Author Topic: Content warnings?  (Read 2199 times)  

Online Paranormal Kitty

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Content warnings?
« on: April 19, 2018, 12:57:04 PM »
How do you know when you should use a content warning in the blurb and/or on the cover? I saw someone mention they put a warning on the front of the cover. Do you think they help or hurt sales, or do they do a good job of filtering out readers who would give bad reviews? Are they helpful or do readers perceive them as silly?

Also what do you think about the kind of humorous content warnings like at the end of the blurb on this one: https://www.amazon.com/Natural-Consequences-Good-Intentions-Book-ebook/dp/B00EENE9G0/ref=pd_ybh_a_1?_encoding=UTF8&psc=1&refRID=WKVBNP2PJX736C4ZTHFZ
« Last Edit: April 19, 2018, 01:22:20 PM by Paranormal Kitty »

Online Rick Gualtieri

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Re: Content warnings?
« Reply #1 on: April 19, 2018, 01:38:52 PM »
How do you know when you should use a content warning in the blurb and/or on the cover? I saw someone mention they put a warning on the front of the cover. Do you think they help or hurt sales, or do they do a good job of filtering out readers who would give bad reviews? Are they helpful or do readers perceive them as silly?

Also what do you think about the kind of humorous content warnings like at the end of the blurb on this one: https://www.amazon.com/Natural-Consequences-Good-Intentions-Book-ebook/dp/B00EENE9G0/ref=pd_ybh_a_1?_encoding=UTF8&psc=1&refRID=WKVBNP2PJX736C4ZTHFZ

I'm all for humor to convey things.

That said, I'm also of the mindset that not a lot of people are going to read or heed content warnings.

Honestly, I've found getting a one star stating the EXACT SAME THING I WARNED PEOPLE ABOUT to be a better inoculation against more than any warning label I've slapped on a book.


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Offline Puddleduck

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Re: Content warnings?
« Reply #2 on: April 19, 2018, 01:40:56 PM »
I would never put a warning on the front cover. Totally unprofessional, IMO. Possibly in the blurb, if you really think it's necessary, but the cover? No way.

Offline A. Pepper

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Re: Content warnings?
« Reply #3 on: April 19, 2018, 01:48:42 PM »
Hey, whatever helps you connect with the right audience is great. I write "clean" mystery, so sometimes I'll mention in the blurb that there's no swearing or gore. But lately there has been some gore, so.... I've not been making promises I can't keep.

It's nicer at the bottom of the blurb. I wouldn't lead with it. Not unless you have a time machine and can go to 2012. At that time, the content warning at the top of the blurb on certain smexy romance books was a +++.
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Online idontknowyet

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Re: Content warnings?
« Reply #4 on: April 19, 2018, 01:55:12 PM »
I'm actually thinking of having a warning for one of my books in the blurb. One of the death scenes is very traumatic especially if you've recently lost a baby.
« Last Edit: April 19, 2018, 02:12:01 PM by idontknowyet »

Offline Puddleduck

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Re: Content warnings?
« Reply #5 on: April 19, 2018, 01:57:44 PM »
I'm actually thinking of having a warning for one of my books in the blurb one of the death scenes is very traumatic. Especially if you've recently lost a baby.

I have a family member who recently had a baby (healthy, though it was a difficult birth), and she now can't read/watch anything where kids are in danger or hurt. Which I didn't really know was even a thing, but there it is. (Though she was more sensitive than many when it comes to depictions of violence already.) So I think content warnings like that can be appropriate. I just wouldn't put it on the cover. Somewhere in the description, sure, maybe.

Offline brkingsolver

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Re: Content warnings?
« Reply #6 on: April 19, 2018, 02:08:11 PM »
I have a trigger warning in the blurb of one book. That came from the reactions of some of my beta readers. On the cover? No. And as Rick said, you could put a warning in bright, flashing neon, and someone will still give you a 1-star because they didn't pay any attention when they bought it. I have people complain about sex in my succubus books. Really?

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Online Evenstar

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Re: Content warnings?
« Reply #7 on: April 19, 2018, 02:16:15 PM »
I have a family member who recently had a baby (healthy, though it was a difficult birth), and she now can't read/watch anything where kids are in danger or hurt. Which I didn't really know was even a thing, but there it is. (Though she was more sensitive than many when it comes to depictions of violence already.) So I think content warnings like that can be appropriate. I just wouldn't put it on the cover. Somewhere in the description, sure, maybe.

I'm like that too. I get really traumatized and can hardly sleep just seeing a fictional tv show where someones child is missing. I can't read news stories about children being harmed, and I avoid books where it is the subject matter. I don't know why I have such an extreme reaction, as I've never personally dealt with any related situations, it's just a parents worst fear.

Offline PaulineMRoss

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Re: Content warnings?
« Reply #8 on: April 19, 2018, 03:14:08 PM »
One of the things I enjoy about reading a book is not knowing what I'm going to find inside it. It's part of the magic of reading, for me, that a work of fiction can offer any experience the author can imagine, unfolding in real time, as it were. Every turn of the page is a new exploration. It spoils the process to have warnings about the content. So I would never use a warning. I'd expect that a reader with a particular sensitivity would take care to read all the reviews first.
 

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Offline C. Gold

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Re: Content warnings?
« Reply #9 on: April 19, 2018, 03:30:54 PM »
Yep, I read reviews since I hate cheating in romance. Still, I don't mind seeing trigger warnings after the blurb since I know some people really need to avoid certain things. Sure, some people will always miss reading that or the reviews, but many others will see that and gratefully move along.

Online L_Loryn

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Re: Content warnings?
« Reply #10 on: April 19, 2018, 03:35:26 PM »
Content / trigger warnings on books annoy me.

Picture putting a trigger warning on classic literature. Yeah, no.

The only "trigger" warning I want to see is "This is adult content unsuitable for children."  And people who complain about not having a trigger warning? You'll miss good literature if you try to avoid all possible "triggers".





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« Last Edit: April 20, 2018, 04:51:42 AM by Betsy the Quilter »

Online Dpock

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Re: Content warnings?
« Reply #11 on: April 19, 2018, 03:55:09 PM »
It looks more like a gimmick than a true content warning. I guess that makes it advertising.



Online idontknowyet

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Re: Content warnings?
« Reply #12 on: April 19, 2018, 04:21:32 PM »
It looks more like a gimmick than a true content warning. I guess that makes it advertising.

Yes that one does.

Offline C. Gold

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Re: Content warnings?
« Reply #13 on: April 19, 2018, 04:43:09 PM »
It looks more like a gimmick than a true content warning. I guess that makes it advertising.
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Offline Kal241

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Re: Content warnings?
« Reply #14 on: April 19, 2018, 05:28:14 PM »
I don't think a trigger warning is necessary. It's like putting a warning label on a knife; common sense should indicate to any potential owner that they shouldn't keep a knife in reach of a child. I've also seen a lot of one-star reviews complaining about something the author posted a warning about, which tells me that people don't read such warnings.

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Online Paranormal Kitty

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Re: Content warnings?
« Reply #15 on: April 19, 2018, 06:52:14 PM »
I wasn't really talking about trigger warnings, but more of a general language/sex/violence/drug use warning since some people prefer not to read anything off-color or offensive. Although I would assume those people are probably not browsing the dark fantasy category? I kind of like the humorous approach because it tells you what to expect without it looking like you're taking yourself too seriously, especially with books that are full of dark comedy anyway, but on the other hand I don't know if it might be too cheesy.

I have people complain about sex in my succubus books. Really?

Warning: Google "succubus" before you read this book, lol.

Offline J. Tanner

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Re: Content warnings?
« Reply #16 on: April 19, 2018, 07:22:40 PM »
You should definitely have one. And it should be deathly serious, like mine:

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Online Lorri Moulton

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Re: Content warnings?
« Reply #17 on: April 19, 2018, 08:14:51 PM »
Warning: Google "succubus" before you read this book, lol.

How about a warning...don't read Kitty's responses, while trying to drink water.  Not a good combination! LOL

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Online Crystal_

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Re: Content warnings?
« Reply #18 on: April 19, 2018, 11:33:19 PM »
I put trigger warnings in my front matter, under the "about this book." It's not in your face, but readers who are looking for warnings can find it. A lot of people misunderstand what a trigger warning is and think it's for any sensitive content. It's not.

Trigger warnings are actually for things that are triggers. They're really important for people with mental health issues. Explicit descriptions of suicide are proven to increase risk of suicide, for example. Any sort of compulsive behavior can be triggered by reading detailed descriptions, as well.

Content warnings are a different animal. I personally wouldn't use them. You should be able to convey the level of sexuality and/or violence in your blurb. But I suppose a tiny warning at the bottom couldn't really hurt.

Offline jb1111

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Re: Content warnings?
« Reply #19 on: April 19, 2018, 11:56:40 PM »
I always put some form of content warnings at the bottom of my blurbs, as a lot of what I write is erotica, and I don't want anyone buying it without knowing that the book has adult content. I don't overdo the language of it; it's professionally worded, and similar to that which I've seen on some other highly selling books.

I don't put anything on the cover unless I have two versions of a book (a 'clean' version, and a separate version with sex scenes).

Finally, I don't see it as any different than the legalese most authors put in the front pages of their books -- about their characters not being anyone, living or dead, etc. I mean, it should be obvious when a book is fiction, yet most fiction books have such disclaimers. To me, a content warning -- or advisement, if you will -- isn't much different.


Offline LeLune

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Re: Content warnings?
« Reply #20 on: April 20, 2018, 01:54:01 AM »
It depends what you're writing about. My books are based in the Romano-Iron age, so violence was a normal occurrence. It also depends on how the subject is handled. There is violence in every one of my 8-book series, but they get 5-stars, so apparently people accept it if appropriate.
It's no good buying a book about gang violence and not expecting any in it.
But not gratuitous violence simply for the sake of it, that I don't think is right and perhaps would need a warning in the blurb.

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Offline she-la-ti-da

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Re: Content warnings?
« Reply #21 on: April 20, 2018, 03:52:21 AM »
One of the things I enjoy about reading a book is not knowing what I'm going to find inside it. It's part of the magic of reading, for me, that a work of fiction can offer any experience the author can imagine, unfolding in real time, as it were. Every turn of the page is a new exploration. It spoils the process to have warnings about the content. So I would never use a warning. I'd expect that a reader with a particular sensitivity would take care to read all the reviews first.

Basically, this. Plus, the job of the blurb is to give potential readers an idea about the content of the book. You don't have to come right out and say it contains this, that or the other, but it should be hinted at, at least. I mean, if I was sensitive to suicide, say, and there's an indication someone will attempt or commit this act, then I'd not read the book. I wouldn't need a huge warning about the book containing some triggering content.

As to some categories, well, if you're looking at dark romance, or a serial killer book, or a zombie apocalypse novel and you're surprised at all about what's likely to be in those books, then you probably need to stop looking for those kinds of books. Cover, blurb and Look Inside should be enough warning, especially if they read reviews. Outside of that, well, as they say, you can't idiot-proof the world.
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Offline EllieDee

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Re: Content warnings?
« Reply #22 on: April 20, 2018, 04:11:27 AM »
Interesting discussion.  I've been wrestling with this issue myself.  I've written some SF with explicit love scenes.  Like, one scene per 120k+ novel.  Should I put in a content warning in the blurb? 

On the one hand, the very concept is irritating.  I don't see SF books warning about explicit violence (maybe the fact that they're shooting up buglike aliens makes a difference?) or some seriously dark themes.  For f's sake, the Hunger Games has kids murdering each other.  So why should I brand my book with a scarlet 'explicit love scene' label?  The double standard, it annoys me...

But on the other hand, I know that a fair number of SF readers are completely allergic to even a hint of romance or sexytimes in their books, and maybe I should give them a head's up to find a different story to read.

Sigh.  One of those dilemmas with no clear right answer.

Offline jb1111

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Re: Content warnings?
« Reply #23 on: April 20, 2018, 05:07:01 AM »
Interesting discussion.  I've been wrestling with this issue myself.  I've written some SF with explicit love scenes.  Like, one scene per 120k+ novel.  Should I put in a content warning in the blurb? 

On the one hand, the very concept is irritating.  I don't see SF books warning about explicit violence (maybe the fact that they're shooting up buglike aliens makes a difference?) or some seriously dark themes.  For f's sake, the Hunger Games has kids murdering each other.  So why should I brand my book with a scarlet 'explicit love scene' label?  The double standard, it annoys me...

But on the other hand, I know that a fair number of SF readers are completely allergic to even a hint of romance or sexytimes in their books, and maybe I should give them a head's up to find a different story to read.

Sigh.  One of those dilemmas with no clear right answer.

In my view the only 'correct answer' is the one you come up with, as author, to make you feel comfortable with the marketing of your book.

If you feel better having some sort of content advisory, then perhaps it's best to do one. Just word it in a way that feels right, and present it in a manner that fits your book and the way you want to market it.  In my view, it's not much more different than any other marketing choice, or choice of presentation -- what works for me may not work for you.

A lot of what is in your book will appear in the blurb, anyway. To me, it's just a matter of extremes: not everyone likes sex scenes, not everyone likes super-gratuitous violence. If the genre is full of such things, then maybe a content advisory isn't needed. In my own case, even though erotica is obviously packed with various levels of sex, I felt content advisories were the way to go.

RE: sex vs. violence, you're right, there is a double standard there. Maybe it's because US culture is more open to expressions of violence than expressions of sexual activity. It's a cultural thing.

Offline rphwrites

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Re: Content warnings?
« Reply #24 on: April 20, 2018, 05:25:17 AM »
I have a family member who recently had a baby (healthy, though it was a difficult birth), and she now can't read/watch anything where kids are in danger or hurt. Which I didn't really know was even a thing, but there it is. (Though she was more sensitive than many when it comes to depictions of violence already.) So I think content warnings like that can be appropriate. I just wouldn't put it on the cover. Somewhere in the description, sure, maybe.

I've had 3 kids and it's been like that with each of mine, for at least the first 3-4 months. I couldn't even watch the news! Things didn't just bother me, hearing about a child dying or being in danger made me physically ill. I couldn't even watch PINOCCHIO (those little boys turning into donkeys and braying for their mommys)...Kind of funny now.

My youngest son died 8 years ago and for a long time afterwards I wasn't able to watch or read anything that depicted a child in physical danger (much less one being killed or dying). It was completely traumatizing. Sometimes I was caught off guard by references to babies' deaths in places where I wasn't expecting it. It could take days to recover. However, grief changes and over time I've been able to cope. While I certainly don't enjoy reading about such things, they don't affect me the way they used to. While I appreciate it when authors give a warning, I totally understand when they don't. It's a nice, respectful thing to do but I wouldn't want anyone to feel obligated.