Disclaimer, the story

angryreaderA reader of Shelf Space, the giveaway short on my website, recently sent me an email about her displeasure with some of the course language in the story. Considering the seedy subject matter of the tale, it was bound to have some colorful words. However, I understood her concern.

Each of my stories on amazon.com have disclaimers about language and/or violence included in their respective descriptions. This particular short story contains strong language and I realized, as I read her email, that readers requesting my free book through my website deserve the same notice. She suggested that I add a disclaimer about the book’s language to my website; I agreed and it was done.

Not long after having that update made to my website, I thought about Burying The Bitter, my free short on Amazon, which has remained on their top 100 free books list since its release. It features unspeakable abuse and violence which could potentially offend the most sensitive reader. While wondering just how many disclaimers I may need to add to any future stories, The Prince of Tides by Pat Conroy came to mind. I grabbed my copy and thumbed through the first pages looking for a warning of sorts for all of the violence to come. There was nothing. Not a peep. Nada. The sister’s suicide attempt and the father’s abuse in the book were jaunts around an ice rink at Christmas compared to the heinous and abominable horrors the narrator later revealed with unrelenting graphic force. Did Conroy owe me a disclaimer about the violence or language in his book? Looking back to when I read the book almost twenty years ago, I can’t say that I expected one and I do know that I had the option of putting the book down, but didn’t. But… in this day, ebooks traditionally seem to provide such disclosures and as a marketer, I recognize that my own must follow suit if needed.

In many of my stories to come, my characters will hit some dark times and they will curse. I already know this. Two of my published stories (the ones discussed here) happen to touch grim and ugly subjects and their characters express themselves verbally in some rather bawdy ways to survive the moments. I can’t change the gist of my stories and I won’t change the language channeled down to me when it appears to fit their circumstances; all I can do is let you know that it may be quite ribald.

Writers: Do you add disclaimers?
Readers: Do you prefer to have disclaimers in the book’s description?

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2 thoughts on “Disclaimer, the story

  1. I am grappling with this issue now.

    My current book, Time Trip: A Dinosaur Musical, isn’t much of a problem. Fundamentalist Christians who believe in young earth creationism would find certain material in the book objectionable. But there isn’t any swearing or sex, and only some mild “cartoon” violence.

    My next book, Red Flags, is NOT for kids. As far as swearing, sex, and violence go, it would belong in the same category as Prince Of Tides. But as you pointed out, Pat Conroy’s novel doesn’t come with a disclaimer or trigger warnings. Because I am an indie author, I most certainly will have to issue trigger warnings for Red Flags.

    On one hand, I agree that trigger warnings are needed. I don’t want someone buying Red Flags for their kids thinking it’s targeted to the same age group as Time Trip: A Dinosaur Musical. But on the other hand, if a novel is clearly marked as being for adults, the reader should expect some mature language or subject matter. If they can’t deal with swear words or a grisly scene, they can always put the book down.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Jen. Since online libraries are so blurred and everything is so assessable, I, too, think the disclaimers are appropriate. It helps parents determine what their kids may read and also whether or not the book’s their own cup of tea. I don’t think I pay that much attention to them as a reader as I do the blurb, but everyone’s approach is different. Like you, as an indie author and marketer, I think it’s best to follow other authors in that regard. I’d rather know my readers have an idea of what they’re getting than otherwise receive bad press because the book didn’t suit their taste. Thanks for commenting.

      Liked by 1 person

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