The general consensus to the question about whether to put a trigger warning on a book seems to be ‘No’ based on the responses to the last post, which got a lot of comments.
But that doesn’t mean I can get away with not using the overt design features to warn and advise.
Starting from the beginning, the beta- and first-readers need to be advised of any level of potential risk. For these readers, there is no cover, the title may not be the final word/s, and the genre may not yet be chosen (for mine, it usually will be, but I’d still need to tell the first reader).
The cover is the most obvious notice of the contents. I’m notoriously bad with covers, so I’d need the help of those who aren’t colour-blind and can draw more than a straight line with a ruler (and understanding how light and shade work might also help).
The title also needs to reflect the contents without being ‘on the nose’. Or on the nose, if it’s comedic (which I can’t do — no sense of humour in this head, just ask my kids). I did well with the cover and title for Diaballein (but I chose the name of the antagonist from the definition of the word). The title is close enough to devil that people should understand what’s going to be inside. The cover was done by someone else based on my instructions (I may need to let them make more decisions in that regard).
With some of the other stories, the titles are not so great. ‘The Old Woman & the Mad Horse’ doesn’t say rural thriller, does it? Okay, the subtitle might do it, but the story isn’t really a spy thriller. It’s about a spy retiring to the country, but what’s the genre for that? I can only use what’s available in the book store, and if I add one more genre to the pile, that book may be the only one resident — and that means no one will find it! I’ll work on it.
And ‘On The Cards’ is way too generic. It doesn’t say urban fantasy, or dark. I don’t think this story is too dark, but I’m the writer, and some of the things I’ve seen in the world are so much darker than … well, than almost anything in fiction. I have a skewed view in that regard.
And in ‘Herja’, I like both the cover and the title, but it’s also poetry-prose mix in a style that’s not standard. I like that story and the cover (to me, it’s an oil painting, best seen from a step back). The original version also had black and white internal pics, but the eBook file size got so big we’d have to pay people to read it. Pity, but then browsers don’t see much of the interior of a book when previewing …
And I’m not saying anything about the anthology covers. For cheap and free books, the covers can’t cost me more than the stories will earn — but I will, in future, make the covers and titles much more genre-specific. I promise, hand over heart and no fingers crossed behind my back.
Or I’ll sub short stories to other publishers, like the one below.
And I’ll ensure the cover, title and blurb/discussions will all be clear and definite about genre and contents.
Like this one:
Thanks to all who responded to the initial question. It’s important to hear and understand, because the world changes all the time, expectations change, and we lose readers by not knowing what they want and need.