Everyone has their secret thing about getting published that excites the hell out of them. Maybe it’s seeing your cover, or your name in a cover-worthy font. Maybe it’s the idea of going on a book tour, or of getting fan mail. Maybe it’s being able to say you’re a published author, or updating your Twitter bio, or that one person you cannot wait to call and tell.
For me, my obsession has long been to finally write my acknowledgments.
Yes, I know it’s weird, but bear with me. In the summer of 2006, I had my second publishing internship, in the Production department at Simon & Schuster. I worked under pretty much the greatest woman ever, nicknamed “The Spitfire” by at least one of her authors (for excellent reason), and by the time I was done I knew I would forever care about things like grammar and punctuation if for no other reason than to make her proud. (But also there are so many other reasons. THEY ARE IMPORTANT!) Some of the work I did was mindnumbing, to be sure – seriously, you try copy editing an index and tell me how much fun it is – but I was working on books and even though they weren’t always in my area of interest, that was the greatest reward in the world.
Until I saw an acknowledgments section from a book I worked on that had an entire sentence that read, after the names of my boss and the copy editor, “Intern Dahlia Adler was their very able assistant.”
I was floored. I died. I came back to life and died and died again. Sure, I’d proofed captions for this book, and the index, and studied the style sheet (actually a massive package) as if it was an SAT flash card (just kidding, because that would mean not at all, but you get the idea) but this… I didn’t even know I was eligible for this! I was an intern! I’d never spoken to this author in my entire life! How did he even know I existed??
And it wasn’t the only one! Later that summer I got in the acknowledgments of another writer whose book I’d worked on as an intern! It was like magic! Wonderful, name-immortalizing magic.
I got spoiled.
When I returned to the house a year later, it was as an Editorial Assistant, and this time, I did talk to authors. I answered their phone calls, I responded to e-mails, I sent them their complimentary copies… and I worked really, really hard. And yet, it was a far more thankless existence. One Christmas present. One Valentine’s present. One acknowledgment. Granted, I had to leave that job after less than a year to move to Philadelphia for my husband to attend law school, but my whole internship had been two months. How had I yielded more immortality in just two months than the ten I worked as an EA?
More than anything, I remember that time I was sure. That time I answered phone calls from the same co-author daily, and spent half an hour entertaining yet another one when he showed up early for a meeting. The Friday I was supposed to leave at noon but stayed until five to do an art log I would need to redo entirely on their whim that Monday. “There’s no way they’ll leave me out of the acknowledgments this time,” I was sure, until they did. And then I was furious.
Now, all of this is incredibly stupid. I hope you’re not reading this far and thinking I don’t know that. Whether or not someone “acknowledges” you doesn’t really matter in the grand scheme of life, and it’s nobody’s obligation.
But it sure is nice.
I swore to myself that when I sold a book, I would get this right. I would thank my editor and my editorial assistant, my publicist and my publicity assistant, my managing editor and my managing editorial assistant. Because none of those big names are doing this alone. They’re not the ones running back and forth between departments to make sure your cover mechanical gets signed off by everyone, or struggling with that stupid freaking FedEx website to get your comp copies shipped, or fixing the jammed copier again because you need to print yet another copy of the manuscript for Subrights. I swore to myself that my acknowledgments would scream, “I get it! I get the thankless tasks that go into this! They’re not thankless anymore! I am thanking! I AM THAAAANKING!!!”
Of course, there are plenty of other people to thank. You wouldn’t have sold your book without your agent. Your book would probably be a whole lot worse without every single person who beta’d it. (And even if not, if someone took the time to give you notes on your book, I believe they should be thanked whether you liked their notes or not.) I know my husband would get his own paragraph – or twelve – for his support and patience. And my family, definitely, though they’re also getting my first dedication. (Shh, don’t tell, and yes, I’ve obviously already written it.)
To me, it feels good to have your hard work acknowledged, and really good to be able to acknowledge it in return. Making a book happen is a huge partnership effort, and when your name’s on the cover, the least you can do for someone who helped get it there is put his or hers on a page that says, “Thank you. You helped make this happen. I know it. You know it. This will ensure neither of us can ever forget it.”
Now how can you not get excited about that?
What excites you the most when you think about getting published? And how do you decide who will get a shoutout in your acknowledgments?