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’.
**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.