I’ve seen a lot of discussion and opinions about trigger warnings and content warnings, so I’m going to address those here, and explain what they actually are, and how they can work to your benefit.

CW: I won’t be going into any detail, but there will be mentions of common sensitive topics as they relate to triggers and content warnings, such as assault and violence.


Triggers are something very specific in relation to trauma. They are very different from something that makes you uncomfortable or something that we might call a squick.

A trigger is something that causes an INVOLUNTARY reaction in a person which makes them relive their trauma and will often cause panic attacks.

Triggers are typically not what we are actually using content warnings for because they are extremely specific to each individual case. Things like hearing an ambulance or hearing a garage door open could trigger someone but those are obviously not things that you can warn for.

We typically will provide warnings for more common triggers or warnings such as rape, pedophilia, violence, etc.

0a9bf55a 6 i dont want any of that


When it comes to books and various media, we use content warnings. They can be as specific or as broad as you choose and no one is forcing you to use them.

I consider content warnings and content notes to be like a menu. You’re informing people of the content of your book so that they can make sure they’re going to enjoy that consumption experience. 

When you’re providing this information to people they can pick out their favorite items. People will gravitate to your books because of what it contains and you want that information to be easily accessible. Something that one person doesn’t like may be someone else’s favorite kink. I think that’s where a lot of authors lose this concept. 

You would not believe the amount of times I have seen people in book request threads specifically choosing a book because of the content warning. They see that list of kinks or taboo situations and they go “THAT IS THE BOOK FOR ME!”

When you’re looking at a menu, or, in this case, our potential content notes, you are looking for things that you want to consume as well as things that will make you ill or things that you don’t enjoy consuming. 

655673ed 8 i want that

If a book has all of your favorite ingredients then you are much more likely to consume it. Or if they have most of your favorite ingredients but one thing you don’t like, then you can make an informed decision as to whether you want to consume it. That could be a case of “one bad apple spoils the whole bunch” or it could be a case of “I can pick this out and still enjoy the rest of my meal.”

Thorough content warnings work equally well as advertising as they do as a deterrent, but a lot of people only like to consider them as a potential to turn off. They’re happy to ignore all of the potential benefits it has for their books.

A Real World Example

A really great example of a content warning done thoroughly and thoughtfully is in Harley Laroux’s books. I’ve seen people get excited over the detail included multiple times because it tells them exactly what they want to know. 

Let’s take a quick look at what she has going on in the content warnings for Her Soul To Take (excellent book, by the way, 10/10 recommend, you can check it out HERE).

Now, you don’t have to be as in depth as Harley, but trust me when I say that providing this kind of information gets people who are into those things VERY excited. 

With some content warnings you can tell that the author is only doing it because they feel like they have to, and they sometimes come across as being very condescending to the reader. I have skipped books entirely that I was otherwise interested in specifically because of how this was handled.

Content Warning

I’ve also seen a lot of very generic content warnings that don’t actually tell me anything. If you tell me a book has dark themes or taboo subjects, that’s not very helpful to me. There are plenty of dark themes and taboo subjects that I would be totally fine reading, and several I’m not at all interested in, but if you’re not going to tell me which ones those are then it’s really hard for me to decide if I’m going to like the book.

I’ve seen a lot of people approach content warnings worried that it’s going to deter people from reading their books, but CONSIDER THIS: DO YOU WANT SOMEONE TO READ YOUR BOOK IF THEY’RE NOT GOING TO LIKE IT? 

Not liking a book means that you are going to get lower ratings and bad reviews. It means that they may tell their friends not to read it, especially if you’re exposing them to hard kinks and potentially traumatic content without warning.

This is not a matter of “uwu special snowflakes”, this comes down to reader enjoyment. Authors want people to enjoy reading our books so I think that it’s very useful to give people the tools to know if they’re going to like it.

I also feel the need to point out that content warnings are not something that is remotely new. We’ve been using content warning with our movie and TV rating systems, explicit lyrics stickers on albums, ingredient list on food for allergens, etc. They are part of our daily life and I am constantly baffled why so many people get up in arms when we are applying it to books as well.


So let’s talk about the different levels of content warnings and how you can approach them with your books.

Level Zero –  no content warnings

Level One – the most basic warning possible
Ex. “This content might be upsetting for some viewers”, “sensitive readers stay away”, “viewer discretion is advised” with no additional information
This tells me basically nothing. 

Level Two – broad and generic content warnings
ex. rape, pedophilia, violence with no information as to who is involved (main vs side character), whether it is mentioned or graphic, etc.
This is more useful, but we don’t know if things are happening on page or off, if it’s something we’re going to have to experience via the POV we’re reading, etc.

Level Three –  including less common content warnings
ex. eating disorders, specific hard kinks, harm to an animal or child, etc. with no information as to who is involved (main vs side character), whether it is mentioned or graphic, etc.
This covers a lot more information, but again, we don’t know if it’s on page or off, etc. As an example, I read one book where the author warned for SA with no additional information. It turned out that it was between the romantic leads, rather than in the FMC’s past, or involving an antagonist. This is where additional information would have saved me a DNF.

Level Four – Providing some level of explanation
ex. mentions of violence vs. graphic depictions of violence, “X happens off page”, X occurs between Character A and Character B.
This is where things start to be really beneficial for conveying information, in my opinion.

Level Five – Including additional information
ex. warning list, kink list, trope list, disclaimers, etc. to give a rounded explanation of your story. 
This provides a ton of relevant information to readers.

Once again you are obviously free to use any level of content warnings that you decide is best for you and your books. My personal favorite is when we get on par with AO3 tags because that is going to give me the most information and is going to much better ensure I’m going to enjoy my reading experience.

Content warnings are not a fail-safe. Some people will disregard them or not read them at all and you’ll still get bad reviews for content that you warned for, but at least you’ll have tried. Assuming you’re including them. 

This information can be provided in the book itself, in the blurb, on your website, or anywhere else that readers can readily access.

If you’re not sure what to content warn for, that is something that you can ask your beta readers, your ARC reviewers, or your writer friends who have read your story.

If you are personally, actively against content warnings I would ask you to do some self-reflection. Content warnings are a useful tool, and, additionally, they are also often a kindness, and I don’t I think there’s anything wrong with bringing a little bit more kindness into the world.

*Please be advised that Amazon does not necessarily like the words trigger warning or content warning and may penalize your book for containing those in the blurb. That being said, you can use alternatives such as content notes or author notes to provide the same information.

Thank you so much for reading. I hope that this post was helpful and that you learned something today.

Happy reading!