WHAT THE HELL

Kevin Brennan Writes About What It's Like

Too many thank yous …

Thanks! I owe you one!

I’m usually in a cranky mood when I’m querying agents, and when that coincides with the collapse of our civilization, like these days, you can imagine the mood I’m in as I search for someone to represent my new baseball novel. It’s hard to be optimistic. Yet, the only way a writer can query agents is from a basic stance of hopefulness.

I thought I had a nice angle to try when I heard about a writer with a new baseball novel out and said to myself, Say, why not query her agent?

I grabbed the ebook from the local library and scanned for the usual acknowledgments page, where agents are often mentioned. What I found there astonished me.

This author—and I won’t name her because I don’t want to cast public aspersions—had penned an acknowledgments “page” that actually wound up running about ten pages. At least it felt like that as I skimmed over the dozens and dozens of names. She even, in the last part, appeared to thank her dog.

I think it’s perfectly great to thank the people who help you get through the grueling process of writing a book. It’s not an easy thing to do. You need not just technical advice and editorial suggestions but also moral support. But frankly, and maybe this is my own problem, I don’t even know as many people in my life as this woman thanked for one damn novel! I’d have to go through the phone book and pick random names to fill ten pages with gratitude.

But the larger question to me is why did this writer need so many people to complete her novel? She thanks everyone she knew at grad school, everyone she works with, everyone on her Twitter feed (it seemed to me), including scores of readers who read early drafts of the book. That’s drafts, plural. Meaning some of these readers must have read multiple drafts. Just for her.

Isn’t a book that’s exposed to too much opinion during the writing going to feel like it was forged by a committee? Aren’t you confident enough in your own skills that you can get by with a few betas to see if you’ve left some gaps in your story or logic? Or are you addicted to the approval of others and ship out copies of your drafts as if from a confetti cannon just to hear I loved it! again and again? Sad.

For me, writing a novel is a solitary thing. I share the early stuff with my wife, who happens to be a terrific reader/editor, and she always knows what I’m trying to do in a piece. I’m afraid that if I solicited thankable input from a dozen-dozen people I’d get paralyzed and would never find a way to incorporate all their ideas.

Here’s another thing: Do we really think readers read the acknowledgements? No. It’s more like a greeting card to your crew that says, Thanks for putting up with me while I wrote this damn thing.

By the way, this writer’s agent, as it turns out, doesn’t accept unsolicited queries. So it goes.

What about you (if you’re a writer): How long is your longest acknowledgments list?

6 comments on “Too many thank yous …

  1. kingmidget
    November 18, 2020

    I don’t know which is my longest, but I know with The Irrepairable Past, it went on for a couple of pages. Not because I had a lot of people to thank, but because I wanted to explain the thanks for a couple of people. Beyond that, I’m like you. Writing is solitary, and I don’t want to have too many eyes looking at the thing in its preliminary stages. The wife, occasionally a certain editor, and maybe a couple of beta readers. That’s it. I can’t imagine, as you say dealing with feedback/comments from a dozen or more readers. I also can’t imagine sending out multiple drafts. There is one point at which the story is ready for beta readers.

    • Kevin Brennan
      November 18, 2020

      Oddly enough, I can understand longer acknowledgment lists for nonfiction books. The writer might have consulted a lot of experts and other players for quotes or guidance. But novels? Thank your mom and the muses and be done with it! 😉

  2. luannemarten
    November 18, 2020

    Maybe the writer thought it was such a monumental accomplishment that all these thanks needed to be said. heh. 🙂

  3. Marie A Bailey
    November 22, 2020

    I do read the acknowledgements pages, even for novels or story collections. I like to get a sense of the community the writer has, and the process (sometimes the novel evolved from a short story that the writer was urged to expand). I just find that stuff interesting, sort of why I like to read indexes 😉

    Sure, the writer you’re writing about here really went overboard. Maybe she was just afraid of leaving someone out, like where do you draw the line between who you need to mention and who you don’t? Maybe she thought it was a way to drum up sales: if she mentions so-and-so’s name, then so-and-so might buy a copy of the book. Still, it seems like a waste of a good tree branch.

    • Kevin Brennan
      November 25, 2020

      You may be right! Acknowledgments as pyramid scheme? 😉

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This entry was posted on November 18, 2020 by in Publishing and tagged , , , , .
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