Thursday, August 23, 2018

How to tackle sticky subjects in your writing By Tricia Drammeh


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Every book is different. From poetry to children’s books, Christian romance to horror, there are books for every kind of reader. Not every reader will enjoy every genre, or every book. As authors, we want to get our books into the hands of the readers who will enjoy them. If you’re an author who writes controversial content, or who tackles subject matter that is potentially upsetting or traumatic for some readers, you might struggle with deciding how to let readers know what lies within the pages of your book.

I’ve struggled with this dilemma in the past. I wrote a young adult book that deals with the subject of date rape. When I considered whether or not to use a trigger warning, I debated long and hard. I didn’t want to give away a key plot point, nor did I want to scare away readers who might be helped by reading the book. But, on the other hand, I didn’t want to blindside readers who had been confronted by this subject in real life and who might be emotionally harmed when reading the book.

Readers have a huge catalog of books to choose from, regardless of the genre they are searching for. For example, typing the word “romance” into the Amazon search bar will yield thousands upon thousands of results. If you want to narrow down your search, you can be as specific as you want to be. When I typed “time travel clean romance” into the Amazon search field, there were 861 books to choose from!

I clicked on one book that looked very appealing, and scrolled down to the product details to check out the sub-categories. This is a great place to go if you want to make certain you’re getting exactly what you’re looking for. Though this particular book’s main category was romance, it was also listed under “time travel” and “clean and wholesome.”

Here are a few things authors can do to make things easier for readers who are searching for the right book for them:

1. Get descriptive. Your book blurb is a golden opportunity to tease and tempt potential readers. It’s also a great way to warn them of potentially sticky subject matter. Sure, you don’t want to chase away readers, but with a few, carefully chosen keywords, you can let the reader know your book contains obscenities or adult situations before they read the book and blast you in a strongly-worded review.

2. Use care when selecting categories. Amazon and other online retailers give the author or publisher very clear categories to select when publishing a book. Sometimes you can’t find exactly what you’re looking for in the categories, but in general, you can get pretty close.

3. Make keywords count. When uploading your book to Amazon and other retailers, you have the option to use keywords. Using descriptive keywords will ensure your book will end up in the right sub-categories, thus making it even easier for readers to discover your book.

4. Add a disclaimer or trigger warning. Though controversial, there are some situations where using a trigger warning is completely appropriate. If your book tackles subjects such as child abuse, domestic violence, or other sensitive subjects, you can want to give readers a heads up. The trigger warning or disclaimer can be added to your blurb, typed within the first few pages of your book, or added to the back of the book cover. It’s up to you how (or if) you decide to use a trigger warning.

Book descriptions, keywords, and trigger warnings are there to help readers find books best suited for them. When authors are careful to make sure their books are listed in the right categories and sub-categories, readers will have a better experience and everyone wins!