Between the cover art, the negotiations still taking place between your agent and an interested publisher, and the retreating back of the city bus that’s supposed to be speeding you away to your day job, it’s been a long morning. And it’s only about to get longer.
Which is why you can’t help but be surprised when you receive a text from your sister on your lunch break: Did you write an author’s note?
You stare at your phone and wonder what on earth she means.
If you haven’t heard of “a note from an author” before either, don’t worry. Though the concept of an author’s note has been around for quite some time, it’s considered to be more a modern move for a writer to take and if you are thinking of adding one to your novel, now would be the appropriate time.
But before we talk about what you can do with an author’s note, let’s talk about what an author’s note shouldn’t be. First and foremost, it isn’t a dedication page. Or an acknowledgment page. Or an epilogue.
It also shouldn’t be a chance for you to adamantly defend your work. Whatever you do, never write an author’s note out of fear or anger. Chances are, all of those flaws you see in your story won’t ever occur to a captivated reader.
Now, let’s talk about what an author’s note should be.
1. It’s a chance to thank your readers
Though you’d think the acknowledgment page that you so politely typed up earlier would be enough, the truth is that those formal recognitions are expected. It isn’t that they don’t matter, it’s just a little too much like an Oscar speech: one in which the hundreds of people who made the single film possible are sitting in the audience, respectfully nodding their heads as they hear their name called.
They are simply receiving their due for all of their hard work.
But an author’s note is different. The note is an opportunity to thank those that you haven’t even met yet; to place a personal little something from you to your reader snuggly at the back of your book; a little wink in their direction after they’ve just trudged through your novel, and loved every minute of it.
It’s a connection. One that could earn you a fan for life.
2. It’s an opportunity to introduce yourself
Oscar Wilde famously coined the term, “Be yourself, everyone else is already taken.” And while your reader may have just spent the better part of three days getting to know your protagonist and her love interest, they know absolutely nothing about you. Your author’s note is their first real chance to meet you not as the storyteller, but as the person.
3. It’s a chance to geek out
Research is part of writing, especially if you’re crafting a story wrapped up in the historical. And through that research, you might know something crazy — something like the particular ingredient used in a common medieval ointment that aroused a scent most foul. Did this fun fact ever come up in your book? No. Could you include it in your author’s note? Naturally.
Take this time to not only throw some fun facts a reader’s way, but maybe even expand on a favorite scene to explain why you wrote it the way that you did, and what it meant for you as the author. As Victoria Grossack said, “You can use the Author’s Note to acknowledge their expectations and to justify your choices, which may be either because you know of other versions of the events or because you are taking poetic license. This, by the way, can be very important in restoring credibility.”
And there you have it! Remember, creating an author’s note out of fear won’t do anyone a bit of good, most of all you. Instead, always consider if what you’re about to write is something new that will honestly add to your story.