impact to be (if any).
3. Make It Short—It Is Not the Acknowledgements
In contrast to an Acknowledgments section, the dedication should be short and to the point. You should not mention everyone who contributed to the book’s creation. You can thank everyone you’ve ever met in the Acknowledgements, if you want.
4. Review Book Dedication Examples (if necessary)
The easiest way to get some examples of dedications is to pick up any book on your shelf and look. Almost every book has a dedication, so you can find endless examples. Most of them are very basic and simple, something like this:
For my wife Megan and children, Ava, Jaxon, and Elle.
George R. R. Martin, who wrote the Game of Thrones series, has a unique dedication in A Song of Ice and Fire:
For Phyllis, who made me put the dragons in.
This concise line holds enormous depth for both the readers and the person mentioned. If you’ve read the books or seen “Game of Thrones”, you’d know that dragons and the fantasy world they represent were a big part of the appeal. To imagine the book without them would be nearly impossible. Phyllis clearly played a big role in the creation of this piece (it’s also an inside joke for fans).
Here’s the dedication that C. S. Lewis wrote to his goddaughter in The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe:
My dear Lucy,
I wrote this story for you, but when I began it I had not realized 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 someday 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
This book was listed as one of TIME Magazine’s Top 100 Novels ever written, and yet he wrote it for his goddaughter. This dedication gives real substance to the book, and the author, before you even dive in.
This next example is a short-and-sweet dedication from a book I co-wrote with Dr. Geoffrey Miller:
To our 17-year-old former selves, and to Bishop, Atalanta, and all the sons and daughters who deserve the great relationships we want for them.
5. Write Your Book Dedication
The number one thing to keep in mind is that there is no specific formula for this. The dedication is one of the most personal sections in the book, and it’s up to you to decide how you want to use it.
What’s inside of your book is more important, and getting it out into the world is the most important thing.