Should You Put a Trigger Warning in Your Book’s Description?

You know how some shows would start with “Viewer Discretion is Advised?” I’ve seen a few books do something similar.  At the end of summery, there’ll be a line like “this book contains graphic scenes.” I see them mostly for fantasy romance stories, letting the reader know there’s sex in the book.

I’ve been going back and forth about doing something like that for my stories. The Merging Worlds series is dark, like so graphic people have told me they couldn’t finish Book 1. All my books have a scene that may be hard to read for some people. With Welcome to My World, I made that book extra gory just for the fun of it.

I categorized my books as dark fantasy so people know what they’re getting into beforehand. But, my publisher suggested I should remove the dark and just call it fantasy. They believe I’m limiting my reach. From talking to people about my book, my publisher is finding that people are put off by the “dark” title. I also noticed some books similar to mine are labeled as adventure or coming-of-age, not always dark fantasy.

So, now I’m trying to figure out how to warn people about the content of the series, or even if I need to. I looked at descriptions for books like The Warded Man and Prince of Thorns. They don’t have content warnings and both books have rape scenes. I really would’ve liked to have known that going in, especially for The Warded Man. Becuase of that scene, which was from the female’s perspective, I only read The Warded Man once and I haven’t read any of the other books in the series. Prince of Thorns wasn’t too bad. I honestly didn’t notice the scene until people pointed it out. It still remains one of my favorite books.

Since both books are labeled as Dark Fantasy, they may not need a content warning. However, that genre label doesn’t mean the book as graphic scenes. Dark fantasy is just defined as a mix of horror and fantasy.  Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere is labeled as Dark Fantasy on Goodreads. I didn’t find it to be all that dark.

Generally, I’d like to know beforehand if there’s going to be rape in a story. I have a pretty high tolerance for dark but “on screen” rape is way too dark for me.

I think what I need is more reviews. Through them, readers will know how dark my story is.

I did some research and apparently, this is a heavily debated and complex topic. Some believe trigger warnings could lead to censorship. They’re afraid it won’t stop at graphic content. We’ll have to put warnings on every piece of content because we don’t know what will upset someone.

What do you think of trigger warning for books?

Let’s Talk About Trigger Warning for Books
Explicit material: students want warning put on books

Trigger Warning: Why We Read Books that Make Us Uncomfortable