A lot of authors--I'm guilty, myself--seem to be treading dangerous waters on social media these days! I'm reminded of an unwritten rule about selling romances that used to make their way around workshops and conferences. It basically went something like this: "Don't write conflict about religion or politics or poverty, and never write a hero in show business or sports."
The reasoning behind looking askance at books about movie stars and athletes was that there was so much unfavorable press about antisocial behavior of many actors and sports stars that readers would tend to shy away from reading about them as protagonists. (The taboo occupations have thankfully fallen by the wayside, since I absolutely love Alpha heroes who're larger than life--and pro athletes definitely fill the bill!)
We still don't see successful authors writing romances whose heroes and heroines are downtrodden or destitute, except in backstory. That's understandable. It's hard to make readers believe dire poverty is conducive to the requisite happy ending because people who've experienced hard times usually don't look back on those times with much fondness. Also, most poverty-stricken readers of romance are looking for escape, not for validation of their own sad states
One taboo that definitely is alive and well is conflict between lovers that's based on religious or political differences. There are several reasons for this. First, feeding a reader's strong beliefs on these issues tends to make them side strongly with the character who shares their beliefs and hate the character who represents the opposite strong view. If one character persuades the other to radically change a core belief for him or her, then the strongly opinionated reader is likely to hate both characters. Finally, it would be hard for an author to convey a believable happy ending between lovers whose diametrically opposing views on hot-topic subjects like religion and/or politics remained at odds, and strong.
What about an author expressing strong personal views on politics and/or religious hot topics in social media? Does that turn off readers in the same way as they'd be turned off if we wrote that conflict into our books?
Most of us have done it at one time or another--I know I have. I'm thinking we may alienate half the readers who see our liberal or conservative posts and don't agree, and vice versa if we're espousing the opposite opinion. Being on the fiscal conservative side, I've most likely pissed off liberals who will never agree that any of my ideas have merit, possibly to the point that they'll refuse to buy my books. On the other end of the spectrum, I've probably killed my sales with a lot of conservatives by wanting government out of the business of dictating personal behavior that doesn't affect anybody but who's doing the misbehaving in some conservative eyes.
Authors are people, too, and we're entitled to state our positions on current issues, but I'm wondering if we should. Today I noticed a bunch of particularly snarky Facebook posts by one romance author I know whose books I've always liked. After having filed those snarky comments in the back of my memory bank, I'm not sure I'll ever be able to read her books again. Now I know that it's no more fair for me to scratch her off my "A" list because she dissed my man Romney than it would be for her to write me off because I retweet Mitt Romney's tweets on Twitter and "like" Facebook posts that point out Obama's shortcomings with the economy.
Should romance authors tone down the religious and political comments in social media, just as most of us do when plotting our books? Or should we let our feelings hang out and damn the consequences? Are we shooting ourselves in the foot every time we post a personal opinion in social media that some may view as controversial?
Let's talk about this! I'm interested in knowing how others feel.