Yakkety Yak- Thanks for the Head’s Up

Yakkety Yak...Let's Chat

I was just pondering and decided to turn it into a discussion point because I’m curious what other’s think about this.

I love reading reviews to help me select books **(aka put them on my wish list unless they are free b/c I have too many to read already).  And you would point out that ‘yes! That is what reviews are for, silly’.

So, as I was exchanging comments with one of our readers, I felt comfortable letting her know some extra details about one of the book characters in my review.  The specifics were that the heroine was hard on the hero.

Now, such a comment could be thought to be warning her off the book or even (gasp) spoilering.  But my motive was actually quite different (and yes, I get that just b/c my ‘heart was in the right place’ I might not have done the right thing).  I wanted to give her a ‘head’s up’ to get a better picture of the story so her reading experience would be better.

This is what got me thinking and the focal point of my discussion.  I’d like to make it a complex question that encompasses these things:  Do I use heads-ups?  Do I want heads-up, personally?  What are the pros/cons of heads ups?  What do others consider beneficial heads-ups?  Or, do you just consider heads-ups spoilers?

Do I Use Heads-Ups?

Yes, I use heads-ups.

I will occasionally put in trigger warnings if I think the book’s content might have passages that potentially can cause trauma.

I will put in YA warnings when I’m reviewing a YA level book for language, violence and sex to help parents and teens make an informed decision.

With erotic BDSM books, I might give a label from mild to strong and even list examples of the kink.

But beyond that, I think I also do it more subtly because things like ‘have some patience b/c it’s a slow start’, ‘the heroine/hero was tough to like’, ‘love triangle’, ‘cheating’ ‘this xxx element was present’, and ‘cliffie’ all are the types of things that give folks a heads-up.

I’ll even point out that authors/publishers have figured out that people want ‘warnings’ so you will see them in blurbs now.  And personally, I find them more helpful than not.  Years ago, I got ahold of a non-consensual book that didn’t indicate in blurb, genre (yeah, it was put in romantic suspense not erotic), or notes what it was.  I was not a happy camper.  Wouldn’t have purchased it and trust me there was no romance or suspense in the thing.

Do I Want Heads-Ups?

Yes, I do.

There are some things that are completely out of the question and it would be a waste of money and time (not necessarily b/c it is something wrong just might not be my thing).  There are other elements that are iffy depending on mood.  Or, there are elements in the story that are way out of my comfort zone and I know I can’t handle it.

But also, I want my expectations in the right place.  Hyped books are an example of that.  I see people getting excited so I’m thinking this is going to be epic and for me, not so much because maybe I wasn’t expecting the slow start, the difficult heroine that has to grow through the story, maybe I was expecting action and it was more character-driven, what is that cliffhanger doing there?!? or a myriad of other expectations that a word or two in a review can help me sort that out.

And finally, this one is more of a secondary reason, but it’s still big for me.  Heads-ups keep me from having to express a negative opinion as often.  I hate having to share I was disappointed in a book.  I can avoid committing to reviewing books I am pretty sure I won’t care for if I spot an early review with ‘heads-up’ comments.  For instance, last year I remember turning down a prequel book that came out following a few books into the series.  It was rehashing a couple’s story who were broken up and now moved on.  Another review book was turned down because the heroine was an environmentalist who bashed the military.  Neither of those books would have gone over well with me no matter how good the writing was.

What are some potential pros/cons that I can see?

Well, I won’t elaborate much on the pros because I’ve already covered that somewhat- but to reiterate I think the biggest pro is that it gives the reader enough that they can make an informed decision and it also puts the reader’s expectation level in the right place so that they can appreciate and enjoy a book better.  Less of the ‘if I had only known’s and more of ‘okay, I know this is going to start slow, but I just need to stick around b/c it will get rolling’.

But the cons.

Heads-ups can so easily become spoilers.  A person with all the best motives in the world who just wants to help a fellow book lover out can go beyond a helpful hint into a cliff notes version of the book.  And the line of demarcation is not so black and white.  With one book, a trigger warning is just a trigger warning, but in another, it might be the biggest twist in the book.  This is why I have no hard and fast rule for when I deliver a warning or heads up (or at least how I word it- love the new hidden spoilers buttons for this sort of thing).

And because readers might consider ‘heads-ups’ and warnings spoilerish, there is the risk of ticking them off or driving them away from reading your review.

Also, this might mean that the reader misses out on a story they might really have loved.  I have found that things I generally don’t like and are touchy points with me can have exceptions.  Nine times out of ten a true love triangle will drive me up the wall, but then there is that one…  And sometimes cliffhangers are not a bad form of torment if used properly.

Now, we come to you, dear Delighted Readers.  What is your opinion on reviews containing Heads-Ups?  Do you have a preference about them?  Do you have specific things you absolutely want/need to know from a review?  And no, I won’t be mad if you hate any ‘hints’, ‘warnings’, or ‘heads-ups’.

Do tell!

**Exception to this is that I do not read reviews prior to reading books I have already committed to for reviews to both go into it fresh and open for the reading experience and to avoid a chance of snitching another person’s choice of words.


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I was born and raised near Sacramento, CA. I have read since I was four years old and developed tastes that run the gamut of literature. I went away to college and have a degree in education, a certificate in family history research, and a certificate in social work. I worked for a non-profit agency with low income families for 20 years which included being responsible for the children’s library and promoting/teaching adult literacy. I have lived in Southeast Michigan for the last 18 years and I am currently a book addicted homemaker with a cat and husband who keep me grounded. Recently, I made it a challenge to review each book that I have read as a favor to author friends who said reviews are important. I have done reviews for Good Reads, Amazon, eBay, and Smashwords, but mostly at Goodreads and Amazon.
  • The weird thing is that on the one hand I really hate spoilers and it’s great to go into a book blind, but lately I’ve also realized that I love heads-ups as well and sometimes prefer to hear them even if they are spoilers.
    I don’t like torture scenes for example and rather know that in advance. I even ask for things like that in my review policy nowadays, so authors can let me know if their book includes any of the things I don’t like. In those cases I rather get spoiled beforehand than being surprised. Or like your example of the book having a slow start, if you know that in advance you might give the book more of a chance than if you don’t know it. or even if the first book is okay ad the second book is better might change my mind to continue the series.

    I even recently clicked on a spoiler tag in someone’s review as I was curious about that and wanted to know. And I think heads-ups can help you avoid books you might not enjoy and I think that’s whats so wonderful about reviews, you can read them to get a feel for the themes and avoid books with aspects you don’t like, instead of having to read it and find it out yourself.

    I do agree that heads-ups can easily become spoilers and it’s hard to say where the line is. You could say almost everything is a spoiler, but then writing reviews becomes impossible. I mostly dislike spoilers that give away the plot. And in most cases I think vague hints or mentioning themes or topics is fine as long as you don’t give all the details around the situation unless someone ask for it. I guess there isn’t really a right way to decide where the line is between the two.

    I remember years ago when I read Divergent, I heard a lot of talk about the book and knew Four was the love interest and when i started reading the book I felt a bit sad as I never would’ve expected her to end up with four at first and would’ve liked the surprise. But can something like that really be called a spoiler? It did spoil something about the book, but on the other hand I also think it’s something that’s fair to include in a review.

    Sorry my comment got a bit long and rambly. I guess things like heads up are really tricky and I coincidentally have a post scheduled about trigger warnings on my blog next week where I also talks about the difficulties of the and the pros and cons. And I think there is no right or wrong way to handle things like this. Just go with what you personally thinks is right. I usually appreciate the head-ups as long as people don’t reveal big plot twists.

    • I do not mind your ‘rambly’ thoughts. I like knowing what you think about this. I’m still figuring out how to make up some rules for myself. I like what you pointed out about wanting some things, but not getting detailed about plot issues and elements.

  • Heads ups are very beneficial to me. Whether It’s spoilers or trigger warnings, I don’t mind them. I think that It’s being courteous to your readers because you never know what might offend someone.

    • This is good, Lekeisha. And with spoilers, there are ways to include them and hide it so people can option to read it or not read it.

  • I personally like a heads-up on certain issues. Reading/book taste varies and there are things that are okay with me (like cheating and marriage in crisis) but turns people off. Or some people like stepsibling romances and I can’t do that. So these fine details matter to me. There are cons, sure, but I don’t want to spend time on something I know I wouldn’t like ultimately

    • Yes, you’re right, Braine. Tastes vary. And, LOL, yes, what one person doesn’t like, another might not mind or even love.

  • I really like knowing what a story is about. Heads ups, warnings and hints are what excite me for a story when I’m reading a review. I bought a book a couple of weeks ago because there was so much info and an excerpt that just made my mind up. If there isn’t enough info in a review I’m likely to go find a review where there is to see if it sounds good enough to buy.

    • I am the same, Mary. I see the hints and heads up and then end up buying it. 🙂

      And yes, I like a good sized review over the shorties. 🙂

  • oh I think heads ups on reviews are so vital especially since I rely on reviews for certain books which determine whether or not I will pick something up. I do feel that yes they can be spoilers, but honestly i don’t mind if a book is a little spoiled if I know it will have a happy ending or not…..or if it has BDSM elements in it and how strong the sex is. Or if there is certain factors in a story I like to be warned about beforehand. There have been times I haven’t looked into a story, and then was surprised in a negative ways. So I definitely prefer it when bloggers/reviewers give out heads up- and I always try to do so without giving too much away.

    • I’m with you. I don’t mind mild spoilers if it will help me pick books I’ll enjoy reading or warn me away from those I wouldn’t like. You do a good mix of explanation without spoilering, Renee. 🙂

  • I’m good with a heads up. Especially if it’s coming from someone who knows my reading gripes or squeals. Like a particularly difficult heroine or if there’s cheating or whatnot. I would rather a heads up. It won’t always deter me from reading but will give me more patience if I go into the book.

    I give them as well. If it’s something that’s real spoilery I’ll typically ask the person first. So like hey Sophia so there’s this thing you might want to know about you want me to spoiler it for you a little? I’ve done that for a few on the blog and then we usually jump over to FB messages so it’s not out there for anyone going by that might not want the extra info 🙂

    • Yes, exactly, my thing, too, Anna. I like to have my expectations in the right place when I go to pick up a book. If the heroine is sassy or on the stubborn side or if the book gets off slow, but picks up. I’d still read it, but read it with more realistic expectations.

      I like your idea of offering to elaborate to individuals and then taking it over to private messaging. That would definitely work.

  • hmmmm…never thought of a heads up being or becoming a spoiler but I dont mind them at all. I myself like a heads up about something thaf may be a trigger warning, etc. I guess it jist depends on the reader. Great post Sophia 🙂

    • I hadn’t given it much thought, either, Sharonda. I did have a comment on a review last year about not liking that I said it had certain kink b/c the person found that spoilerish. I didn’t so it got me to thinking.

      Thanks, Sharonda!

      • wow, smh. I mean most book blurbs will let you know about certain kinks so how did that person see it as spoilerish?…makes you wonder. If anything, you informed cause most readers (like myself) dont always read a blurb and can make a decision based on your heads up if they want to read a book or not, ya know.

        • It really can get so nit picky and I shook my head, too. I like knowing what I’m getting into and don’t see it as a spoiler either, but…to each their own, I guess. 😉