Why We Should Add Credit Pages to Books

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If you watch to the end of a major motion picture, you’ll be greeted with a familiar sight: The credits. The names of nearly everyone who worked on the film will scroll past on a black screen with white text.

These credit sequences can be very long, sometimes up to 20 minutes. Some films have even added stingers, short scenes after the credits, to encourage people to sit through them.

Those credits also have a rigid structure. There are rules and best practices to determine who is credited, how and in what order.

Music works similarly. If you look up an album’s details, you can learn who performed on it, who wrote the songs, who produced the music and even who designed the cover art. The information lists nearly every person who contributed to the album or its videos.

However, books are different. Though a recent push resulted in translators getting cover credit, it’s possible that dozens or hundreds of people who worked on the book remain anonymous.

Maris Kreizman at Literary Hub wants to fix that. In a recent post, she proposed a simple solution: Add credit pages to the end of books.

It’s a brilliant idea that is striking in its simplicity. There’s no reason that all the creative minds who worked on a book should remain anonymous, and there are already good templates for crediting them.

All we have to do is find the will to make it happen.

The Many Uncredited Creatives

Currently, the publishing industry doesn’t credit many people who work on a book. The author is usually front and center. If the book is translated, the translator usually gets a credit. Ghostwriters also routinely receive credit, though it is not a guarantee.

However, it’s possible that dozens of people worked on the book. Who designed the cover? What about the editor? Who was responsible for marketing and promotion? Who was the agent representing the author?

These roles, and many others, often go anonymous.

To be clear, there are exceptions. As Kreizman notes in her post, several authors, including Shea Serrano, Anthony Oliveira and Molly McGhee, request full lists of credits. Also, as one commenter noted, the textbook industry already provides full credits. Some smaller and independent publishers do it as well.

However, for most mass-market fiction and non-fiction books, very few people get credit within the book itself.

That needs to change.

Fixing the Problem

To be clear, fixing the problem will not be easy. Many difficult questions remain, such as who should get credit, what is the best way to do so, and how do we ensure everyone who deserves credit is mentioned?

Obviously, that is not simple. However, the industry has a head start. It can look at how other industries have handled the problems and pull from their solutions.

The movie industry, to my mind, is the most natural choice. Films have opening and closing credits, just like books would. The credits are presented in text, also like books. You also have many of the same roles and positions.

While it’s not a perfect match, it’s a starting point.

However, the biggest hurdle isn’t the technical details. Instead, it’s pushing the industry to make the change.

One major difference between the publishing industry and the film industry is unionization. While the film industry has unions for actors, writers, producers, stagehands and directors that fight for these credits, as Kreizman notes, only one of the five publishers is unionized at all.

It took a major push to make crediting translators the norm. Such a push for each individual role is impractical.

Instead, workers should present it as an essentially free way for publishers to improve employee morale. Seeing one’s name in print can be a huge source of pride. If one publisher began it, others would follow for fear of losing talented employees.

To that end, such credit pages seem like a win-win. Employees are happier without the publishers spending much more money, so adding credit pages makes both ethical and economic sense.

Bottom Line

Ultimately, Kreizman’s suggestion is so obvious that I feel foolish for not thinking of it earlier. To be clear, she’s not the first to have the idea—it’s been around for some time. However, she positioned it as an industry issue, not a choice for authors, which is the best way to think about it.

There’s no reason the publishing industry can’t follow in the footsteps of its peers in film and music. No book is the product of just one person. Dozens of creative people contribute their talents to the book in various ways, and they deserve to have their contributions recognized.

If done correctly, it should be a win for everyone involved. Publishers get an inexpensive way to reward their employees, employees get attribution for their work, and readers get more information about the people who worked on the book.

This could and should benefit everyone. It’s just a matter of finding the will to make it happen.

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