Discussion – The Beauty Of Acknowledgements, Author’s Notes, And Associated Paratext


Hello everyone,

I have taken a week away from blogging, but now I am back with a new discussion post which I am excited to share with you!

When we read a book, we naturally place almost all of the emphasis on the story contained within it, along with the occasional gush about the cover art. But what about everything else? The little bits at the very beginning and the very end that are sometimes overlooked or skimmed over without much thought, but in reality, provide us with so much to gain.

The academic term for these features is paratext, and in this post I shall be investigating why they should not be taken for granted.


Acknowledgements

The acknowledgements section can vary in length, but they all follow the same basic framework – it is where the author gives thanks to all the people involved in helping them write and publish the book. These people usually include their agent; publishers; the marketing team; cover designers; family members, and spouses. Sometimes we get heartfelt gratitude to the readers, and I must admit that I always feel pride when book bloggers get a mention!

In between all of that, we often get fun little insights into the author’s writing process. For example, they could refer to their research sources and which parts of the book were the most exciting or difficult to write, or what inspired them to use a particular literary device. When the author really goes into detail, this information can be fascinating.

Author’s Notes

We often see an author’s note when a book deals with a certain topic and/or a chosen historical time period. Some can be quite lengthy as they place the story into very clear context, giving the reader an understanding of the facts and how they were used to create a work of fiction.

As well as providing educational value, they can tell of how the author became inspired to write the book, and give details of significant people or places that were central to the story.

Praise for the Book

Either on the front cover, the back cover, or the opening pages of a book, we almost always see quotes from reviewers giving praise. They generally contain eye-catching adjectives that attempt to reflect the atmosphere of the story and its genre – for example on a thriller we would see words such as ‘tense’ or ‘gripping’, while a historical fiction is more likely to be adorned with terms like ‘vivid’ or ‘captivating’.

The reviewers comprise of other authors, online journalists, print journalists, and occasionally book bloggers. Of course, we could end up disagreeing with all of that acclaim and not liking the book, but they can be a factor in us deciding a read it in the first place.

Quotes

In many books, quotes from other works of literature are included, usually taken from a classic or a well-known poetry collection. Appearing as either a preface to the story or before the start of each chapter, they add an extra degree of relevance or meaning to what is being told.

The beauty of these quotes lies not just in the words, but also who and what inspired the author. For me, it shows how knowledgeable and bookish they really are!

Maps

Everybody loves it when a book contains a map! They help us to visualise the setting and piece certain aspects of the story together in our minds, giving us a tangible grasp of a fictional world. There is something rather gorgeous and mystical about them, and they also act as a useful point of reference.

About The Author

Mostly found at the very back of the book is a biography of the author, often accompanied by a photograph. This section is informative as it helps us learn about the other books they have published, any awards they have won, and sometimes their writing journey.

The things that interest me the most are when I read about an authors who also has a day job, and the subjects in which they have qualifications. There is also a nice personal touch to them, such as where they were born and raised, the things they enjoy outside of writing, and whether they have any pets.

Book Club/Reading Group Questions

This is a super interesting feature! At the end of certain editions of books, we have a list of questions about the story for the purpose of being discussed by book clubs and reading groups.

In most cases, these questions are immensely thought-provoking and really make us reflect on the story in detail. They can provide moral dilemmas, and the possibility to weigh up both sides of an argument regarding a topic the story explores or the actions of a particular character.

Although I am not a member of a book club, when I come across these questions at the end of a story I always try to answer them in my head.

Blurb

The blurb is perhaps the obvious item of paratext there is. Almost everybody reads them unless they are either buying the book based on the cover, or have made a conscious decision to go into the book completely blind and see where it leads.

As we all know, the blurb is a short piece of text on the back or on the inside of the front cover, that provides a short description of the plot in order to entice us to read it. They are extremely critical to us deciding whether to read the book, and some of them can tick all our boxes and guide us to an outstanding read. However, some can be misleading and promise things that do not materialise in the story.

Dedications

Books are often dedicated to a friend, partner, or family member. They may only be a few words long, but they represent a lovely, thoughtful touch on behalf of the author.

Book Previews/Spotlights

At the end of the book we sometimes see pages devoted to the author’s other books, with an image of the cover as well as a tagline or a line of praise. We even get the occasional instance where an extract or the entire first chapter of the author’s next upcoming release is included, in order to whet the appetite.

I must confess that I never read these extracts; I prefer to wait until the next book is actually released before finding out anything. Still, as a marketing tool they can be extremely effective!


Let’s Chat

Do you read the acknowledgements section and author’s notes? What are your favourite items of paratext and how do you consume them? Let me know in the comments!

Happy reading πŸ™‚

28 thoughts on “Discussion – The Beauty Of Acknowledgements, Author’s Notes, And Associated Paratext

  1. Great post! I read ALL the bits. The whole book, cover to cover… and what’s on the cover. I like to take a peep backstage so to speak and get little insights into how the novel came to be and hints on the marketing process and all that goes into getting a story out there into the world.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Such a brilliant post. I always take the time to read the acknowledgements because I think it’s so important to recognise the many people that contribute to the book behind the scenes.
    Of course, I am a sucker for maps too. I love using them as a tracker of movements so I can visualise the journey easier.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. this is a fantastic post!! when i was younger, i always ignored the acknowledgements and authors notes. now, they’re actually some of my favorite aspects of the book! i feel like it gives just a little bit of insight into the author as an individual human being, not just as a writer. maps and quotes are some of my favorite things as wellπŸ’œπŸ–€

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much! πŸ’œ I think when we are younger, all we are really interested in is the story, but the acknowledgements and authors notes are a ‘hidden’ gem. I love getting those insights. And yes, who can resist a map?!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. This is a really interesting discussion topic! The acknowledgements and the authors notes especially are a big part of the reading experience for me. I love seeing an authors inspirations for their story as well as learning about the research that they’ve done!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I love reading author’s notes personally! Kevin Kwan does this with his books, putting footnotes throughout the book to give context, translations, and various humorous comments and I really enjoyed that aspect of his books!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. This is such an interesting post, and I’m really glad you brought attention to these things! I love reading acknowledgements because it’s a way to see who all went into the book, all the people who labored over the book, loved the book, enough to get it into the world. I also like reading authors’ bios because I’m interested in people in general and also because I like seeing who wrote the book I just read, and getting a little snapshot into their life. Amazing post!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! The acknowledgements section is such a great insight into the work that goes into the book from the beginning of the process to the end. And I agree, it is always fun to find out more about authors!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. The only paratext I do not pay much attention to are the book excerpts that come up. Like you, I prefer to wait till I get the whole of the next book in my hands before I read it. But otherwise, I pretty much read it all and funnily enough, I didn’t realise it until I read this post! Haha!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. This is such a great post, Stephen! I’ve always read blurbs, dedications and the quotes at the front of the book, but it’s only recently (as in, the past year maybe) that I’ve taken to reading everything else, too. I’ve come to really enjoy reading the acknowledgements and author notes, though thankfully the notes I’ve read aren’t too long cos then I just get impatient to start! πŸ˜‚ I still continue to skim over the praises on the front/back covers though as there’s usually so much else to pay attention to on the cover and inside the book!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much, Dini! ☺ I’m glad you have enjoyed reading the acknowledgements and author notes, but yes you don’t want them to get too long! I don’t always read all the praise either – if anything I wait until I’ve finished the book before doing that.

      Like

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