As you may have noticed, I’m trying to be a bit more of a community animal recently. That has included blogging more frequently, more interacting, generally spending a bit more time interacting with both readers and writers. I’m enjoying it- I thought it might be awful, I’m a real recluse, generally speaking- but because it’s mostly online, if I get too overwhelmed I can run away and put a paper bag on my head and take deep breaths for a while if necessary.
Anyway. One of the things I’ve forced myself to do is to set up a Bookfunnel Promo. This is where a load of authors get together on Bookfunnel, sling a free e-book/story in to the pot and then when the time comes, promo the heck out of the thing as a whole, so all the participants get the benefit of each other’s followers. It’s worked very well for me before, but there aren’t that many for LGBTQ books and I thought… well, in that case, I’ll do my own. It’ll be open for readers to download free stories in September, although that’s not the point of this post.
The point is that I have only relatively realized that it would be helpful for readers to have content warnings for potentially triggering things in the blurb for each book. And then I went looking for an article about common trigger warnings and couldn’t really find anything both comprehensive and comprehensible for authors new to the concept to send out for my promo participants, because my Google Chi seemed to have collapsed that day.
Eventually though, I found this article from the University of Michigan, which although it’s about content warnings in academic teaching, is very clear, sensible and easily applicable to fiction and sent it out to participants. I’ve copied their list of common content warnings to the bottom of this post.
Then Missy Welsh took the time to email me with this useful blog post by Jami Gold, Content Warnings: How and What to Include? which is extremely on point and also links to a post by Suzanne at Love in Panels: Content Warnings, What and Why Are They? Suzanne points us to a crowd-sourced list of content warnings on a google-sheet. So it turns out that there is a load of stuff out there, it’s just I was rubbish at finding it. Thank you to all of them for writing such clear and accessible pieces.
I think it’s important to emphasize that it’s impossible to content warn for every reader’s triggers. It’s just not possible. Everything is a trigger for someone. However, that doesn’t mean that as writers we shouldn’t do our best to help readers navigate to stories that are right for them. Authors arguing that we don’t have that responsibility and setting up the ‘everything is a trigger for someone so why bother at all‘ defense as their straw man are being spurious.
As a writer, I don’t want to drive a reader in to the sort of fugue I sometimes end up in when I read about sexual violence or miscarriage. I don’t understand why authors wouldn’t want to help their readers avoid that. It’s just being a good human, isn’t it?
Having said that, some of my blurbs are not yet updated with appropriate CWs. But I’m getting there.
Next week: August’s reading roundup
Common content warnings
- Sexual Assault
- Child abuse/pedophilia/incest
- Animal cruelty or animal death
- Self-harm and suicide
- Eating disorders, body hatred, and fat phobia
- Pornographic content
- Kidnapping and abduction
- Death or dying
- Mental illness and ableism
- Racism and racial slurs
- Sexism and misogyny
- Hateful language directed at religious groups (e.g., Islamophobia, antisemitism)
- Transphobia and trans misogyny
- Homophobia and heterosexism