David Powers King and Michael Jensen were in the final stages of publishing their young-adult fantasy novel Woven when they saw a mistake on the back cover.
The biographical information for King was fine, but Jensen’s was missing this line: “He lives in Salt Lake City with his boyfriend and their four dogs.”
The Acquisitions Editor for publisher Cedar Fort, Inc. told him the reason in an email:
I was concerned about your bio and wondered what effect it would have with our [Mormon] buyers, so I spoke with [Cedar Fort 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.
Jensen suggested replacing the word “boyfriend” with “partner” (which is what his bio said in the book proposal) but the publishers would have none of it. They didn’t want to publish even a hint that one of their authors was gay. They cater to an LDS audience, after all, and they obviously didn’t want to burn any bridges.
The authors (rightly) refused to budge any further with the bios, so there was a phone call to discuss the situation, which the authors have summarized like this on their website:
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.”
Jensen argues that bending over backwards like this to try and appease a Mormon book chain, even for a publisher that caters to an LDS crowd, really makes no sense:
… I would imagine that major national retailers, like Barnes & Noble and Amazon.com, might hesitate to continue dealing with a publisher whose practices are so egregiously incongruous with their own adopted corporate philosophies on the subject of gay equality (I’m sure you’re aware that last year Jeff Bezos personally donated $2.5 million dollars in support of same-sex marriage in Washington state).
Fair point. As it stands, the authors now have the rights to their book back, so they’re shopping for a new publisher. But really, Jensen and King don’t even need one at this point. With this story, they have some publicity. Might as well just pay someone to design a new cover, slap their unedited bios on it, and publish it themselves ASAP.
Let Cedar Fort take the hit for siding with bigotry instead of the merits of the novel.