Should Books Have Trigger Warnings?

Last year, I attended ICON, Iowa’s longest running sci-fi/fantasy convention. During a panel in which I shared information about myself as an author and my books, the audience and I started talking about trigger warnings and parental advisory notices on music and movies. This led us to wonder, should books also have warnings as well? Yes, we divide the books between children’s, YA, NA, Adult, Erotica, etc., but is that enough? One YA book may be tame, but another might deal with suicide, rape, or abuse. Is it reasonable to warn readers about the contents of the books?

To start off, let’s just talk a bit about trigger warnings and parental advisory labels in general. Trigger warnings are basically statements at the beginning of a piece of writing, video, music, games, warning the reader/viewer that the piece may contain distressing material (ie. grief, suicide, child abuse, manipulation, spouse abuse, domestic abuse, rape, etc.). Viewing/reading this material can “trigger” someone and create a psychological reaction in the person and perhaps cause them to relieve traumatic experiences. To learn more about triggers and how they originated, check out “A Short History of Trigger Warnings”  by Nick Haslam, Professor of Psychology, University Melbourne.

Parental Advisory Warnings are a little different in that they just warn parents if material, often music and games, is appropriate for children. You can read more about Parental Advisory Warnings here. These can also appear in tv shows or on covers of musical albums, especially if there’s explicit language.

Shows and movies have ratings that list the type of content that may be contained in the film. I’ve seen some shows start to show trigger warnings at the beginning to prepare people for sexual assault. The one thing that all of these generally have in common though is that they are forms of media that are often used in public. So it’s not just protecting the user, it’s sending out a warning to people around the user (ie. kids who may hear music blaring from a cars).

My question is, should books have trigger warnings as well? I’ve met people who can’t read certain chapters of books because they bring up memories of traumatic experiences or it’s just something that makes them extremely uncomfortable. Should they be warned that a book contains potentially harmful themes? And how detailed do you get? Early lists for trigger warnings typically included subjects related to sexual assault and rape, but now lists are starting to include bugs, vomit, spiders, etc, things that can actually cause someone to have a visceral reaction.

I know some have argued that trigger warnings are becoming ridiculous. It’s as if we can’t produce anything without a warning going with it. And if you create a warning for one thing, it’s going to lead to warnings for everything. There’s a stigma that goes with this too that trigger warnings are “coddling” people.

Personally, I think the warnings are very helpful. Even if they don’t pertain to me, the fact that writing “This story contains elements of X, Y, and Z” can help other people is important. So what if there’s a label on an album or an extra screen before a movie warning of these things? Is that really so bad? Books could include a page at the beginning that talks about content elements so people can decide if they want to read it or not. If someone doesn’t care about trigger warnings, skip over it.

The folks I talked with at ICON agreed that having a warning page for a book was a good idea, especially for people dealing with traumatic memories or PTSD. If you go onto writing sites like Wattpad, they include a “mature” button for a story, and have also encouraged people to list out triggers in the topics category.  If I’m about to read a story that includes a suicide, I personally would prefer a warning. Sometimes I can handle reading that. Sometimes it triggers my depression, anxiety, and my own suicidal thoughts. So if online sites can do that, why not published books?

I think it’s an interesting thing to discuss. I’ve considered putting it in for Wolf Pit because there are some talks of assault and abuse, not to mention violence (they’re in a fighting pit after all). But if you include warnings, how far do you go? Is there such a thing as going too far?

What are your thoughts?

 

Updates: Novels, and Contests, and Summits, Oh My!

Well, it has been quite a few crazy months since The Purple Door District launched. Within a month, I sold about 100 copies, and I anticipate that future conventions will see even more sales. I really appreciate all of the support from the community!

With that being said, let’s get into some updates!

The Purple Door District: Wolfpit / Patreon

The second Purple Door District book is slowly coming along. After a rough few months of writer’s block, not to mention some mental health issues, I’m finally getting back into it! I’m about 50,000 words into the book, and I finally have the back cover mostly written up, which I’ll share with you guys soon.

In the meantime, I posted a short story from the world of The Purple Door District to Patreon called The Magus and the Vampire. The story is set a year before PDD and reveals how Gladus and Trish first met. If you’re interested in reading it, stop by Patreon. As a patron, you’ll have access to all original chapters from the first PDD and you’ll get to see PDD 2 before anyone else.

For those of you who haven’t picked up the book yet, The Purple Door District is available on amazon, on my website, and through bookstores like Prairie Lights, M and M Bookstore, and The Makers’ Loft.

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Contest

I‘m currently in a contest for best cover through AllAuthor. If you have a chance, I’d greatly appreciate it if you went and voted here.  There are 2 days left in this round. This site is also a great way to showcase your own books and covers! It’s now open for March submissions, so be sure to get your book in! 

 

 

 

Women in Publishing Summit!

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What if I told you I could get you a free ticket to a week-long event that is all about all the tools you need to help you write, publish, and sell that book you’ve either been dreaming of writing, trying to write, or have written but need help with #allthethings? And even better, that you don’t have to even leave your home to participate?
Good news! The Women in Publishing Summit is coming! A week-long, FREE, online event!
March is Women’s History Month. It’s an awesome time to to celebrate, honor, and learn from a line-up of amazing women in the writing and publishing world who deserve some applause.
The Women in Publishing Summit sponsored by Thinkific, runs March 4-8, 2019, covers all things related to writing, publishing, and selling a book. It’s Created FOR women, BY women, for women who want to write a book, have written a book, are in the process of writing a book, or perform some kind of function related to writing, publishing, and selling a book! You are not going to want to miss it.
Register for your FREE ticket now. https://erincasey–writepublishsell.thrivecart.com/free-wip-registration/
I guess this is the part where I also mention I am one of the speakers! During the summit, I’ll discus how to find the “write” community. Where can you find fellow writers? What makes a writing group right for you? And more!
This summit is being hosted by my friend, Alexa Bigwarfe. She is an author coach and publisher and noticed that there seemed to be a real void in the female voices present in online conferences and training programs on writing and selling books. So, she set out to change that. And I thought it was a great idea too!
Here is the schedule of topics for each day:
Day 1: The Big Picture for Your Book
Day 2: Your Path to Publishing Success + Mindset
Day 3: Production, Distribution, Legal – Editing, Design, Taxes, Copyright, etc
Day 4: Book Launch Strategies, Marketing, Marketing and more Marketing
Day 5: Tools and Resources for Writing, Publishing, and Marketing Your Book
I hope you’ll join us!

Upcoming Showings and Events

March 2nd, 2019: Author Signing at M and M Bookstore
March 4th-8th, 2019: Women in Publishing Summit
April 18th, 2019 (6pm): Ottumwa Public Library Book Reading
May 17th-19th, 2019: OWS Cycon 2019 (online event) 
June 29th-30th: Book Signing at West Valley Mall
September 7th-8th: The Writers’ Rooms Presents: I.O.W.A. 
Once again, thank you for everything, and I hope to see you at my upcoming shows! I’m already signing up for ones in other parts of Iowa, and I’m hoping to do a few in Chicago since that’s where PDD is set.

Happy reading and writing!