How to write a book dedication

By Allison Tait.

One of the most difficult pages to write in any book is the dedication.

Sounds silly, right?

By definition, a book dedication is a personal note from the author to someone of importance. At its simplest, a book dedication is no more than two words.

For [insert name]

But sometimes a book dedication can be so much more.

In fact, book dedications can take on a life of their own.

When I was writing Race To The End Of The World, the first book in The Mapmaker Chronicles series, I came across a book dedication that really spoke to me.

“For the girls with messy hair and thirsty hearts”
– Jody Lynn Anderson, Tiger Lily

I’ve seen it described as a poem in one sentence, and I have to agree.

It showed me that a book dedication can be more than just a name – it can be an idea.

Which can make it really hard to know where to begin. Here are some tips, based on my experiences, to get you started.

Start close

Being my first series for children, The Mapmaker Chronicles became a place to show the people I loved that they were always with me in my heart – even though writing took me far away from them in my head.

The first book was for my children: “For Joseph and Lucas, who show me the world through new eyes”

Not only did they inspire me to write my first children’s novel, but I thought I’d better get them both on the dedication page first, in case I never got published again…

The second for my nieces and nephews, the third for my parents, the fourth for my husband (“At last”).

So the best place to begin formulating your book dedication is often close to home.

Look inside the story

When I got to The Ateban Cipher, my second series, however, I had other things to say, and room to say it.

The Book Of Secrets (Ateban Cipher #1) is the home of one of my favourite self-created characters: Gwyn. (I know that authors are not supposed to admit to having favourites, but this is just between us, right?)

Gwyn goes where she wants, when she wants. She has an incredible sense of self and an indomitable spirit and loyalty. I wanted the dedication to set that tone from the beginning, for my middle-grade readers who haven’t reached the age of full agency just yet.

“For all the girls who go where they want, when they want. Or will, one day”
– A.L. Tait, The Book of Secrets

The Book of Answers (book #2) comes back to my family, and to my sisters. This series is ostensibly about a young male protagonist trying to protect a secret book, but underpinning it – and his success – are female relationships.

Woman with 1950s hairstyle peeking over a book next to a quote about book dedications.

Find the universal in the detail

My latest series, The Maven & Reeve Mysteries, is a middle-grade detective series set in an ‘almost historical’ Medieval-style setting. It features a secret underground society of women and girls called The Beech Circle, and I didn’t need to look beyond that for the book dedication for The Fire Star (book #1).

“For my own Beech Circle, You know who you are”

The friends who support us through the writing process, or make allowances when we don’t see them for a while because we’re deep in a story, are always worthy of acknowledgement.

Look for inspiration

If you’re still wondering what to do with that blank page, look for inspiration in what others have written.

Here are ten of my favourite book dedications to get you started.

“To my wonderful readers: sorry about that last cliff-hanger. Well, no, not really. HAHAHAHA. But, seriously, I love you guys”
Rick Riordan, House Of Hades

“This book is for my parents, who tried”
Bruce Eric Kaplan, I was a child

“To my wife Marganit and my children Ella Rose and Daniel Adam without whom this book would have been completed two years earlier”
–  Joseph J. Rotman, An Introduction to Algebraic Topology

“My first stepfather used to say that what I didn’t know would fill a book. Well, here it is”
– Tobias Wolff, This Boy’s Life

“What can I say about a man who knows how I think and still sleeps next to me with the lights off?”
Gillian Flynn, Dark Places

“To all those who lead monotonous lives, in the hope that they may experience at second hand the delights and dangers of adventure”
Agatha Christie, The Secret Adversary

“For anyone brave enough to believe in the impossible. Embrace the wonder”
Lynette Noni, Arkanae

“To all children who ever felt different”
Eloise McGraw, The Moorchild

“For all the girls who walk and read at the same time”
Tessa Dare, A Week To Be Wicked

“For Phyllis, who made me put the dragons in”
–  George R. R. Martin, A Storm of Swords


Author bio

Allison Tait is the author of three epic middle-grade adventure series for kids: The Mapmaker Chronicles, The Ateban Cipher and the Maven & Reeve Mysteries. A presenter at AWC and former co-host of the So You Want To Be A Writer podcast, Al is currently working on a new manuscript and taking nominations for the dedication. Find out more about her at allisontait.com

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