I have had a number of new authors ask me if I worried about being out, about whether it would drive away readers. About whether I lose sales. I think they fear these things themselves.
Now, by being out, I mean basically out in two different ways.
One: I am out as being bisexual. Yes, I’m married, but that doesn’t mean I don’t find women attractive. I am married to a man because that’s who I fell in love with, but yes, I can just as easily be attracted to women. Contrary to some opinions, being bisexual doesn’t mean you want to fuck everybody. I’m extremely picky on who I find attractive. But it means I don’t care about gender. Men are sexy and attractive. So are women. Depending on the individual.
And two: I’ve been out of the ‘broom closet’ since long before I ever got my first contract. Yes, I’m a shamanic witch. Yes, I’m pagan, and a Priestess, and yes, I do have a small coven. No, I don’t try to dumb it down to make people comfortable. I have been a witch for over 32 years now. I’m happy in my path, I’m not interested in converting anybody, and I damn well am not interested in being converted. And…I’ve never hidden my spirituality, even when I worked for the State.
But…does it affect my readership? Has it?
Honestly? I have no clue…and I don’t care. Because for me to hide who I am would feel so dishonest that I couldn’t stand it. Yes, I DO know that I’ve lost *some* readers due to Menolly’s bisexual nature and Camille’s polyamory. I’ve had some women—especially—bitch about the ‘lesbian love scenes’ (but they can handle the gore, apparently). And I’ve had some people (again, mostly women) calling Camille a slut and a whore (Can you say “Has NO clue of what polyamory really is”?).
BUT…I’ve also gained readers due to both factors. And I truly think far more of the latter (those accepting/gravitating to my work) than the former.
Which brings me to this: if people base whether they want to read my books on my personal life, well, that’s their choice.
Personally, I read a LOT of writers who I’ve found out are *gasp* Christian…and you know what? I don’t give a fuck. Other writers can worship a rock in the ground, the stars in the sky, a big wet noodle, for all I care.
Because unless a personal belief/trait reaches an extreme level that I cannot stomach, I don’t care what they believe. What DOES matter to me is that I like their work and want to read more. I think the majority of readers are like that. And to be honest, someone who finds my lifestyle repugnant? Probably not going to be interested in my work anyway.
(But guys, really, my life seems pretty tame…I write, play with the cats, hang out with husband and friends…).
I have friends of all faiths and beliefs, and they know who/what I am. I have readers of all faiths/beliefs, and well—it’s pretty easy to figure out what kind of person I am. If that offends, then again, it’s up to them if they want to stop reading me. But I refuse to hide who/what I am to make them comfortable.
So, back to the question: Should authors worry about losing readers?
Yes, if you act like a fucking ass and lord it over others. If you aspire to be holier-than-thou, no matter what the cause, you’re going to wear on the nerves.
I have my soap boxes, but I don’t rant for hours on the same issue. And I don’t think everybody should be just like me. (The gods know, more than one of me? The world couldn’t take it).
But…should you hide who you are? Well, only YOU can make that choice. Some writers may need to for personal reasons that are grounded in very strong reasons. I refuse to judge them on that choice. But think about why you’re making the choice, and then make it based on the knowledge of what’s right for you.
For me, it would have been the wrong choice—and damned near impossible considering some of the nonfiction I’ve written (sex magic, witchcraft, tarot, totem magic, anybody?).
But, back to the question: Do I lose readers by being “out”?
In the long run, does it matter? I am true to who I am. And who I am is a complex individual including: a married-to-a-straight-man wife, bisexual, part Cherokee/part Irish, intelligent, feminist, cat-adoring, low-carb-ain’t-never-gonna-be-a-vegetarian-again, tattoo-covered, shamanic witch who is learning to shoot, who is centrist Democrat, and who just wants to write stories and worlds to capture the imagination.
And if that isn’t living “Life on the Fringe”…well…I don’t know what is.