Sweetwater Books/Cedar Fort Publishing cancelled a novel days before press time after its author asked that his male partner be included in his bio. During discussions, author Michael Jensen called the owner, Lyle Mortimer, only to be subjected to a screed about the gay agenda and God's plan for his penis.
The press release follows.
Sweetwater Books, a division of Cedar Fort Publishing & Media, has cancelled the publication of Woven, a highly anticipated young adult fantasy novel, because the biographical blurb of one of Woven's two authors referenced the author's "partner."
Authors David Powers King and Michael Jensen signed a publishing agreement with Sweetwater Books on January 15, 2013. They submitted their manuscript materials—including their bios—shortly after and worked with Cedar Fort for several months on editing and designing the book. Originally scheduled for an October 8, 2013, release date, the final manuscript was slated to go to press on August 1.
"Cedar Fort expected Woven to be very successful," says Mr. King. "They told me they thought it would be their best seller this year, and that the preliminary reviews were very, very good."
On August 2, Mr. Jensen received a proof of Woven's final cover art and noticed that his submitted bio (which included the sentence "He lives in Salt Lake City with his boyfriend and their four dogs.") was incomplete. He emailed Cedar Fort's acquisitions editor, Angie Workman, who explained that Cedar Fort would not allow Mr. Jensen to state that he lived with a man because the publishing house was concerned about ruining their relationship with the LDS-church-affiliated Deseret Book. [See complete email exchange—read from the bottom up.]
Mr. Jensen replied that Ms. Workman could change the word "boyfriend" to the non-gender-specific "partner," as his original bio—submitted shortly after signing with Cedar Fort—had always referenced his "partner." Ms. Workman refused, and instead insisted that the reference to Mr. Jensen's significant other be removed entirely.
"David's bio said that he lived in Utah County with his wife and their kids," says Mr. Jensen. "I wanted a comparable, accurate sentence in my bio."
Mr. Jensen called Cedar Fort's owner, Lyle Mortimer, and asked why he was being treated differently from Mr. King. "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."
But Woven's authors insisted that Cedar Fort treat them equally, and asked that both receive honest, accurate biographical blurbs. "That one sentence shouldn't even have been an issue," says Mr. King. "All we wanted was for them to print Michael's biographical information like mine."
Two weeks after Mr. King and Mr. Jensen insisted on equality, Cedar Fort elected to cancel the publication of Woven completely and return all rights to the two authors. "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."
"While we are disappointed that Woven won't be published when we originally planned," says Mr. King, "ultimately we'd much rather be signed by a publisher who fully supports us—both of us."
Publishers or agents who would like more information about Woven may reach the authors via the media contact above.