Two authors are saying their publishing company canceled their book project at the last minute because one of them mentioned his boyfriend in his bio.
David Powers King and Michael Jensen say they were gearing up for the release of their book, “Woven,” a young-adult fantasy novel due to go to press on Aug. 1. The book’s publisher was Sweetwater Books, an imprint of Cedar Fort Publishing and Media in Salt Lake City.
But when Jensen was sent the final proof of the book’s cover, he noticed his bio was out of date, according to Nicholas Rupp, Jensen’s publicist and partner, who posted about the incident on the book’s website. Jensen, Rupp writes, sent an email to Angie Workman, his acquisitions editor, asking that the bio be updated with the latest version, which contained the following sentence:
“He lives in Salt Lake City with his boyfriend and their four dogs.”
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Salt Lake City, of course, is home to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Workman allegedly wrote back to express her concern that the reference wouldn’t fly with the publisher’s “LDS buyers,” according to an email exchange posted here:
“I was concerned about your bio and wondered what effect it would have with our LDS buyers, so I spoke with Lyle 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.”
Jensen responded by agreeing to change “boyfriend” to “partner,” which was the wording in his original bio, according to the exchange. But Workman said that the “partner” reference also had to go. When Jensen refused to allow the change, Workman said he could take it up with the company’s owner, Lyle Mortimer.
Jensen said he called Mortimer and asked why he was being treated differently from his co-author, whose reference to his wife and kids seemed to cause no controversy. According to the release, Jensen said the conversation devolved quickly from there.
“Lyle started yelling about my ‘agenda’ and how I was trying to destroy families,” he said in a statement. “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.”
In a follow-up email, Jensen said publishing the book without his approved bio would be a breach of contract. He added what seemed to be a thinly veiled word of caution that the standoff will likely escalate into a PR nightmare:
“[P]erhaps this situation will become a win-win for us both, as the media attention generated by your refusal to publish a biographical sentence comparable to my coauthor's is sure to bring attention to our work, as well -- particularly since it will be obvious that the inequality comes from Cedar Fort, and not Deseret Book and other LDS-based book stores that already carry a number of works by gay authors.”
Neither Mortimer nor Workman immediately responded to a request for comment. Updates will be posted here if they do.
According to Rupp, Cedar Fort decided to cancel the publication of “Woven” two weeks later, returning all rights to the two King and Jensen. The authors are currently shopping for a new publisher.
Read the full email exchange here.