Grateful Acknowledgements

Besides the acknowledgments made to spouses, literary agents, and editors usually found in books, there is another type of grateful thanks acknowledged. This is the thanks given for permissions allowed to the author to use other content holders’ copyrighted materials.

From Anthony Everitt’s “The Rise of Rome: The Making of the World’s Greatest Empire”

This type of acknowledgment is usually done on the verso of the title page of the book, along with copyright assertions, Library of Congress In-Catalog information and the likes. Almost without exceptions, this kind of acknowledgment is conveyed in boiler-plate language like that found above. The uniformity in the expressions of these “grateful thanks” makes me wonder how grateful the author could really have been for these permissions.

A few scenarios are possible in the permission acquiring process. One, the permission process is smooth and carried out by an assistant literary agent or junior editor. In this case, money changes hands and the authors, editors, or literary agents never have a hand in the process and so could be grateful in only in the most removed of sense. They’re grateful that they didn’t have to spend any time and not too much money on getting permissions. They’re grateful they didn’t have to think about the thing.

Two, the permission process is a nightmare. Everybody gets involved in the process. Money changes hands in the most grudging of ways, if the transaction happens at all. The author may have to cut, rewrite, shuffle or otherwise modify his work because he cannot secure permissions for the materials as he originally wants to use them. “Grateful acknowledgments” is said with gnashing teeth and curses.

Three, in exceptional cases, the authors/editors/agents really had personal and friendly contact with the permission granters. I suppose in these cases, they may thank these persons in their own words in the acknowledgement section that lives beyond the title page. Or, personal and friendly as these permissions may be, they’re mixed in with a bunch of other less exceptional permissions and business is business. Boiler plate language is the result in all three cases. In the first, it covers for distance; the second, distaste; the third, favoritism and the commercial aspects of permissions.

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