Happy Ending for Gay Author Thwarted by Small Publisher

In News by Dennis Abrams

When Sweetwater Books declined to publish a book with a co-author’s biography that mentioned a “partner,” the book found a new, better home: Scholastic.

By Dennis Abrams

cover wovenBack in August of 2013, I wrote about the story of Sweetwater Books (a division of Cedar Fort Publishing & Media) and its refusal to publish a gay author’s book over what could and could not be included in the author’s bio.

The biography for author David Powers King was fine. But the biography for his co-author, Michael Jensen, when it came back for approval, was missing the line “He lives in Salt Lake City with his boyfriend and their four dogs.”

Patheos.com posted the email that Jensen received from his publisher’s acquisition editor:

jensen 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.)

As I wrote at the time:

In a public statement, Jensen said:

“David’s bio said that he lived in Utah County with his wife and kids. I wanted a comparable, accurate sentence in my bio.”

Jensen also offered to allow Sweetwater Books to change the word “boyfriend” to “partner” but no dice – the reference was removed completely.

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.”

At that point Jensen, who says that the publisher knew he was gay when they signed him up, went directly to Lyle Mortimer at Cedar Fort. And that’s when the full bore attack on him and gay rights began:

“The conversation really devolved quickly. 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.”

Ultimately though, after the authors threatened to “out” the publisher’s policies (Jensen wrote to Lyle that, “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),” they were released from their contract and given back full rights to their series, no strings attached.

Fortunately, the story has a happy ending. Two happy endings actually.

Scholastic Press was delighted to pick up the book and published it in January of this year. And while Jensen’s biography no longer refers to a “boyfriend” or even a “partner” is does include this information (taken from Patheos):

Michael Jensen back cover

About the Author

Dennis Abrams

Dennis Abrams is a contributing editor for Publishing Perspectives, responsible for news, children’s publishing and media. He’s also a restaurant critic, literary blogger, and the author of “The Play’s The Thing,” a complete YA guide to the plays of William Shakespeare published by Pentian, as well as more than 30 YA biographies and histories for Chelsea House publishers.