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 authors referenced his “partner.”
Authors David Powers King and Michael Jensen signed a publishing agreement with Sweetwater in January. They submitted their manuscript materials — including their bios — shortly after and worked with Cedar Fort for several months on editing and designing the book. The final manuscript was slated to go to press August 1.
“Cedar Fort expected Woven to be very successful,” says 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, 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 the company would not allow him to state he lived with a man because they were concerned about ruining their relationship with the LDS Church-affiliated Deseret Book.
Jensen offered to change the word “boyfriend” to the non-gender-specific “partner,” as in his original bio, but 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,” Jensen said. “I wanted a comparable, accurate sentence in my bio.”
Jensen called Cedar Fort’s owner, Lyle Mortimer, and asked why he was being treated differently from Mr. King.
“The conversation really devolved quickly,” he said. “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.”
The 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,” said King. “All we wanted was for them to print Michael’s biographical information like mine.”
Two weeks after King and 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.” Q