A Mormon publisher decided not to publish a young adult fantasy novel because one of its two authors wanted to list his "partner" in his biographical blurb.
Authors David Powers King and Michael Jensen signed with Sweetwater Books, a division of Cedar Fort Publishing & Media, in January 2013. Their young adult fantasy book, Woven, was scheduled for an October 8, 2013 release date, and the final manuscript was supposed to go to press on August 1. Cedar Fort is a predominately LDS publisher, but the authors say they were told Sweetwater was supposed to be more mainstream and their book's content wouldn't have to abide by Mormon standards.
“Cedar Fort expected Woven to be very successful,” said King (via a press release on Woven's website). “They told me they thought it would be their best seller this year, and that the preliminary reviews were very, very good.”
When Jensen received a proof of Woven's final cover art on August 2 and noticed that his submitted bio was incomplete, he didn't think the error was that big a deal; the publishers knew he was gay from the start. He emailed Cedar Fort’s acquisitions editor, Angie Workman, to ask why his bio didn't include the sentence, “He lives in Salt Lake City with his boyfriend and their four dogs.” That's when Jensen was told it wasn't an oversight; the deletion was intentional, because Cedar Fort thought the word "boyfriend" was too scary and sinful for LDS readers to bear. From the email chain (scroll to the bottom):
I was concerned about your bio and wondered what effect it would have with our LDS buyers, so I spoke with [Cedar Fort‘s owner, Lyle Mortimer] about it. He says we can't risk ruining our relationship with them by stating you live with your boyfriend, so we need to cut that part out. We will have much better sales if we can get into Deseret Book and Seagull, so that's what we need to focus on. I hope you can understand our objective with this. Thanks!
Jensen didn't make a big deal out of — as a gay longtime Salt Lake City resident, he probably wasn't too shocked — and said it was fine with him if they changed "boyfriend" to "partner," as stated in his original bio. Nope!
"I noticed that when you first sent in your bio and asked them to delete that," Workman wrote back. "It must've slipped through somehow. We'll need to take that out as well. Sorry."
Now, Jensen was mad. “David’s bio said that he lived in Utah County with his wife and their kids,” he said. “I wanted a comparable, accurate sentence in my bio.”
He called Mortimer and asked him to explain why he was being treated differently:
“The conversation really devolved quickly,” says Mr. Jensen. “Lyle started yelling about my ‘agenda’ and how I was trying to destroy families. He even started saying inappropriate things about how God had given me a penis for a reason. It was very uncomfortable. Then he threatened to publish Woven without our names attached or without our bios at all—rather than print that one sentence. He told me that if he decided not to publish because of this, I’d have to buy back the rights to our book and reimburse him for his work so far, and that would cost me thousands of dollars.”
Two weeks later, Cedar Fort decided to cancel publication of Woven and return all rights to the two authors. OVER ONE VAGUE SENTENCE (and, of course, the gay agenda).
“They knew I was gay when they signed me,” said Mr. Jensen. “If they didn’t want to print the bio of an author who happened to be gay, then they shouldn’t have signed an author who happened to be gay.”
Image via KENNY TONG/Shutterstock.